“Ministry is a contact sport.” I’ve been in several staff meetings where I’ve heard my dad say this. I’m pretty sure he heard that someplace, but it’s become a mantra of his. It’s always a reminder to each staff person that though planning, preparing, organizing and other office work is important, the church is ultimately about being with and reaching people.
Contacts in ministry almost always produce some fruit. You think of someone you haven’t talked to in a while, give them a call and at that moment they are walking through major life stuff. Just yesterday, I called a young adult in our church who is on the tech ministry team, and he was at the doctor waiting test results. I was actually just calling to chit chat and had no idea he was there and still going though something from previous weeks. He thanked me for calling, especially as he was in the waiting room awaiting results. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit at work through that simple contact of reaching out at the right moment.
What are some ways this contact sport plays out? It happens naturally for my dad, as he is a pastor at heart. He visits people in the hospital, he checks on people, he engages with people and he’s known for being a master at remembering names.
Here are some tips:
Be a shepherd – to the people in your church. There are many roles a pastor plays, but people need to know you are there for them.
Be a shepherd to those in your leadership – If you are leading any church or organization, pinpoint other leaders or staff who are aiding you in the ministry. Be a shepherd to them, motivating them to also shepherd the flock.
Write out a list of names of people for a specific purpose and take action with that list of people. My dad will often go through the attendance list of our entire database for a specific purpose. Either it will be new members in the last few months or people who need to be especially invited. He will then bring these names to staff, handwritten on paper (though sometimes just pulled from the database and printed) and the staff will divide up the list to call, connect with, invite. Many times, just the act of bringing the list and praying for those people brings the inactive ones back again and opens up doors for people to be connected.
Be ready to contact those who need to be challenged and invited to move into leadership or other service. Has someone come to mind to help in an area of ministry? Have you noticed a giftedness in another person? When the time is right (though, sometimes you just need to jump in either way) – contact them and invite them to meet with you and have a conversation.
Remind your staff and congregation that the church is about reaching people. At the end of almost every event or worship service, my dad says a couple things: 1) make sure you shake hands with a few people and/or 2) think of something you can invite to come with you next time. He also signs his article on the church newsletter and e-news, “See You Sunday.”
Look for opportunities to serve outside the church to connect with people. The last few years, our church has volunteered to take part in community events, such as the homecoming parade, the community fall festival and being a host for the community Santa’s House. In doing those things, you are naturally connecting with people.
Actively seek ways for teams in your church to serve in mission. There are many opportunities for the church to work in mission locally, nationally and internationally. Find a way for your people to plug in meaningfully. Start somewhere, even if it’s small.
Actively care for the downtrodden and helpless. Being a church located one mile from two major interstates, we have homeless and helpless people walk through our office door on a weekly, sometimes daily basis. Though we have some procedures about how we help and aid them, there’s no cookie cutter answer. Within some basic rules and guidelines, we bend over backwards to help provide shelter, gas, food, electric bill payments, etc for people who need it. We try our best to help whomever we can – because in doing so, we are living and loving like Jesus (and according to Matthew, we are actually loving Jesus himself). It’s not always easy.
Build a culture of contacting in your congregation. Ordinary thinking and ordinary work won’t bring about much change. Make an extraordinary effort to contact people! Whether it’s a new ministry structure, a new ministry initiative, a plan to share pastoral care, a new staff person, new small groups, or a new way of meeting and planning with other people, think big and invite others in excitement of your vision of reaching people.