Thursday, March 25, 2010

Come to us or go to them

At the chapel where we gather with the church, we have been trying to find new ways to do outreach to the community. We have been sponsoring a movie night periodically and the youth and some adults are going door to door in the surrounding neighborhood to invite people. Our building is very small and doesn’t really look like a church from the road. One person said at the last movie night that she thought it was a small apartment building! So we are really ramping up our efforts at getting the word out that we are there and welcome people to the chapel.

My concern is that most people have been so marketed to all of their lives that they are leery and suspicious. Just about every local church does outreach and much of it is “Come to our church and do *insert activity here*!” So amidst the barrage of stuff they get from various groups, here is our little assembly trying to draw them in. We met as a group last night after prayer and Bible study to talk about how the outreach is going and I suggested we try going out to people, right where they are, to minister to them. Maybe they need help with trimming or raking leaves in the fall, maybe they are moving in and need some help. It is easier and cleaner and safer to invite people to our building but I think it might be more effective to just help people where they need help, whether it is tangible or just friendship and prayer. It can be uncomfortable to go to a strange place, even or especially a church. Having someone come in jeans and a sweatshirt to help you out? That is a lot easier for folks. It is a little odd in our assembly because we don’t have a pastor, so instead of deferring to him to figure it out, we are figuring it out on our own.

Has anyone else tried something like this? We are not interested in marketing strategies, we are interested in service strategies. Have you gone out to the community, what are the pitfalls (like becoming permanent unpaid lawn care!), what seemed to work?

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4 comments:

April said...

I remember when I was in high school, we did something like this in my youth group--we had a bunch of supplies on a truck, and went around one Saturday door to door asking if anyone needed any work done.

When I read this, I immediately thought of Jesus going to Zaccheus's house, and even to the house of a Pharisee to teach and minister. I think for me the hard thing to figure out is, do we go and just serve physically and leave it at that, or do we need to present the gospel at the same time? Do we build relationships with these people and share the gospel with them over time? I don't know. I would encourage you to read through the gospels, look at what Jesus did when he served people, and try to mirror that as closely as possible.

And I completely agree about the marketing and skepticism. Your church may have done it very well, but typically, the movie night comes off as a bait and switch. Kind of like those deals where you get a free vacation, but you have to listen to a three hour timeshare presentation. Just my two cents.

Phillip said...

Good post,

What we tend to do is visit with people and develop relationships. From there and after time, people begin discussing their gifts, needs, etc. Then we seek to come alongside and help. Our context though has alot of poor and disabled individuals so the needs are pretty glaring.

We have lunch with the community as well. All we do is a print a flier on paper and give them as a reminder. Nothing sexy because people throw them away.

April,
I encourage people to naturally share their lives and how the Gospel impacts it. Nothing canned but real life. You are right look to the Gospels. Consistently we see Jesus teaching and serving. I can't think of an instance where both were not present.

Thanks Arthur

Tim Aagard said...

Praise God you don't have "a pastor". Are the saints there able to observe who is pastoring without the title? If so, then you should never need a pastor. If not, then I'm sure there are men there like you who "desire or "set their heart" to do the work of an overseer". 1 Tim. 3:1 If not, they should based on Paul's instruction. The body (by God's design) can do a better job of seeing how and motivating action to reach the lost than one hired man. I sure hope the saints are not longing to have "a pastor".

The idea to reach people on their turf with meeting their felt needs is FAR better than to try and lure them to your turf for an unperceived need. It is difficult to move beyond your turf of you have a turf and are investing thousands in maintenance each year. I would suggest for better outreach and body building, it is better to just use homes and network amongst them so the saints can continue to meet and meet with deeper and better participation, and better stewardship.

I am so thankful I came to the place where I realized the best outreach is to invite the lost to ONLY and SIMPLY relationship with me, and thus Christ, rather than having to complicate things drastically with trying to invite the lost to an institution and then Christ.

April said...

Philip,

Thanks for the reply--very good thoughts there!