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Explore and Connect Guide

Explore & Connect

Help whet your congregation's appetite for mission by giving them a taste of new experiences and ideas related to loving others in Christ's name. Here we suggest three ways to connect the principles of holistic ministry with real-life models and resources by organizing field trips to explore holistic ministry in action; by hosting guest speakers; and by researching best practices and potential mentors.

 
1. Field Trips ("Eat out")

Check out the menu of what God is doing outside your corner of the kingdom of God! Exposure to ministry in action enlivens your ministry imagination and feeds your appetite for mission.

  • The idea of a field trip is simple: Find out who is doing exciting, worthwhile ministry in your area; then organize folks in the congregation (especially the Ministry Vision Team) to visit the ministry, talk to the people in charge — and, ideally, take part as ministry volunteers.
  • When you contact an organization, ask if you can come to observe, get the tour, and ask questions. If possible, arrange for your group to talk with the director. Tell the director that your church is trying to develop more effective ways of serving the community, and you'd like to learn from their experience. Offer for your group to do volunteer work for a few hours.
  • Some ideas:
    • Form a work crew for a Habitat for Humanity housing rehab project.
    • Look in the "blue pages" of the phone book (listing of nonprofit agencies).
    • Visit local public service agencies — welfare offices, public schools, police stations, hospitals, services for the aging, the child welfare department, etc. Also visit any churches or faith-based organizations that work collaboratively with these agencies.
    • Ask your national or regional denominational office to recommend churches in your area that are doing significant community outreach.
    • Hook up with an established program that provides a structured service learning experience, such as the "Catalytic Learning/Serving Opportunities " listed on fastennetwork.org.
  • Provide a variety of field trips for different segments of the congregation: some experiences that are family-friendly, some that are accessible to handicapped and elderly persons, and some that are more oriented toward youth.
  • Organize a church-wide ministry project. For ideas and resources, see:
  • Like a good meal, holistic ministry experiences need "digesting." Process a ministry experience by gathering afterward for reflection and prayer. Questions for post-trip discussion include:
    • How did you see the Gospel reflected in word or deed in the ministry program and its leader(s)?
    • What impressed, challenged, or concerned you about your experience?
    • How might God be speaking to you through this experience? What do you see as your next step of faith in action?
    • Can you see your church involved in this type of ministry? Why or why not?
 

          2. Guest Speakers ("Eat in")

Like field trips, special guests can expose the church to different perspectives on mission. Connect with people who have expertise in various aspects of holistic ministry, and invite them to share with the Ministry Vision Team or to speak in a worship service, Bible study, men's group, etc.

  • Suggestions include:
    • Invite pastors or outreach ministry staff from other churches with an active record of community involvement to lead a devotional and discuss what they have learned from their experiences.
    • Invite clients of a faith-based ministry to share their story, in order to learn what holistic ministry looks like from a participant's perspective.
    • Hire a seminary or college professor to teach a course at your church "campus," either as an intensive weekend or several weekly classes. Topics might include the theology of mission, economic justice in the Bible, evangelism among Muslims, a Christian perspective on the environment  ...
    • Host workshops by seasoned ministry veterans on practical topics like grant writing, micro?enterprise, youth outreach, or political advocacy.
    • Invite an author of a book on holistic ministry (see the reading list on p. 38), in conjunction with a small group book study.
    • Bring in a panel of representatives from community-serving organizations to share about critical issues, ministry opportunities, and how their faith intersects with their work.
    • As your ministry vision emerges, invite an expert from your target ministry field. For example, if you plan to work with a public housing project, ask a HUD representative to talk about the demographics of the population, the history of that housing project, HUD regulations pertaining to collaborations with faith-based programs, etc.

Provide opportunities for people in the church to interact with speakers informally after their presentation, for example by hosting a lunch after the talk. Encourage the speaker to provide their email address for ongoing dialogue,


 
         3. Models and Mentors

As you act on your ministry vision, learn from best practices in the field to guide your planning and avoid reinventing the wheel. Research model programs (churches or parachurch programs) nationwide in your targeted field of ministry, and develop a relationship with one or two entities that are willing to mentor your congregation. Models that become mentors can provide you with counsel, expertise, and encouragement. 

  • Cast a wide net in your search for best practices. Where to find good models:
    • Read about best practices (see the video clips on communitiesfirstassociation.org, the ministry profiles on centeronfic.org and fastennetwork.org, and the articles on holistic ministry in PRISM Magazine archived on esa-online.org).
    • Ask denominational contacts to refer you to excellent ministries.
    • Connect with national networks like Word and Deed Network, the Externally Focused Network, Communities First Association, or Mission America.
    • Attend gatherings where you are likely to meet folks from holistic ministries (such as the annual conferences of the Christian Community Development Association, the Externally Focused Network or the National Association of Christians in Social Work).
    • Each time you make contact with a ministry, ask, "Could you recommend one or two other ministries that we should be talking to?"
  • Learn from these models by reading, correspondence, or visiting in person, if possible. Many programs will be willing to share materials such as brochures, handbooks, or intake forms.
  • To make your contacts more meaningful, prepare in advance a list of questions to ask when talking with leaders from best-practice models.
  • Appoint a "scribe" to provide a summary of learnings from these models for the Ministry Vision Team, to aid the vision discernment process.
  • If a model strikes you as particularly helpful or applicable to your situation, ask if they would be willing to work with your church as a "ministry mentor."
  • Set up an immersion experience at a willing mentor congregation by spending a weekend on their turf, working with the host church to give you as much exposure to their ministries as possible. This allows you to experience not only their ministry program but their worship and fellowship.
  • As with field trips, take time to reflect on mentoring experiences. One important question to discuss is what aspects of the model do, and do not, apply to your context and vision. Models cannot be simply copied from one setting to another. Identify the core principles that could be adapted for your own ministry, and what you would need to change.