Throughout my ministry, church growth experts have encouraged clergy and congregations to have a narrowly-defined target.
I understand the need to have an idea of who God is calling a particular congregation to reach. When asked, “who is your target audience” or “who is God calling you to reach”, many pastors and congregations will answer with “everyone”!
Most of us can recognize the challenges presented when one attempts to “be all things to all people.” So, congregations are challenged to consider how they can narrow that down.
Several factors play into the narrowing of the target. The physical location of the church should play a role in determining the target. The demographics of the surrounding neighborhood should impact the target. The current make-up of the congregation might influence the target. The current worship style might influence the target. The financial health of the congregation might influence the target. The theological perspective might influence the target.
Ultimately, the main factor in determining the target should be God’s lead. Through a season of prayer, who is God calling the congregation to reach? While some of those other factors might influence the target, God might desire to disrupt us in our places of comfort and strength!
The reality is, when we leave it up to ourselves, our intentional targets look a lot like us (well, most likely a younger version of ourselves).
When we leave it up to God, well, we may be challenged to move well beyond our comfort zone. When we allow God to lead, it might mean that we go through a season of change. God’s target might lead us to restructure our staffing, change our worship times/styles, move from one location to another or any other seemingly major shift that disrupts our comfort.
As I have recently started a new appointment, I have been spending a great deal of time considering the question, “who is God calling us to reach?”
Last night, a friend (who just happens to be a denominational leader) asked the question, “what if the target was less about demographics and more about an ethos?” He continued, “Your church is blessed with a physical location people are willing to drive to. Therefore, geography doesn’t have to be as much of a consideration.”
When I got home, I looked at the print of a poem on one of our walls. When I read through the poem, I found myself having a “eureka” moment! I have a sense that God is calling us to reach the “weird people”! And, yes, I know what some of you are thinking…”Jason, you are the weird people…that’s not much of a stretch!” And, maybe that’s true…but for a congregation to focus on reaching the creatives who are often marginalized and outcast can be a challenge…and it can get messy too!
God, help us reach the “weird people…for they force us to see the world differently!”