Friday, November 14, 2008


A lot of lines are being blurred in our culture today. During the last election cycle in the USA we saw that people were a lot less interested in voting along party lines, for instance. Convenient categories like "Democrat" and "Republican" are giving way to "Independent." When people are asked their ethnicity(Caucasian, Black, Hispanic, Asian, etc.), over 30% now check "other." Even our president is not so easily defined. This has implications for ministry.

1. Scrub your stereotypes. Depending on your upbringing, you may be bringing slight to extreme stereotypes with you into ministry. Check them at the door. If you feel that certain people groups are a certain way, you need to realize the magnificent spectrum that is presented to us in the real world. You cannot tell a book by its cover. Get to know people and their unique stories. Jesus showed us how with the Samaritan woman.

2. Make it personal. It used to be that a pastor spoke primarily to families, and then secondarily to single people. Today, relationships are much more complicated. People have blended families, multiple families, broken families, no family. And single may mean "divorced," or "cohabitating" or "gay." Consequently, effective communicators do not assume that they are talking to Ward, June and Beaver Cleaver. Narrow your focus to the individual.

3. Expand your categories. When we are speaking you need to present a broader and more inclusive list of categories. For instance, you are probably talking in front of people who are suicidal, trapped in drug abuse, white collar criminals, etc. So if you say, "You might be here and be discouraged" you lose credibility, because people are thinking "That's the least of it!" If you don't get a broader list of categories, folks will put you in one: "Out of touch with reality."

4. Diversify your team. Do you have minorities on your leadership team? On your worship team? In your ministry? If not, you won't look very inclusive, even if you are. Do your best to think outside the box, particularly if the box is "people who are a lot like me."

5. Target new audiences. Are you reaching out to the people in your community, or just one variety of people in your community? Strategize about reaching other people groups. As a result of prayer God may place a burden on your heart for people of differing geography, ethnicity or socio-economic status. If you don't know how to reach them, maybe invite them for dinner and go from there.

With spiritual eyes we see that there are not classes of people, there are only people, like you and like me. People who are in need of a savior.

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