John caught Fred in the hallway at church near the drinking fountain. He got Fred in the corner and asked, “You know that preschool our church runs?” Fred gave an acknowledging nod. John continued, “It takes up a lot of space. And, according to our budget, it’s not paying its way. We subsidize that thing with janitorial service, heat, and lights. Half the kids are from families that are unchurched and nobody over the last five years has come to our church from that preschool. What good is it, anyway?”
Churches have all sorts of auxiliary ministries. That’s a good idea: find a need and fill it; find a hurt and heal it. These types of ministries (I call them enterprises—The Jesus Enterprise, Abingdon Press, 2004) are key to impacting a secular culture. In developing relationships, we can share Jesus.
Churches have preschools, day care ministries, coffee shops, athletic programs, money management seminars, single’s ministries, Christian elementary schools—the list goes on. These are bridging ministries to invite people to your church. Why doesn’t it happen more often?
Focus on these issues:
- The key: staff with those people who see themselves as missionaries. Their primary and ultimate goal is to develop relationships and look for opportunities to share what the Lord has done in their lives.
- Train staff to know when people are receptive. Jesus told His disciples to find the “person of peace.” That “person of peace” is a person who is receptive.
- Not only do they need to know the signs of receptivity—the person of peace—but they need to know the right time. They need to know at what speed and how much they share at any given time.
- Those who serve in these bridging ministries ought to have some form of accountability measurement. Ask how effective the ministry is for reaching people for Christ and bringing them into the church.
- Those who serve in these ministries should be committed and enthusiastic members of your church. If parents drop off children at a day care and someday come to worship, they need to see—and probably sit with—the day care worker.
- Those who work in these ministries should be trained to cultivate deeper into the extended relationships, often called the web of relationships. That young man in the athletic program, for example, has a group of peer relationships. He also has a mom and dad, perhaps a grandmother and grandfather, siblings, and aunts and uncles.
- Those who work in bridging ministries need to know how to share their faith in an authentic, unrehearsed, and non-threatening way—testimony of how God has worked in their own life.
- At Church Doctor Ministries, we provide an Outreach Clinic for those involved in bridging ministries. It teaches Missionary 101 in a one-day clinic. Those involved are asked to write Action Plans on how they will improve the outreach opportunities of their ministry.
- It is good stewardship to monitor how people come into your church. It is good to know what is working, what God is blessing. That’s where you want to place your emphasis.
Don’t get defensive when you hear words like those voiced by John. Those are good questions he’s asking. Rather than be offended, turn that energy toward cultivating bridging ministries with productive strategies that reach people for Christ.
How is your church impacting the secular culture through bridging ministries? We welcome your comments below.
Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by email, Twitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.