A friend recently told me that when he came to his new church, a member who is an attorney asked, “How can you use a guy like me in church?” This gave birth to a new legal aid group made up of almost 30 attorneys to help people in the community.
The mindset of many established churches is to maintain the most visible of their assets—people, property, and programs—without digging deeper to discover the rich resources that may be available just below the surface. There are people in every congregation whose abilities are not being used. In Growing an Engaged Church, Albert Winseman suggests that disengaged church members may just be seeking the right place to serve. He writes, “If you want to grow a spiritually healthy, vibrant, dynamic congregation, focus on increasing the engagement level of your members.”
To engage such people, however, we need to a new mindset. Rather than thinking about how we can “use” them (a rather selfish approach) in the established work of the congregation, we may need to think in terms of how to empower them to start new ministries or to commission them to serve as missionaries to the community.
Many programs in the church are “sacred cows” that have outlived their usefulness. Perhaps, however, they can provide the seeds for a new or improved ministry. We must be willing to give up the old in order to embrace the new.
Churches should also consider how to use their physical resources in missional endeavors. Most traditional churches have large facilities that are used only a few hours a week. Some have chosen to rent portions of their facilities in order to generate income. The most effective use of these facilities, however, would be to create new ministries to occupy that space or partner with already established community programs to strengthen their work.
A tool that churches can use to assess what they have available for Kingdom work is Asset-based community development (ABCD). This methodology seeks to uncover and utilize the strengths within communities as a means for sustainable development. If undertaken as a community process and not limited to church members, ABCD can open doors for new engagement with the community around the church. In fact, there may be those outside the church who can become part of the team to address needs.
God has blessed us in many ways, although we may not be fully aware of those blessings or how to use them most effectively.
(This is a section of For Such a Time as This: Aligning Church and Leadership for Missional Ministry which will be available from Pinnacle Press later this summer.)