I want to share a study that Randy and I have used in both small group settings and a large group setting. Bill Hybels has such an incredible heart of outreach and he shares practical ideas and thoughts in this dvd series called “Just Walk Across the Room”. Hybels makes the point that it’s really not that hard to reach out – sometimes it simply involves walking across the room. In this study we hear of practical ways to share the Gospel over a lunch appointment – on a napkin! Seriously, you can’t get more practical than this study. It’s great stuff.
Oh how I love Halloween. It’s so much fun to dress up and as an adult you can dress up without being considered totally cray cray. I have a Nun costume and was dared by our outreach ministry team to wear it and make an announcement for our upcoming outreach on Halloween night but I declined. As much as I love to dress up I just am not feeling the costume on Sunday morning for some reason. Apparently I’m getting old because since when have I ever turned down a dress-up opportunity. Ha!
The outreach we’re doing Halloween night is awesome. It’s your basic Trunk or Treat but with tables instead of car trunks and it takes place at the community park instead of our church parking lot. Why do we do this? Because we want to punch holes in the darkness and this particular park carries darkness with it even in the day time. So we’ll set up 8′ tables in the park, decorate them and hand out tons of candy. We turn the small playground area into an obstacle course and have luminaries decorating the pathway. This year we’re setting up a photo booth for families/kids to have their picture taken and then will email the picture to them right then (if the logistics work). At the end of the trail of treats there will be a “dark room” and this is where groups of about 15-20 people will listen to a 3 minute presentation of how were were all born into darkness but that a way was provided for us to enter into light. We use dark lights and special effects to help tell the good news. At the end we give all the kids a glow necklace. It’s a fast and furious night but we feel it’s worth the chaos and the effort.
Our first year doing this was last year and we had no idea how many people would come. We gave out 500 necklaces to children only even though the adults wanted them too. We just didn’t have enough to go around. This year we’ve ordered double the amount of everything. We’re also doubling the dark room so the line will move quickly. People waited over an hour last year and we want to help things go quicker if they come back. We’ll see. You just never know with outreach. We just have to do what God calls us to and leave the results up to Him.
So whether you’re punching holes in the darkness on your church property or in your community park know that God will light the way for us!
Our church has been in a season of prayer for our community and I can’t help but want to share in this space what God is doing.
It started with a vision for a prayer series Randy had for our church. He had this in his heart for months before starting it in August. What was awesome is that the movie “War Room” came out just as Randy began the series on prayer. Our church went as a group to see it on opening night and what a powerful message that movie is!
Part of Randy’s vision for our church was to be praying for the needs of our community. But in order to do so we needed to know what the needs were. So as a church family we identified leaders and organizations in our community that we could speak with in one-on-one ten minute interviews. The last three weeks we have been meeting with organizations like Family and Children Services, Domestic Violence Shelter Directors, Principals, City officials, etc. We call ahead and ask for a short appointment. During the appointment we ask four identifying questions and take brief notes. If the time permits and the Holy Spirit leads us in such a way we pray at the end of our time but not in every case. We assure the person we will be praying for their organization specifically and in the ways they’ve communicated to us.
As a church we’re still in this prayer process but so far we’re learning a lot about our community and prayer. In both of my community interviews mental health issues were a part of the specific prayer need. I’m anxious to hear how the rest of our community interviews will be shaping our prayers as a church.
Randy asked us this question Sunday morning as a church. “If all your prayers were answered for the last 3 months who or what would be impacted?” Would just ourselves and families be impacted? Not that praying for ourselves and our families is a bad thing. Of course not. But who and what else are we praying for?
Praying for our communities is important. It’s the foundation of impacting our community.
So even if you don’t have time to host interviews in your community you can still pray for your community. You know some of the needs already. Your prayers matter. They make a difference. Imagine what would happen if we all prayed for our communities every day.
Kristin and Kelly I’ll be in contact for a mailing address today via email. Look for a copy of your book in the mail soon! Thank you to Sue Donaldson and Amy Lively for donating a copy of your book – either to read & review or to giveaway. I appreciate your heart for others and want a tiny bit of it for myself!
We had a wedding, a funeral and hospital visits this weekend – It’s a natural part of the pastor’s life. It’s a privilege to be welcomed into such delicate and intimate times of life. Not always easy and many times heart wrenching yet exactly what God has called us to.
I was reminded this weekend of how ingrained we get as pastors and pastor wives with church terminology and pastor lingo.We forget and throw around words that make sense to us but might confuse others.
For instance the time a person was on the phone wanting to set up a time to speak to Randy and I said, “Let’s see, he’s got a surgery at 1:00 but could get back with you by 4:00pm if that would work.” The man hesitated and said, “He’s having surgery – that might be hard for him to talk to me at 4:00.” I started laughing and corrected my statement by saying he was visiting someone who has having surgery at 1:00pm. And then I made a mental note to use my words more carefully. This is how rumors get started. Ha! “Preacher so and so is having surgery…..hmmmmm I thought they wanted more children”. Bahahaha!!
I’ve also made the mistake several times of saying Randy was marrying someone and that’s why he wasn’t with me. Most of the time I’m at the wedding he’s officiating but when I’m not it just sounds weird to say he’s marrying someone and that’s why he’s not with me. Again, note to self. I certainly don’t be the source of a rumor that started that my man is a polygamist!
So yeah, I’m learning to use my words more carefully these days.
What this has to do with outreach I have no idea.
Tomorrow we draw for the two book give aways so be sure to check back.
Outreach is a heart attitude. It’s not an event. It’s not a church line item. It’s a place of heart that aligns itself with the heart of Jesus in loving people right where they are. Sometimes people come to us in our churches but most of the time they don’t. We as Christ-followers must go to them. People who need to know Jesus are all around us. They are next door to us. They sit in the office next to us. Their kids play soccer with our kids. She’s the lady you see every week at the bank. He sits in front of you at church. We are one of those people too. We need Jesus as much as our neighbor next door and remembering that will help us not be judgmental or condescending as we engage with our community in sharing life changing Truth.
If you’re looking for ways to reach out to others a great place to start is by looking at how God has gifted you. What do you love and enjoy doing? Maybe you know your spiritual gift and maybe you don’t. (A spiritual gift is something given to a person when they become a follower of Christ. Not only does the Holy Spirit indwell that person but there is a special gifting given in order for the building up of the church. It’s not like you open a box and it says “congratulations you won the gift of encouragement” or “teaching” or “exhortation”. No, it’s not like that. It’s more like as you walk with Jesus and grow in your relationship with Him he equips you and prepares you to serve others in specific ways. You’ll figure it out with him over time.)
There are a million tests out there to help you discover your spiritual gifting but sometimes I wonder if we put too much into those tests. Like what did the Apostle Paul do before the Myers-Briggs test came out? But I see nothing wrong with these tests either.
So whether you know for sure what your spiritual gift is or not look at how God has equipped you. What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? How have you helped others in the past?
Pray for God to give you an opportunity to serve others in a capacity that He will be glorified. And remember it’s okay to serve in an area that is NOT your gifting or in an area you don’t love and get the warm fuzzies.
I’m doing that right now in the kids department at our church. But I’m surrounded by excellent people who are gifted in this area. This is how bad I am at leading kids stuff – I had a group of 15 kids and quite a few are non-readers or are just learning to read. But I have at least 8 excellent readers in 3-5th grade. I handed out scripture verses to be read and who did I give them to? ALL the non-readers! I gave long verses to these precious still learning to read kids and it took 20 forever long minutes to sound out all the words. Who does that? Yeah, I’m just not a great kid teacher. Oh we have FUN together playing but when it comes to classroom management, thinking through a lesson fully, organizing, etc. I’m not your girl. But we’re making it and nobody has died yet. So yes, we can serve outside our spiritual giftedness but looking for ways to serve within our gifting is great too. And the non-readers might thank you.
Do you cook and enjoy it? Then consider doubling your next recipe and deliver to a single Mom, a new Mom, a family dealing with sickness or a shut-in. I had a friend in GA who when her children were little and serving was a bit limited because of all that was on her plate she did just this – she cooked for people as she cooked for her own family. She was already in the kitchen so she just made more. We were the recipient of her divine meals on several occasions. One time I watched her walk up to a new Mom with triplets in a grocery store parking lot and offer to make dinner for their family. Such a beautiful outreach ministry. And she viewed it as that as well.
Are you great with kids? The more the merrier? How about inviting neighborhood kids over for cookies and milk. Make halloween cookies together and then let the kids run around the backyard and play. Host a backyard party if you don’t want the kids inside. Throw out some cookies and juice and all the scooters, bikes and riding toys you can find.
Like to read? Start a book club with a few other people in your neighborhood. Choose a book with purpose and material worth talking about and discussing. Like 50 shades of gray probably isn’t what you’re going for in outreach. Yeah, not that one please.
Is hospitality your thing? (by God’s design it’s actually all our thing) Offer your home up for a youth group event. Invite people over for dinner. Have tea on your front porch. There’s a lady in our church who does this and our youth love going to their home. They purpose to use their home for God’s glory and for reaching out. They do it well. Another lady in our church makes the best ever pound cakes. She makes them up and freezes them so she can just pull one out and take to someone in a time of need. Oh and yes we do NEED us some poundcake sometimes ya know. This poundcake anyways – takes the yum factor to a whole new level.
So you get the point – take what you’re already doing, what you’re good at and take it up a notch or two in terms of outreach. Use it for purpose. For God’s purposes.
The ministry of presence = showing up and simply being there. It’s a powerful statement even when words aren’t used. To just be there.
Sometimes words are exchanged and God’s word is part of that and many times not.
Don’t feel the need to fill in the silence with words, scripture, stories of how you understand but really you have no idea (and that’s not your fault). Silence makes us uncomfortable and awkward making us attempt to cram the silence with words. Sometimes God gives us words of comfort and encouragement to share with others but when he doesn’t lets be okay with it.
Jason Gray shared a powerful story at a concert a few weeks ago. He was talking about pain and how we try to avoid it so many times. He was walking though a difficult season himself and he sort of unloaded all that was going on with one of the guys in his band. Jason said he felt weird and strange about it and figured the guy was going to offer lots of advice next. But instead his friend said, “Okay, I’m going to do two things: I’m going to hug you and we’re going to just stand there for two minutes.” Jason said it was kind of awkward the whole man-hug thing at first and they laughed about it but then he just let go of the awkward and cried and cried. The other guy never said a word to him. The two minutes was up and he said he will never forget the power of that moment. The ministry of presence.
“Not Right Now” is a song Jason Gray wrote in the midst of a season of pain in his life. It’s one of our favorite songs in our household right now. I hope you’ll enjoy it too.
I was introduced to Sue Donaldson author of Come To My Table just a few months ago. Our introduction was timely because hospitality was something I was struggling with. Still kind of am. This and this are just two examples of my less than stellar hospitality moves and there’s more where that came from but we’ll just leave it at that. Yep.
What Sue helped me see through her book is that hospitality is really a model of what Jesus did for us. He invited us in. To sit and commune with him. To be with him. He didn’t wait for us to be at a certain place in our walks of life – the invitation has always been there and is always open for anyone He paid the great price necessary for us to be welcomed into his presence.
And for the believer hospitality is just one way we can model Christ’s outreach to others. Sue talks about lessons we can learn from the Ultimate Host (Jesus). The following things are highlighted and underlined in my book:
To be God’s invitation to the world, we may have to walk through unfamiliar territory and invite the unexpected guest. We all have people in our world who are easy to include. We can’t get enough of them. Then there are others. We feel awkward around them. We are not inclined to serve them, much less welcome them at our table and into our lives. But, God has invited the world, and that includes both kinds of guests. We need to ask, “Is God’s invitation supposed to come through me?”
She talks about God’s timing in hospitality and this really struck a chord with me because I like to know what’s going to happen and when. So when she asks this question, “Can we relax when things don’t go as planned? Can we trust God knows what He’s doing even if the coffee pot breaks at the last minute or a surprise guest arrives an hour later than everyone else? Will we let Him be God in the unexpected?” That’s a hard one for me.
Also the topic of feeding our kids healthy greens came up in the book. I loved what Sue says about this, “My purpose is to feed them (our kids) well, whether or not they recognize the value of green, or any other color. But besides good vitamins, I need to serve them a God who loves and forgives, and provides purpose for their lives. And they will see it best when I’m living it out. I’d better make sure they see a mother who rejoices and relaxes in doing her Father’s will. That’s a nutrition that will hold them in a good stead and guide them to eternity.” Next to this I have written in the margin of my book “is this me?” I can’t say rejoicing and relaxing are words I’d use to describe my hospitality right now. I get stressed over making sure everything is just right. But through this book my eyes were re-opened to the fact that it’s not about me or the food. It’s about relationships and simply opening up our lives to other people even in the middle of our own mess. I love how Sue puts it, “Food just accompanies the main event: God’s welcome and ours.”
I think I also found great comfort in hearing that hospitality is hard work. Sometimes I think that because hospitality is hard for me personally that I’m just not cut out for it or it’s just not a good fit for me. But that’s the farthest from the truth. And to hear that it’s hard from who I consider to be an “expert” makes me feel better. Sue points out that, “hospitality takes effort, and sometimes you see the results and sometimes you don’t. But that shouldn’t keep us from doing the work, sowing the seed and presenting the food God offers.”
The practical tips that Sue shares in helping our families get involved in hospitality has been a big help to me as well. Also, the recipes in the back of the book are excellent. Sue shares how to serve large groups economically and quick serves that you can pull out of the freezer.
I’ve never been one to freeze stuff and pull it out because I feel like it’s not as fresh but I tried it last week when my Mom’s in Prayer group came over early one morning and it worked perfectly. I had frozen a loaf of pumpkin bread and it was just as fresh and it was so easy to serve. Everyone else brought something too and we had a great time together. I’m definitely going to be freezing more!
Come To My Table is a wonderful book that has helped frame my thinking when it comes to hospitality. I’ve been given hope that I really can do this.
If you’d like to win a free copy of Sue’s book please leave a comment here on the blog or on Facebook telling us one of your most greatest all time epic kitchen fails. Ha! Oh yes I did ask that. Names will be entered in a drawing next Monday and the winner will receive a copy of the book in the mail. Whoo-hoo!
Okay, the answer to my question for me would be a roast I cooked the other week that was hard as a rock. Another time I put vanilla on our steaks instead of Dale’s steak sauce. Also, a poundcake that completely fell. I never understood that term “my cake fell” until that day. Still tasted good. My Mom is an excellent hostess and we always had people over when I was growing up. One time we had the preacher’s family over (whose son I married) and she accidentally put garlic in the cake instead of salt. I’m still not sure how that happened??? That was her epic culinary fail. It’s more fun sharing hers than mine. Thanks Mom for giving me writing material. I love you.
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4:5-6
Three things come to mind when I see this verse:
Be alert to your responses. In line at Sam’s when the lady in front of you takes 25 minutes to check out her three items because her card has expired and she insists on renewing it right there instead of at Customer Service (yes, today) be alert and wise how you respond to her. Resist the urge to eye-roll, sigh loudly or give the deadpan face because all your 264 items are placed on the conveyer line and you can’t go anywhere.
Speak kindly and in such a way that you add flavor. Since I couldn’t think of kind or flavorful words – colorful maybe – but not words seasoned with grace I decided not to use any words today in the Sam’s line towards said lady. I’m a work in progress and I have never claimed in this 31 days of outreach series to have this stuff figured out. I simply don’t. I was alert to the fact that if not careful I could really show my displeasure with the situation at that moment. I wanted to add my .02 worth but I didn’t. What I wish I could’ve done was offered a simple smile and a, “I know it’s frustrating when you don’t realize your card has expired but it probably has happened to all of us at some point.” A little sympathy would’ve gone a long way. That would’ve been a conversation filled with grace and seasoned with salt. But I didn’t have it in me. I was just hoping the blood wasn’t running down the sides of my mouth from biting my tongue so hard. Next time I hope I’m able to put more into practice from this verse. To go beyond holding back to offering some words seasoned with salt and grace. I love what Matthew Henry says about this verse – “Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting. It is not enough to answer what is asked, unless we answer aright also.”
Ready to give an answer. I love what Matthew Henry says about this verse – “Grace is the salt which seasons our discourse, and keeps it from corrupting. It is not enough to answer what is asked, unless we answer aright also.” In other words – don’t be a Christian jerk. Like we can say stuff that is right but how we say it changes everything. Some Christians have a chip on their shoulder and they love picking fights over theology and such. Pah-lease spare us all for heaven’s sake. So yeah, I can talk trash like this but look at who had to bite her tongue in the Sam’s line today. Yep, I know. I’m writing to the choir. Actually I’m not in the choir. Anyways…..
So let’s take Paul’s words to heart and not waste time. Be alert, speak kindly and be ready to give an answer to everyone we come in contact with. That’s a daily outreach we have before us.
Hey – come back tomorrow for another free book giveaway that you will love as much as, “How To Love Your Neighbor.”
Today I’m so excited to share with you (and give away a copy) a book that I have loved reading over the past few weeks.
Amy paints herself in the beginning as an unlikely candidate to be spreading Jesus love to her neighbors. In her own words she says, “As an adult I avoided church, and I wasn’t teaching our daughter my beliefs. My husband and I enrolled Emma at a local Christian school because we thought they offered the best academic curriculum – we were just going to keep an eye on all that “Jesus stuff”. I knew many of the parents and staff from my churchgoing days (as a kid), and they thought they knew me. I could sling their Christian lingo and stop cussing and smoking long enough to get through a parent-teacher meeting!”
She shares how doing life with Christian friends helped turn her heart back to Jesus. How their authenticity in real life impacted her in such a powerful way that she came back home to Jesus and the church. As she grew she sensed it was coming time to express the fulness of her love for God by loving her neighbor, but yet she balked at it.
She says, “I was not ready to be “that girl”. I did not want to be weird. I was less concerned about trusting God and more concerned with impressing my neighbors…….Who is my neighbor? Don’t you count it as ‘loving my neighbor’ when I support a child in Ethiopia with a donation every month? Isn’t ‘loving my neighbor’ when I give to my church and they help missionaries all over the world? By ‘neighbor’, you mean everyone in the whole wide world, don’t you?”
And she realized that no, that wasn’t the kind of “love your neighbor” Jesus was talking about although those are great things. He meant the ones next door – like literally next door. Through Amy’s book she walks us through how to do that. How to break through the award, uncomfortable and go that next step of knowing our neighbors and then loving them well.
She points out, “Every day on every street – in your neighborhood – people feel abandoned and alone. In their desperate search for fulfillment they sample every conceivable distraction – toys, entertainment, alcohol, drugs, shopping, acquisition, avoidance. In their longing for love, they give away their bodies and their souls. In their quest for safety, they arm themselves with worldly weapons – big guns, strong arms, and loud words meant to intimidate and alienate. Jesus was so moved with compassion for these people, His neighbors, that He asked His followers to pray that the Lord would send someone to help them.
Matthew 9:37-38 He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.”
Then Jesus stopped praying and did something about it.”
Amy’s book walks us through practically how to reach out into our neighborhoods……without being weird! She shares what has worked and what hasn’t worked for her. Like this chick has walked through her entire neighborhood and actually has met ALL her neighbors. She has been in their homes and they have been in her. This is awesome stuff. And she shares the hard stuff too – like how she admits she’d rather go to Africa than walk across the street to love her hard-to-love-neighbor. Ha! It’s not like she’s a natural extrovert looking to keep her social calendar busy. She calls it obedience and submission to Christ. And I agree – yet I’m not doing a very good job of this right now. I desire to but I have not put the feet to it. This book along with another book I’ll be sharing on Wednesday has put a fire in my bones and I’m ready to reach out more into my neighborhood.
If you’d like to enter to win a copy of Amy’s book just leave a comment here on the blog or at Life Is A Bowl Of Wedgies Facebook page answering this question: Do you know the names of your neighbors on either side of you and across the street from you?
This isn’t a neighbor shaming question but an indicator as to where we are in this process of reaching out to our neighbors.
I will print off the comments and have my kids draw a name next Monday for the winner of the book. I will message and post the winner next Monday.
Outreach doesn’t have to take place outside the walls of our church or church family although that’s where we normally tend to place outreach. We have plenty of opportunities within our own church walls to get outside of ourselves and focus on loving those around us.
One of the first things I think about is new people visiting church. For those of us who have been churchin’ it for lightyears we don’t think twice about going to church. But for some people it’s a very hard thing. They’re uncomfortable or afraid they won’t fit in. They keep showing up but it takes more guts than anyone realizes.
So one of the things we can do to reach out within the church walls is to simply introduce ourselves and offer a warm welcome to people we don’t know. And then at some point ask if you can sit with them or invite them to sit with you. It’s okay that you’re not sitting in your “regular seat” – you know, the one you assigned yourself 54 years ago. I’m a big believer in moving around for your church seat. It seems crazy but you actually can get to know people just by sitting next to them if you attempt to reach out in the slightest. We might be surprised at how much it can mean to simply sit with someone.
Another great way to reach out within our own church walls is by having people over. This is becoming a lost art in our busy and fast paced culture. I will be sharing some great resources in the days to come about this topic of hospitality as a means of outreach. The Lord has put two books in my lap in the last two months that have changed the way I think about this topic. I can’t wait to tell you more about it. I’ll be giving one of the books away and hope you’ll come back for a chance to win a copy.
So as you go to church tomorrow maybe just maybe think twice about planting yourself in the same pew chair you’ve sat in for the last 6 months. What if you looked for a new face. And then sat with them and introduced yourself to them. Who knows what doors God might open through your intentional seating assignment.