An ad promoting a trip to Glacier National Park

Imagine that your church received an unexpected gift of $3,000 this month. The donor does not have a specific purpose for the gift but does not want it to go into the general budget. Church staff and lay leadership carefully debate the best use of this gift. They finally come down to two possibilities.

One would be to use the money for a special back-to-school activity in the church parking lot with rented inflatables, games and refreshments for children and their families to kick off the fall programs of the church.

The other suggestion is to use the money to help the church complete a Habitat home that church members are helping to build for a single mother with five children.

What will the leadership decide? The choice may well indicate the philosophy of ministry that drives the church; is it “missional” or “attractional”?

An attractional philosophy seeks to engage people from the community in the worship, programs and activities of the church. Every effort is made to get folks into the church facilities. This is a come-and-see approach to ministry. “We are doing some good stuff, and you can be part of it.”

A missional philosophy seeks to engage the people in the community on their own turf. A missional church is concerned about quality worship, discipleship and education programs, but it is more concerned about the impact it is making in its community. This is a go-and-tell approach. “Because of what God has done for us, we care about you.”

The illustration may be too clearly drawn, but church leaders must make decisions every day about allocation of resources and energy. No one will disagree with the contention that the church must be internally healthy, vital and committed to continue its ministry to its community, but can this internal orientation become an end in itself?

Resources must be allocated to internal development, but we must always ask the question, “Are we keeping the proper balance?”

Where would your church spend the money?

Ircel Harrison is an associate with Pinnacle Leadership Associates and director of the Murfreesboro Center of Central Baptist Theological Seminary. A version of this column appeared previously on his blog.

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