Worksheet ~ Small Church. Big Impact. Your Community.
I opened an email from a colleague who leads a ministry in Chicago. He was very excited to report their increasing impact.
Born and having served the Church in Chicago for a lifetime before moving to Florida, I was blessed to see a ministry team responding to the call of God to serve the needs of people who live in that "one great city" (Jonah 4:11).
Then I began to wonder; what could God do if even a small congregation or ministry in each of the 77 neighborhoods discerned and designed a simple-yet-substantial action-plan. Just one group.
Small in size. But big in prayer. Focused on a specific need in a particular location. A small but unique group concentrated on a Spirit-led focus to show and tell the love of God in Christ in their community.
Not small churches reprograming to become mega-churches. Small entities, praying big, loving loud, and sharing their stories of new life in The One of God, our Savior.
Almost immediately, the Holy Spirit began flooding my mind with ideas. A simple template the smallest of congregations or ministries (or even a small group) could adopt or adapt toward making a simple but sizable impact on life across their community. A series of questions a Design Team could utilize to pursue a for-such-a-time-as-this action plan.
Think about. Pray into. Talk together.
- When you gather together:
- Pray Before: Everyone participates. No hurry,. Listen. Debrief what you heard collectively...
- During: Interrupt the horizontal discussion to reengage the leading of the Spirit...
- After: Prayers of commitment, seeking empowerment for action...a
- When you pray together A.S.K.
- Ask the Lord for direction and discernment toward defining and designing a single outward focus that drives every ministry and activity, every program and project.
- Include everyone as you seek God's will as you search God's Word.
- Prepare to knock on new doors-of-opportunity and to knock down any roadblocks (programs, traditions, customs, focused-on-members, fear of the neighborhood) that would keep you from fully committing to whatever the Spirit leads you
- When you think together:
- "What is the one thing we are equipped to do that will have significant influence and impact on the people we live near, work alongside, play with?"
Base - Why do we exist? Who are we?
- Believe in the purpose and power of your group
- Jesus worked with groups of varying sizes. Perter, James, and John. The twelve. The seventy; sent out two-by-two. One hundred and twenty gathered in prayer in an upper room. Crowds; hundreds in the temple courts, thousands on a hillside.
- "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”" Margaret Mead
- Walk and talk through these questions:
- Why do we exist?
- For God? For ourselves? For others?
- What is our unique personality as a specific group of people?
- Describe our corporate culture
- What is our unique mix of people?
- What redemptive gift would be a blessing to our neighbors?
- What passion, skill, talent, Spirit-gifting is embedded in our group.
- What do we do best as a congregational community or group and how might God use that to impact our community?
- What need, problem, cry for advocacy, breaks our heart.
- Why do we exist?
Grace - What is the one-thing God is calling us to do to reveal "the grace of God that brings salvation to all people?" (Titus 2:11)
- Do we believe this?
- People need to know salvation has come in and through Jesus
- Salvation is "the free gift of God"(literally 'grace-gift' - notice the redundancy to make the point) (Romans 6:23)
- God's offers a salvation that is not based in merit or achievement ...to everyone.
- Help your members look into the faces of the people you hope to serve.
- Are we prepared to pray for, care about, share with anyone God places in our path?
- Since "all people have sinned and have missed the shining-greatness of God" (Romans 3:23) are we prepared to love our neighbor, with every variety of sin?
- Identify the "types" of people/groups that may be difficult to accept
- Are we more likely to be more judgmental than loving?
Case - What is the new path the Spirit is leading us to step onto?
- Do we have a fresh clarity of calling (focus) or are we simply looking to replace one program with another?
- Have we done our research?
- Is this a perceived-need on our part or a real-need expressed by the people we are called to serve?
- Are other churches or organizations already working in this are? If so, should we partner? Or, should we look for a yet-unmet need?
- How do we cast this vision to our congregation/team/group
- This city-focused guide may help us>>>
Space - What is our serving capacity?
- Space for meeting or activity or storage
Place - What is the scope of our calling?
- A realistic understanding of how much area we should encompass
- Could less actually be more? Less area covered but more people served more substantially.
- Is our calling to a particular community? Street corner? To a certain set of people (unwed mothers, families with a parent incarcerated, homeless, etc.)
Pace - When should we begin?
- What needs to take place before we go public?
- Does our specific service/action require permits?
- Are there resources we must first purchase?
- How do we prepare (teach and reach) our members?
- What training is required?
- Are we planning on scheduling:
- A one-time emphasis? (That’s charity)
- A quarterly event? (That’s an activity)
- An ongoing service? (That’s a ministry)
- Start now ...
- Ask the Spirit to take control of this endeavor
- Share the vision
- Organize the entire congregation/organization to press into the vision with listening prayer
- Gather a team of people who know how to seek discernment
- Set goals to reach the objective of a welcomed and meaningful presence in your community.
Erase/Replace - What must be set aside so that nothing hinders us from fulfilling our new calling?
- This may be the most difficult step in the process.
- It is probable some meetings, events, activities, programs must be canceled so that the entire congregation/organization/team to be fully focused-equipped-available to pursue our action-plan
- Assess every ministry component of the congregation/organization.
- How do our existing programs serve our new focus?
- Which ministries can be refocused to serve our new direction?
- If not, how do we tenderly set this activity aside?
- Erasing a program does not signify it was a failure. Subtraction may be essential to multiplication.
- Refusing to eliminate a program in order to launch a new focus is a step toward failure.
Years ago, in a Chicago neighborhood not far from the one referred to earlier, I witnessed a simple action-plan at work. A small congregation, pastored by an untrained but passionate man of God, had begun to offer a meal to homeless men and women in their neighborhood. When I arrived at one of their noontime feedings, they were feeding about as many people as they had in their entire congregation. Small actions of even a few people can have significant results.
We need dots (•) of all sizes on the map.
Mega-sized (thousands). Mezzo-sized (hundreds). Micro-sized (scores, even dozens).
Personalized to their people. Specialized to their gifting. Customized to their setting.
“The people should not think that small beginnings are unimportant."
Zechariah 4:10 New Century Version