Baptist or Methodist. Traditional or modern. Chairs or pews. Hymns or electric guitar. Dress or jeans. Online giving or offering plate. Teachers or facilitators. Large groups or small groups. Multi-age or age specific.
There are so many things that divide the church today. With all of these labels floating around, it’s no surprise that non-Christians often wonder why we can’t just get along! While it’s true that some of our differences don’t really matter much and are mainly about personal preference, there are certain characteristics that make your church unique. Being able to identify, embrace, and use these differences to your advantage can help grow your ministry and reach those who are not being reached by other churches.
Take a good long look and spend some time studying your church as a whole. Use the following questions to help identify your unique characteristics.
What ministry areas of your church are growing?
When you hear others in the community speaking highly of your church, what do they say?
What do volunteers say is the reason they keep coming back?
What do you provide that no other church in your community provides?
Circle the words that best describe your ministry-
Welcoming Jesus-centered Bible-based
Exciting Stable Family-focused
Equipping Consistent Mission-minded
Relevant Focused Intentional
Foundational Reverent Authentic
Write your own: __________________________________
What jobs and businesses do people who attend your church have? How can you help them use their business/professional gifts in your church?
Do you have people who could invest significant time in your ministries (retirees, young adults, college students, etc.)?
What words best describe the people in your church?
Friendly Flexible Traditional
Relevant Structured Invested
Reserved Risk-Takers Conservative
Wise Sense of Humor Serious
Generous Hard-working Kind
Other-Centered Community-Focused Family-Oriented
Write Your Own: _________________________________
What is your community passionate about?
What are your pastor and key leaders passionate about?
What issues/groups are your people passionate about?
Children Special Needs Fitness
Education Poverty Homelessness
The Arts Environment Technology
Health Youth Marriage/Family
Write Your Own: ____________________________________
Is your setting urban, rural, or suburban?
What is the biggest challenge in your community?
What are the unique needs of your community?
Why has God placed your church in this community?
What issues are important to the people in your community?
Putting It All Together-
What is the mission of your church? How is that reflected in your individual supporting ministries?
Your various ministries should be a reflection of your church as a whole. In order for your church to successfully accomplish its mission in your community, you need to move together in unison. If every ministry is focused in the same direction, you’ll eliminate competition for resources and disunity in your programs.
How will your church's ministries reach people who are not connected to another church? Embrace the way God created the people in your church. God knit you together in community for a reason and for a specific purpose. He doesn’t want churches to “compete” for church members; He wants us to reach the lost. You want to draw people to your church who aren’t being attracted by the approaches used by other churches. In order to do that, you need to approach people from another angle. As the universal church, we should be more concerned about lost people getting connected to A church than we are about lost people getting connected to OUR church.
How can you best take advantage of the gifts, passions, and talents of the people in your church and provide programs that meet a felt need in your community? The reason there are people in your community who are not attending a church is because they don’t feel there is a church that meets a felt need in their lives. Once you determine the needs and passions of your community, work together as a church to create programs that directly address and meet that need. Put extra effort to promoting these programs and ministries outside your church walls so they truly become a way to reach out to others.
What ministries do you currently offer that are not showcasing your unique passions, gifts, and talents? What programs need to be enhanced and what need to be stopped in order to concentrate more fully on what God is calling you to do? Do less with better quality. Just because people attend a program doesn’t mean it is meeting your intended goal and reaching out to your community. Put everything out on the table and honestly evaluate the programs you offer. Ask the hard questions- Are these programs meeting your goal? If they aren’t, is there something that can be tweaked to bring you back on target? If you stopped the program, would it help you to focus on other programs or start something new that more directly targets the goals of your church and needs of your community? It’s hard to let go of a program that seems successful, but if it’s not fulfilling your mission, then it’s zapping volunteer strength, creativity, and energy that you could use to more directly address needs in the community.
Bringing it all into focus-
Taking an honest look at your church’s strengths and weaknesses is sobering and scary. It’s hard for us to evaluate the effectiveness of programs we’ve dedicated our time and energy into developing and maintaining. Change within the church is often met with great resistance and takes courage and perseverance to cast the vision of what things can be instead of simply what they are. To embrace your church’s unique call to ministry means that you care more about reaching the lost in your community than you do about the comfort of the people in your church. It means doing things no one else is doing so you’ll attract people who no one else is reaching. As Christ’s church, we need to be relevant in our world, so people can see that the issues that matter to them, matter to us. They need to know the church is a place where they can bring their pain, hurt, and worries. We need to be in touch with the people God has placed in our path so that they can come to know and love Him more. Embrace the unique “you” God made your church to be!