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9 habits to develop an outreach culture

| by Kris Eldridge

Culture change in church life is extremely hard work…it can feel like “pushing a rope uphill.” Unfortunately, from both experience as well as from study, I am convinced that the Church is all about quick fixes in outreach ministry.  

I often see this illustrated through churches that try multiple outreach or evangelism programs. When a program does not “work,” churches will often move on to the next program or strategy. Or, let’s use the leadership example. Churches often try different outreach/evangelism leaders with mixed results/success…if a leader does not affect change, the church then moves on to the next leader. Do these sound familiar?  

One of the things I have learned over the last 20 years is that quick fixes rarely advance God’s Kingdom and rarely produce heart and lifestyle changes in our congregants.  With that in mind, the following nine habits will help your church develop an outward focused culture. 

1. Model the destination.

Churches that “do outreach well” have senior pastors and leaders whose heartbeat is Matthew 28:18-20. The Great Commission is not something that is ignored or just spoken about.  Rather, these churches have senior pastors, staff, and elders who live out and model a lifestyle of active outreach and evangelism. Obedience is modeled.

2. Set expectations.

Churches that do outreach well expect their people to be about outreach. For instance, I was on a church staff where it was expected that all church ministries, as well as any person who called that church home, be in involved in serving the community.  That expectation was consistently and regularly stated from the pulpit, in membership classes, and so on.

3. Lead with mission/vision.

“This is what life is all about;” “take your priesthood seriously” (Ephesians 4:11-12); “join God on a mission;” “you can change society/the world.” Churches that do outreach well routinely reemphasize the mission and vision for the church.

4. Preach and/or teach on the Great Commission.

Churches that seek to change culture have sermon series/teachings related to the Great Commission. Sermons on topics such as the basics of the gospel, the realities of the gospel, having a heart after the Father, the priesthood of the believer, your role in the Great Commission, and so on are taught on a regular basis.

5. Have regular God Stories on Sunday mornings.

Church members share their own stories of “God using them.” The principal here is that we become what we celebrate.  

6. Personally invite others to go with you.

Disciple! Disciple! Disciple! Often the best way to change culture is to begin with a small group and watch it multiply over time. 

7. Offer a great first-time outreach experience.

Churches that have changed culture offer easy first-time outreach opportunities where folks can feel that what they did mattered. Offering an easy entry point into outreach can lead to further outreach.

8. Offer a “next step” in serving.

For example, a God story is told about a pregnancy center on a Sunday morning and a “next step” is immediately offered for the congregation. Unfortunately, churches will often have a great God story about an outreach event or local mission partner but they will in no way mention how to get involved in what God is doing. Next and immediate steps are crucial!

9. Evaluate and combat DNA.

Churches that have made changes evaluate where their body is, talk openly about where their body is, and lovingly push for change—for example, early in Bill Hybels’ ministry, folks were not serving. He discussed that openly from the pulpit and then preached a 13-week sermon series on servanthood. The same thing can and should be done within evangelistically complacent church congregations. 

What about you? What habits have you experienced that have helped nurture an outreach culture?

Photo source: istock 

Kris Eldridge

Kris Eldridge lives in Atlanta is the founder of Outreach Ministry Solutions. His focus is consulting with churches to help them reach their communities.

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