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?