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Welcome! The primary purpose of this blog is to explore and encourage around what it means to be winsome and sent into the world for God's glory. If you are new here, the definition of "lighthouse-searchlight" or our missional journey is a good place to start. Come peruse the blog and add me to your RSS feed!

Friday, February 20, 2009

iv - evaluating missional

The following is part four of a workshop I taught at the Presbyterian Global Fellowship (PGF) “Gearing Up” conference in Atlanta. The content and illustrations are from life at Good Shepherd, but I was trying to identify key transferable concepts, particularly for life in smaller churches (though I hope they would transfer into any context).

Not only is constant communication an essential part of accepting a new identity as a church, but so is evaluation… of existing activities as well as future activities. I would use the word “ruthless” except it sounds so negative. Let’s just say we have been very, very persistent in asking whether an activity has a high lighthouse or searchlight value and taking things we are already doing and pressing ourselves to raise the lighthouse and searchlight value.

At one particular office retreat, we brainstormed to list missions and ministries that we either were already engaged in or thought God might call us to be engaged in. By the time we were done, several hundred activities had been named, from choir to Vacation Bible School to our new drama ministry. And we would ask, “Is the drama ministry a lighthouse/searchlight ministry? If not, how could it become one? And if so, how could we grow it further in that direction?”

What we’ve found is that even with explanation and pressing, we tend to think of better and better ways to attract people to come to us. If two full-length original plays a year is good, then adding intermission popcorn would be better… more lighthouse-y… more of a draw. What was really hard was pressing ourselves outside our walls! But, it’s doable. For example, we connected our drama ministry with the major mission field of the public elementary school. The connections may not be obvious at first, but persist! After several stalled attempts to meet the new principal, we did and found out about character traits emphasized monthly. The principal and our person who writes skits and plays quickly locked onto the idea of bringing a small team from the church to do a skit in assembly on the trait of the month: honesty, kindness, etc… Months later, we pressed even farther – what about a few church members whose children go to that school and who are involved in our drama starting a drama club and seeing if we could cultivate the opportunity for OP (elementary kids) at the school to do the skits for their peers!

Here is the first line of a grid I prepared for evaluating current and proposed missions. It uses the example of updating our website (which we did). We moved from a very self-focused website to one with the primary goal of reaching out to our unchurched neighbors. The first tab was for them - why Christianity? why God? We offered meeting space to neighborhood associations and other groups. (We've since updated again to a blog format... but same outreach priority.)

I would add that sometimes it is helpful to ask someone from outside the church to help see these opportunities. i'm not talking about a high-priced consultant... just any mission-focused friend who isn't part of your church and who hasn't driven by the mission field every week for 20 years. Is there a high school near your church? Do you need ideas for venturing into that mission field? Consider taking a group regularly to the high school football games and just cheering enthusiastically for "your team." You'll meet parents and other teens soon enough as you become regulars. Or volunteer to staff the concession stand. Get up and get out!

With all the brainstorming we did at that retreat,
there were several hundred ministries and missions on the chart. And these were congregational/group ministries. (The next part will explore personal ministries and missions.) A simple sort in Excel helped us identify a “top 10” for the coming year that were maxed out for lighthouse and searchlight and which were low cost in terms of dollars! Those ten became our goal for 2007.

Click to enlarge...

NEXT: inviting mission

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