Our primary mission field lies outside our church property. (In fact, it might actually be within our churches. Billy Graham once estimated that half of church members were not Christians, but that is for another post!) I have read that a minimum of 50 percent of every county in the United States is unchurched. In some counties it is as high as 80-90 percent. This is a huge mission field that we are obviously not touching. How do we change that and begin impacting this huge percentage of our population for the Kingdom of God?
Many of the things that churches did in the past are not very effective today. Churches used to hold revival meetings each year to reach out to the unchurched. Most of the revivals I've seen churches hold in recent years have not been very effective in reaching unchurched people. In some cases, they didn't do a great job of attracting even their own members.
Early in my pastoral ministry we did a lot of door-to-door visitation. That is also not very effective today. It's very hard to find people home, and if they are home they are often preparing to go back out. People today are not as accepting of strangers knocking on their doors at night as they once were.
Another mindset of the past was that if we could reach children their parents would start coming to church with them. Many churches began bus ministries to pick up these kids each week. The cost of gas and the fact that this strategy was often not very effective in reaching the adults ended many of these bus ministries.
So how can the church become more effective in reaching out to this mission field in their communities? Here are some quick suggestions.
- Identify as many side-doors into your church as possible. This may be church sponsored sports activities that invites the community to participate. It may include leadership development programs to which you can invite local business and government leaders. You may want to sponsor something like Financial Peace University that would be open to both church members and unchurched people alike.
- Begin to reach out to the police and fire fighters through recognizing their importance to the community. I know one church that adopted a fire station near their church building. This allowed them to know these individuals better and gave them opportunities to minister to them and their families.
- Determine if there are people groups in your community that no other church is serving. Your church may want to target those groups with specific ministries that meet actual needs they have.
- Become involved in programs that make your community better. For instance, you may have people who would enjoy working with Habitat for Humanity. This would allow them to work side-by-side with the people who will one day own that house, and it may give them opportunities to share their faith with these families.