Kevin Harney says your church is already doing all sort of things with evangelistic potential. It’s just a matter of identifying what you already do well and turning the focus a few degrees outward to engage those beyond your church.
Your church is already doing all sorts of things with evangelistic potential. The problem is that we do most of these things for people who are already in God’s family. If left to their own devices, most churches will invest the vast majority of their time, resources, and energy in themselves.
The Two-Degree Rule
The Two-Degree Rule is the practice of identifying what we do well and then turning the focus a few degrees out into the community and into the world, freeing our hands to serve those who are not yet in the church. It involves pushing the needle of the church compass two degrees off dead north (caring for ourselves) to direct some of our resources, time, care, energy and love toward those who are still far from God. It’s taking what we are already doing to care for, equip, and minister to our church family and giving it an evangelistic focus.
Who Needs A Meal?
For 104 years, Corinth Reformed Church had a meals ministry. From its earliest days, if a woman had a baby or someone was recovering from surgery, people in the church would take them meals for the next five to seven days. One evening, as we were talking about how we might take some of our existing church ministries and reorient them to include our community, one person excitedly suggested, “What if we continued taking meals to church members, but we also made this service available to people in our community?” The team members were amazed that they had never thought of it before. The ministry already had a successful history. Volunteers, leaders, and all the systems were in place.
One of the group members said, “I have a neighbor who never goes to church, but he has real physical needs. Could we take him meals?” There was electricity in the room as people spoke. Finally, someone joked, “We should have thought of this 104 years ago.”
Bridges were built. Friendships were forged. Service was offered. The Love of Jesus was incarnated. And our church learned that it’s not hard to take something we are already doing for ourselves and vector or redirect it a couple of degrees to also serve our community. It’s not about starting new ministries with new volunteers and additional resources. It’s simply taking what you’re already doing, something that is natural and normal, organic to the life of your church, and extending it to the people in your community,
A Shift in Thinking, Promotion, and Action
There is no simple three-step process for implementing the Two-Degree Rule. But there are three ways you can help connect the ministries of your church with your community. If you take these ideas seriously and pray for the leading of the Holy Spirit, I am confident you will see many of your existing ministries transformed into opportunities to reach your community.
1. Think bigger. Think about the people around you who are still far from God. When you plan the children’s ministry schedule for the year, think about how your programs could impact the children of spiritual seekers in your community. As the women’s ministry team thinks about new ideas or activities, they should ask: “How might we reach women in our town through each of these?” Make sure that every ministry is thinking about outreach at all times. Expand the circle from those in the church to include those whom Jesus calls us to reach.
2. Promote more widely. Most churches promote what is happening within their circle of members and people who attend services and activities at church. We use email, church websites, phone calls, Facebook, church bulletins, Sunday announcements, or other communication tools to let people know what’s happening at church. The Two-Degree Rule moves us to ask “How can we promote church events and activities in our community? The answer is, “Lots of ways!” Be creative. You can create invitations that people in a particular ministry can give to friends. Try using evites — electronic invitations — that people in your church can forward to their friends. Some newspapers and radio and TV stations advertise community events for free. Rent a billboard. You get the point. As you think about communicating what is happening in your church, widen the circle. If an event or gathering in your church might connect with people in your community, do all you can to let them know they are welcome.
3. Take action. If you invite people from the community to a parenting seminar, a youth event, Christmas services, a women’s tea, or any other happening at your church, be sure you have taken steps to make them feel at home. If non-churched people start coming to any of your church gatherings, you need to be sure you create a loving and welcoming atmosphere. Have people ready to greet them. Give clear instructions so they don’t feel out of place. Create a warm setting. Ask yourself, “If I were coming for the first time, would I feel welcome and comfortable?” Even making little adjustments to help spiritually curious people feel at home will make a big impact.
The exciting thing about the Two-Degree rule is that you don’t have to develop a bunch of new ministries or recruit new volunteers to do effective outreach. One pastor told me, “We have a church dinner every month. It is a great dinner. It is fun. And we have never invited anyone from the community.” He looked at me with determination in his eyes and said, “That is going to change this month. We are going to challenge each person who comes to invite non-churched friends.”
Another pastor told me that they have a practice of taking delicious homemade pies to people who visit their church. He said to me, “Now, we are not going to wait for them to visit; we are going to take people pies before they come to our church.” Pastor after pastor who talked with me already had ideas of how to vector what they were already doing into their communities. That’s the simple power of the Two-Degree Rule.
This article is adapted from Organic Outreach for Churches: Infusing Evangelistic Passion in Your Local Congregation (Zondervan, 2018) by Kevin G. Harney. Used by permission. The book is available at Cokesbury and Amazon.