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Investing Beyond the Walls of Your Church

Investing in the Church Beyond Your Walls

For those of us called into local church ministry, whether it’s in a staff or in a volunteer leadership position, our job descriptions rarely ask us to look beyond the walls of our own church facility.  And, when we are asked to do so, it’s generally in order to bring families to our own church in order to sit in our seats and hear our weekend message.

Yet, if you do the math, the amount of unchurched people in your town could never fit inside the walls of your church – it just isn’t possible.  Which means, if we’re going to actually reach our neighborhoods with the Gospel, we’re going to have to learn to work together with the church down the street.  Today, I’d love for you to consider taking a step toward partnering with another church in your community – not because you need more friends, but because your neighbors need to know who Jesus is.

Building a Kingdom, not Castles

A few years ago, I was asked to contribute to a book which asked a handful of ministry leaders to choose one word that they felt represented the most important concept for people in Children’s Ministry as we looked toward the future of our field.  My word: Kingdom.  I went on to write, and still believe, that our churches would be more effective at ministry if we understood that each congregation in a community has a unique calling and purpose in their context and that, by working together to build the kingdom, we’d better be able to reach those who are lost and hurting in the world around us.

For those of us who find themselves at churches who have legacies of castle building, where the idea of working with other churches in the community might sound like heresy, let me assure you – I’m not asking you to stop inviting people to your church gathering.  In fact, I strongly believe that people will be more willing to worship in your faith community if you have a friendly relationship with other churches in town.  But, with simple math in mind, there simply aren’t enough seats in your church’s sanctuary or worship center for everyone in your neighborhood to sit in if they showed up on a Sunday.

The Three Mile Challenge

Being able to name what makes your church unique and what you bring to the table in a partnership first requires you to know what other voices are in the conversation.  But, in order to do that, you need to know what churches are in your neighborhood.  A quick Google search (if you just type “churches near” and then your church name, Google will give you a map of the churches in your area) will give you a great place to start.  From there, choose 5-10 churches within three miles of your church and check out their websites – what stands out to you? … what would they offer to a family looking to visit them on a weekend?  … who would you connect with on staff if you sent them an email?  … if you already know something about that church, what have you heard?  Your first steps into partnership should be with the churches on that short list who you already have some connection to.  Don’t make this harder than it has to be.

Next Steps into Partnership

Some of us might get intimidated by the idea of partnering with other churches because we think it means that we have to run joint events – massive VBS initiatives that will require us to rent out local stadiums and spend thousands of dollars.  However, that’s not what partnership has to look like.  Kingdom building begins with relationships long before it ever (IF it ever) leads to events.  So, beginning with that list of churches nearby, consider what it would look like to begin praying for three of those churches.

In my marriage, I can generally measure the health of our partnership by how well I know my wife’s prayer requests.  That is to say, if I know what’s on her heart and how to pray for the things that she cares most deeply about, then – chances are – we’re probably closer to being on the same page than when my prayers for her are more general.  In a similar way, the more details I know about how to pray for the churches in my area, the higher the chances are that I’m in relationship with those churches and that I actually care about the ministry taking place there.

In my community, I’m blessed to be surrounded by amazing friends at Grace Church of Glendora, Cornerstone Church, Grace Church of La Verne, Church of the Open Door and Foothill Church – and, because we pray for each other, I have a better sense for the hearts of the people at those churches and can tell local families what they might find in those congregations that my local church might not be able to offer.  Through partnering with those friends, the impact we can have on our community becomes multiplied and our seating capacity on a weekend increases exponentially.

If you want to try something new in caring for your community, try investing in kingdom building by getting to know another church in your area.  Though it might not be in your job description, you might get a new friend out of the effort – and, even if you don’t need another friend, your neighbors need a place to worship where they can hear about the Gospel of Jesus.

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Posted by on April 27, 2015 in Thoughts

 

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Calling All Youth Pastors

(Here’s a picture from our morning session on the first day of Middle School VBS Leader training)

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, keeping the Kingdom in mind (and not just your own castle) is essential to lasting, effective and sustainable ministry.

As I wrote earlier this week, we spend a week each summer training hundreds of middle school and high school students in preparation for their work at our annual Vacation Bible School.  By opening the invitation to serve at VBS to all students in and around our community (we even have a couple that fly in from out of state to serve on our student leadership team), we find ourselves with an interesting mix of students.  The majority of students serving at VBS do not call our church their “home church”.  In fact, many have no church affiliation at all – they’re serving because they like kids and a friend invited them.  For many, it’s that simple.

During our training, we give our students a chance to commit or recommit their lives to following Jesus.  It’s been a conviction of mine that we give students a chance to own their faith in a new and fresh way before 1,000 little kids come onto our church campus to hear about God and the call that has been placed on their lives.

However, our staff has struggled with the follow up aspect of these decisions.  For years, we’ve followed up with parents and children’s pastors who have campers making decision to follow Jesus during VBS.  I spend the week after VBS calling local churches who were listed at the “home church” for campers who make commitments at our camp. Yet, we’ve never done that with our students – until this year.

For the last week, our Jr High guy, Scott Boss, has been contacting the nearly 40 churches who have students serving at our VBS this year.  He’s inviting the youth staff and ministry teams from those churches to come alongside us at our Saturday training event in order to connect with and pray for the students serving on our campus next week.

This is one of the coolest things I’ve seen in a while for a couple reasons.

Jesus is bigger than OUR building

By making these calls, and inviting other youth pastors onto our campus to help own what’s taking place here, we’re sending a message to our community – following Jesus and being a part of the Church has nothing to do with what building you meet in.  Jesus’ Church is bigger than any one building, denomination or church staff.  Our facilities might be hosting this event, but we don’t own it.  Jesus does.

Maybe other churches might try it

I know that kids from families who attend our church attend other church programs in town.  Odds are, some of the kids from our congregation have made important faith-commitments at the programs of other churches.  Yet, I’ve never received a call or email about it from another church in town.

I do know that “evangelism teams” from other churches have shown up at the houses of some of our kids and invited them to their church the following Sunday.  My guess is, if other churches are coordinating a follow-up process that includes door-to-door visitation, they could probably find the time to send me an email.

Because a lot of church’s senior pastors grade their kids and youth programs on attendance numbers, I can totally understand why return attendance would be something that children’s ministry teams would want to invest in.  However, I’m not convinced that partnering with other churches would hurt attendance – I’ve only experienced it fostering a community and posture that encourages the growth of a ministry.  With that said, maybe we’ll see other churches try it out.

We’ll let you know how our little experiment goes.

 
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Posted by on July 8, 2011 in Kidmin, Orange, Thoughts

 

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How to Lose King of the Mountain

I find myself doing it all the time.

I would have caught that typo.  If I were in charge, the church service wouldn’t go long as often as it does.  I can’t believe they are singing that song… again.  My meetings aren’t nearly this painfully boring.  We’re spending how much on printing and copy chargebacks?!

There are days when I’m convinced that I could do everyone’s job better than they’re currently doing them… staff and/or volunteers.  I’m busy enough as it is and I know that I couldn’t actually do everyone’s jobs. However, if I’m not careful, I start playing that game in my head.  I doubt I’m the only one.

(or… maybe I AM the only one.  maybe…)

A few years back, I was having coffee with a respected friend of mine when he called me out on my King of the Mountain mindset.  He challenged me to consider trying to lose the battle I had been fighting in my head.  He told me that I might need to realign the way I think about church and staff structures and leadership roles.  There were two things he suggested that I put into practice that I want to share with you today:

Make A Thousand Thank You Cards

The first thing that I was challenged to do was to make 1000 thank you cards.  Literally.  Then, any time someone did something that I thought was sub-par or that frustrated me, I wrote them a card, thanking them for something they had done recently that I thought was awesome.

(right now, my friends are trying to think back to the last thank you card I wrote them…)

A couple things happened when I started doing this.  I had to start paying close attention to those people that bugged me the most, so that I’d have things to thank them for the next time they frustrated me.  Rather than watch for things they were doing wrong, I started focusing on all of the things they were great at.  Not only that, but I never actually made A Thousand cards… I think I made 60.  So, my supplies were limited and I had to wrestle through whether it was worth getting frustrated and getting rid of one of my few cards.  I often found that it wasn’t worth it and I started actually letting things go before I even let them begin to settle into my heart.

Get on Their Team

The only other suggestion was a neat one, but one that still takes some work and commitment.  My friend pushed me to consider looking at our church as a piece of a much larger mountain… instead of a church of many mountains (departments), with me as the king of my own.  To put my money where my mouth was, he told me that I needed to volunteer and be a part of the ministry areas that frustrated me the most.  It’s a lot easier to get frustrated with a situation that you’re simply observing – it’s much harder to throw rocks when it’s a glass house that you’re responsible for.

A couple things came from that – I started a habit of volunteering in ministry areas that weren’t “my own” so that I would have some ownership over the problems and complexities involved in those areas (I’ll be honest, I got involved in areas I was frustrated with and areas that I loved – I didn’t want to just get involved in areas I wanted to “fix” – I wanted to feel like I was a part of a bigger team).  I also noticed that, by volunteering in other ministry areas, I was able to learn tips and tricks about caring for volunteers.  At the time, it had been YEARS since I had been the volunteer hands-and-feet of a ministry… getting back to volunteering made me think through how I was caring for and preparing my volunteer teams to succeed.

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I was encouraged to write this post a few weeks ago by that same friend who, as he likes to do, was checking in on my “king of the mountain” mindset.  Practicing the couple suggestions he gave me continues to shape the way I think of our church and our ministry teams.  Deciding to put this into practice takes some commitment – you might feel like you don’t have time to volunteer in other areas or you might hate making thank you cards.  If you’re feeling that way – maybe this is exactly what you need.  Consider trying it for a week.  And, if you have thoughts or things to add, you can always post them in the comments section.

 
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Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Kidmin

 

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