This is Jimmy Hinton’s third and final blog on how the Church Steps Outreach has been working for their congregation. I am so encouraged by this! Thanks Jimmy for passing this along. Praise God that He is up to some mighty things when it comes to reaching the lost!
In the two previous blogs, I laid down some of the guiding principles and theology behind what we do for our Church Steps Outreach. This final blog will lay down some specifics for what a typical week looks like. I called Matt last fall to ask specific questions about how they do their steps outreach. He did give some specifics, but told me that one size doesn’t fit all. For example, Pennsylvania’s culture is different than Florida’s. St. Petersburg’s population is 245,000. Somerset’s is almost 7,000. You get the picture. We ended up keeping the same 5 steps that Matt laid out in previous blogs (Attract, Welcome, Relationships, Transformation, and Integrate). We also use the same template that Matt uses at his congregation for our Wednesday nights (see link below under #2), but with minor adjustments. For example, instead of a 20 minute devotional, we do 30 minutes, with the remaining 30 minutes working through the template.
Because we are a rural church, Wednesday attendance has always suffered. Before beginning Steps, our average Sunday attendance was just over 70 and our Wednesday attendance hovered around 20. Since 20 people were present on Wednesdays, we began with all of them. I took adequate time to explain what each of the 5 steps were, then had everyone sign up to minister in one group. Several asked me where I felt they would serve best. I emphasized that people should pray about it and only sign up for a group where they would best be using their gifts. In other words, they shouldn’t sign up for a group just because it looked like that group needed more warm bodies. We all worked together to organize us 20 into the best group possible for each of us.
1. 30 minute devotional—The devotional is always rooted in scriptures about evangelism and the church’s response to new converts. We began with 1 Corinthians 12-14 and are now going through Acts. This is really helping us all develop a healthy theology of evangelism and the examples laid out in Acts are giving us courage and confidence to model the behavior of the first Christians.
2. 30 minute template—Don’t let the word template scare you. I probably prefer the word “structure” over template but either way, the point is that you are consistent each week. You can see a copy of Matt’s template here: http://mattdabbs.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/churchstepsclasstemplate.pdf We do everything the same except the times have been adjusted. In 3 months, the only thing we have changed at this point are the time adjustments. This structure is so important because it allows everyone to communicate and celebrate what blessings have been going on throughout the week, where new visitors are in their journey, and who has/has not been contacted throughout the week.
3. How do we keep it all together?–Communication, communication, communication. As I mentioned before, e-mails are a lifeline for us. I’ve created distribution lists for each of the 5 groups in my e-mail contacts. They are always kept current as we add people to each group. I remind each of the 5 groups almost weekly how important each of their ministries are and offer them encouragement (usually through a mass e-mail to all 5 groups at once). I took a lot of time this week and, for the first time, e-mailed each of the 5 groups a separate e-mail with some reflections and suggestions to fine-tune their specific ministry. Then I emphasized the need for each of the 5 groups to have weekly contact within their own group so that they know who (of the new people) they are responsible for. We have tried to not let one week go without having some sort of contact with our new people. Until they are fully integrated into the church, they will need very consistent contact with their new church family.
4. Not just a way to get new people—Everything we do is deeply, I mean deeply, rooted in God’s commission for us to reach a lost and dying world with the Good News of Jesus Christ. If people are doing this to pad their numbers at church, new people will see through them immediately and run. We are all being driven by a love for God and a love of neighbor. We reach people because we love them and care about them, not because we want to grow the church. Though there is a structure in place, we must never lose sight that we are doing this because we genuinely love people, want them to join our family, and want to spend eternity with them. We reach everyone the same regardless of social-economic status. We have no target demographic. We have no agenda. We simply call others to join us in blessing people, teaching them, and joining together as the body of Christ in response, to further grow, equip, and mature.