You’ll never engage in intentional missional outreach in your church.
Wait. That can’t be right, can it? Well…it may not mean what you think it does, so read on.
Missional outreach doesn’t occur in the church building. It also doesn’t occur in the church members. So if it doesn’t occur in the building or in the members, where does it occur?
Great question. Missional outreach occurs in the community. It is the result of the a) transformed hearts of church members and b) strategic use of the church facility.
Missional includes the idea of “being sent.” (You are, after all, on mission.) If we are only going to and from our church building each week, we will struggle live on mission as a church. Instead, we need to focus more on BEING the church rather than trying to get everyone to come to yet another event AT your church building.
Here are some ways you can ignite missional living in your community (To dive even deeper, take a look at this list of 26 innovative community outreach ideas that I created for pastors and other church leaders).
10 Startling Tips to Ignite Missional Living in Your Community
1. Start Hosting Meetings at Local Restaurants and Coffee Shops
Why not meet in a local coffee shop rather than in your church building? Sometimes you need to control the environment for a meeting with sensitive information; however, many, many times small groups, team meetings, and other meetings could easily occur in the community. Show your community you are no confined to the church walls. Allow others to see your team and character in action by the way you serve, communicate, and work with one another.
2. Move at Least One Event a Year from the Church Building to Neighborhoods
Brief meetings are easy to move to a local coffee shop, restaurant, or other venue. Larger events are not nearly as easy, but that doesn’t mean they are impossible to switch either.
- Are there any local businesses that would benefit from you hosting your event at their location? Think of who you could bless and partner with.
- What venue would give people from your church a chance to engage with the community rather than become a “holy huddle”?
- What location would your congregation be likely to come back to at a later point? (ie – places where families could return with kids, men could meet with other men, etc) These are ideal, as it creates a natural and known place for your congregation to carry out their missional living and be out in the community.
3. Start an Annual Citywide Service Day
Some of the most inspiring churches I know have at least one citywide service day a year. You may want to collaborate with many other churches to bless your community in unity. Or it may work out better to organize a large service day for your church alone. (Remember it’s not about who’s church is doing the event. We want to be a light to the community and share Christ’s love, regardless of which church you go to.) Either way, ask yourself this key question: What would it look like for our church to bless our city with no strings attached for a full day once a year?
4. Meet with an Elementary, Middle, or High School Administrator to Find Out How Your Church Can Serve
Schools are hurting these days. Budgets are getting cut. Salaries continue to shrink. Challenges come at school administrators, teachers, and students from all directions.
What if you met with them and asked how you could serve with no strings attached? What if you asked what maintenance needs the school had? What if you asked how you could help improve literacy rates and test scores in general? What community programs need volunteer workers or assistance that your church can help provide?
5. Host All Small Groups or Missional Communities in Homes
I previously mentioned the idea of hosting groups in restaurants or coffee shops. Also consider hosting some in homes. It creates a warm and relational environment. It forces pastors to let go of the reins and entrust authority to emerging leaders in the church. It invites people into the comfort of family and warm hospitality.
Additionally, it gets your people out of the church building and into the community. When you spend time in neighborhoods, you start to think like someone in that neighborhood. You see where people are hurting. You begin to see ways to serve and connect with others. During warmer weather, meet in the front yard and take time to invite neighbors over and engage them in conversation.
6. Take 10 Leaders on a 1 Hour Prayer Walk
I find that over 75% percent of the missionaries I’ve ever visited utilized prayer walking in some fashion. On the flip side, I’ve only personally met two pastors in the United States that have ever spoken to me about prayer walking. Why is that?
Prayer walking is easy. Take a walk with friends and pray for what you see. Pray for the people that come to mind. Pray for the emotional, financial, and spiritual needs you encounter. Pray for one another. You can do this with your kids too. Missional living through prayer walks can happen while your kids are playing at the park. It’s an opportunity to be mindful of your community and continue to deepen your relationship with God. Consider reading this list of 26 ideas for missional outreach to your leaders before or after the prayer walk to help move people from thinking to action.
7. Meet with Local Government or Municipal Leaders to Find Out How Your Church Could Bless the City
Local government leaders appreciate all the help they can get. Call and request a meeting with a local city council leader, mayor, county commissioner or other leader. Ask them where the biggest needs are in the city. Start a conversation and build relationships with the leaders. Be prepared to accept the challenge(s) they give you and serve humbly.
8. Eliminate Your Sunday Night or Wednesday Night Services
I know that sounds extreme. I’ve already hit a sore spot with some people, but hear me out. Don’t give up on this post yet. I realize that anytime we come together for worship is a special and important time. However, you may need to ask yourself what you are giving up, in order to have multiple worship services throughout the week that people are expected to attend. Would you rather have a “holy” and select few in attendance regularly or increase your impact by serving more people?
(Note: I believe in small churches as much as I believe in big ones. But I have seen hundreds of small churches that have become so inward focused that they’ve lost a passion for knowing and reaching the non-Christian community. No matter what the size of your church, consider how you can live on mission and include those in your community.)
Before you fill those times with another “church” activity, ask your leaders if they need time with their families. Ask them to articulate what they would like to achieve as a church and see if it aligns with what you are thinking. Look at ways that you can use that time slot to be out in the community and spend time with non-Christians.
9. Define What Unique Impact Your Church Will Leave on Your City
Please, please, please don’t try to do everything. It will exhaust you and your church. Take time to intentionally learn about your community, seek God’s direction, and ask how the unique character of your church aligns with the community’s needs. You might be surprised.
10. Challenge Everyone in Your Church to Invite a Neighbor Over For Dinner Before the End of the Year
You will get pushback on this one. Especially if the neighbor can’t be someone they’ve ever had over to dinner before. Set out a challenge to have everyone invite a neighbor, non-believer, or new acquaintance to dinner once every quarter in the next calendar year. Imagine how much this would help your church to break out of their routine and engage people who live near them.
As you look to ignite missional living in your community, how can you encourage, support, and build up your congregation? What other ways have you encouraged missional living in your own life?