Ministry Styles 6: Determining Your Outreach Styles by Steve Childers

Steve —  October 19, 2018 — 1 Comment

Video Transcript (slightly edited)

As church members, we’re called to reach out to our communities with the gospel in word and deed through two common approaches or styles: Gathering and Scattering.

  • The first style focuses mostly on gathering people into the church through proclaiming the Word in evangelism.
  • The second style focuses mostly on scattering people out of the church through serving the poor in acts of mercy.

Both styles are needed. But one of the biggest mistakes church leaders make is failing to understand which of these outreach styles is the best “fit” for their church’s unique giftedness and the specific needs of their community.

For the sake of illustration, the styles of Evangelism and Mercy are being combined here into one topic category called Outreach Styles. We can think of it in terms of Word and Deed, Evangelism and Mercy. There are two major dimensions when considering Outreach Styles that are sometimes seen in opposition to one another, but can really be complementary and have a part to play in Outreach efforts across cultures.

As stated above, the first is the Gathering or Attractional outreach styles, which are focused on drawing people in. The other is Scattering outreach styles, which are focused on going out to where people are in need.

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Outreach styles of a church in a particular community are normally more effective with one than the other. Some communities are more receptive to an attractional or a drawing-in kind of dynamic, like a worship service that attracts people as a way of reaching out. Other contexts and cultures are more receptive to Christians initiating and moving toward them in purposeful acts of evangelism and mercy. Most often, a healthy church needs to have both of these styles or dynamic in play. Which one is more dominant is actually determined by the context, by the culture, even by the generation. So what are some examples of each? First let’s look at the Attractional model:

Gathering Outreach Styles

The Front Door Attraction (Worship Service).
Having Attractional Worship Services means you’ll need to focus more on these dynamics:

  • Culturally relevant, meaning that it communicates to the ministry focus group clearly and powerfully
  • Seeker sensitive, meaning that it is uniquely tuned to communicate to unbelievers
  • Homogeneous in purpose and style, meaning that it is focused on one dominant expression from that culture
  • Yet, also receptive to various groups and individuals in your Ministry Focus Group—meaning that it is not so focused on one dominant culture expression that others feel unnecessarily like outsiders.

This Attraction Worship Service goes hand in hand with Attractional Outreach Methods.

The Front Door Outreach Methods.
There’s usually some variety in this, but it will largely include:

  • Word-of-mouth referrals by members and people who have come to the church to others, sparking and interest
  • Personal invitations by members to neighbors, friends, and family to join them for worship
  • High visibility events that enable you to address needs and interest inside the church walls
  • And advertising that will reach the receptive – e.g., sometimes use of social media, visitation, newspaper, radio, yellow pages, etc.

We need to also consider the other Outreach dimension.

Scattering Outreach Styles

The Side Door Attractions (NOT a Worship Service).
Where the attractional worship model was geared toward bringing people to the worship service, which was uniquely tuned to communicate to them as unbelievers, the missional styles, while not overlooking being culturally relevant and welcoming, normally gear more toward

  • Personal relationships (one-on-one evangelism
  • Open small groups – empty chair approach
  • Nurture/Growth/Discipleship Groups (cell groups)
  • Task/Ministry Groups – Evangelistic Bible studies, felt-need ministries, clubs, training classes, etc.
  • Support/Recovery Groups – chemical dependency, divorce, grief, etc.

Community Outreach Events.
The Missional dimension could also include other aspects more explicitly geared toward the needs of those outside of the church, such as:

  • Outreach breakfasts, luncheons, dinners with special speakers
  • Felt-need seminars – parenting, divorce, finances, etc.
  • Feeding the poor
  • Job training programs
  • Health clinics

Whichever dimension more effectively reaches your ministry focus group will vary, though church leaders should thoughtfully consider a mixed approach that will both attract and seek out. Developing ministry styles for your church is a process that should never end.

The battle cry of the Protestant Reformers was “Semper Reformanda!”, which means “Always Reforming”.

If a church stops regularly examining its culture and properly adapting ministry styles and methods accordingly, it will inevitably become a culture unto itself. Soon the church will only be relevant to a culture that doesn’t exist anymore. Instead the church must be regularly asking the question we used at the beginning of this session, “How does the church do ministry in this culture?” Never forget, you must become a life-long, in-depth student of three things if you are to be effective in church planting: The Gospel, your Church (including you), 
and the Culture where you serve.

When these three areas are properly understood and converge in ministry, the result can be transformation of both people and society.

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