How do we engage in missions? Below are three approaches to missional engagement. There are other ways to characterize these experiences. As you’ll soon see, sometimes one of these approaches is more prevalent than others.
1.Financial Engagement – “I give money to help a “cause.”
The ministry of financial giving is needed. This can be a first step for individuals who desire to make a difference. Giving from our abundance is also different from giving sacrificially. When we give from our abundance we give from the extra financial resources at our disposal. For some this is a significant amount. For others this is a small amount. The amount of financial giving is less important than understanding why you are giving. Motivation is key here.
Financial gifts can be a beginning step, but should not be the only form of engagement for a congregation. For individuals who are home bound this can be a great way to feel a part of a community. Provide the opportunity for people to be generous. They might surprise you.
If you are already financially supporting a cause here is your challenge: do not to remain isolated from the people who are the recipients of the financial giving. Go and serve among the people. Get to know the people who are participating in the ministry. And, remember to listen to people’s stories. Your life will be changed as a result.
2. One-time Engagement – “I go one time to serve at a soup kitchen, homeless shelter, food pantry, etc. I go on a week-long missions trip.”
The ministry of one-time missional engagement is needed, too. This is an opportunity to test the waters. You may find yourself helping a cause with one of their annual or monthly projects.
Keep in mind, if you are looking to serve one time or take a group to serve one time, first check with the organization. They must welcome one-time guests. Sometimes receiving one-time guests to serve can be cumbersome. You may or may not ever return to this organization.
The challenge here is to follow the lead of the organization you are serving. If you really want to help, ask, “How can we be helpful?” instead of “We’d like to bring six people to serve with you next Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.”
Many organizations serving people who are hungry, hurting, without a permanent home, etc. depend on the good will of people who give their time. Don’t make their job more difficult by telling them how you will help.
Listen first. Respond to their needs, not your ideals (or idea) of what missional engagement looks like.
3. On-going, relational ministry – “We build relationships, together.”
The ministry of ongoing, relational missional engagement is a commitment to love God and love your neighbor. This is participation in a missional endeavor that, over time, will transform lives. And, it’s likely, your life will be changed.
Ongoing, relational ministry is a commitment of time, energy, and relationship. You are making a commitment to a person. Whether you are reading at a local school, singing with the seniors at the senior center next to the church, leading financial planning classes for people moving into stable housing, or serving at a food pantry the same day, every week, the people will come to depend on your presence.
The challenge here is prioritizing your time, recognizing factors that are out of your control. Keep your desire to “fix” the person(s) you are relating to at bay. Their life circumstance, experiences, knowledge, etc. may be very different from your experience.
Keep in mind transformation is the creation of something new. God willing you will be among those who are transformed.
As you engage in serving these three approaches can help you live an authentic, growing faith.
What approach to missions do you give the most time and attention? What questions do the above approaches raise for you?
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