From ‘Outreach Ministry’ to ‘Inclusive Ministry’

The language of “outreach ministry” is common talk among most churches.  There are even churches who have “outreach ministers” on staff.  Such ministry probably varies from church to church but it all involves ways in which the church serves people outside of the church within the local community.  What is important is that the plans for outreach are always laid out by the church.  That is to say, the vision and the plans to carry out that vision is exclusively hatched by church members.  But is this the best way?  Is this a little presumptuous on the part of churches?

Last week I was listening to Newt Gingrich talk on CNN about the lack of support from minorities among the Republican party and the need for Republicans to reach minorities.  Speaking to Soledad O’Brien, who is of Cuban descent, Gingrich had an interesting comment that should pertain to the way churches go about outreach ministry.  Gingrich said, “Outreach is when you have five white guys in a meeting and they call you.  Inclusion is when they include you.”

I hope we get what Gingrich is saying because it matters.  More and more churches among increasing diversity where different languages, world views, cultural values, socio-economic standards, and so on exist.  It seems that it would be rather presumptuous for churches to plan an outreach ministry without including such peoples upfront in the developing stages of that ministry.  After all, how does a church know what is best for a people of a different culture without including them in the conversation?  This is the point Gingrich is getting at and I think it is a pretty good point.

There are two implications that immediately come to mind:

  • The obvious is the inclusion of people from outside of church in the conversations.  This might begin with talking to community leaders but it could also include something such as organizing a community meeting for the purpose of ascertaining the needs of the community.
  • Another change might be for churches to not be so eager to begin their own ministry but instead look for ways in which God is already ministering in the community and partner up with those ministries.  The advantage is that this usually means partnering up with organizations who already understand the needs of the community and how best to meet those needs.  This approach is also practically beneficial to smaller churches who have limited resources.

Are there any other implications that come to mind that I’m missing?

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3 responses to “From ‘Outreach Ministry’ to ‘Inclusive Ministry’

  1. You are looking for feedback?

    When I arrived here in Delta I went to the school principals, met with editor of the local paper, director of chamber of commerce, city manager, etc. to get a better understanding of the community.

    With that said, we did a great deal of what I call “community impact ministry” at my last work. I agree totally with the idea of inclusive but I’m not sure that having someone from the local community point you in a direction will necessarily help. Even joining with others may not bring you any closer.

    Our last work had a mixture of Holy Spirit led and feedback from the community. What I believe matters most is that the people you touch know that they could be included in your church. That to me is the inclusive that is needed. We had a very economically diverse congregation where the least of these felt welcome. That is why we saw growth and had people come to Christ. Not because we asked them what would help but that they knew we loved them when we did whatever we did.

    I fear that far too many churches are just becoming another social service agency in their town, another place to get resources. People needed to know they are loved and can be a part of the Kingdom.

    “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” 1 Corinthians 13:1-3

    • That is some great feedback and insight as one who also has on-the-ground experience. I think you are right that people want to know that they belong. I also share your concern about churches becoming just another social agency.

      Thanks for you comment.

  2. Pingback: Net-forage 11.14.12 « neoprimitive

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