Training Christians for Outreach Ministry

Take Advantage of Available Resources

I realized early in my ministry that I needed to take advantage of the expertise of those around me who seemed to be doing things well. In the never ending “to do list” of parish ministry, it seems wise to me that the parish pastor make use of the help that is available to him as he carries out his ministry. In my opinion, there are some good resources available to us to assist us in training our fellow Christians for outreach ministry.

When our congregation first started (1990) we sent a team to a “School of Outreach”. These “schools” were prepared and presented by the WELS Commission on Evangelism. We sent a team that worked with our assigned consultant for an entire weekend. We came away from that weekend with a plan to share what we had learned with others in our congregation. A plan was developed to take the gospel to our community in our outreach efforts. That opportunity came at a great time for our new mission church. We needed a plan to get others involved in our outreach ministry. The counsel and direction in the realm of methodology was very helpful at that point in our history.

Our congregation sent a team to a second “school” about 8 years later. We were facing some growing pains as a congregtion. A large team was assembled (15 people) to spend their weekend working on our plan for outreach ministry. The presenations were helpful. The “outside perspective” of our weekend consultant proved valuable. We developed plans to add facility and staff as part of our plan that weekend. Those 15 people became a task force that shared our plans with the entire congregation. Those plans were incorporated into our congregation’s annual plan for ministry. Over time, God brought those plans to come to fruition. We added facility and staff.

Last year we identified the assimilation of new members as an area of ministry that needed to be strengthened. We contacted our district evangelism coordinator to seek some help. He scheduled an “Assimilation Seminar” to be held on our campus. We invited the area WELS churches and met on a Saturday in January. Once again we had a team of about 15 assembled from our congregation. The day proved to be valuable. The “team” has met since the workshop and several new components have been added to our outreach plan in the area of assimilation.

Our congregation also decided that we wanted to send a team to a “School of Worship Enrichment” hosted by the WELS Commission on Worship. You might say that this has little or nothing to do with training Christians for outreach ministry but I would beg to differ. It is true that we strive to do our best in worship because we are giving God honor and glory by doing so. It is also true that our first point of contact with most of our “prospects” is through our worship services. Our outreach efforts are hinged to our worship services. Doing things to the best of our ability seeks to proclaim the gospel to the lost and to the found. We found the encouragement at the “school” to be helpful.

These resources (Commissin for Evangelism, Commission for Worship, Mission Counselors, Commission for Congregation Counseling, etc.) exist to help congregations to proclaim Christ in their communities. These resources are available for you. Consider taking advantage of their expertise.

I would add one more entity to the list of available resources. The Institute for Worship and Outreach is also intended to serve as a resource for you in parish ministry. We hope to provide practical and helpful resources for you in your worship and outreach planning. Personally, I have already gleaned some very helpful materials from my brothers serving on this group. I pray that it might be helpful to you as well.

Rev. Charles Westra

Charles Westra serves as pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Columbia, TN. In addition to his congregational duties, Pastor Westra serves as the chairman for the WELS Board for Home Missions.

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Outreach Efforts in the week before Holy Week

Lent and Easter is such a busy time in the worship life of the Church! But it’s also a fantastic time for outreach. Easter is a holiday when unchurched people are likely to come to worship for the first time. Don’t forget to make use of all your resources to invite your prospects to worship with you on Easter.

Here are a few outreach items we’re working on during this week before Holy Week. Can you try any of these in your congregation? Can you expand any current efforts? These examples are offered for your consideration:

  1. Preschool. All the families were given printed invitations to Easter Sunday on the Tuesday before Holy Week. Tomorrow and Thursday we scheduled parties for the preschool during the school day. These parties give us a chance to eat lunch and spend some time with all the preschool parents. The goal of these parties is to invite the parents to join us at Easter services. It’s great opportunity for outreach.
  2. Prospect List. The mailer inviting our prospect list hit mailboxes today. All 639 of our active prospects get a postcard.
  3. Community Mailing. At last week’s Lenten Dinner and Devotion, we had the whole group count and sort postcards for us. We were able to get a mailing for our whole target area prepared in just about 15 minutes. Many hands make light work, and everyone got to be part of the outreach effort. That whole-target-area mailing will be delivered on Monday of Holy Week. I have found that most prospects don’t plan ahead for worship. Every home in our zipcode will be invited to Easter.
  4. Congregational Canvass. After church this past Sunday, we invited the whole congregation to stuff invitations into door hangers to be used in our congregational canvass. We stuffed 1300 doorhangers in less than ten minutes. We will be doing a “no talking necessary, no training necessary” canvass this week. It’s just hanging up doorhangers. But we have 70 people signed up to come. It’s a great way to invite the community and it’s a great way to have people involved in outreach who might not think they have the gifts for it. Even better, it makes a large group of people very interested in the work the Holy Spirit might do in bringing people to church on Easter Sunday.
  5. Personal invitations. Finally, Vicar Reichert and I are also attempting to make personal invitations to our group of “most interested” prospects. This is our shortlist of about forty families that we are trying to move toward enrollment in our next BIC. We simply stop by their house with a printed invitation. If they answer, we invite them to Easter services; if they don’t, we just leave the invitation with a personal note.
  6. Don’t forget to enlist your congregational network of friends and neighbors. We will be sending an email to the congregation talking about the privilege of witnessing and encouraging them to invite their friends and neighbors to Easter services.

Such a busy time for worship and outreach. May God bless your efforts at both!

Rev. Jonathan E. Schroeder

Jonathan Schroeder is the pastor of Faith Lutheran in Sharpsburg, GA. He serves as the Moderator of the Institute of Worship and Outreach, pastor-at-large on the Synodical Council, and is actively involved in WELS School of Outreach and WELS School of Worship.

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Relevant Worship Is Informed Worship

Pastor, we need our worship to be relevant for the 21st century person.” “We need worship to reach the next generation.” “Why do we do what we do in worship?” “We need worship that enables outreach to our friends and neighbors.” “We need worship that means something, not just the mindless repetition of the same words week in and week out.”

Be honest. When you hear things like that it: a) it makes you happy or b) it kind of puts a damper on the whole rest of your day. I think for most of us it would say “b.” Why? Because though it wasn’t said, the implication may be that the worship opportunity you provide on a Sunday morning doesn’t seem to be meeting those needs.

However, if you think about it, our answer to each one of those concerns is, “I whole-heartedly agree!” And you know that you have answer in the liturgies we use! You know that the worship we use bleeds with relevance from start to finish as it doles out Scripture’s most important and life changing messages of Law and Gospel from start to finish. You know it equips the next generation with all they need to come to know their Savior and gives the motivation and message to live for him with crystal clarity. You know that none of the liturgy is mindless. It is a living collective work of Christianity with some parts that reach back 3500 years! You know the rich variety that exists within the liturgy – you know that we don’t strive for worship for the 21st century alone, but we strive for timeless worship! You know all that…but do they?

You know the answer. It takes constant education. Relevant worship is informed worship! Have a Bible study series on worship. Do a worship workshop and offer food (we love food!). Make worship notes a regular part of your bulletin in the margins or in the footnotes. Perhaps, one of the most appreciated instruction methods that we have made use of in our congregation is the narrated service. The service not only informs and equips, but also encourages youth to consider the ministry.

At our church, we have four worship opportunities on a weekend so we hand pick 8 young men (usually early high school age) who appear to have great gifts for the ministry. We have 2 narrators per service. Throughout the worship hour, there are 4-5 spots in the service that are introduced by the narrator which explains why we do what we do in worship as well as how it connects us to the Holy Christian Church. In the past years, we have “explained” the Service of Word & Sacrament, Morning Praise, and the Common Service. The people appreciate the instruction and variety as well as seeing the next generation of church leaders using their gifts in service to their Savior (and maybe even the shorter sermon!). Our Christian Worship manual and Handbook have all the resources you would need to put a service like this together. God bless your efforts to inform your people of the relevance of worship!

Rev. David Scharf

David Scharf serves as pastor of Immanuel Lutheran in Greenville, WI. Pastor Scharf also serves as a member of the WELS Commission for Congregational Counseling.

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