Extending ministries

Your Church's DNA

Tailoring a missions strategy

BACK IN 2006, JOHN* AND HIS LEADERSHIP TEAM pursued local missions, like any good church plant. "We had almost a shotgun [approach] in doing and trying different stuff," John admits. "Some of those things were good, but no long-term partnerships had formed and we were a little frustrated.

"When you get the mission bug," he adds, "the urgency is to go out and do anything you can, just to say, 'Hey, I'm doing it.' But part of assessing what the Holy Spirit is doing is being Spirit-led and intentional, which requires patience."

As part of his lesson in patience, John and his Southern California EFCA church decided to slow down and ask for some help. In 2008 they contacted EFCA CONNECT for assistance in tailoring a missions approach to their church's own specific DNA.

CONNECT staff member Craig McClun arrived in person and spent a few days asking lots of questions and helping the church figure out where to start. And then he left. Church leaders continued asking questions, seeking answers. John readily admits that it was almost a full year later before the church was ready to develop a missions strategy.

Like John's church, most congregations that reach out to CONNECT are already doing something with missions. They might be pursuing various initiatives that don't tie into an overall vision. Or maybe they're wondering if their initiatives could be more effective.

Regardless of the size of the church, CONNECT facilitators can help a church board, pastoral leadership and missions team ask better questions and develop a more integrated strategy.

One crucial question is, "What's unique about your church that should be part of your missions focus?" After all, God has specifically gifted individuals through the Holy Spirit; as those individuals gather in church families, those churches display specific giftings as well.

That question rang true for John. An aha moment came as he and his leadership team saw how passionate their people already were about involvement in Haiti and with post-Katrina community development. Why not walk through those doors, rather than perpetually trying to force open other doors?

From the beginning, God had also brought a lot of senior adults to the congregation, which created a deeply multigenerational church and strong sense of family. "We sent mixed multigenerational teams to Haiti and New Orleans," John explains, "and it's amazing the inroads that were there because of their age and their humility."

John and his church leaders are excited to keep asking questions and refining a mission strategy that uniquely suits the passions and skills—the people—God has already brought through their doors.

*For security reasons, to protect international missions partnerships in sensitive countries, "John" has requested that he be kept anonymous.

Diane J. McDougall

Diane J. McDougall has served as editor of EFCA publications, both in print and online, since 1997.

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