Missional Monday : Church Leaders – Are You Serving Your Community While Secretly Desiring Reimbursement?

MMlogoIt is important for church leaders to know why they engage in community ministry. This means churches must understand what drives them outside the church walls and into the neighborhoods, businesses, and schools of the community. When you combine the command to pray for the welfare and peace of the city (Jeremiah 29:7) and the commission to be witnesses for the gospel wherever we are (Acts 1:8), an important truth emerges: the church has a responsibility to those who are not a part of it. With that being said, ministry in our communities is difficult. Ministry in our communities can be messy. Ministry in our communities can be time-consuming. Ministry in our communities has a financial component to it as well. As a result, members of the church wonder, if only to themselves, “What are we getting out of this deal?” This question, at the basement level, is one of reimbursement.

There is a danger associated with the church expecting reimbursement from the community for ministry on their behalf. To reimburse means to “make repayment for expenses or loss incurred.” If the church sees community ministry as a loss from the very beginning then certainly there will be cries for reimbursement. If the church sees community ministry as a means to gain materially from the people then certainly there will be demands for repayment and compensation. How might a church seek reimbursement from the community?

  1. Filling a seat in the sanctuary. Churches may take an intentional or unintentional stance such as “we went to them now they need to come to us” stance. A common question asked by congregants is “Where are the people we have been ministering to?” The easiest measurement of ministry success is people filling a seat in the sanctuary. Although the easiest measurement, it is not always the correct measurement. Ministry is an investment. It may require multiple engagements before the gospel is understood and embraced. Churches must be comfortable with the fact that beneficiaries of their ministry may never connect to their church body. This is not easy to accept.

  1. Filling the offering plate. Churches may also take an intentional or unintentional stance such as “we gave to them financially now they need to give back to us”. Our world has conditioned us to expect something in return for services rendered. The old saying goes, “there is no such thing as a free ride”. This would be true if you viewed your community exclusively from the business standpoint, seeing them as consumers only. Is it true that your community may take a consumer approach to the church? Absolutely. The church has to resist the temptation to “even the books” and fully embrace the teachings of Jesus Christ where we’re reminded that to whom much is given, much is required.

Ministry in which the gospel is communicated and delivered, regardless of the acceptance of it, can never be viewed as a “loss incurred”. If there is no loss incurred then there is no need of reimbursement. Church leaders, the economic laws of supply and demand and return on investment are measured much differently in the church. Be generous. Give what you have.

Missional Monday : 80 Days of Summer – A Family Ministry Challenge

mmSummer is coming to an end. Vacations have been taken, school shopping is in full swing, and family schedules are getting back to normal. Summer can be a double-edged sword. On one hand you have students who are excited to be free and are thinking only of having fun. On the other hand you have parents stressing over how to keep their kids occupied for three months. It can be tricky for families to juggle the summer. Summer can be a tricky time around the church as well. Family schedules are different. Attendance patterns shift.  For this reason churches operate under an unpublished principle during the summer: don’t start anything new. Well, we violated that principle this year.

With the reality of families scattering during the summer, we asked ourselves a question, “Why does it have to be this way?” So, we decided to give our families an opportunity to spend some of their free time together in kingdom work.  On June 3rd we began 80 Days of Summer;  a family ministry challenge that would continue through August 22nd. The concept is simple. 80 Days centers around a very specific goal: to see families serving their community together.  Over the course of 80 days, 17 ministry opportunities in 9 different community locations were scheduled. We challenged our families to choose a ministry event and work together. It pleases me to be able to say that we have accomplished our goal. We have seen families, some for the first time, give up their free time and serve the kingdom through their local church.

Getting all caught up in numbers is not a good thing. With that being said, numbers do reflect a certain reality. As of this past Friday, 15 ministry opportunities have taken place with two remaining. Over the course of these opportunities, 48 different people have been involved and have contributed 902 volunteer hours to our community. My heart has been blessed this summer to know that we were committed both to our families and to our community.

Book Review : Unoffendable

unoffendableWe live in a world where someone seems to always be offended by what someone else did. Whether it’s flying a particular flag, your choice of Christmas greeting, or your belief that marriage should be between a man and woman, there is always someone who will not you’re your choice. The troubling part of all this offense is that while living in a land of free speech and free expression, some believe they have the right to be offended. In his new book “Unoffendable: How Just One Change Can Make All of Life Better”, Brant Hansen offers a different look at this ever-increasing phenomenon of personal offense.

 Hansen writes that the whole issue of being offended has to do with worrying that what someone else is doing is wrong and that we should take them to task on it. At the very root level Hansen says that being offended is a choice. He reassures the reader that ultimately and correctly, God is in control of everything and everyone; even that person whom you think has done wrong. Two powerful quotes for me are found in chapter two. Hansen writes, “Being offended is a tiring business. Letting go gives you energy” and “I can let stuff go because it’s not all about me. Simply reminding myself to refuse to take offense is a big part of the battle.” Hansen does a good job of weaving Scripture, personal experiences, and a unique writing style together to produce a work that is challenging and encouraging. I can recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

Missional Monday : Love Gave 2015

mmSeveral months ago I was sitting with Shane Olsen, lead pastor of Decibel Church and Mike Green, lead pastor of the The Link at lunch. I do not remember the purpose of that meeting. Perhaps we were debriefing a past event or planning a future event. I simply can’t remember. I do remember that out conversation turned toward our city. As the discussion went on, one question seemed to emerge: How can our churches work together in order to show God’s love toward our city? We had already been serving our community in our own individual contexts. Collectively we were all part of large community-wide, non-denominational Thanksgiving event that fed hundreds and hundreds of families. Several questions helped to frame the above question.

What more could we do together?

Is once a year enough to make a real and lasting impact?

What resources could we pool and leverage to make a difference?

What is the best option for long-term and lasting impact?

It was out of this discussion that Love Gave was born.

So, what is Love Gave? Well, there is no formal mission and purpose statement. I guess you could call it an emphasis, a focus, or perhaps collaboration. My prayer is that it becomes a movement. We decided that over a 40 period (October 11th – November 22nd) that we would make it a priority to serve our city in a visible display of God’s love. During this 40 day period, each church will choose their individual emphasis. Port Royal Baptist will see 40 Days of Community. Collectively we will come together for two main community events in under-served areas; one in Beaufort (October 24th) and one in Port Royal (November 7th).  I believe a fundamental principle in community ministry is to ask agencies and city leaders how the church can help them in order to cut down on duplication and focus resources. We met with the mayor of Beaufort and Port Royal’s town manager to share our vision and seek guidance. Both recognized the need and welcomed the help. There are at least three goals we hope to attain through these events. First, it is our desire to show the cities of Beaufort and Port Royal a visible witness of God’s love through sacrifice and service. Second, it is our desire to show the community how beautiful and how strong the Body of Christ is. Lastly, it is our desire to give at least 1000 volunteer hours to our cities on each of the two city ministry days.  Although the details of each city ministry day are still coming together, we do know a few things for sure. The Beaufort ministry day will consist of park clean-up and painting, renovation work for a needy homeowner, and a carnival/block party in the Greene Street area. The Port Royal ministry day will consist of skate park repair/painting and other work in Veterans Memorial Park.

I would ask that you pray. Pray that our cities will see God’s love lived out in practical ways and that hearts will be softened to the gospel as a result. Pray for the approximately 10-12 churches that will be involved in Love Gave. Pray that their congregations will be strengthened as a result of serving their community. Please pray that this truly would be a movement that would be embraced as we partner with our cities to love the people who make them up. I would also ask that you volunteer. I would pray that you might embrace this opportunity to “be” the church.

Should the Church Take Into Account the Community’s Calendar?

calendarI have heard it said that if you want to know what a person values, check their calendar. Calendars reflect what we feel is important and worthy of giving our time to. Calendars reflect priorities. Most churches have a master calendar that contains all events, reservations, service times, and ministries offered. Most often churches have groups (Church Council, Leadership Team, etc.) whose responsibility is to coordinate the above activities. An important task in this planning is to ensure there is as little overlap as possible. The last thing we as a church wants is to schedule multiple ministry opportunities on the same day and cause people to have to choose. There is another calendar that is often overlooked; the local community calendar. Every local community has a calendar that lists events, news, festivals, and other functions that are unique to the community. Most often town councils or similar groups publish their calendars far enough ahead so that their community can make plans to participate.

Why does this matter? For far too long the church and its community itself have been content to exist and function as if they don’t need each other. Nothing could be farther from the truth. If the church believes that their community matters then the two should work together as often as possible. The church needs the community. The community is the place and the people into which God has planted the local church as light and ministers of grace. God has called His people to their community to flavor and influence. The community needs the church as well. Whether they acknowledge it or not does not negate the truth of it. The community needs the positive influence the local church brings to the table. The community needs the willingness and desire of the church to serve and make a difference that is in its very DNA.

Please hear me closely. I am not advocating allowing the secular community to determine what kinds of ministry the church chooses to engage in.  I don’t believe that would be wise on our part. I am fairly certain the community would not allow the church to determine their activities either. How then can we work together? Does the church have a responsibility to be involved in the life of their local community? Absolutely. Can both parties benefit when each are acknowledged? No doubt.

I have thought at length on this subject and the results have shaped my philosophy of ministry. When planning events and ministry opportunities for the church body, we should take into account what is going on in the community on that given day or weekend. It is not for the purpose of avoiding conflict. Instead, it is to determine the possibility that the church can be involved in that event. When there are special events in the community, the church should seek ways to involve itself when possible. As the church involves itself in the everyday life of the community, trust is built and relationships will be formed over time.

The goal for the church as it relates to the community is to be an agent of change and hope through the message of the gospel of Christ. When the community sees that the church cares about the people and their future, without any strings attached, credibility is earned in the eyes of the community. Now, does the community have to acknowledge the church for the church to be credible? Of course not. Jesus Christ established the New Testament Church and needs no secular approval. However, the old saying is true here, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”  Credibility is the platform from which the gospel is made known. It is the bridge that the gospel walks over. Consistent involvement is necessary if we hope to make a difference and a lasting mark on the community into which the church has been planted. Why compete when we can cooperate?

National Night Out 2015

NNO15For the past three years, Port Royal Baptist Church has had the privilege of participating in a community-building event known as National Night Out. National Night Out is an initiative to develop and promote crime-prevention programs in neighborhoods involving watch groups, law enforcement agencies, churches, non-profit organizations, businesses, and individuals working toward one simple goal: safer and stronger communities. Our church has long had a burden for the multi-housing community that adjoins our campus and had been looking for ways to gain entry. In the years prior, we had not been allowed access to the property for a number of reasons. We approached the property manager with the National Night Out initiative and it allowed the crack in the door we had been praying about.

This is how it works. A church, business, or non-profit organization identifies a neighborhood to “adopt” and invites local law enforcement/fire safety agencies to join them. In our case, Port Royal Police Department, Beaufort County Sheriff’s Department, and Beaufort County Fire Department will provide staff and resources from their departments to communicate their anti-crime and safety message. This initiative allows police and fire departments an opportunity to show the positive side of their work that many in the community never get to see. Our part is to host a block party (bounce house, popcorn, sno-cones, etc.) including a cookout. The property manager provides the space, power, and internal promotion to more than 100 family units. Through this initiative, foundational partnerships have been formed that have led to current ministry opportunities of ministry and involvement. On August 4th, 2015, we will all come together again to do our individual part in collectively making sure our community knows that we care about them.

Earlier I mentioned foundations for future involvement. From the church’s standpoint, we have had the privilege to go back into this neighborhood and minister in other ways. Because of a “non-church” event, we have been allowed to come back to host “church” events including those related to Easter, Vacation Bible School, Back Yard Bible Clubs, and Family Fun Days. We were able to match our burden for the community with the command to reach all people with the gospel because we built trust and earned the right to be involved in their lives. How did we do this? How can you do the same thing?

1. We took advantage of a secular event in order to lay the groundwork for ministry. Check your community calendars and involve your church in those events. I will be writing on the importance of merging church and community calendars this coming week. Check back for that.

2. We actually believe that our community is our responsibility, not someone else’s. Remember, missional is not about doing. It is all about being. Don’t allow someone else to be the missionary to your community.

3. We were not afraid to be told “no”. Neither should you. Pray, identify, and ask. We were told “no” in this particular multi-housing unit for years. Seasons change. Administrations change. Persistence pays off.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

out-of-office-signWell, not exactly a jet plane. The week that I have been looking forward to has finally arrived; Summer Vacation. My family and I will at the beach this coming week. I am so looking forward to no meetings, no scheduled events, and no places that I “have to be”. Between a heavy summer community ministry load, sermon study/planning, congregational care, and seminary I am very tired and look forward to some much needed rest. I will try to post a few thoughts throughout the week here at The Road Less Traveled. Make sure you check back every so often.