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October-November 2023

Forging Ahead


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A New Mindset About Community Outreach


Up the Street

By Becky McKinney


It seems we can finally say we’ve made it to the other side of the pandemic. This means returning to regularly scheduled church services, youth events, and Vacation Bible Schools. Many churches took a hit on attendance during the pandemic, and sadly, many churches lost people, either to the illness itself or to fear of contracting the illness. By God’s grace, now that we are past the worst of it, we need to reconsider community outreach in our churches.

The first obstacle is always mindset. As Christians, we should want to share the gospel with as many people as we can. It cannot be overstated: reaching the lost requires meeting the people in our communities face to face. Remember the words of Jesus in Revelation 3:20? “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”

Jesus lives in us who belong to His Church, and sometimes His knocking may come through our hands. If we are unwilling, some souls may not have the opportunity to answer.
Before the pandemic, our church had the goal of knocking on every door within a mile of our church. My husband Josh and I went to a house and knocked. A gentleman opened the door and invited us in. It turns out he had been sitting in his living room reading the Bible. He was a recovering alcoholic who had given his life to Christ and was freed from his addiction. That very morning, he had been praying for God to help him find a church to join. Four years later, he regularly attends our church, and we’ve had the opportunity to minister to him and his family.

In faith, these are the types of opportunities we believe are out there. These moments motivate church members to adopt a mindset to go into harvest fields as plenteous as the Master promised. Outreach is often uncomfortable and unnatural, and three years of pandemic isolation has not encouraged our neighbors to open their doors. It’s easier to keep the church in the building and wonder why the community isn’t coming. But we must go to them! Find a core of people in your church who believe in the mission to go, and then prayerfully develop opportunities for outreach and growth.

One way to generate outreach opportunities is to minister to community needs. You cannot find a “one size fits all” formula for this. What works for one church might not work for another. It’s best to start by evaluating your church and your community and determining what resources your church can offer. Maybe your church doesn’t have enough volunteers to start a new youth program, but you have the people to start a greeting card ministry to encourage the homebound.

Our church doesn’t have limitless financial resources, but we do have excellent and well-maintained facilities. So, we’ve partnered with nonprofit community agencies to offer services to the people who live nearby. Whatever you identify as an opportunity, the next step is to make sure you have church members willing to volunteer time to sustain whatever new program you decide to implement. It is no use to identify a need without a way to maintain the program.

Once you find a need your church can help meet, consider the community and how the need might benefit potential church attendees. If you have programs ministering to children, and your church is in a neighborhood consisting mostly of young families, figure out how to connect your program to these young families.

If your church is in a lower-income neighborhood, consider hosting a community meal once a month or building a “blessing box” stocked with non-perishable food items. Our church has been operating a blessing box for over a year, and the opportunities it has created for connection with our community (including those who want to contribute) have far exceeded our expectations.
These service ministries create real value for your community. Josh often reminds our church we should operate in such a way that if we ever closed our doors, our community would miss us. If your church could close tomorrow without anyone noticing, that’s a clear indicator your congregation has grown too insular.

Finally, be patient and prayerful about those in the community you are trying to reach. Growth does not happen overnight, but being persistent and faithful always pays off.

If one lost person is reached because of a community outreach program, then that is a huge win for God's kingdom and well worth all the time and energy. Angels will rejoice in Heaven, and your congregation will experience the surge of spiritual power that always accompanies redemption. With God’s help, they will become hungry to see Him work, and they will want to continue pursuing the real business of life: seeing souls saved.

To wrap things up, let me encourage you. If a community outreach opportunity has been weighing heavily on your mind, take the steps to evaluate your church and neighborhood. Where possible, push forward to implement the outreach activity. Yes, we must take the time to “feed the sheep” in our congregations and minister to our own families, but churches will only experience a small portion of God’s blessings and power when they focus primarily on themselves.

When you lead your church into the community, I am convinced God’s peace will begin to fill your lives. The anxiety that accompanies new activities will melt away as you realize “neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase” (1 Corinthians 3:7).

God doesn’t require results; He simply wants us to be faithful. Your church will never be fully faithful until you become serious about joining Christ in the harvest fields. Once there, it’s up to God to complete His work, and I know from experience, He is up to the task!

Please pray for us, and we’ll be praying for you!

About the Author: Josh and Becky McKinney met in the same church and have been married almost 13 years. They started ministry together by leading the youth group at their home church. Josh has been the pastor of Midfield FWB Church in Kingsport, Tennessee, for over eight years. Becky stays home with their daughter Hazel, who will soon celebrate her first birthday.



©2023 ONE Magazine, National Association of Free Will Baptists