“As a church, we should invest in insiders, but prioritize outsiders.”
Jeff Henderson tweeted this not long ago. It packs a powerful punch to the everyday choices we make in ministry. It’s easy for us to think, yeah, of course I do that . . . the vision of our ministry is blah, blah, blah. However, when those insiders and outsiders are real people, with real concerns and their own ideas, living up to this idea can be a struggle. Maybe you remember the first time—the first time that you were challenged for the decisions you were making in leading your ministry. See, there is this constant tension that we face as ministry leaders to reach the people outside our walls while being sure to invest in the people who are already there.
I’ll never forget when this tension hit me smack in the face. I was a young leader at an even younger church plant. Things were growing very quickly, we had recently purchased an old movie theatre and were undergoing renovations to create exciting environments for all the new families that were coming. I knew that God was doing big things in this church, but I was constantly overwhelmed with the vision that He had placed on my heart. I was taking the steps toward building a ministry that I believe would really impact families and reach people beyond our walls. But my vision was many steps beyond what I could physically and financially do.
One of those steps was creating a family experience. When I realized the impact a family experience could have in the families at our church and potentially in our community, I knew it was the direction we needed to go. We needed to place parents and kids in the same room together so that they could learn together.
In the midst of trying to plan a family experience, the kids were literally meeting in gross, out-dated movie theaters. Our small group leaders faced a whole new set of challenges, like keeping kids from eating the popcorn on the ground, and not sitting in whatever sticky mess, and the smell . . . “just ignore the smell,” was a regular talking point. I was trying to be a cheerleader, and in my mind these were minor inconveniences for the things we had in store. But I forgot one thing. I didn’t take the time to fully unpack that vision with my volunteers. Yes, I trained them. Yes, they had their curriculum and their supplies. But I hadn’t taken the time to truly invest in them, to entrust them with the giant vision that was in my heart. And that became all too evident one Sunday.
A faithful volunteer approached me on a Sunday. They were so frustrated that my energy wasn’t going toward what they needed at that time. This wasn’t just a casual conversation, it was a quite heated one—she was very disappointed in what I was doing and how I was leading this ministry. I felt completely deflated, and took some time to think it all through. Didn’t she see all that I was doing, the projects we were working on? How this was going to reach so many families who would otherwise never be interested in church? And that’s just it. She didn’t.
Later in the week I invited her to meet me at the church. We sat in folding chairs in front of the stage that was almost finished. I painted a picture for her in the midst of this construction zone. I was able to share my excitement for the way parents and kids would come into this room, and how that would spur on conversation all throughout the week. A place where kids would be so excited to bring their friends, because it was unlike anything they had ever experienced in church. And you know what? She got it. In that moment it made sense to her. The sacrifices of smelly rooms and sticky floors become worth it when you catch a glimpse of the bigger picture. Click To Tweet
I was fortunate because she didn’t walk away. She became further invested in what we were trying to do. I think back on that experience and realize that—had I just communicated the vision and the steps we were taking, if I would have invested time into bringing my volunteers into the plan—I could have avoided this whole mess. Thankfully, I learned from the situation, and became a vision-casting cheerleader—sharing the vision that God continued to lay on my heart so that the people inside our church could be just as excited about how we were going to reach families outside our church.