end of outreach as we know it. For
all it's intended purpose outreach no longer works. This is not to say
we haven't done a few things right, but on the whole we must be doing
many things wrong. I think there are some very fundamental reasons why
outreach no longer works, reasons that are relevant in any age. But, as
the facts indicate, it is working less with each year, with each generation.
I sincerely believe we are at the point in the history of the church where
we need to ask the hard questions that I hope will mark the end of outreach
as we’ve known it.
And I believe we would do well to
so distance ourselves from the typical practices and mindsets of outreach
that it will require us to use a different word. As communicators we’ve
wrestled long with this problem. We’ve studied the unchurched and
pre- Christian reactions to outreach, we’ve listed the
numerous qualities we’d really like to convey,
to Christians and non-Christians alike. For the sake of our planning and
creative development we’ve come to describe this distinction as:
a quick comparison of outreach and withreach see this Chart >
The scope of this article goes beyond pragmatism
(what works). It also takes into view how people feel about outreach (both
the outreach-er and the outreach-ee) and how God views outreach (surely
God will bless anything that puts warm bodies in the pews).
Now, this is no small thing. We are
in desperate need of something to blast us out of our current thinking
and approach. If you are wondering whether it really makes that big of
a difference, bring withreach thinking into your next planning meeting.
Examine your goals, strategies, approach, and presuppositions based on
the definition we will describe here (and expand on over the next few
weeks). And I bet you’ll see positive, maybe even dramatic changes
A word to busy pastors...
I am sensitive to the demands on your time, so I will just touch on the
most important differences between withreach and outreach here. If you
want, just scan the lists, or print out this article (request the full
whitepaper if you’d like all the links and companion articles in
one printable, email format), and come back, for we will be exploring
every facet of this important topic and more of the practical, real-world
strategies to which it clearly leads.
is based in honor.
is what love looks like. As Fawn Parish puts it, it’s the native
language of Heaven. Withreach honors every person for who they are
as an individual and unique creation of God. In humility and respect,
withreach comes alongside of people to reach together for the purposes
of God, knowing that in any human encounter both can learn, both can
give, both can receive. Withreach shows honor by considering the presenting
felt needs people have as well as the deepest dreams and aspirations
of their heart. Withreach sees people as friends, not targets. The
spirit and protocol of withreach should permeate every program, media
communication, and individual relationship. In this way people come
into the Kingdom naturally, with a better understanding of God's heart
values the treasure inside.
communicators develop their highest delight in discovering and honoring
the special imprint of God within the heart of each person, that unique
inner spiritual identity composed of gifts, personality, perspectives,
insights, dreams, and aspirations that ultimately define a person
as who they really are. It’s what we call heart or spirit. Withreach
is a quest for God’s intended glory…the ‘glory of
God is man fully alive’ (St. Irenaeus). This is the prize.
This is living worship. It is what gives God great pleasure. Attendance,
decision cards, good offerings, or large buildings--these will pass
and they are window dressing to the deep spiritual encounters that
begin and end with two people locked in a deep conversation of dreams,
warmed by the fire of each others heart. Maybe the best thing to plan
for, the best outcomes to measure, are conversations...dream conversations.
Conversations can begin anywhere, with a knock on someone’s
door, or a card in their mailbox.
immerses wholly into incarnational
to say it, but if we asked unchurched people what body part most symbolizes
the Church, you guessed it--the mouth. It needs to be the ear. There
are great rewards found in incarnational listening, but it means we
have to leave the throne of our own agenda and take the form of a
visitor in another person’s world. And since we are not the
Holy Spirit, listening is the only way we can find out what He is
doing there, what He wants us to cooperate with. Through incarnational
listening the agent of transformation is also transformed. Creative
opportunities for the Kingdom abound in community conversations and
one-on-one listening times.
positions for exponential
in a media-driven world. Media is the only way to strategically reach
significant numbers of people, and with many, it’s the only
way. But in its most simple and pure definition, ministry and marketing
is about starting conversations that create friends....long-term friends,
maybe some you’ll grow old with. Love is patient. Don’t
destroy fledgling trust with an agenda.... that is, an agenda other
than the discovery and release of a God-given dream. People have become
quite adept at seeing through self-serving appeals. Are your strings
showing? Don’t allow impatience to sacrifice your reputation
with people and with the community. They can hear it in your voice,
your media. If you’re a little patient, keep your agenda pure,
and build right...look out, exponential growth will take over. A part
of you says yes, another part wonders about next month’s mortgage
payment. Have faith. If you delight in people’s heart-felt dreams,
impart that delight to others, create incubators of dreams, and through
conversations of earned-trust, introduce others to the Dreamgiver,
the Dreamgiver will fulfill yours. And besides, God’s dreams
are big and I really don’t think buildings will be able to contain
a Community of Dreams. Withreach creates as many conversations as
possible and delights in God’s dreams found in each heart, knowing
that is the real business of Heaven.
is intellectually honest with
language is free of double talk. There’s no insider language.
Since, as Dallas Willard puts it, we live in a God-bathed world, there’s
no inside to reach out of and no outside to reach into. You may think
I’m playing with words but ‘outreach’ fosters a
mindset that communicates volumes to those we want to reach. Imagine
discussing your next community initiative with an unchurched person
using the word ‘outreach.’ A little awkward, uncomfortable?
The insider language reveals our insider mindset...which will produce
an insider-outsider approach--a real turn-off. But it goes deeper.
Over time the outreach mindset produces a heart-set of superiority,
and its done just that. Withreach reminds us of the power of humility
and the mutual rewards found in relationships.
love, God relinquished control. Why don’t we? The only genuine
conversion and walk of a disciple is a work of the Spirit that leads
to self-motivation. It can be inspired, but not coerced. God gives
us personal dreams and visions for one reason: motivation for the
life He calls us to. The path to genuine transformation, personal
and for our community, goes through dreams. Don’t get off that
path. Anything else--guilt, coercion, or obligation (or any of their
cousins)--are not of God’s ways. Even responsibility and accountability
too easily turns to the dark side. Withreach understands the power
of God’s dreams to self-motivate a life according to His purposes.
has a human voice.
withreach communicators find their human voice.They learn the language
of dreams, a language that awakens hearts and connects with people’s
core, universal, spiritual aspirations. God wired us that way, planting
in each of us unique dreams that call us to destiny. I’m sure
you’ve noticed by now, people don’t talk the way religious
folks do. To most, spiritual yearnings are ‘dreams.’ My
spirit is, well...it’s “me.” The language of dreams
(purpose, identity, passion, heart) defines the most relevant, responsive
message you can ever use to build lasting relationships with the unchurched.
Jesus wants to come into their heart, so that’s precisely where
He wants to send you. The Holy Spirit has already been there for a
long time (nurturing, planting, calling) so you might want to work
together. Withreach can mean that too.
Two Primary Elements
required in every
effective withreach communication....both strongly based in the heart and
ways of God:
Need Focus. There are no ‘captive’
audiences without a captivating appeal (and if there were we’d
resent the captor). If you ignore felt-needs you will have an audience
of one. Some felt-needs can be discoved by reading research studies,
some are learned by asking the questions directly, over coffee or
whatever, listening, having a plain old conversation. A good plan
is to do both, regularly. We’ve found neighborhood focus groups
Conversations) have many direct benefits and are worth considering
as an ongoing ministry.
Need. Presenting or surface needs
may be the first priority, the feltneed for which your genuine compassion
grants you an audience. But credibility and trust can grant you the
deeper, more personal dream conversation. Credibility and trust can
be built in many ways: the right kind of media message, community
involvement, community image, and on a personal level, genuine interest
Specifically, let me translate
withreach into five things to avoid. Their counterparts will help with your
very next initiative:
Most Outreach Efforts Are Doomed From The Start:
# 5 The media doesn’t intentionally
plan for dialog and misses key opportunities to create conversations.
Along with the appeal to dreams, look
for ways to create multiple paths to conversations (internet, phone,
bridge event, etc). But, you have to give them a good reason to go
to the web site. For example, why did you come to ours?
# 4 The outreach does not compel attention
with anything the least bit remarkable. Life
is too short to not risk being remarkable. If doing what people expect
you to do is not getting you where you want to go, why keep doing
it? Do the unexpected. Be remarkable. What is it? Use your imagination.
Better yet, ask those you are trying to reach. (see the WOW factor
# 3 It’s one dimensional: lacks
the context and synergy of an integrated plan. Communications
do not have to be hit and miss. Strategy can be built intelligently,
each initiative informing the next. Goals, identity, community awareness
and image, smart media plans, community ministry, neighborhood withreach,
seasonal emphasis, bridge events, economies of scale, audience research,
and discovery-equipping-releasing programs can all be built into a
powerful integrated, holistic, city-reaching plan. What can be accomplished
in just one year can be significant.
# 2 The media lacks the right voice:
honesty, authenticity, warmth, humility, and respect for the audience.
We’ve already discussed this, but
take a good close look at all of your communication. Is it withreach
in spirit and tone? Does it speak with warmth and humanity, in an
informal, authentic, and credible voice?
# 1 The outreach is highly church-centric:
not saying anything close to what people want to hear.
This has to be the number one reason. Sniff out
any self-serving appeals. Is it designed and written from your perspective,
your agenda, or that of your audience? Does it connect with both felt
needs and the universal needs of the heart in a credible, appealing
way? Would you respond?
The Most Important Checklist:
18 Factors That Create
In a recent Mindstorm
Idealetter, we gave our churches and subscribers
what we’ve found to be the most important factors that impact a
special event like Christmas and Easter. It contains many points not covered
here. You might want to read it, print it out and share it with your staff.
To get the full article, click here
Want to dialog?
If you’d like to
explore topics in this article in an email dialog, please feel free to
drop the authors a note at... email@example.com.
starting Neighborhood Connections as a withreach strategy. Frankly, I’m
amazed at the results. You can start by simply asking one or two enthused
families to try it out (many are real naturals and have been looking for
something like this). They will will probably become your coordinators
and will motivate the others with their great stories. I encourage you
to look into this incredible plan. more