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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Ask the Matriarch: About that Mission Thing...

Seeking to Serve writes:

My question is inspired by the Monday Mission Moment! I serve a downtown parish in a small city. The congregation is full of good folks—they spend their time tutoring, leading scouting troops, volunteering for Habitat and at the hospital. We also have a well-funded outreach budget, since 10 percent of all bequests and memorial funds are dedicated to outreach. However, our outreach/missions activities are... scattered. If you asked Ms. Mary Parishioner about the outreach efforts of our church, I'm not sure she'd really be able to give a good answer. So our outreach committee would like to find more structure—first of all, so that we are more effective in our outreach, but also so that our congregation really understands itself as a congregation engaged in mission in particular ways. How does one go about gathering the various scattered-but-worthwhile efforts into a coherent vision of the way in which we live out the Gospel? I have a feeling that this will involve more that making a list, checking it twice and showing it to people... what else can we do before this energy surge goes away?

Many thanks!

Abi says: How awesome that your church is ministering at the level it is! How beautiful! One idea is to have a Mission Fair that can emphasize these different involvements, and spotlight the persons involved. Each group can have a booth with brochures that show how people can be involved. I have seen this done at several different big churches.

On Sunday can have mission moments during your announcements, or invite your parishioners to come see videos of people doing missions and talking about what they get from that. You can have a brochure that describes your various missions to hand out to people and to include in "welcome" packages.

Also, some people take issue with some things about Ginghamsburg Church in Ohio, but we can learn from them, as they do a good job of involving people in missions and outreach as well as promoting it.

St. Casserole:
Why not bring up the mission of the church in worship by praying for each, Sunday by Sunday?

What about having a Moment for Mission (not an original idea, the PCUSA does this) in worship? Habitat, for example, is the focus one Sunday; another group is highlighted another Sunday. Someone speaks about the mission mentioning any current needs and how one becomes involved.

It's a good thing to have diverse mission projects. You are allowing people to choose what they have an interest in and where they think they can do the most good. I'm not sure it's a problem to be scattered around in missions. I'm grateful your church reaches out.

I think involvement in many smaller projects is probably typical of many churches of that size. I wouldn't see this as a weakness, but would use communicative tools to regularly highlight the individual projects and persons (see below).

How about a volunteer mission coordinator who is the “go to” person on all things outreach? If your parish has a mission/vision statement, look at how each of those activities fits. (And if they don’t fit, then rethink if you really need it.) For example, if your vision statement involves something like Changing the World or Making Disciples of All Nations, identify how tutoring/scouting/building houses brings that about. It sounds like your members are good about Ministry in the World and you should tout that.

Use all your communication tools. “Ministry of the Month” in your newsletter and bulletin inserts. Post notices on your bulletin boards. During stewardship campaigns, my church includes a checklist of all its mission groups with its pledge letter so that I, as a parishioner, can sign up for more information. Kids have science fairs where they deliver “posters” that have all the information on whatever their science project—you can do the same for your mission fair, and when it’s over, the posters can live in your parish hall or library or any other appropriate place for people to see. Mirror that information on your website.

Speaking of mission, folks, here’s one for you—last year, I would not have been able to had it not been for a friendly priest who helped me get to the polls when my car broke down. I’ll post more about that on the Lounge, later, but in the meantime, the holidays approacheth; send us your Thanksgiving, Advent and Christmas related questions at And if you have a unique “talking up mission” strategy to share, please do so in the comments!


  1. Great question! One thing comes to mind: Our church has rented a van on a Sunday afternoon for a "mission tour." Go to all the sites that we support, talk to the folks, get a first-hand glimpse of where our dollars and our volunteer efforts go.

  2. Just found this blog!

    God bless
    Maria in the UK

  3. God bless you Maria, in UK. Stay tuned, this is a great blog.

    I read, and heard it at a workshop; That in order to get your message across it takes 5 different ways.

    reverendmother, what a great idea!

  4. This fall we had "commissioning of missions." Over about two months, each Sunday service's announcement period highlighted approximately 5 ministries (not all of which are missions, natch), specifically naming them and praying for those who serve in them. Those working in the various areas were asked to stand for the prayer.

    Hopefully it gave people an opportunity to see WHO they can talk to about getting involved in different things, including our mission efforts. We also have a Ministry Fair, but that's in the parish hall between if you don't go, you don't get the exposure.


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