Reaching People Who Want to Make a Difference
A recent LifeWay Research newsletter published some encouraging excerpts from the new book, Lost and Found (by Ed Stetzer, Richie Stanley, and Jason Hayes). The research in this book reveals exciting news for the church. Your impact in the community not only reaches people, it has a quality that attracts other people who want to make a difference. This snippet from their research stood out:
66 percent of churched young adults rated the opportunity to meet the needs of others (locally and globally) as extremely important in their lives, and 47 percent of unchurched young adults said the same.
Many people (and specifically young adults) are aware that there is something bigger than their personal world. They desire to take part in something that makes a difference. One quote from an interviewee struck me:
“Wow me, befriend me, and let’s make a difference.”
The church is more than a group of friends impacting a community, but that’s how many are seeking to connect. In order to reach a generation wanting to make a difference, the church must be blazing the trail of social responsibility and community impact.
In general, church impact has been waning the past few decades. Declines in most denominations are widely discussed. But an opportunity exists to regain lost ground, reclaim dropouts, and re-energize dwindling churches. The declines of the 20th century could be wiped away by the exponential growth potential of working with emerging generations on making difference.
If the church is doing what is real, valuable, and making a difference in the world, young adults will give of themselves and their resources to support it. However, if the Church is disconnected from the issues that plague our society, then younger adults and future generations will consider the church hypocritical, insignificant, and irrelevant.
It’s counter to the way many churches think – people connect first, then serve later (begrudgingly and out of a sense of duty). This research reveals the converse: an invitation to serve may be the best way to invite people to church. Serve first, connect after the church lives the mission.
Rather than initially inviting the unchurched to a traditional church program, perhaps we should ask them to help serve at a rescue mission or to attend a benefit dinner for a local charity. People are willing to respond this way. Meanwhile, the body of Christ is getting to know these people and earning the right to share about their faith. Plus, this new level of relational equity increases the chances of the unchurched attending a small group Bible study or a worship service in the future.
This is a big shift in both evangelism strategy and service efforts from previous generations. In years past a church served those they wanted to reach. This is still an important and valid facet of ministry in the current cultural climate. However, one key difference surfaces with regard to emerging generations. Now the church has the opportunity of reaching people for Christ by allowing those people to serve with them.
The potential quandary arises with where to draw the line – those who serve in Christ’s name must be part of the body of which He is the head. Some service should be reserved only for those professing Christ and connected to His Church. And as noble as it may be, social responsibility alone is not the answer. As this research suggests, this service must lead to a telling of why the church serves. All potential messiness aside, the church should capitalize on this recent social phenomenon. Your thoughts?