Serving and the American Church

“Serving the Least” is on the rise in the American Church. This is a good thing. But it’s also (unfortunately) a new thing for most, and is requiring many churches to make some serious changes.

Leading people through change is an art, not a science. Especially when leading others towards engaging need for the first time. There are variables, many obstacles, and several paths that can lead to similar outcomes. Each of our stories will be unique, and half of the journey is discovery; don’t limit yourself before you get out of the box.

Here’s FOUR things to keep in mind when initiating movement toward social action:

Be Creative: Things will not go as planned. Serving the least is not neat and tidy. Church leaders will constantly have to be thinking about how we can accomplish specific things through unconventional means. This minimizes structural change and is necessary in (a) discovering existing forms that can best be adapted to accomplish our new objectives, (b) utilizing individual gifts to succeed in unlikely ways, and (c) thinking out of the box in an area where we’ve been conditioned to follow the norm.

Be Intentional: This is not something that will happen spending six hours a day at Starbucks sipping on a frapaccino. You won’t find out what you need to know at your laptop. Prayerfully drive through your community, meet with non-profit directors, city demographers, read books on culture and community, and meet with your mayor. Nothing we do should be without a purpose. If you plan an event to serve single moms, use the moment to capture information about their greatest needs. If you’re talking to a homeless man, ask them what are the misconceptions most people have about homelessness. If you’re mentoring a kid at school, find out if you can serve the mom as well. Being intentional means being a learner again. Know what you’re trying to accomplish and steward your efforts accordingly.

Be Responsive: There’s a huge difference between reacting and responding. When things do not go as expected, don’t throw up your hands in frustration. Don’t give up. Remember that God is leading this. And don’t allow the enemy to question all the things you’ve already settled. Be prayerful and find out what the next best decision is, then go do it. I know this seems a little happy-go-lucky, but don’t always look at failure as the end of the road, look at them as opportunities. Find alternatives and be open to changes along the way.

Be Persistent: Try and try again. I’ve seen groups go through a dozen different projects before they found one that “fits” their passion and experiences. Serving is certainly not a one-size-fits-all deal. If it was, we’d all want to do the same thing, and everything else would be neglected.

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About Brandon Hatmaker

Church Planter, Missional Strategist, Non-Profit Collaborator, and Author of "Barefoot Church: Serving the Least in a Consumer Culture". View all posts by Brandon Hatmaker

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