One of the most recurrent concerns in local churches is how to attract the public into our churches, or what we commonly know, how to do outreach. What the most of the churches doesn’t know is that they already do a lot of activities who are worthy for the society or communities surrounding them, but they miss how to plan the activity, how to process the info and how to prepare the pre-event machinery. Today I want to give some hints that could be adapted by most of our local churches in the most of the countries. Even if planned in coordination within bigger areas, we could create major plans for districts, Conferences, Unions and even Divisions.
What I have faced in the most of the churches where I have been pastor is a mostly uncoordinated situation among local church ministries or departments. In the best cases I found an inter-ministerial board where they coordinated the calendar of activities, but that was almost all of it, a distribution of dates, places and events. Each one did their “war” on their own, like in the times of the judges, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as they saw fit” (Judges 21:25 NIV).
Sadly, I have found, and I continue finding, huge amounts of good willed people who have tried their best for years and who fell burned-out and discouraged within a trying-to-survive local church.
The most of the churches have committed four kinds of “sin”:
- A planning of activities centered in our needs or “according” to our internal “standards”.
- Lack of Communications department or responsible.
- Lack of coordination of activities between all the departments or ministries (beyond the distribution of weekends so none steps anyone else’s toes).
- Lack of strategy to coordinate with social agenda.
I will try to explain all these four points and how to improve in the next few articles.
Planning activities centered in “our” needs or “according” to our internal “standards”.
This is the problem of mindset. We need to start to work at pastoral level to change the mindset of our church members, church committees and ministry directors. Thankfully I am a pastor and I didn’t need any communicator to convince me of this (neither had a communications specialist in my churches).
Te most of the activities are prepared in order to “fill” a calendar of activities of the local church, and mostly targeted to our church members as the first, main and mostly only target. We are talking either at Children’s ministry, Health, Women or any other ministry.
And at the same time, we do not want to have anybody upset, and we do not want to suffer the criticism of those “acid” brothers and sisters who raise their woes anytime we do something “new” or different, or simply, anything which is not singing and preaching.
That’s why we need to start with pastoral work, as a team with the Personal Ministry team and all the church leadership as well. We need to remember that Jesus took the people out, to the places where they felt comfortable and related to the topic he wanted to teach about.
In short, we know that our target are the “outsiders” but in fact, we forget them when preparing the activities. The main goal can be achieved by simply, taking the same activities we are used to develop, and ask ourselves: “How would I do it if the most of the guests were non-adventists?”
The way we prepare the presentation, the way we speak and present the subject would be slightly if not mostly different. And that is the KEY point. We usually do not realize that we are so used to speak to ourselves that we do not realize that we use our own jargon when we talk at church.
We make a difference between the activities prepared for “those out-of-the-church” and the ones prepared for the church department or ministry regular development. We should focus ALL our activities targeting non adventist audiences. By doing this we achieve two goals:
- We supply the needs of our church members, which keeps the same goal as before, since they know what we are doing and talking about.
- We transform an internal activity into an external-comprehensive activity for those audiences who are not used to our jargon and closed way of doing things.
It is not difficult, it is just simply a change of scope and to sit in another corner of the same room to change our perspective.
At the same time, and by working with the pastoral team, we need to start to open our minds to include some elements that might be unusual till now. We need to explain to the local church members that a cooking class or workshop is NOT a Bible Study, and we do not expect to suscite Bible Studies right away. Maybe there are some cases, but we cannot force that. We need to build a bridge of trust between our church and the community around us through activities.
Jesus addressed His ministry to the needs of the people, he did a social work in first instance, he assisted them physically and then, spiritually. We need to start helping others without waiting anything in exchange. Remember that only one of the ten leprosies returned to thank Him for being healed.
It is interesting that ALL the ten were healed. Note that ALL of them departed once were healed. Only one returned to thank Jesus, and that was the one who besides being healed, was also saved. Please, note that he also left Jesus behind after the first encounter. He returned later.
Why should we expect anything different? We need to do activities addressed to the outsiders and at the same time we will be targeting our internal audiences. Those who are interested will come, will be “healed” and will go. ONLY those who really are reached and convinced by the Holy Spirit will come back to be saved.
Another point I want to underline is that Jesus did not deny the healing to the nine who did not come back. He knew they would not return, but nevertheless, he healed them. Why should we act differently? We need to think as Jesus thinks. Serving others, no matter if they will ask for Bible Studies later or not. Yes, we have to change our mindset, and whatever we do, let’s do it for the unchurched or non adventists, if it is useful for them, it will also be for our church members, but if we think only in our church families, we will risk to leave all others outside of the circle.
In the next post we will talk about the need of a responsible of communications and why within this series planification and strategy.