In Part 1, we discovered that one common characteristic among churches that have longevity is effective leadership—specifically, faithful pastors who mentor potential leaders and then release them to carry out the work of the ministry.
Here in Part 2, we’ll look at another key trait our research uncovered: outreach. We discovered that the churches that remain effective in the long haul aren’t the kinds who stick their heads in the sand in some sort of self-focused ministry myopia. They get out of their pews and do something to change the world around them.
All of the churches we interviewed not only conduct regular outreaches within their own communities, but also have a “go into all the world” mentality and give systematic financial support to Foursquare Missions International, helping to extend the power of the gospel well beyond their cities’ borders.
Scott Orchard, senior pastor of Family Life Center (Sheridan Foursquare Church) in Sheridan, Wyo., tells Foursquare.org that one of the main reasons for his congregation’s durability is “continued relevance to an ever-changing community.”
In that vein, Family Life Center has conducted music festivals; held summer and winter camps for youth for the state of Wyoming; distributed Bibles; united with other churches in various outreach events; and operated many different service projects, both as a church body as well as in conjunction with other organizations.
Scott makes a crucial point when it comes to ministry outreach.
“Just doing different service projects is great if there is a need and a gifting to meet that need,” he explains. “But the main thing we are doing is reaching people where we are living—where we work, eat and collide.”
In other words, outreach is a missional mindset that drives both individuals and groups of people to reach others wherever God has placed them and with the gifts He has given them.
Being Aware of Needs
Jim Scott, senior pastor of New Hope (Lubbock First Foursquare Church) in Lubbock, Texas, notes the importance of understanding the uniqueness of our communities so that we are aware of their particular needs. Lubbock, for example, is a college town where, Jim says, “football is king.” Farming, oil and cattle drive the overall economy. But despite being in an area of the country where family values are held in high esteem, there are many broken families here.
“We must serve and bring recovery to broken and dysfunctional families,” Jim explains. “Texas is a Southern state, which means the people are polite and friendly, family oriented, and generally conservative with conservative values. We are in the Bible Belt, which means there are more churches and greater respect for a faith-based lifestyle.
“With that said,” he continues, “the paradox is that, though many contend for family values, our town has the highest sexually transmitted disease rate and teen pregnancy rate in the state. Although the percentage of churchgoers is higher in our community than others, that doesn’t necessarily equate to a genuine relationship with Jesus that is demonstrated in daily living.”
New Hope reaches its community in various ways, including running a preschool and daycare that serves approximately 80 kids and their families. Once per quarter, they dismiss their Sunday morning service and send teams into the community to serve. For example, on one of these Sundays they sent a team to The Salvation Army to prepare meals for 800 people; another team to work for the Lubbock Food Bank to package 2,000 pounds of rice into one-pound bags; and a third team, mostly children, to conduct a service in a retirement home.
The congregation cooperates with and financially supports Pray Lubbock, an association of more than 100 churches that pray and work together toward the goal of revival in the city. New Hope has also planted two churches in the past five years, one in Lubbock, one in Europe.
Regular Community Outreach
Allen Phipps, senior pastor of Hope Temple (Minneapolis Foursquare Church) in Minnesota, serves in an ethnically diverse neighborhood where the majority of residents, he says, have no background in the church. Many people here, he notes, are under economic distress, and the percentage of renters far outweighs that of homeowners.
“Our midweek service is our outreach night, with Kid’s Club for grade school ages,” says Allen. “Most of their parents do not attend. The largest attendance of the week is this Wednesday night gathering, with spiritual responses from our children and youth.”
Several times each year, Hope Temple conducts an outdoor carnival with free food and games to let people know they are there to serve them. During the annual May Day Parade, the church gives out bottled water to people going and coming from the community festival.
Once a month, volunteers from the congregation work with Feed My Starving Children, preparing packaged meals for schools and orphanages overseas. Hope Temple is also involved with summer camps for children and youth, with many registrations subsidized by the congregation.
Prayer and Action
Ken Swett, senior pastor of Modesto Foursquare Church in Modesto, Calif., mentions the significance of combining prayer with action when it comes to outreach.
“We pray for, and look for, ways to reach our community with the gospel and God’s love and to reach the world through praying, giving and going,” affirms Ken. ” ‘Planting and Reaping in Modesto and Beyond’ is our motto.”
Modesto Foursquare performs food giveaways and worship services in the park; conducts ministry in two convalescent homes each week; and does Vacation Bible School outreaches in the surrounding neighborhood.
At one time, the church had a skate outreach for youth, and the men in the church ministered monthly to incarcerated youth in the Preston Youth Facility in Ione, before it was closed down.
The men of the church hold a monthly breakfast that draws new men; and the women enjoy “First Friday Fellowship,” an event that attracts new women. Church volunteers minister to women and lead worship services at the local Gospel Mission. Ken also mentions his thankfulness for the Spanish-speaking Foursquare church that meets on Modesto Foursquare’s campus, Templo de Gracia (Modesto East Hispanic Foursquare Church), pastored by Estella Escobar. Estella’s husband, Francisco, is the assisting minister.
Ken makes a vital point regarding what it means to have a missional, outreach-oriented mindset, whether it’s as an individual or a church body.
“The community,” he asserts, “is our neighbor, fellow student, co-worker, executive in the corner office, needy man asking for a handout, child playing in the park whose parents never bring him to church, young person with piercings at the skate park who feels insecure and needs Jesus.
“How we minister to our community is as varied and creative as the number of people in our church family,” he continues. “The Holy Spirit opens doors to impact someone for Jesus daily. We increase the number of times we don’t miss what the Holy Spirit is nudging us to do by staying close to Jesus and purposefully listening for His voice.”
Listening to that voice will lead to some pretty exciting things, our research found. Next, we’ll look at some of the people whose lives have changed because of churches that consistently reach out in love and in the power of the Holy Spirit.
You are reading Part 2 in a three-part series.