Home Outreach Leaders Articles for Outreach & Missions Thom Rainer: 7 Reasons Why Church Outreach Programs Fail

Thom Rainer: 7 Reasons Why Church Outreach Programs Fail

why church outreach programs fail

One of my passions in life is to help churches move from becoming inwardly focused to outwardly focused. When I wrote I Am a Church Member, my key motivation was to demonstrate that biblical church members are always looking outwardly. When I wrote Autopsy of a Deceased Church, my desire was to demonstrate the terrible consequences and deaths of local congregations when the members are inwardly focused. It’s why church outreach programs fail.

So why don’t you deliver us a “plug and play” program?

Some of the readers asked for me to deliver the latest outreach program to their churches. Hear me well: There is nothing wrong with outreach programs per se. They can be very helpful if put in the proper context.

The problem is that most highly prescriptive programs do not do so. As a result, they do not deliver their intended results. In fact, they can, in some cases, do more harm than good if they are not framed well.

7 reasons why most church outreach programs fail.

1. They are seen as an end instead of a means.

As a consequence, some will be a part of an outreach ministry as a sense of legalistic obligation.

Most church members, especially Millennials, refuse to participate in something unless they know the “why” behind it.

2. Most church outreach programs fail because they are not addressed in front-end membership classes.

The best time to help shape expectations and responsibilities of members is when they first become a part of the church.

Rarely is the issue of becoming outwardly focused addressed.

3. Many church outreach programs fail because they do not feel natural.

Though it is cliché, the best way to share the love of Christ is in the natural overflow of our love for Him.

The best outreach ministries should teach us how to channel that overflow.

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Thom S. Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and six grandchildren. He was founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism, and Church Growth at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. His many books include Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, The Unexpected Journey, and Breakout Churches.