I was recently asked by 200churches.com to come up with a list of the top challenges pastors face. What you’re reading is the seventh in this series.
Pastors are constantly facing the challenge of moving their church towards an outward focus.
A church, left alone, will naturally lean towards an inward focus (What ministries and programs do we have to meet the needs of our current members?) rather than an outward focus (How are we reaching new people?). It’s kind of like a fire. A fire, left alone, will eventually cool off rather than heat up. I’ve never known a church that started out with an outward focus continue in that direction without a strategic plan and continual push by the senior leader and the leaders of the church.
In a sense, it’s a little easier for new church plants than it is for already established churches because in a new church the focus, in the beginning, is growing the church. But even in a new church, once they begin to grow, once they start developing some of the more common departments, (Children’s ministries, small groups, etc.) slowly…ever so slowly, outreach begins to suffer.
All of the above are reasons why I’ve added ‘The challenge of moving the church towards an outward focus.’ to my list of constant challenges pastors face. If this is one of your current challenges let me make four suggestions:
1. Do you, personally, believe with all your heart that the church exists to reach new people with the good news of Jesus? I know that seems like a stupid question to ask pastors but you’d be surprised how some need to be reminded of this. I’m not suggesting that the needs of your current people are not important. They are. You can have your cake and eat it to. The challenge for many pastors, however, is that the slice of (inward focus) cake is larger than the slice of (outward focus) cake. Part of this is because our time, as pastors, is often focused on maintaining inward focused stuff in our churches rather than outward focused stuff. The bottom line…if you are not passionate about reaching new people it is doubtful that your church will ever be.
2. Do your core leaders, church board, elders…whatever you call them, believe with all their hearts that the church exists to reach new people with the good news of Jesus? If your answer is ‘no’ then you will need to begin the process of reeducating them. This will take time. This will probably be met with some resistance. Be patient. The bottom line…if your key leaders are not passionate about reaching new people it is doubtful that your church will ever be.
3. Discover those in your church who are passionate about reaching new people. Get them in a room together for prayer and Spirit-inspired brainstorming. Questions can be discussed such as:
a. What percentage of our money and energy are spent on inward focused things rather than outward focused things?
b. When was the last time we reached, and kept, a new person? How many of our additions are Christians transferring from another church versus adding people previously unchuched?
c. What different ways might we gradually change our church culture to become more outward focused?
d. In what ways might our current Sunday morning service seem confusing, uncomfortable, or strange to an unchurched person?
e. The following question is particularly helpful if your church is primarily made up of elderly Christians. If we don’t reach new, younger people, how long before we die out?
4. Gather a small group (even if it’s only you and your spouse) and begin praying, “Father, help us to have a greater outward focus. Father we know you love lost people. Forgive us for being so inward focused. Show us Father, how we might get better at reaching new people. We anticipate some resistance, possibly even from some of our own members, and ask that you would go before us. Father, give us the lost!”
I can help you and your church develop a strategy for moving toward an outward focus. Send me an email. Let’s talk. firstname.lastname@example.org