The Top 5 Ways To Reach Out Into Your Community

May 29, 2014

Helping Hand Christian Stock ImagesScott Osterberg, Pastor, New Story Church We’ve all sat in meetings where we talked about reaching out to the community, but ended up with analysis paralysis: we talked, analyzed, prayed, got information, sent it to another committee, talked more, and so on, all while kids around us went hungry, addicts had no place to turn, and the homeless spent another night out in the cold.  Instead of being the church Jesus called us to be, we end up focusing only on those inside our walls. This strategy rarely works, and we end up wishing that things were different while lamenting they are not. At New Story Church we think we’ve found a better way. We call it “a bias towards action”. This means that if we have a choice between talking about doing something or actually doing it, we jump right in and get our hands dirty. Sure, we make a lot of mistakes (and even some awesome crashes and burns), but it’s totally worth it. In the last 6 months alone we have started a winter overflow shelter right inside our church, served over 9,000 meals, and have a truly multicultural church filled with addicts, the homeless, the broken, and people who have been very far away from God. These things are not just things a new church start can do. Any church can do them. If our small, new church can do these things, just think of the greater things that your church can do. To help you get started, here are five things we have done that have helped us be a truly missional church: 1)  Listen to what your community needs instead of telling it what it needs. Way too often we come up with what we think are great ideas for our community without ever really getting out in our community to see what the needs are. Are there a lot of single parents in your community? Hungry kids? People with addictions? People who live paycheck to paycheck? Spend time walking through your community and talking with people who don’t go to your church. If you only ask people already in your church what they need, you won’t get a true picture of the real needs outside your church’s walls. 2)  The best people to spearhead a new outreach program are those who have lived it. Those who have been hungry know better how to help the hungry than those who haven’t. The same is true for those with addictions, co-dependency, homelessness, single-parenting, and the like. If you don’t have any people like this in your church that can help you start a new outreach program, your church’s starting point might be a discussion about what it means to be the church and why you don’t have any of the least, the last, and the lost inside your church. 3)  Throw energy and excitement at the program, not tons of money. It’s always tempting to do checkbook mission work, and money is an important factor - it’s just not the most important factor. Hands and feet on the front lines create and excitement that giving money can never replicate. We’ve found that money always follows excitement. The converse is not always true. 4)  The steps may be small, but start walking. You may not be able to pack 300 meals, but I bet you can pack 10. You may not be able to have a homeless shelter in your church, but you can collect blankets and then bring them to homeless people in your community. When you come up with a new outreach program, also come up with the date it will start. We’ve found it’s much better to start small and have a victory, than to start too big and have a failure. The point is: START DOING SOMETHING. 5)  Celebrate victories like crazy. We’ve found it is wildly helpful to have people who have participated in a program to share on Sunday mornings how it touched them. Put pictures up on your church Facebook page. People like to celebrate! It’s also a great way to introduce the rest of your church (and your community) to the great things that are going on at your church. At New Story, we’re always ready to lend a hand to any church that would like to learn how to reach out to their community. Feel free to contact us and we’ll help in any way we can.
Scott Osterberg
Leadership Development