Mobilizing the Body for the Community: Micro vs Macro
When I first stepped into the role of Missions Pastor, I often lived in my head in what I now consider “macro spaces.” In essence, I spent much of my time thinking about the “bigness” of the responsibilities I was called into in this role. Much of my time was spent dreaming, envisioning, and planning what I thought our church ought to be engaged in on a large scale. I drew up countless plans and theoretical programs that never made their way out of Google Docs. Admittedly, in my immaturity I sometimes felt like I was too busy working at a macro level to focus on the missional formation of individual people in my congregation. I was too busy to engage in 1:1 conversations about calling, giftedness, and opportunity. I simply felt like I had too many “big” things going on. This is partially true; it is both a challenge and a gift to lead in a thriving, large church. But as I reflect back on this time from where I am now, I can see that much of my problem came from a misinterpretation of my role. I was spending the bulk of my time working as a mission architect rather than as a mission builder.
Much of my problem came from a misinterpretation of my role. I was spending the bulk of my time working as a mission architect rather than as a mission builder.
Architects serve an incredibly important role in determining the design and usability of a space. This should not be understated. However, buildings stay on paper if no one ever takes the plans and begins to construct something. Every project, every vision, is simply an idea until a builder takes the paper and makes something out of it. And it is in the building stage that the plans of the architect are tested for practicality and functionality. Additionally, every building is put together piece by piece. Imagine how many individual light switches are found in a fifty-story high rise! While we are impressed by the grandness of the completed structure, we forget that every single one of the light switches, door hinges, vent covers, and other intricate components of that building were installed by hand, one at a time.
In the same way, a missional church cannot simply be architected; a missional church must be built. Similar to any other building, this construction process occurs by hand, in many small ways, and over a long period of time. When I started as a missions leader, I felt like I had no time for 1:1 conversations about missional engagement with people in my congregation. Ironically, now I see that having these conversations is the primary thing I do that moves the needle in any sort of significant way. Building a missional church doesn’t happen from behind a screen by designing an innovative program, or from a stage by communicating a profound vision. Instead, this building takes place “by hand,” one person at a time.
Sparking Interest in the Church
Practically, this has looked like implementing a number of “on-ramps” or “lead magnets” for people in the body who have shown interest in serving within or beyond the church. A couple of examples of things you will see within the life of our body are: posters, social media posts, Sunday morning slides, and videos with titles like: “Where Are You Going?” “Find Your Serving Sweet Spot,” and “Mentoring Is Mission.” Each of these various displays contains a QR code or web link where someone can complete a form in about fifteen seconds that asks about their interest in serving. Then, using an automation software (like Zapier), these individuals immediately receive an email that invites them to schedule a fifteen-minute phone call with myself or one of our other leaders using the scheduling system Calendly. This eliminates the “back and forth” scheduling headaches of trying to find a time to meet.
Too often, church leaders look only at the needs of the operation of the church as opportunities for serving without paying any attention to the giftedness of the people within the body.
During these conversations we unpack the giftedness and passions of the person seeking to serve. We dive a bit into their story, vocational training, and season of life. The primary goal of these mobilizing conversations is to discover where an individual’s giftedness and our community’s greatest needs collide. This is what we call their “serving sweet spot.” Too often, church leaders look only at the needs of the operation of the church as opportunities for serving without paying any attention to the giftedness of the people within the body. As a result, we can end up having our attorneys pass out bulletins and our doctors serve snow cones. Serving in those ways isn’t a bad thing, and maybe mopping the floor and wiping tables are important practices in humility for talented and successful folks. (The CEO of a nationwide company serves coffee at my church on a weekly basis.) However, it's important to ask what each person’s serving capacity is and if there are more creative ways in which that capacity can be leveraged to make an impact for the Kingdom. Additionally, it’s important to ask if someone ought to take a further step down the mobilization pipeline (e.g. from leading in kids ministry on Sundays to serving as a mentor alongside a local partner).
Finding the Sweet Spot
At the point where we feel like we may have an idea of someone’s “serving sweet spot,” we hand them off to a department lead (if within the church) or to a local partner (if external) for onboarding. We track this process through a workflow system such as Trello that includes automated reminders for checkups to see how that onboarding process is going. We also hold department leaders and executive directors of local partners accountable for how they are fostering those who have raised their hand to serve. If those with sparked interest fall through the cracks under the care of those department leaders or directors, then we have to have a tough conversation about what happened. It should be seen as an incredible loss (not an “oops”) when we mismanage someone’s willingness to serve the Kingdom.
It should be seen as an incredible loss when we mismanage someone’s willingness to serve the Kingdom.
This process is, at times, a bit tedious. It requires multiple phone calls, text reminders, and check-ins. It takes a significant amount of time to manage a pipeline with even as few as fifty people involved in it. If this is not your “cup of tea” as a missions leader, then find a volunteer or two who can run this pipeline for you! Great candidates may be someone in sales or real estate whose vocations revolve around “closes.” Ask them, “For a few hours a week, could you ‘close for the Kingdom’?” It is important to recognize and appreciate a volunteer or staff person who consistently and successfully mobilizes people within the body to serve. Set quarterly and annual goals for how many people your team wants to see serving and work hard to hit those numbers. Keep these numbers realistic, maybe starting with 10 percent of your weekly attendance over the course of a year. It is certainly not all about numbers, but as missions leaders, we should be motivated and electrified by moving people along the pipeline to using their giftedness to serve God’s Kingdom.
No matter where you find yourself in the process of mobilizing your church to serve your community, remember that it is an incredible invitation that God has given us to participate in the transformation of our cities in the power of his Spirit. While it is tempting to think of this transformation in big ways, I am convinced that God is moving in our cities through individual people saying “Yes” to using their giftedness to meet needs and share the story of Jesus. What an opportunity we have to encourage them on that journey!
Jonah Fox serves as Missions Pastor at Vista Community Church in Temple, TX. Jonah is a graduate of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (BA in Christian Studies) and George W. Truett Theological Seminary (MDiv in World Christianity & Witness). Jonah is married to Brooke, who is a neo-natal/NICU nurse, and they are active foster parents. Jonah can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.