In church world we often lament at the inward focus of many churches. We complain at how little churches are doing to reach out into the community. We hypothesize that the decline in many churches is due, at least in part, to the inward focus. Christians and non-Christians alike point to the selfishness that is apparent in our lack of community involvement. As I communicate with other children’s ministry leaders I hear the same complaint. This had me thinking that perhaps many of our children’s ministries are just as guilty of this as the church in whole. So this bring the question, is your children’s ministry outwardly focused?
What is outward focused? In most churches there are many different programs, ministries and services. Some of these programs are aimed at helping those that are already in the church. Others are focused on reaching and/or helping those that are not yet in the church. Having an outward focus means that a given church has some of these programs that are aimed at people outside the church. Some would even go so far as to say that having an outward focus means that you have more programs, ministries, and services aimed outside the church than you do aimed inside. I’m not sure that I would go that far.
How do I know? If we are not careful it can be easy to lie to ourselves and say that we are outwardly focused. So, how can we know for sure if we are. Take some time and consider you different programs, ministries, services and events. Look closely at these things. Who do they benefit most, people inside the church or people outside? If people inside the church benefit more than that thing is inwardly focused, even if that is not your goal.
Some things that we intend to be outwardly focused end up being inward. For instance consider a fall festival type event. Many churches do these types of events around Halloween and even at other times of the year. These are usually intended to be outwardly focused events, aimed at bringing people in from the community to connect with them and, hopefully, share the gospel. But, what often sometimes is that the event is more attended by people in the church than by outsiders. When this happens he event BECOMES inwardly focused regardless of what the intent was. Now, this can be a great time of fellowship for the people of your church and for that reason is not, necessarily a bad thing. However, at that point it is not really an outwardly focused event.
So, what? The question that every leader is asking when they read a post like this is, “What does this have to do with my ministry and how can I apply it?” Well, as mentioned above, take some time to consider your current programs, ministries, services and events. Look at them closely to determine if they are outward or inward in their focus. After you have evaluated everything that you are currently doing, ask if you are doing enough to reach the community. Is your ministry outwardly focused enough. If not, then the question becomes, what can you do about it? Here are some ideas that might help.
- Think about what your doing. Consider if some of the things you are already doing could or should be steered in a direction that would make them more outwardly focused. How can you turn something that you are already doing into more of a community outreach/service type of thing?
- Look at what the community is already doing. Find ways that you can be involved in events that your local community is already putting on. This allows them to plan it and promote it and all you have to do is show up and do your thing. If this is a regular, monthly event then attend it a couple times, with a few other people. Look for ways that God could use you while your there. If this is a yearly event, then look for people in your church that have attended it and are familiar with it and ask them to help you plan for it.
- Drive around. Take some time and drive around your community. Look for things like parks where you could go and do things like back yard Bible clubs, or even VBS. Look for neighborhoods that have lots of kids. These may be great places for you to do sidewalk Sunday schools or something similar. Look for places that people, especially kids, are already gathering. Look for ways that you can minster to the people that are already gathered there.
Hopefully these few ideas will get your creative juices flowing. The bottom line is to get out into the community and FIND ways to connect with people, to serve them, and to share the gospel with them.Matt Norman
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