Considering the need.
By Rev. Brent Dearnell
As ministry leaders, we have all been there. We find ourselves standing in the middle of an outreach opportunity wondering to ourselves, WHERE IS EVERYONE? We look around and see everything setup pretty close to how we visioned it and the servant team is in position. Then we start running down the internal checklist: we prayed about it, we planned it, we announced it, we handed out information, we asked people to invite people, we promoted it on social media, we even paid to boost the Facebook event. After a little reflection we reduce the answer to people must not be inviting others.
Now this may be true, but I would like to offer a possible different answer I have discovered through my own times of standing in relatively empty rooms or parking lots.
Whether it is an outreach opportunity, missional experience, or just an event to have fun as a community I learned to start asking this question before planning started. Answering this question helped me turn the corner away from so many empty rooms and disappointed servant teams.
I started asking, What need is being addressed?
After asking this question enough times I created my own set of multiple choices options to answer this question.
What need is being addressed?
- Prescribed Need - We are going to put this on because someone from the group we are trying to reach actually asked us to do it. See more below.
- Ascribed Need - We are going to put this on because we believe the group we are trying to reach has this need (even if they do not know it). See more below.
- Experienced Need - We are going to put this on because we are seeing people from the group we are trying to reach wrestling with this need. See more below.
Prescribed Need - Addressing A Need When Asked
When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. - John 4:47
When any of us our sick or hurting we find ourselves in a doctor’s office and the doctor writes us a prescription to help address the need we have asked them to help us address. We are asking the doctor to address our needs. In the local church we find ourselves meeting with grieving families planning funerals as well as engaged couples planning their wedding ceremonies. Both of these are times we as the church are meeting prescribed needs from those in our community. We may also find ourselves addressing prescribed needs with those facing addictions or as we partner with schools and community groups. We are being invited to shine the light of Jesus Christ into these times.
Things to Consider: Those inviting us to meet these prescribed needs already have the built in community that they know intimately. Partner with them giving them plenty of voice in the visioning and planning. Be careful to meet the need(s) they are asking you to address and not additional ones you think may be helpful. Focus and intentionality will help people understand why they should participate. Allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine however you are invited to address a need.
Ascribed Need - Crediting Others With A Need
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. - Matthew 14:14
Crowds were gathering around Jesus. He was not calling the masses but working with the masses that came to him. No mater how right we may be, attempting to address a need for someone who does not see the need will not work. To those in need but do not see it things just appear to be irrelevant. Have you ever been at a church that offered a worship night focused on introducing people to Jesus and wondered why no one from the community around the church came? The worship night was focused on us knowing the community needs more Jesus in their life. However, we never had the chance to tell people from the community this message or why it is important. We may find ourselves working through Ascribed Needs if we are in the redeeming work of community development. This is why community development comes out of conversations with official and unofficial leaders. It takes time to show the need and earn the right to be heard. The church is not automatically given this privilege as it has been in the past.
Things to Consider: Meeting Ascribed Needs of your congregation works! You have the space to teach on it at Bible Studies, preach about it in sermon series, you get to have the conversations. Meeting Ascribed Needs of your community can only come through the same type of conversations and not through one time scaled events.
Experienced Need - Feeling or Witnessing A Need
A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” - John 6:18-20
This area of need is the very nature of the local church when it remains focused on the mission of Jesus Christ. Experienced Need is living out love through feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the lonely, protecting the marginalized. This involves us walking along side of someone that has a true need and we all know it.
Things to Consider: When we meet Experienced Needs do it purely out of love. Any other intentions can be seen through. The bait and switch or charming people with the carrot at the end of a stick is manipulative. Address Experienced Needs in a way that offers love and wholeness hoping a relationship that allows things to go deeper can form. Focus and intentionality will help people understand why they should trust you, the church, and most importantly God. Allow the light of Jesus Christ to shine however you are invited to address a need.
We all work with limited time, money, and people to serve, so lets not waste them! Before we do our next large offering to the community take time to honestly answer this simple question. When we do this we can plan in a way that meets this need with better planning and expectations! Here is to full rooms and parking lots to make the largest Kingdom impact your ministry can make!
Rev. Brent Dearnell
Brent is married to Sara and is a father to four young children. He has served as a volunteer, interim, and full-time youth pastor, discipleship pastor, and executive pastor. Before going into ministry full-time he was a middle school teacher in an urban environment as well as a varsity soccer coach. He is passionate about helping young people live into their passion, faith, and call. This passion is why he is one of the cofounders of Colocate Ministry Consulting and serves as one of our coaches.