Pastor, your church needs you to get out. There, I said it. Get. Out. I’m not telling you to abandon your church. Rather, my exhortation is for all pastors—yes Senior Pastor, I’m looking at you—to make a regular commitment to get out of your church and into your community.
While articles and blogs and research studies assault us on a daily basis with reminders about how vital it is for the church to be outward focused, our calendars and to-do lists reveal the truth, that for many of us, our efforts tend to be focused on inside pursuits.
How do we begin? Here are 5 simple steps towards becoming a pastor who is purposeful about getting out of the church.
Assess Your Relationships
In my seventh year of serving as a staff pastor in a large church, I had the sudden realization that I didn’t have any real relationships outside the cloister of ministry. Preoccupation with running weekly church services and ministries kept me from engaging with the outside world and it grieved me. I couldn’t even recall the last time I had had a memorable conversation with someone who wasn’t a Christian.
Getting out begins with an honest assessment of your relationships. Ask yourself:
- With whom do I spend most of my time?
- Do I have any close friends outside of church?
- What meaningful relationships do I have with people who aren’t Christians?
- Is Jesus okay with this?
My sense is that many pastors don’t prioritize getting out because they struggle with knowing where to begin. This was definitely true for me until, in a moment of divine interaction, I heard Jesus say, “Just do what you like to do.”
I like to play guitar. So, I started playing solo coffee house gigs. Later, I formed a band and played out in the clubs. My goal was to simply be present with people I wouldn’t normally interact with while having fun doing what I enjoy the most. That’s it. No pressure to evangelize. No proselytizing. I even played “secular” music *gasp*.
If you’ve forgotten how to have fun, just start by doing what comes most natural to you. Ask yourself:
- What are my hobbies?
- What am I good at?
- Are there any clubs or organizations where I can do those things alongside others?
In almost every city, town, or village, there are multiple organizations that need good volunteers. For many years now, I’ve served as the combo director for the local high school show choir—leading the student musicians who play behind the singers.
Volunteering in this way has helped others in the community see me not only as a pastor, but also as someone who cares and is willing to invest in our city. An unanticipated bonus is that it’s also taught me a lot about what it means to serve under someone as a volunteer–a perspective that’s easy to forget when you’re usually the one leading.
There is no shortage of serving opportunities. Consider some of these:
- Coach park district sports…even if you don’t have kids who play
- Volunteer to help in your local schools
- Give your time to a local nursing home or hospital
- Fill a need at another local non-profit in your community
Be Found Among the People
When our local school district had a shortage of substitute teachers, I began subbing about once a week at the junior high and high school. But, I soon realized this was also a great way to connect with a wide range of people who form our community.
My perspective now is, I can either work all day, every day at the church and connect with just a handful of people who might stop in, or I can get out of the church and interact with hundreds of people in just one day through subbing.
Our small, midwestern town doesn’t have many places where people naturally congregate, so it required me to get creative. Every community is different. Ask yourself:
- Where do groups of people hang out in my city?
- What is the best way for me to connect with them?
Stop Making Excuses
Yes, you’re busy. Yes, you have many responsibilities. But, when the rubber meets the road, you have nobody to blame but yourself if you and your church aren’t regularly investing in relationships out there. You can preach it all you want, but if being outward focused isn’t a priority for you, it won’t be a priority for the people you lead.
If you want to be outward focused, it’s time to stop making excuses. Ask yourself:
- What things do I have to say “no” to in order to have space in my schedule to be in the community?
- What things do I need to hand off to others?
You’ll bless others and build relationships you never thought you would have by serving next to people in your community. Follow the example of Jesus and be found among the crowds. No longer settle for looking out from the inside. Real life—and real fun—is found out there.
Jimm Wood begrudgingly attended his first Vineyard Church service in 1996 and immediately found his tribe. He has been a Worship Pastor, Multisite Pastor, and now serves as Co-Senior Pastor alongside his wife DeDe at Hope Vineyard Church in Paxton, Illinois. They have 4 children, two cats, and one dog. Jimm is also the MV Rep for the Midwest South region.