Simple outreach tools for disciple-making
“Rev. Hollis, your ministry training is something I’d love to receive! I’ve wanted to know how to do outreach for a long time. I just have never had anyone teach me HOW. We have 45 minutes until we land in Houston. Could you share some tips with me that could help me do outreach really well?”
It was another wonderful day on Delta. I am constantly thankful to know that most people I meet on flights are not only willing, but often eager to talk about spirituality and ministry. It’s sad that when many Christians think about any conversation related to outreach, the “default topic” goes to church.
“I would be glad to share with you a few points that I will be teaching at a Pastor’s Training this week. They are simple lists that help us organize ourselves to become Christ-followers who are practicing Disciple-making. They would certainly be useful to any Christian. Think of these lists as ministry tools that you or any Christian can receive and develop. Here are two of them.”
I. Outreach ministry LISTS
a) Your “Initiate & Pursue in Christ’s Love” list:
Make a list of three people that you have met but have no real clarity about who they are, what their journey has been, what their family relationships are (including pets), or what makes them feel most special. They may be someone where you work, play or maybe even a neighbor.
Once you have the names, begin to pray for them each day. Ask God to give you an opportunity to initiate a new friendship with them by simply RE-introducing yourself to them and asking them some version of, “How’s your (day, week, hobby, recent trip, etc…) going?” Next – really listen and plan to remember. If they ask, share some of your story or journey with them.
After this conversation emerges, build on it. Write down points they made about themselves, their family, their hobbies, their hopes, their needs and other things that you know matter to them. If they share any concerns, ask them if they would like for you to lift those needs or people in prayer. If you discern in their response that you are being led to pray right there, out loud – do it – with grace and passion. Thank God for them and the blessing to becoming their new friend.
Repeat this with all three people on your “Initiate & Pursue with Christ’s Love” list. Keep careful notes that will be conversation points in ongoing conversations. Listen well! In an informal and casual way, share with them little pieces of what Christ has meant in your own life. Keep those short, related to the topic at hand and when you offer these conversationally, then leave these comments out there – kind of like the speech bubbles you see in cartoons – as an offering of possibility and hope. Stop talking, allowing them to respond as they will. It may take a minute as they consider the authenticity of your comments. They may instantly change the topic, or they may choose to ask you what you mean by your brief sharing. They may come back to you a week later, having really thought about what you shared and ask you to talk more with them this time. Allow the Holy Spirit to help you be sensitive, discerning and caring here. NO pressure! There is plenty of story and you are not in a hurry – the Spirit has prepared you to share beautifully, in the right moment – in the fullness of the Spirit’s time.
With some people, your conversations will lead to spiritual questions. They may begin to ask you to share more about Christ or God or spirituality. Don’t be afraid of this! Then plan more faith discussions with them as you move the friendship forward. Soon you can move their name to your next list.
b) Your “Under Spiritual Construction” list:
This is the list of those you have come to know as friends. They have asked you to share more with them about one or more aspects of Christian faith or community. You are now building into this friend through your own faith! Keep in mind that it is perfectly acceptable to respond to a question they may ask with, “Wow. That’s a great question. How would you feel about us searching that out together?” This may be the finest response – even if you know the answer!
There are those we are building into that we visit with each week, some less often and others more. You don’t have to do this in person but can use Facebook, instant messaging, private chats, the phone, or even Free Conference Calls (www.freeconferencecall.com
) if you have a group of two or more that would like to make new friends to explore faith together, in Christ. Biblical narrative stories are excellent for this! Nearly everyone loves stories and can enter into discussion about them – even if they are reading them for the first time.
The two lists above make a wonderful starting point in your developing a personal Outreach Ministry plan, which can provide you two important ingredients: intentionality and consistency. Ask other close Christian friends to pray for you in this effort. It involves spiritual risk and discipline but can certainly produce immense joy and spiritual fulfillment.
In future Outreach Columns, I want to share three additional lists. For now, may the Lord bless you in maximizing the first two. I would love to hear how this is working for you in becoming Christ-follower engaged in passionate and personal outreach! Making disciples for Christ brings immeasurable joy.
Rev. Jim W. Hollis is a General Evangelist of the UMC. He is the founder and Executive Director of Proactive Ministries, a ministry of teaching and coaching for making and growing disciples. He and his Staff have worked with hundreds of churches and Districts across America since 1993. Reach him on Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook. Website is: www.proactive-ministries.org