There is certainly is an uptick in the social activity of the church today. This is a good thing. But when serving remains simply an event that we do once a quarter or year, it often falls short of having gospel implications. So how do we move beyond serving as just an event? How do we create structures to ensure that we engage need on a personal level and as a part of missional community?
Before I offer some thoughts on those questions, here are two things I want to clarify about serving the least:
- Serving the Least does not make you Missional: Missional recognizes that you are, where you have been sent. Serving the least is a critical part of a missional posture, but serving alone for the sake of serving is not enough. You can go serve the least and still be a jerk to your neighbor. Not very missional.
- Serving the Least is critical for the church to regain her voice: Serving the poor transcends culture and context because being good news always transcend culture and context. In a post-modern and post-Christian world, it’s both biblical and contextual. Our skeptics demand that our deed match our creed.
Okay… now that I got that off my chest… here’s a few thoughts I shared at today’s Verge Conference on the topic.
Serving Through Missional Community: 7 steps to moving beyond the event.
- Teach Serving as a part of gospel-centered discipleship effort: Too often we fail to connect the dots between serving, becoming good news, and the Gospel.
- Plan Events & Projects that serve a redemptive purpose and present opportunities to do more: When we do so, the “Event” can serve as a spring board or “gateway” to more engagement and relationships.
- Create structures that clearly communicate a plan for next steps to engaging need: Serving cannot be just an “add on” event. It must be a clear part of the discipleship process. Communicating this reality is a critical step of the equipping process.
- Create a Place to Engage Culture: Missional Communities must be postured to engage real needs. We cannot engage culture without engaging the needs of culture. We can often utilize existing structures for this function (Re-purposed small groups, etc…). Often these must be decentralized in order to be both contextual as well as reproducible.
- Create the Space for Mission: Service will be the first thing that goes when people get busy. Most of our churches are already incredibly busy even without serving outside the church. So we must “add by subtraction” to create space to add service as a priority without simply adding another thing to do.
- Staff the Legwork of Serving: Instead of planning the entire event, recruiting leaders, and begging people to come… if our efforts are truly decentralized… we can do the front end legwork of working with non-profits, building the relationships, and providing a handful of service options (often the hard part), taking a “help me help you” posture with your group leaders. This helps enable and empower leaders to own a project without being bogged down with the red tape of initiation.
- Change the Way you Measure Success: This is the hardest thing to do but the most necessary. Serving the least is often messy, slow, seemingly ineffective, costly, and doesn’t necessarily result in church growth. We must begin to measure success in different ways:
- Kingdom impact over attendance impact.
- Percent of people from your church serving outside of your church.
- Number of non-Christians, seekers, & de-churched joining you to serve.
- Personal Transformation in your people.
- Number of those going on to the “next level” of engaging need as an intuitive part of life.