Churches often begin community outreach and faith-based ministries as a way of introducing people to Christianity. They have identified various felt secular needs in the community and hope that by serving those people and sharing their faith, the church will grow.
Unfortunately, years may go by and very few people who were reached by the ministry have ever even visited the church. We console ourselves, saying we are just “seed planters” and keep doing things the way we have always done them. Or perhaps the ministry is stopped because no “fruit” has come from it.
As we travel and minister to faith-based ministries in the U.S. and abroad, we have noticed the differences between those who actually succeed in walking people through their ministry on to becoming a Christian and those who aren’t as successful.
Changing these four dynamics, may change everything for your community outreach and faith-based ministry efforts.
- Constantly review your ministry’s core values with leaders and volunteers. Have you stopped talking about reaching people in the community with God’s message? Have you stopped discussing ideas for getting people to engage in Bible studies or attend worship? Have you stopped praying as a group for God to help each of you to see the opportunities to teach people about what God wants from them and for them? These should be your ministries original core values – to help people get to Heaven through teaching and inviting them to learn what God wants them to know. If your core values aren’t reviewed and discussed regularly, your ministry may have become secular with a thin varnish of Christianity on it.
- Make it a priority to ask people to study the Bible and attend church. Every volunteer and any member from your church that interacts with the people from the community should be encouraged to find natural ways to invite people to study the Bible or attend church with them on a regular basis. Often people from the community don’t come, because they aren’t asked.
- Create crossover worship experiences. Have days where a special effort is made to include the community members you serve in your worship in meaningful ways. Perhaps you want to invite them to bring their kids the weekend before school starts to join your congregation as you celebrate and pray over children as they begin a new school year. Or perhaps you want to invite the families in your faith-based tutoring program to help your congregation have a special Sunday worship service thanking and serving the teachers in their schools. As people from the community attend worship at your church, they will begin to make relationships, learn more about what God wants and become more comfortable in the worship environment.
- Provide opportunities for them to learn about God in non-threatening ways. People can be intimidated by the idea of a one-on-one Bible study with someone or even attending a worship service. They might be not quite as afraid to attend a parent tea where you also introduce them to God, your church and basic Christian beliefs. Or they may love to attend a special prayer group or Bible study with other people in the community and from your church experiencing similar walks – like a Bible study for parents of children with special needs or a prayer group for moms of elementary aged children.
These four ideas can make a huge difference in your faith-based ministry or community outreach. It’s about being intentional and not getting so distracted by the secular needs of your ministry you forget the spiritual needs of those you serve. We’ve seen this work for others and believe it can begin to transform your ministries, too. Try them and see what happens!