Praying for Divine Appointments

Are You Praying for Divine Appointments?

Many of us have different appointments we must keep. We set appointments with the hairdresser, the doctor and dentist, the auto repair shop and a multitude of others with whom we do business. But, have you ever prayed for a divine appointment?iStock_000018819495Large

A divine appointment is the person that God brings into your life for a minute, a day or a lifetime. In the course of our lives God bring many people across our path calling us to speak a word of encouragement, help them with a need, or share our faith. These are called divine appointments- God given opportunities to minister to others.

We might begin to pray for such divine appointments but let’s not stop there. As you pray for God’s divine appointments to happen pray for your eyes to be opened to see who it is God is bringing before you. Pray for boldness and courage to help or speak to that person. Consider praying for these divine appointments on a daily basis and then watch how God wonderfully works to bring just the right people in your life.

By praying for divine appointments and seeking to demonstrate Christian love to those God brings across your path, you will be sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.

Let’s all start praying for some divine appointments.

Schedule a Community Work Day

One way to help your church begin to focus outside the walls of the church and engage the community by building relationships is to schedule a community work day in a local neighborhood, apartment complex or other development.

Middle-Aged CoupleIt is as easy as contacting the property management company that oversees the community and offering to do some specific tasks whether it be weeding, painting, picking up trash, re-mulching a playground or whatever it is that needs to be done.  After you get a handle on the tasks at hand do all the necessary planning of lining up servants from the church and buying materials and make teams.  Set a date that gives you some time to let residents know what you are doing.

Three weeks before you do your work day send out a postcard to the residents of the community where you are working letting them know what you will be doing and inviting them to be a part of the work.  Send a second postcard or do door hangers two weeks before.  The Saturday before go door to door in the community with a leaflet announcing the work day and inviting people to help.  The week before put out a sandwich board sign or two at the entrance/exit to the community announcing “Community Work Day- this Saturday!”

On the day of the event have a central registration area staffed by people who will register folks from the community and those who will serve as greeters escorting people to projects they have expressed an interest in helping with.  After the work is done for the day have hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill or pizza for everyone.

It goes without saying that throughout the process build relationships at every point: when knocking on the door, when greeting them the day of the work day, in working alongside each other, in eating together.  Give an invitation to church or a gift bag with church materials.  However, let the purpose be serving God and neighbor and relationship building and let God through his grace draw who will come to church.  Measure the success of the day not on the number of people “you get” to come to the church but by how many and how deeply you engaged others you had not known in your community.

What are you waiting for- start planning your community work day today!

Go to the Principal’s Office

“Go to the principal’s office” are some words every child dreads hearing.  Thankfully, I did not have to hear those too often and if the principal didn’t know my name that was all the better.

iStock_000040777828SmallFor the local church pastor, it is imperative to go to the principal’s office, however.  Summer is  a great time to do so.  As a pastor learns about his or her community one person to reach out to are the principals at the local elementary, middle and high school.  Summer is a great time to do this as the students are not there and the administration is not “as busy” as usual.  Local school principals (and guidance counselors as well) have their finger on the pulse of the community and can serve as great sources of information about the needs of the local community.  They and their staff come face to face with such needs nine months out of the year.

Here is a how to do it.  Pick up the phone and call the school secretary and tell them who you are and ask if it would be possible to meet with the principal for a half hour to just introduce yourself (i.e. you have no agenda).  I have found every school and principal I have ever called open to meeting.  I then make sure I show up on time recognizing the principal’s busy schedule.  I also come prepared with a series of questions.  In addition to the questions I have about the needs of the community I also thank them profusely for meeting with me and ask them and share about my own life.  After the meeting I will usually follow up with a thank you note with contact info offering any future assistance they may need.

Here are some of the questions I would ask…

  1. Tell me about the student body?  What is the socioeconomic make-up, racial make up, how many children on free lunch, the boundaries of your school?, etc.
  2. What are some of your most successful programs for students struggling and students excelling?
  3. As you look at your school and the community at large what is the biggest unmet need you see?
  4. Are there other churches partnering with your school in any way?
  5. How could we best help you and your school achieve your mission?

You can come up with your own list.  If nothing else, the time together with the principal or his or her designee builds good will.  Notice, as the church you are not asking for anything, you are not crossing any boundary that would give the principal a problem.  You are simply seeking to be a good community partner.

So, maybe this summer it would be worth taking a trip to the principal’s office.  Believe me, it is not as scary as it used to be!

 

Take VBS on the Road

Back around Easter time I wrote about the advantages to taking the church Easter Egg Hunt on the road and off campus.  A church can do the same with Vacation Bible School.

iStock_000009407723SmallWhy not consider holding your regular Vacation Bible School at the public park, at the subdivision common area, a community building or some other public place so that you might reach more children and families with the important message of God’s love? Yes, it will take some logistical maneuvering, your decoration won’t be as ornate, and you will have to get permission from some entity- but the opportunity to make a greater impact is worth it.

Parents in your community are looking for something constructive for their children to do in the summer.  VBS is one of those things that parents would love to send their kids.  What a great way to begin to forge relationships with persons who may never darken the door of your church even for VBS.

As with your regular VBS, follow up with your VBS attendees.  Invite them to worship, invite them to the next children’s program, invite them to the next mission event.  And, consider going back with a follow up activity or back to the same neighborhood the next year.

There is nothing (okay, very little) that can be done better inside the church than outside (including VBS).

The Fallacy of Church Competition

I like to compete.  I have lots of fun making a game out of anything.  I do not like to lose.  I don’t like the team I am rooting for to lose.  I am competitive and a lot of people are competitive.  While competition may be OK for board games, ball games and even in the business world it is not so good in the church world.

Competition word dictionary termWhile many will not admit it, a spirit of competition is alive and well in the church world today.  This spirit of competition manifests itself in a number of different ways:  A new church is being started and persons in an established church feel threatened because the new church will reach all those people they are meant to reach but have not for the last sixty years.  Or, the church across town is stealing the members of our church because a few disgruntled families left and went over there.  Or, there is growth in a church down the street and the leadership of the non-growing church is jealous and dismisses the growth by saying “They must have watered down the gospel.”

Unfortunately, because of what we measure (primarily nickels and noses) and because of what we celebrate- GROWTH in numbers, a spirit of competition continues to permeate the church scene.  This competition has resulted in the church becoming a dispenser of religious goods and services.  Those who provide the best product (lively worship, great programs for kids, and a thousand one small groups) win market share, grow, and are celebrated and lauded.

While worship should be lively and we should seek to develop disciples be it through programs or groups or service, the church must be careful that the end of such things is make disciples and not gain market share.  If we do what we do citing the need for excellence and creativity and innovation to only gain market share because we are competitive then we end up missing the point of the Gospel.  We reduce the Gospel.

In the end, we are all on the same team whether we share the same denominational moniker or not.  I often like to make the point when working with churches that if everyone in this community decided to attend worship on Sunday we would not have enough pews and seats to hold them all.  There would be far more people than seats.  The harvest is plentiful but the laborers are few.   May we give up competition in the church that causes of to focus on our own fiefdoms and embrace a unity in Christ that will help us bring about Jesus’ Kingdom.

5 Reasons to Conduct a Prayer Walk

I first learned about the idea of prayer walking while being trained to begin a new church.  Prayer walking is the simple act of a group of people meeting at an arranged time to walk the streets of their community to pray for the needs of people in the community, to pray for the Gospel to take root in that community, and to pray for ground to be softened.

community

In no particular order, here are five good reasons to conduct a prayer walk.  There are undoubtedly more.

  1. Conducting a prayer walk acknowledges that no matter how great our worship, no matter how clever our programs, no matter how well designed our strategies, Jesus Christ is the one who transforms a community and grows his church.  Matthew 16:18  Whether one is beginning a new church or seeking to revitalize an existing church the power of renewal and revival flows from the head of the church, Jesus Christ.  Apart from him we can do nothing.  John 15:5 When we walk our communities in prayer we admit that our work is ultimately Christ’s work.
  2. Conducting a prayer walk raises awareness for people in your church.  As people come to pray for the prayer walk they see neighborhoods they may have never seen before.  They see homes up front and personal.  They realize how many people actually live in the community.  I always would point out that if we just reached 1% of the community that would be huge.  I would also point out if all these people came to church on one Sunday there would no be enough seats to hold them in all of the churches in the community- we are not in competition with other churches.
  3. A prayer walk can function as a witness to the community.  As persons walk they may be asked by someone in the neighborhood “What are you all doing?” and those prayer walking can say they are praying for the community and might even ask if they have any prayer needs.  While it has never happened during a prayer walk I have been involved, I have heard of the police being called because of the weird people walking around the neighborhood mumbling to themselves.  I think that is great and I hope when the police came they offered to pray for the officer.
  4. A prayer walk pleases God.  I think any time you ask God’s intervention in a matter instead of asking God’s blessing after the fact you please God.
  5. A prayer walk softens the ground.  As the church seeks to reach people for Christ and transform communities it faces both natural and supernatural forces working against her.  Prayer walking softens the ground for the seed of the Gospel to be planted and come to harvest.  After coming down the mountain after the Transfiguration and having to deal with a boy with a demon that his followers could not cast out, Jesus said this kind can only be cast out with prayer and fasting.  Matthew 17:21  Some communities are so hard and have such strongholds that they can only be reached and transformed with much prayer and fasting.

Are there other reasons you can think of for conducting a prayer walk?

 

How to Bless Your Community this Christmas Eve

Christmas Eve is a great time to bless your community as you celebrate the anticipation and arrival of the Christ child.  One way to do that is through a servant evangelism event called “It Stinks to Work on Christmas Eve.”

iStock_000013630346XSmallThe basic gist of it is that persons from your church bring baked goods to Christmas Eve Service and these gifts are delivered to people who work on Christmas Eve- hospital workers, convenience store clerks, fire and rescue, police departments, nursing homes and anyone else who is working. The goods are delivered with a small note that says “we know it stinks to work on Christmas Eve so we hope this small treats brings you some holiday cheer this Christmas Eve.”

Below are some of the logistics to make it happen at your church.

  • 4-6 weeks before Christmas Eve begin to publicize the outreach within the church. This is especially important for the first year you do the outreach because persons are just not sure what it is all about. Run the announcement in your worship program, make announcements, highlight it in your weekly html email, and print it in your monthly newsletter. Ask folks to sign up to bring items or just count on the fact that people will bring items and just deliver what you get. Also ask persons to sign up to deliver. Sometimes people both bake and deliver and they also sometimes do one but not the other.
  • During this same period if you want to expand the outreach and involve others in the community you can solicit local businesses for baked goods as well- bakeries, supermarkets, Target, Wal-Mart, etc.
  • Beforehand, it will be necessary to make a list of places to deliver: rescue squads, police stations, fire houses, convenience stores, nursing homes, hospitals, bars and any other place you can think of where one might be working on Christmas Eve. You will want to make some kind of label designating each location (a piece of paper that can be taped on the bake good so it is easily removable before delivery).
  • On Christmas Eve set up and staff with one person an “It Stinks to Work on Christmas Eve” table where baked goods can be delivered. The person would throw the location labels on the each baked good as they come in or during the Christmas Eve worship.
  • During Christmas Eve announce that if anybody wants to participate (even if they didn’t sign up) they can pick up an item and deliver it. Just stop by the “It Stinks to Work on Christmas Eve” table. Have the same or a different person at the table after the service to hand out the items and give directions to places if need be, though most people will be familiar with the locations.
  • You won’t have any trouble getting items delivered. Parents appreciate delivering the items with children and children and adults are reminded that just as God gave us salvation in the Christ child so these small goodies are given in love.

It really is not a hard outreach. It is fun and can be accomplished with little difficulty.

In the interest of full disclosure I shamelessly stole the idea for the furtherance of the Kingdom from Steve Sjogren’s book “Irresistible Evangelism.”

What in the World is a Missional Church?

From time to time in the life of the church certain buzzwords make the rounds. One of those buzzwords to make the rounds is the term “missional.” There are many calls for the church to reclaim its missional identity. There are calls for the church to live as a missional people. There is missional this, and missional that. But what exactly does it mean to be missional?

Earth and sun

I have been working my way through Will Mancini’s book Church Unique (which I highly recommend though it is thick and not easy speed reading) and there is one part of the book where he is describing popular perspectives of the church from 1960-2010. He estimates that the years from 2000-2010 to be the “Missional Church Reorientation” stage. This stage takes place as the post-Christian era dawns and is accelerating fast. In terms of what it means Mancini writes,

Essentially it is a way of thinking that challenges the church to re-form and reforge its self-understanding (theologically, spiritually, and socially) so that it can relearn how to live and proclaim the gospel in the world. Perhaps the best motto of the reorientation is the imperative to “be the church.” Church is not something you do or a place you go to, but who you are.

Notice that being missional is not something new but something recovered from the past when presumably the church was missional in nature. Notice too it is not about “doing” something, it is not problem solving, but being missional is about “being.”

Mancini continues that the idea of the missional church and the church’s identity as missional finds its origin in the nature of God or in the classical doctrine of the missio dei as,

God the Father sending the Son, and God the Father and the Son sending the Spirit [is] expanded to include yet another ‘movement’: Father, Son and Holy Spirit sending the church in the world. Therefore the church’s new identity is a reclarification of its “sentness.” Sending is not something you do, but being sent is something you are.

Wow- all this is weighty stuff. If you boil it all down what it all really says is we need to get the hell out of the church. Created in the image of God, the body of Christ is sent out into the world. That is who we are. It is when we reclaim this understanding of “being” and “identity” that we then change how we are the church.

What does the term missional church mean to you?

How to Bless Your Community this Halloween

The church and Halloween have always enjoyed a somewhat strained relationship. Is Halloween just fun and candy or is it something worse spiritually? Whatever you believe about that you might consider hosting a Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat event as a way to bless your community this Halloween.

iStock_000000901373XSmall

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is basically how it works. The idea is that the children and youth from the church with parental supervision will be collecting canned goods and non-perishable items for the community food pantry or food bank.

  • Before the event, organizers must decide what neighborhoods they will collect from.
  • Flyers or door hangers need to be printed and distributed before the Trick or Treating to publicize that persons will be coming around to “trick or treat so others can eat.” You might also publicize this in the community newspaper in the announcements or see if a reporter will do a write up before the event. By the way, you will want to hold your event before Halloween night so as not to confuse persons. A week before Halloween is good.
  • Recruit volunteer parents and adults to be drivers for the children and youth to go to the target neighborhoods. Note: maintain your church’s child protective and driving policies here. Plan and make assignments for neighborhoods.
  • Have children, youth and parents gather at the church or other designated meeting spot before the event. Children should be dressed in their costumes. Give them instructions, encourage them and pray over them.
  • Send them out. When they return, have a drop off point where the items are collected and packaged for delivery to the food pantry.
  • Hold a Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat Celebration with a harvest theme. Announce the results of your collection (number of pounds collected, number of boxes packed).
  • Tell the story of Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat, thank volunteers, deliver food and evaluate what you can do better for next year. Once you do it a number of years then persons in the community will begin to anticipate your arrival.

I was able to be part of a few of these events at a church I served and it went real well. Not only will it bless the community but for a holiday that rivals Christmas in terms of gluttony and over-indulgence it sends the powerful message to kids (and adults) that it is not all about us.

Here is a site with more info on Trick or Treat So Others Can Eat with some creative ideas and some templates for door hangers, etc.

Have you witnessed other creative ways churches have leveraged Halloween to bless the community?

 

Friday Night Lights

Every Friday night around the United States communities are gathering to cheer on their local high school football teams.  These Friday nights are great opportunities for pastors and churches to engage and serve their community and school. There are a variety of ways pastors and churches can engage their mission field at high school football games.

American Football Field

  • Be present. This is especially true for pastors.  Pastors need to be present at some of these games so that your flock and those in the community see you as an active part of the community.  This is a great way to meet many in the community that you won’t meet sitting in your office or hosting a trunk or treat.
  • Find a way to serve.  Contact the Athletic Director of the high school and volunteer to sell tickets or take tickets at the gate.  Get a team together to clean up trash from the stands after the game.  Sponsor a tailgate where you bring the grills and meat and drinks and chips and serve the students for free.  Help the Athletic Boosters sell their wares. Get a team together to work the concession stand.  The concession stand is often worked by parents of players or band parents.  What a gift to relive them so they can watch their kids.
  • Sponsor an ad in the football program to support the school.
  • Work with the concession stand to sponsor a free drink night and put your church labels on the cups as a practical way to share God’s love and be sure they announce over the loud speaker that the free drink night is being sponsored by your church.
  • Consider offering a 5th quarter Party at your church or better yet at the high school gym or community center where kids can come for positive interactions like playing basketball or hanging out.

By investing and serving the community in this way you will be making Jesus famous.

What are some other ways that a church might serve their community in this context?