What do you think of when you hear “outreach?”

(This is part three of a series on “Kids & Outreach.” Also see “Should kids be the targets of outreach or the tools of outreach?” and “What’s your hottest outreach idea?“)

For many of us, outreach is nothing more than killing ourselves to increase our numbers. It saddens me when I see hundreds of people shift from one church to another, just because the “old” church did something “objectionable” or the “new” church has a new program or pastor that everyone wants. We know this isn’t the point, but we often find ourselves in the numbers game trap!

A quick check of the dictionary reminds us that “outreach” is “the act of extending services, benefits, etc., to a wider section of the population.” In my mind, the kids and families at the church down the street are part of the narrow section “we” have already reached. Pulling in tons of kids from other churches for a weeknight program or a summer event is not outreach! It’s just more work for the volunteers at our own church.

So when we think of outreach, maybe we need to think “out there,” truly out there! Who is “out there” in your community?

Phoenix is one of many cities that hosts thousands of refugees from around the world. Our daughter is completing her first semester of teaching…taking the Holy Spirit and her Christian faith into a public kindergarten classroom. Her kids aren’t like those who attend our church. She has twenty Hispanic kids most of whom use English as a second language (and yes, we’re in Arizona, so many are not American citizens). She has three Muslim kids from Burma and now knows the Burmese word for “kiss” because she gets one or more daily. She has a great mathematician from the Congo. And she has one Anglo kid. The boy from the Congo may be the only Christian. This is outreach.

A children’s pastor at a church near us tutors impoverished kids after school and provides them with scholarships to church camp each summer. Volunteers from the church take turns picking kids up for church on Sundays and mentoring them on weekdays. This is outreach.

Another church in our city gives money to a home for battered women and children. Instead of providing a carnation for each mom at church on Mother’s Day, last year they bought new mattresses for the women. This year they funded a program to help the mother’s complete their GEDs. This is outreach.

Outreach is, by definition, inconvenient. It requires us to move outside of our comfort zones. It makes us give “services” and “benefits” that we may not want to give. It involves rubbing shoulders with people from a “wider section of the population.”

And outreach is what the Christian life is all about!

Let’s follow Paul’s example: “I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.” (I Cor 10:33, NLT) This is outreach!

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2 thoughts on “What do you think of when you hear “outreach?”

  1. Great article! I’m reminded of something I read some time ago about worship, it said that we American Christians wake up on Sunday morning and dress in our fine clothing, get in our expensive car and drive to a million dollar church so that we can worship God…But along the way to the church we pass the lonely,the homeless,the poor and the hungry…I believe we’re entering into another reformation in the church, but instead of it being about the bible this time it’s about the return of the church into the hands of believers! The church IS people, not a building!

  2. I so agree! And we forget that those of us living in the U.S. make up a mere 4% of the world’s population. The church outside of the U.S. is doing great things – but also could use our help, prayers and understanding. We can start by repenting of our concept that we are the special ones of God, which we assume and are led to believe by our culture (both inside and outside of the church) because we are rich. Our blesssings should drive us to bless (but not just by giving our leftovers or money). And we need to become mindful that each and every human being is a sinner, mysteriously loved beyond belief by the One who created us ALL!

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