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8 questions to help your church focus its outreach

| by Brian Thorstad

The church’s leadership team worked through the delicate discussion of whether to choose a target demographic group to focus on reaching for Christ

As usual, some good people reacted to the concept of seeking to identify a God-chosen demographic group for their church to focus on reaching for Christ. 

The objections centered around fairness, exclusivity, prejudice (or “respect of persons”) and the family nature of a congregation. The answers to these objections involved the examples of: 

  • Old Testament prophets—Who were almost always called by God to reach out to a particular group of people
  • Jesus himself—Died for the world, but focused His three-year ministry almost exclusively on the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6)
  • New Testament Apostles —Some of whom were called to go to the Jews while Paul was chosen to go to the Gentiles
  • Missionaries—Both foreign and domestic are normally sent out to reach particular demographic groups, such as Indian immigrants in London or Hispanic students on a college campus in the U.S.

Here are eight questions a leadership team can ask to discover their target group.

1. Have we prayed?

Turn to God in fervent, serious prayer. Whatever we do to determine a target group, prayer should precede and permeate the process. Having passionately prayed for God’s direction, should we then believe that the people group on our hearts was placed there by God?

2. Does the Bible speak to the issue?

Does scripture encourage us to favor one group over another?  This is dangerous ground, but it seems like we at least should consider the possibility. Should we be going to the “Jew first”?  Should we favor the poor over the rich? (We know what God thinks about favoring the rich over the poor!) 

3. What demographic is already growing?

Is there a group that is already coming through our doors? Would it be feasible and practical to focus on this group which seems to be drawn to us? 

4. Who do we need to be balanced?

Many make the argument that a church, as a local body of Christ, should have a variety of “members,” (body parts), as in 1 Corinthians 12. It should have young men, older men, older women and younger women, as in Titus 2.  It should have dear children, young men and fathers, as in 1 John 2. Do we need to pursue one of these groups to bring our imbalanced body back into balance?

5. Who is moving into our neighborhood?

If a particular demographic moves into the corner of the mission field served by our congregation, it stands to reason that God is bringing these people right to our door. What would we have to do to reach them? 

6. Is there a group which is not being reached?

Is it possible that there are several evangelistic ministries in our area which are all targeting the same group, while simultaneously leaving a less desirable group untouched?  

7. Who are we equipped to reach?

Our current congregation with its strengths, weaknesses and resources might make it ideally suited to reach one demographic niche while unsuited to reach another. Will 20-somethings set foot in a building that looks like ours? Will our older pastor be heard by a younger generation?

8. How much are we willing to adapt ourselves?

This has to be one of our key questions.  An aging white congregation can reach younger, black newcomers to the neighborhood, with an extraordinary degree of love and adaptation. The apostle Paul (1 Corinthians 9) was willing to do anything except evil to reach lost people. Are we? 

After much prayer and discussion, the church decided they needed to focus themselves on reaching younger people, at least temporarily, to correct their serious age imbalance. Short of deciding to become a church of 20-somethings or young families, they felt that they at least needed to adapt themselves to younger people until they once again looked like an age-balanced family. 

Photo source: istock 

Brian Thorstad

Brian Thorstad is a Redevelopment Transitional Pastor. He is the author of Heaven Help Our Church! (A Survival Guide for Christians in Troubled Churches) and Redevelopment: Transitional Pastoring That Transforms Churches.

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This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good for you and leads you along the paths you should follow.
Isaiah 48:17 (NLT)
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