Very few churches want to ignore the poor and marginalized in their city. Most pastors when asked about their local missions efforts will be filled with guilt or bashfully respond that they should be doing more. But if we all know we should be doing more, why aren’t we doing more? As I meet with church leaders, I have noticed that more and more are in a season of thinking through how to better engage the poor. They will say things like, “our elders were just talking about this and we need to get more involved” or ” we have wanted to do more in this area for years.” But after a few dream sessions or planning meetings, they are no more engaged than they already are.
I have wrestled with how to say this tactfully and I am still not sure this is the way to say it, but here goes: The reason your church is not more engaged with the poor and the broken in your city is that most pastors don’t really want to be more engaged.
Most pastors know that they should want to be more engaged, but they don’t. They might feel bad because they are not doing more, or like the idea of being a church that is doing more, but they lack one critical component: Conviction.
As with all things in life, there is a simple way to see where our core convictions lie…look at how we invest our time, money, and people. Jesus pointed this out in the sermon on the mount (Matt 6:21) reminding us that our heart and our investments are linked. Most churches want to have a bigger impact without a bigger investment. Because of this, they keep having the same conversation and are stuck in the same place.
So how do you actually invest? Here are 4 ways you can move from just talk to action, from guilt to conviction.
- Staff Time – if you have multiple staff working for your church, perhaps you could ask one of them to take a percentage of their time and devote it to leading this new effort. It is important to note that this will only work if you sacrifice some of the time they were giving to something else. It is possible that every staff is doing work that is more important than this all the time, but it is not likely. This will cause you to think through what is a bigger priority as a church, but the reality is, you have already made that decision and that is why there is nobody working on this for your church yet.
- Training – For many churches, people want to do more but they do not know how and where to start. You might need to attend a conference or take an online course. You might need to send your staff to meet with another church that is doing this well to learn from them. You might need to take all of your staff through a book study together to grow a common vision. All of these are great ideas, but they all have a cost.
- Systems – If you are ready to start engaging people, there may need to be upgrades to your website, your communication system, or your signup process. This was the major emphasis for us in the early years and it has made a world of difference.
- Communication Bandwidth – There is always more to say to your church than you have time to communicate. You are constantly having to decide what to say, promote, challenge, or rebuke. In my experience, the poor are usually the first to drop off of this list in favor of cookouts, retreats, training classes, etc. Consider how you could make the marginalized in your city a regular point of communication and challenge people to take steps often.
There are plenty of other ways to invest time, money, and people in local missions, but we as the church must be willing to make that investment. It will cost us something, but if we are unwilling to pay the cost, then we should just admit that we don’t see it as a priority.
Are you wanting your church to engage more in local mission? How can you increase your investment to make that happen?