April 23, 2018—One of the biggest challenges in ministry is outreach, especially if your church is small and doesn’t have the financial or human resources to do BIG outreach the way some city and suburban churches might. Yet, we are called to reach our world for Christ, and we are called to serve the “least of these.”
How do we meet the real needs of people in our communities while also sharing God’s love when money is tight and a limited number of volunteers are already burnt out?
1. Listen for community needs. The best ministries often begin with listening. How can you listen to the community around you? Read the local paper. Attend town council or local school board meetings. Map the assets present in your community, and identify gaps in ministries, programs, and services. Hear people’s pain. Drive (or better, walk) through neighborhoods that are unfamiliar, and get to know the area. Incarnation often begins with listening, so how are you and your congregation listening to those within the church and the community? Did I mention listening is free?
2. Start a Coupon Ministry. I once served at a church with a member who took financial stewardship so seriously, she quit her job because of all the money she started saving with coupons. She now runs a coupon ministry. The coupon ministry maintains an outreach table with free toiletries – obtained for free with coupon deals; they bless the church by donating food for Wednesday evening meals, and even conduct periodic couponing seminars where people can come learn how to make their dollars go further at local stores. In an area with a depressed rural economy, how might a coupon ministry benefit your rural congregation? Did I mention couponing is free?
3. Reach Out to The Rural Homeless. Every county in America has a homeless population. In rural areas, homeless individuals and families are harder to find, and harder to identify, because they often live in the woods in “tent cities.” Sometimes we think of homelessness as an urban issue, but it also exists rural America. How can your church minister to the homeless individuals in your county? Building trust through relationships, partnering with area churches and agencies to provide a cold weather shelter, and acting as an advocate with county or town officials can all lead to serving those without homes or shelter. Did I mention relationship, partnerships, and local advocacy is free?
Sometimes we buy into the idea that outreach costs money or requires staff, but some of the best forms of outreach simply come down to relationships and creativity.
Jonathan pastors the Beale Memorial Baptist Church in Tappahannock, VA. He is the founder of the Small-Town Churches Network blog (www.smalltownchurches.org), which is dedicated to sharing research, ideas and tools to help small-town churches. Jonathan is a DMin candidate (ABD) at Logdson Seminary, where his research focuses on equipping small-town churches for 21st century ministry. Additionally, Jonathan is a regular opinion columnist for Baptist News Global, and serves on a variety of denominational boards and leadership teams. Follow him on Twitter @jonathandavis
Jonathan Davis will be co-facilitator, with Camille Josey, of our Colloquy for Rural Church Pastors (two sessions: August 6-8, 2018 and February 11-13, 2019). Click here for the application. Join us!