The National Outreach Convention is a great event for small churches. On Wednesday I led the Small Church Discussion group and we had about 50+ participants with great ideas and opportunities for ministry. Today I led the Small Church Idea Forum where we walked through the process of designing, conducting, and evaluating small church outreach events.
Small churches continue to do great things to become indispensable to their communities. Some of the ideas shared on Wednesday and today are:
- Jobless ministry. One church in New Jersey identified those who had lost jobs or were out of work, providing training, support, and encouragement.
- Home repair and upkeep. Another new church plant selected 50 homes in proximity to the church and took two Saturdays to offer to do home repair or maintenance projects. Because this is an urban church, neighbors were at first reluctant to accept the church’s help. But once assured that the church had not agenda other than to be helpful, some of these neighbors allowed the church to help them. One homeowner was so impressed, she hired 5 church members to work in the hospital where she was on staff. Both the church and the community benefited from the church’s outreach.
- Teen bootcamp. Teens were invited to participate in a “bootcamp” experience complete with obstacle course, a gospel presentation, and some good clean hip hop thrown in for good measure.
Outreach magazine also announced their revamped website, outreachmagazine.com where church leaders can join the site, and then tell the story of what their church is doing in outreach. If you have an interesting outreach story about your small church, please go to outreachmagazine.com and tell them about it. Plus, I’m looking for churches to profile in the 2010 issues of Outreach magazine in my column, Small Church, Big Idea.
One thing small church leaders told me at NOC09 is that they are glad to see major Christian organizations like Outreach paying attention to small churches. I think you’re going to see more attention to small churches in the near future. I know of one great small church book coming out in 2010, plus I met with a major Christian publisher today to discuss a couple of book ideas I’m working on for small churches. So, stay tuned because not only is NOC a great event, but there’s more coming soon!
5 thoughts on “Notes from NOC09: Lots of small church focus”
This is exciting. I would like to point you to another “resource” and that is a new collaborative blog entitled “Heart of the SBC: conversations about the small church”
Jobless ministry sounds helpful and timely. Have you heard about any churches, large or small, using microfinance (e.g., to help people start home businesses) as a form of benevolent outreach? I like creative approaches that provide a hand up, not just a handout. I’ve thought Christian businessmen could serve as job coaches and recipients could “pay it forward,” when they have the means. I’ve heard of similar programs working overseas in third world countries. I wonder whether something similar might work here, especially in light of the economic recession.
I had a question for you about the impact that a church can have on its community. When I listened to the Duke University session and reading your posts it seems that you are encouraging churches to get out in our communities and do things. I would agree with what you are saying and our church has done many of the same things, but many times after we do a project it just seems like one of many other events that happen in our community. How do we put the spiritual in what we are doing? How can we make the things we do have that Kingdom building focus? I really don’t want to be just another service organization in our community?
Steve, I agree with you that churches, including ours and yours, are not social services agencies. Let me suggest, however, that the New Testament sees little difference in the physical and the spiritual. In the Lord’s Prayer, we are taught to pray for our daily bread (a physical need), and the ability to forgive and be forgiven (a spiritual act). In Matthew 25, the critieria Jesus uses to separate the sheep from the goats is feeding the hungry, visiting the prisoners, caring for the sick, clothing the naked, and giving water to the thirsty.
I believe the church ministers in the physical reality of the present in order to communicate spiritual truth. In other words, we let people know we care by what we do, but we also connect those deeds to the theological basis for them.
I believe that doing what Jesus did — combining teaching with feeding the five thousand for instance — is a great model. Our crowds may not be as large, but we can meet people where they are.
I’m also playing around with the idea that churches have to become indispensable to their communities. But, the criteria for indispensability comes from the community not the church. We’re only indispensable if the community outside the church thinks we are.
As I am sure you know, all ministry does not result in new members, higher attendance, or bigger crowds. But that doesn’t mean we are not building the Kingdom. I’d be interested in your take on this. What concerns you about your church’s past experience? I struggle with these same questions myself and would like to know your experience. Thanks for your comments. -Chuck
You hit on a great point when you said that the church ministers in the physical reality of the present in order to communicate spiritual truth. Maybe the issue that I am dealing with is the fact that we (the church)have been not been effective or even passionate in our willingness to communicate spiritual truths when we do the things we do in our community. Are we willing to share the why’s behind what we do, are we willing to take the risk of offending people, being misunderstood and rejected by those we seek to serve?
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