Develop an Awareness of the Needs of the People Outside Your Ministry

This month, continuing our ministry vision process, we will discuss how to become more alert to those outside your ministry but potentially affected by it. But before we hop into step four, let’s have a quick review of steps 1-3: 

Step 1 Gain a Clearer Understanding of God’s Desires For Your Ministry

The first step toward developing and refreshing your ministry vision is one that often goes overlooked because it is so assumed. Returning to the Author of Creation and the greatest redemption plan in history could revolutionize your personal approach to ministry and re-orient a floundering outreach. A fuller understanding of God’s purposes for the universal church will help you understand His purposes and desires for your church. Your ministry vision, first and foremost, must be grounded in God’s stated desires for the ministry of His people.

Step 2 Understand Your Unique Strengths, Abilities, and Limitations

Yet the vision cannot and should not end in these general brush-strokes, it must be nuanced with your abilities as a leader. You must evaluate your own strengths as a leader, as well as your limitations. If you are the pastor of the church or leader of a ministry team, much of the responsibility for determining and fulfilling the vision rests upon you. This is why God made you a leader! The vision will be closely connected to who you are as a person; it will be influenced by how God is working in your life, by your own gifts, abilities, strengths and weaknesses.

Step 3 Understand Your Congregation’s Unique Strengths, Abilities, and Limitations

Not only must we evaluate ourselves, we must also turn our eyes towards our congregation. Every congregation has important resources available to fulfill the ministry’s vision. These resources include people, finances, facilities, skills, information, history, and level of community respect. No two congregations are the same; the particular grouping of resources makes a congregation unique and equips it for a specific role in the building of the kingdom of God.

Now, having established where we’ve been- we come to the fourth (of five steps) in refreshing your ministry’s vision and your purpose as you lead it.

Step 4: Develop an Awareness of the Needs of the People Outside Your Ministry

Part of the visionary process is to determine the needs of people you will minister to outside the church. What are the special needs of the community?

Their needs will become “doorways to ministry.” People may think they are not interested in “church,” but they are interested in satisfying their felt needs. For example, hurting marriages become an opportunity to minister to people who might not otherwise come to church.

As you consider the particular community in which the congregation exists, answer these questions:

  •                 What is the community like?
  •                 What are the needs of people?
  •                 What pressures are they facing? Where are they hurting?
  •                 What are their values, beliefs, and attitudes? Which values                           control their lifestyles?
  •                 What cultural changes are happening in our local society?
  •                 What are their dreams?
  •                 Who are the people who have no relationship with the church?
  •                 What special people groups exist in the area of your church?

If possible, do a community survey, asking people for their perception of personal and community needs. Ask what ministries they would be interested in at the church. Respond to such surveys by changing programs or other aspects of church life; this will strengthen the church’s service to the community.

Beyond your immediate community, remember to consider the world at large. Scripture indicates that the mission of the church extends to the entire world (Matthew 28.18-20). Determine 1) the needs and the hopes of people and 2) specific regions where the gospel has not been carried. Then answer this question: “What can our church do to carry out its ministry with greater effectiveness to those beyond our community and state?”

As you consider the needs of people around you, you should begin to sense a commitment to minister to a certain group of people. Perhaps the group is defined geographically or perhaps by age or occupation. As you consider the various possibilities along with the strengths and weaknesses of your church, God will lead you to focus on a particular group of people. Try to identify this group clearly.

Remember that no one church can meet all the needs that exist in society. Focus on those people and needs God has equipped your church to minister to and trust Him to raise another church (or churches) to minister to the others.

Don’t miss the final installment of this vision-refreshment series, Step 5: Writing a Vision Statement for Your Church!

This post is based on a portion of Andrew Seidel’s work Charting A Bold Course: Training Leaders for 21st Century Ministry. For more information on this title and for many other leadership resources, visit our Resource Center today!

About the Contributors

Andrew Seidel

Andrew B. Seidel

Dr. Andrew B. Seidel served as executive director of the Hendricks Center at Dallas Seminary for fifteen years, which provides leadership training and development for seminary students as well as ministry and business leaders. A graduate of West Point and a colonel in the U.S. Army, Dr. Seidel was senior pastor at Grace Bible Church in College Station, Texas, for fourteen years. He left the pastorate to provide leadership training for pastors on the mission field in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. Today he continues to work in Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia with Entrust (formerly BEE International). The author of Charting a Bold Course; Training Leaders for 21st Century Ministry, Dr. Seidel and his wife Gail Norris Seidel have been married for more than fifty years and have two married children and six grandchildren.