Importance of Community Outreach

What is your church’s growth strategy? Do you have one? Unfortunately, for some church leaders, by default the strategy becomes “We hope we get some visitors this week.” As church leaders, in many ways, the growth of our church is contingent upon our outreach outside the church walls. The church is called upon to meet needs in its community and express God’s love in ways that open doors to share the Good News of the Gospel.

Recently, Thom Rainer released some interesting research on why most church outreach programs fail. For example, he finds that outreach is often “seen as an end instead of a means,” not clearly “addressed in front-end membership classes,” or that church leadership fails “to explain that sharing the love of Christ is a vital part of spiritual growth.”[1] Truth be told, many of the reasons that Dr. Rainer cites are failures on the part of the church’s leadership to correctly “equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ”(Ephesians 4:12).

Often in ministry, we, as leaders, must be intentional to answer the proverbial “why” question: Why is this ministry important? Why should we do it this way? Why should I contribute my time, energy and finances to support this effort? Why are we going outside the church walls? etc.

Therefore, why is community outreach monumentally important for every church? Here are three reasons.

First, outreach was commanded by Christ. This seems like a simple reason, and in many ways it is, but we must not assume that our people fully understand the call of God on every believer to be a light and witness in their sphere of influence. Pastors and church leaders should regularly highlight the Great Commission and the call of God to go into “Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8, esv). Also, pastors and church leaders are obligated to help our people define their “Jerusalem,” be it their neighborhood, workplace, gym, etc.

Second, outreach is essential to reach the world for Christ. According to the most recent statistics, approximately 7.2 billion people are on the face of the globe and the best research estimates that 3.1 billion of those are unreached with the Gospel. Bringing it closer to home, there are more than 10 million unreached people in the United States. When coupled with the vast population of the de-churched and the “reached lost/unbelievers” in our nation, the task is immense. While our job is not completed, it is clear that the Church is the organism and mechanism that God has chosen to reach the world.

Third, outreach follows the model that Christ left for us in meeting the needs of the community. Speaking of this phenomenon, Jesus teaches us that we are responsible to minister to the sojourner, weak, hurting, hungry, sick, naked, incarcerated, etc. He states, “For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me’” (Matthew 25:35–36, esv). Let us not forget that the “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, esv), and that we are to follow His example.

Therefore, as church leaders, we must use our leadership to move our churches to be more active in community outreach. Furthermore, our outreach, in order to be successful, must include several essential elements…

  • Primarily, we must provide a number of different multifaceted opportunities to capture a greater percentage of our people’s interests and abilities. It is foolish to assume that all our membership will jump on one bandwagon.
  • Secondly, the most successful outreach emphases are focused within a five-to-seven-mile radius of the church. This allows those being reached easier access to the church and increases the potential participation of church membership.
  • Thirdly, each outreach opportunity must require hands-on personal participation of our church membership. It is far too easy for church members to gather some supplies for a mission trip or give a financial gift to a missional organization. Instead, provide opportunities where your people can get involved, include their families, get out of their comfort zone, and exercise the calling to reach the lost and disconnected.
  • Lastly, your people need to see you personally participating in outreach. As leaders we cannot apply the “do as I say, not as I do” rule. We must actively model that which we desire our people to employ.

I’ll close with an example of one particular outreach opportunity that we have recently implemented at Prestonwood. Our Pastor has long been burdened with the needs of the suburban poor. So earlier this year, we partnered with Children’s Hunger Fund (CHF) and launched a new outreach opportunity called Prestonwood Cares.[2] We asked our church membership to serve with us in two ways to reach those in need. First, every family was asked to fill a food box with non-perishable food items specific to CHF’s specifications. This allowed families to serve together, allowed parents to teach their children about sacrifice, and allowed those unable to visit the opportunity to participate. Second, once the boxes were filled and collected, church members were asked to make a visit to a specific family/person in need to deliver the food, engage in relationship, and hopefully have the opportunity to share Christ. To begin with, we had the goal of engaging 1,000 needy families. To date, our church is engaged, and working to connect these families to Christ and to our church.

So what will your church to do heed the command of God to churches to reach the world for Christ and meet the needs of those in your community?

 

[1] http://thomrainer.com/2014/06/seven-reasons-church-outreach-programs-fail/

[2] www.childrenshungerfund.org