Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Church Mobilization: Handles for Global Outreach
Churches can be such busy places... sometimes the things that make our churches seem most alive (lots and lots of creative new ministries!) make leaders and other potential participants feel more dead (I can't do one more thing!). So some of us fight to get out of that rat race, trying to take control of our lives and our ministries and streamline them. Keep them simple, focused, efficient. Good move, right?
I'm not so sure. Not if it means there's no place for people to plug in, to find community, to make a contribution. Can you have a healthy church if people aren't connected?
I've been impressed by the stories I've heard about this church and this one. Both took a look at their global outreach ministries and saw them the way many of us see our small group ministries: as a way to develop leaders, foster relationships, make disciples. Staff and leaders chose to see their job as opening the door for others to participate. Their mission programs have plenty of handles, and if someone in the church has an idea they are welcomed and supported as they put it into action. Don't get me wrong; there's quality control, there's leadership. They don't say yes to everything and they don't support 200 ministries at $25 a month.
But they don't leave their global ministries program in the hands of a committee of half a dozen seasoned mission-types, either; they give it away. I think we'd see more healthy churches if we did that.
It's also a way to get away from church mission programs being all about the missionaries. In many cases that doesn't work so well. I know in my church we've fallen back on this. Our goal in mobilizing our church for missions is merely to get people in our congregation to care about the missionaries someone decided to support a couple decades ago. We care about those missionaries, we mission-committee people, but that's because we know them. Most of the folks in the congregation don't. That may be our fault. So should we just try harder, put up their pictures, print everyone a directory, etc? (I'm working on revising the directory, now.)
The problem is that having missionaries pushed on you is kind of like having old friends send you baby pictures of their kids and grandkids. You've never met these babies. Maybe you never will. Do you really want their picture on your fridge, these random babies that belong to someone you may love but who never seems to be included in the picture? Yet any resentment you may feel is tempered by guilt. I mean, what kind of a jerk doesn't care about babies? I think it's the same, in the Christian community, with missionaries.
Whether the "handles" to church mission involvement are hosting, praying for, or assisting a missionary (one, probably, not 30 of them) or something different, I think we need to keep finding those handles. Let's look for the ways people want to engage.
>> Got a good story about a church whose people have many ways to engage in global outreach? I'd love to hear it. Post a comment here or write to me.