outward facing churches

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Churches that are outward-facing are more concerned about reaching new people than “how” they reach new people.

Unfortunately, this is more rare than I’d care to admit. Many churches are so married to their model, that, as I’ve said many times, the WAY they do church becomes more important than WHY they do church.

Most churches start out as outward-facing, but for many reasons, drift as time goes on and the church grows.

Here are some specific characteristics of outward-facing churches:

1. They know who they are trying to reach, and they know what’s most important to that person.

Then they’re designing content and helpful resources with that person in mind—both in-person and online. What are their needs? What are their biggest challenges? What are the big questions they are asking about life? Outward-facing churches are trying to address those questions and provide help and resources.

2. They’re expecting guests every Sunday… not just on holiday weekends.

That includes intentionality around the quality of the teaching/music, guest services team, the language from the platform and in the teaching, the directional signage, the condition of the facility, etc.

3. They prioritize kids ministry.

Our culture is so kid-centric. Our research indicates kid’s environments are actually a stronger driver of growth for churches than what’s happening in the adult services. Churches that are outward-facing are prioritizing kid’s environments, investing staffing dollars, removing competing environments for adults (namely adult classes), and doing everything they can so kids drag their parents to church.

4. They’re invested in the community.

This may be pushing too hard, but I’ve noticed that inward-facing churches tend to be very invested in global missions, while outward-facing churches tend to be very invested in partnering with local organizations, schools, other ministries, etc. to help people within their local community.

5. They are constantly encouraging the church to be on mission in their daily lives.

Inward-facing churches tend to focus on biblical knowledge. Outward-facing churches tend to focus on sharing the Good News. They are constantly encouraging people to be on mission in the context of their family, neighborhood, workplace, ballfields, etc. And, because our culture has lost the art of building relationships, we have to be intentional about helping people do this. (Think the “3 Nots,” invest and invite, Dave Ferguson’s B.L.E.S.S. model, etc.)

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6. They are measuring their outward-facing strategies to confirm whether or not those strategies are working.

It sounds basic, but so many churches feel like they are reaching new people, then when I ask them how many people they have reached in the last 12 months, they have no idea. Measuring these strategies includes tracking metrics like the number of first-time kids (because that’s the most accurate measure we have on Sunday mornings), first-time guest trends, new people in the database, email list growth, etc. Tracking the trends in these metrics over time is going to be what’s most helpful to understand whether or not the reach strategies are actually working.

I’m more convinced than ever that engaging with people outside the faith or new to the faith helps deepen my faith in Jesus more than anything else I do. It forces me to pray more, understand God’s truth, and rely on the Holy Spirit in ways that I might otherwise neglect in my spiritual journey.

When the church as a whole takes this posture towards people who are outside the faith and new to the faith, everyone in the congregation gets to experience this deepening of faith together.

When you reflect on your own ministry, do you see the traits of an outward-facing church?

If not, it’s time to make a change.

Tony Morgan

Tony is the Founder and Lead Strategist of The Unstuck Group. Started in 2009, The Unstuck Group has served 500 churches throughout the United States and several countries around the world. Previously, Tony served on the senior leadership teams of three rapidly growing churches including NewSpring Church in South Carolina. He has five published books including, The Unstuck Church, and, with Amy Anderson, he hosts The Unstuck Church Podcast which has thousands of listeners each month.

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