Are you trying to grow your church’s involvement in global outreach?
That’s wonderful — and it can be so difficult too! Church leaders often face serious obstacles when they try to put a global outreach program into action.
My team at ANM has worked with hundreds of churches over the last three decades. Here’s a simple plan that pulls together some of the key strategies that have worked well for churches of all sizes over the years as they accelerate their global outreach plans.
Understand Your Church’s Motivations
It’s helpful to understand what moves your church members to reach out. Here are eight compelling motivations:
- My church has experienced God’s love, and we ought to be sharing it with others.
- Many parts of the world have so little Christian presence. How will people in those areas ever hear about Jesus if we don’t help?
- Christ’s command in Matthew 28 is for Christians today too, and our church wants to be obedient to Jesus in every way possible.
- We have heard about the desperate need and hopelessness in so many parts of the world. This reality breaks our hearts.
- I really want our congregation to understand and appreciate how blessed they are, and have opportunities to share their gifts with those who are less fortunate.
- We long to see the glory of God proclaimed among all nations.
- God has given our church a vision to reach the world for Christ.
- People are far away from God, and we are committed to helping them come nearer.
One more tip as you get started: be sure to clearly state what you hope to accomplish and why. You might want to to frame this in terms of a problem that your church can help solve.
For example, “Many communities in other parts of the world don’t have churches. We’re going to help start churches where there aren’t currently churches, because everyone should have a chance to encounter Jesus through a local church.”
Or “Many people don’t have access to a Bible in their language. We’re going to help them get Bibles, because people should have a chance to read the Bible in their native language.”
Whatever you end up with, the bottom line is that God has placed this desire in your heart, and you want to fulfill it. That’s wonderful!
Identify Obstacles to a Global Outreach Vision
Every church is unique — with a distinct history, unique personalities, and particular challenges and opportunities — but I’ve found that the challenges churches face in developing their global outreach fall into four main categories:
- Not enough time: Some churches have full-time staff devoted to global outreach. Others don’t. Whatever your particular situation is, there is definitely never enough time to do everything in the local church setting.
- Lack of connections: How does a local church select and evaluate potential partners in other countries, compare all the options, and maintain the right connections internationally to develop an active outreach program? Often making the right connection is the bottleneck.
- Uncertain plan: Many churches have a passion for outreach, but it’s difficult to know where to get started.
- Lack of buy-in: Church members or staff sometimes have unresolved objections or unanswered questions about global outreach.
Which of these is the biggest challenge for your church?
5 Simple Next Steps
Starting or growing a global outreach program is a huge undertaking, and it can feel overwhelming. Here are five simple next steps to help you move forward.
1) Start local.
The global need is enormous, and it may seem too distant, overwhelming, or confusing at first. Many churches have found it helpful to encourage their congregation to get involved in local outreach before going global.
This might mean offering an evangelism class to help churchgoers understand the importance of sharing the gospel with others (and practice it). You might offer group volunteer opportunities at a local nonprofit, mission trips to domestic locations, or whatever local outreach your church is already doing. All of these will help people in your community, help your churchgoers recognize the needs around them, and help them develop a habit of service.
While you are getting started, find ways to connect local service to global service so they don’t seem to be either-or options. It can be compelling to emphasize a common motive for both. For example, “We serve our local community because people need to know that God loves them,” and “We serve our global community because people need to know that God loves them.”
You can also offer global opportunities as next steps for people involved in local outreach. At the end of a local outreach event, share about an upcoming global outreach event. Or create an email list of churchgoers who are interested in serving and helping people outside the church encounter Christ.
2) Start small.
Churches often succeed in sharing a vision when they start with a small pilot group. Leaders can invest deeply in a few members with the goal of developing these members into passionate advocates among the larger congregation. Here are a few things to try:
- Talk openly about your goals and gather input from the group. Brainstorm ideas for spreading the vision throughout the church. Discuss how to make the vision as clear as possible for the church.
- Pray together. Psalm 2:8 says, “Ask me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, and the ends of the earth your possession.” Ask God for wisdom, committed members within your church, and excellent partners outside your church. Pray about the type of ministry you should get involved in and where in the world that should be. Start praying for those who would be the beneficiaries of your outreach.
- Give the group homework assignments. This multiplies your efforts and raises the level of commitment in your group. Ask them to research nonprofits that could be potential partners and present their findings. Challenge each person in your group to find someone else who is interested in getting involved in local or global outreach.
If you are ready to launch trips for your church, start small with these as well. A 3–6 person vision trip is a perfect way to explore mission trips. And don’t forget to share what happened — vision trips are excellent ways to generate more buy-in.
3) Learn together.
There are many excellent books on missions and global outreach, and they can give you and your team fresh inspiration and helpful insight as you develop your program. Here are three I highly recommend: