Bringing Focus to Your Ministry
By Stephen Blandino | Posted In Ministry Tools
Every church is called to reach people. The question is, which people? Some might say, “God has called us to reach all people.” Others would argue, “God has called us to reach a specific target group.”
Which is right? I would suggest both.
First, we are called to reach people. Jesus said, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).
Notice, Jesus said to make disciples of “all nations.” The gospel is not selective or exclusive.
At the same time, no church can reach every type of person. It is simply impossible for one congregation to reach every language and every culture — not to mention satisfying all individual preferences, likes, and dislikes.
No local church can fulfill every desire, start every program, or prioritize every person’s greatest passion. Attempting to do so would only dilute and distract the church from reaching its greater mission. Churches have to focus their ministry efforts, while recognizing they may not reach every kind of person.
You might argue, “Yes, but the apostle Paul became like a Jew to win the Jews, like one under the law to reach those under the law, and weak to win the weak” (1 Corinthians 9:19–23).
That is true, but Paul also didn’t stay in one place. Throughout the course of his ministry, Paul moved from city to city and adapted his ministry approach based on where he was and to whom he was speaking. Paul couldn’t be all those things to everybody at one time.
So, what should be our approach today? How do we manage this tension? I would suggest the following: Design with focus, and then welcome all. In other words, design your ministry to reach a clearly defined audience, but then welcome and serve every person who walks through the doors (even when they don’t match the demographic you’re trying to reach).
This approach doesn’t place people in a pecking order of who is most important. Nor does it violate Jesus’ instructions to love your neighbor and to do to others as you would have them do to you. It welcomes all and gladly serves them in the Spirit of Jesus. But it also enables a church to focus its efforts and strategy. It helps the church better steward the resources God has entrusted to the congregation.
So, that raises a question: How do you determine who God has called you to reach? I believe it starts with three things.
Begin by asking yourself, “Where has God planted us?” There’s a reason God has placed you in your community. That community needs Jesus, and God put you there to be a life-giving church that brings the light of the gospel. If your church is ignoring the very place where God has planted you, there’s a problem.
To effectively reach your community, you need to start by understanding your community’s demographics and psychographics. Demographics are the factors that distinguish the population in your area. It includes things like age, ethnicity, marital status, socioeconomic status, education level, housing, jobs, and more.
Design your ministry with focus, but welcome and serve every person who walks through your doors.
The better you understand the demographics, the better equipped you’ll be to tailor ministry to meet the needs of your community. You can acquire demographics from the U.S. Census Bureau or a variety of organizations that specialize in this work.
Psychographics are the factors that distinguish how your audience thinks, what they value, and how they are struggling. Once you understand your demographics, do research on what’s happening in the lives of those individuals. For example, Barna Group often provides research on generational attitudes and trends.
Learn as much as you can about the people in your community. When you know more about their needs, feelings, and lifestyles, it will inform your decisions about what kind of ministry to offer.
The second consideration is your current congregation. I recommend an annual in-depth survey to understand who you are currently reaching and attracting to the church. Once you do your survey, compare the data with that of your community. Do they match?
If the congregation and community don’t match, you’ll have to prayerfully determine with what to do next. How can you adjust your strategy to become effective in reaching the people in the community where God has placed you?
The key is to mobilize your congregation rather than alienating them. Help them see the potential for sharing the gospel that exists within the community surrounding the church.
There’s one final component that is easy to overlook: the pastor’s calling. If pastors do not pay attention to their passions and calling, they run the risk of building churches they have no passion for, leaving the churches to pursue their passions elsewhere, or both.
God has placed certain passions inside of you, and there’s a good chance those passions connect with a certain group of people. For example, you might be passionate about reaching kids and teenagers. You might have a passion for leaders or the business community. You might love connecting with the homeless, the elderly, or at-risk students.
If God placed a passion in you, there’s a good chance you need to include it in the vision of the church. Integrate your calling and passions into the broader community God has called you to reach.
Once you discover the answers to these three areas, take two important next steps. First, craft a short description of who God has called and equipped you to reach. That description should include the overlap of the three areas above (community, congregation, and calling) with as much focus as possible. You might even describe a primary target and a supportive target.
Second, begin designing your ministry to reach the people God has uniquely called and equipped you to reach. If ministry design doesn’t match who you’re trying to reach, the entire exercise is pointless.
Again, the purpose of identifying a target is not to exclude people but rather to focus your ministry. God has entrusted you with resources, and if you don’t focus the use of those resources, you will dilute your ministry impact. Therefore, focus your ministry but welcome all.
At 7 City Church, we’ve taken this approach. We’ve defined a very clear primary target and supportive target. We’ve used demographic and psychographic information, as well as the vision of the church, to describe in a few sentences who we’re trying to reach. We design ministry to specifically reach that target audience.
However, we welcome all. No matter your age, ethnicity, education, or income level, you are welcome. We will work just as hard to help you connect at 7 City and experience community with other followers of Jesus as we would for anyone else. What we will not do is change our vision or start a program simply because you want us to.
Again, design your ministry with focus, but welcome and serve every person who walks through your doors. If you don’t define your audience, you’ll always experience division in your ministry methods.Don’t start with methods. Start with who God has called and equipped you to reach.