In our new home — a small town in northeast Ohio — we quickly realized the town square was the heartbeat of the community. Just about every weekend, you’d find vendors selling their products, entrepreneurs pitching their new ideas, farmers selling produce during the seasonal farmer’s market, and more.
We couldn’t believe God had called us to such a cool town to plant a church. As we saturated ourselves into the culture of the community, we asked the question every church planting family is asking: how do we reach this community with the good news of Jesus Christ?
THE FEAR OF LACKING RESOURCES
Pastoral ministry is full of stressors no man can fully fathom until he has begun the good work of it, and church planting (from my experience) is packed with an extra layer of stress on the front end. This stress most definitely derives from a desire to reach the community God has called us to but is quickly hijacked by a fear of lacking resources.
How do we make something out of nothing? How do we reach the masses with the minimum? How do we have a large reach with a little budget?
This can be an advantage to us church planters.
As my wife and I began to reconcile this conflict within our church context, we realized the answer was right in front of us: come alongside what your community is already doing! We had been trying to figure out how to be every other church plant — doing helicopter egg drops, mass mailers and every other home-run idea the church world has ever seen — all while looking past the obvious.
For the church planter, when we create an event, we do most of the heavy lifting. We advertise the event, hype it up, find volunteers, find a venue (because we probably don’t own our own building or want a neutral site for the comfortability of those outside the church) and so on. All of these things rack up a large expense list that makes our small budget cringe.
USING INNOVATION TO MEET PEOPLE
Our second summer in our community, we went on Amazon and bought a cotton candy machine for $150. We bought the machine, slapped our logo on it and started asking leaders in our community for permission to give out FREE cotton candy at their events. They absolutely loved it! It was something they could offer and didn’t have to set up, buy materials for or clean up.
And we absolutely loved it! It was an event we didn’t have to plan, set up or tear down, and we only spent $5 in supplies and materials per event to engage with hundreds of people at a time.
The best part about it all is that the same leaders we once went to in hopes of getting involved with were now coming to us. They sought us out to participate in events and even to play a part in the event planning itself. The following summer we bought a snow-cone machine and repeated our process.
LIVE BY FAITH, SPEND WITH REASON
Church planter, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do the egg drops or other big budget events, but rather should reevaluate the stress we are putting on ourselves to do something because every other church planter has done it. We, being wise followers of Jesus, know that we shouldn’t buy a house that’s out of our budget simply because every other friend of ours has a house like it. Live by faith, spend with reason.
Okay, so you’ve done some amazing fundraising and your church can handle putting on some big events; that’s great! But what if you took a step back to see how you could still come alongside of your community? What if, instead of just providing a cotton-candy machine for an event, you offered a projector screen, sound system, or whatever the need may be.
We shouldn’t only think outside when we feel we are lacking resources. Rather, we should always consider how we are spending God’s money. We should always reflect on whether or not we are gaining influence within our community. And it’s much easier to gain influence when you’re connected with your community — especially the influencers and leaders.
Our need as ministers of God’s Word is to break down the wall of hostility between the world and the Church. To do so, I implore you to begin thinking of ways to join forces with those in your community.
And as you continue to serve your community and share the good news, you’ll gain influence with the influencers, you’ll share the gospel with more people, your church will have a communal presence.
And the best part, Christ will grow His Church! To Him be the glory, forever and ever. Amen.
Published July 28, 2020