Tag Archives: outreach

We had an awesome day today! Two different groups of about ten-fifteen went to the college campuses to deliver leadership seminars. I was at Wilson’s College speaking on Collaboration to the second year Psychology classes. They were a great class to work with! We made some great connections and I really connected with the prof. The Indians in Mumbai are extremely hospitable and have welcomed us with open arms.
Thanks Somesh for prompting me with the Ambani brothers story. It went really well into the topic and was a living demonstration of my points.
I wanted to tell the story of one of the girls I met whose name is similar to my own daughters’, Rutuja. Her family moved to Mumbai when she was young from the northern part of India. When we talked after class, she was complaining about how her dad always wanted her to immediately talk with them when she got home from college. She would be tired and not really wanting to talk. But what struck me most were the strong family bonds she had. How precious that her dad wanted to spend time with her! Too many kids here are abandoned to the streets because their moms and dads do not care about them. When she started to see the situation in that light, she became thankful for her parents. We will meet later this week so I might tell you more about her again.
One of our crew from TN has discovered a gifting and skill in evangelism. She was sharing the gospel with two girls under a tree on the beach opposite from Wilson’s, a tree our host church has nicknamed the tree of life. They both accepted the Lord Jesus on the spot- and so did a young man who had been eavesdropping on their conversation! How fun is that!
People here are hungry for truth, for true friendship and for mentoring. All of this is obvious to me today. Most of our team will be going out to the campuses again informally just to start conversations. Please agree with us for open hearts and minds and for Jesus to bring his peace to the people here!






Witness or Witless? « The Every Nation Plog.


This blog by Rice Broocks hits the nail right on the head.  When are we going to obey Jesus and do the things he commanded us?  I think today is a great day to start.

Don’t know what we are supposed to do?  Read his blog and find out.  Hint: it is much easier than you think, and much harder as it involves giving your life away and getting uncomfortable!

I’ve been on a journey to find out how I can serve in the community WITH my three small-ish kids: ages 9, 7 and 5.  The older two can serve at many different local nonprofits, but these don’t welcome my 5 year old.  And trust me, she needs to learn the lessons of serving others as the diva, youngest child of the family.  I thought I would share what I have found and a few really easy, but creative ideas in case your local nonprofits aren’t flexible with kids.


Each community is different, so you would need to check on the requirements locally.  But, here are some types of nonprofits that might accept younger children for volunteer service with their parents:

–       Humane Society (walking the dogs, petting cats)

–       Food pantry (bagging or serving families coming in)

–       Homeless shelters that accept families with kids (socializing with the children)

–       Church-based projects, like fall festivals or holiday parties, clothing drives, food drives, clean-up days

–       School-based projects similar in nature to those at the churches


When all else fails, we just have to get REALLY creative to teach the littlest ones in our families about the value of serving the community and the personal rewards we gain when we serve.  I thought of some creative ideas and have implemented a few with my kids.   Enjoy serving the community!

  1. Collect canned goods for the local food pantry.  Call them first to see what they need so they don’t end up with 20 cases of diced tomatoes when they really needed some tuna.  Take your wagon around the neighborhood or ask other parents at the kids’ activities to help.  Bring the list and a brochure or picture of the food pantry.  This time of the year, food pantries are stretched seriously thin as family budgets devote more to heat and fuel costs, eating into funds available for food.
  2. Call your kids’ school and find out if a family is in need of help with Christmas gifts or warm coats for their kids.  Get a list and help the kids ask neighbors and friends to help with an item or funds.  Involve the kids, but keep the family’s identity unknown to them.  We’ve done this at church almost every year for the last ten years and the kids love to go shopping for someone their own age.  If there are no families in need at school or church, the Salvation Army offers angels every year.  See their website for details ( or at JC Penney’s website.
  3. Collect spare change in an old paint or coffee can and donate to an overseas orphanage.  I stole this one from The Joseph School(, an orphan-education program in Haiti.  We are doing this now and you would be amazed at how much spare change we have managed to collect in a few short months.  Take the can around at work or help the kids go door-to-door at Halloween with the can and you’ll be even more shocked.  Change in a paint can could total more than $100.

    Paint Can to collect coins

  4. Go to the park on a Saturday, but bring a few big trash bags and clean up trash first, then play.  Keep recycling separate!  My kids are recycling freaks and I bet yours are too.  My littlest is really good at spotting small pieces of plastic hidden in grass.  To keep them focused on the task, I stay with the trash bag in the middle of the field and send them out to find 5 items each time.  Then we move general locations.  If you do this along a walking trail, have them come back every 3 items so that they don’t inadvertently drop the trash they have already picked up.  Make it even more fun by making up a list of trash types for each kid to find, sort of like a scavenger hunt, and check them off as they find them.
  5. Find an older neighbor who might have trouble raking their leaves – and offer your family’s services for free.  Bring the trash bags, rakes and any other needed equipment, then put the leaves in the designated areas for pick-up by local services.  You can even make this a multi-family or mom-daughter / father-son event for a few friends.  Kids love playing in the leaves, so be sure to budget plenty of time for raking and re-raking the piles a few times!  Small kids can be the ones who stand in the bags and compress the leaves down further.  Bigger kids can rake and bag.  Bring a loaf of bread or a casserole as an additional blessing.
  6. Call the kids’ school to see what easy projects need to be done there – this might include light gardening, trash pick-up, sweeping sidewalks, or raking leaves.  Recruit a few families to participate and make it a fun weekend afternoon for the kids with a picnic lunch or snack at their own school playground as the reward.  The kids will think it is really fun to be at the school on the weekend and they will see the results of their work the next week.


If you have more ideas, let us know with a comment!

Have you ever taken a walk or a bike ride with no real target, no agenda, no destination?  These can be fun every now and then, but if there is someone else with you chances are you will disagree on where to go, how long to be gone and when to turn around toward home.  And the bigger the group (and maybe the younger they are), the more questions are asked like, “when will we be there?”  If you have no destination in mind, how can you even answer that question?


I don’t know why, but most people find volunteer or nonprofit work an acceptable place to not have an end goal in mind.  The excuses are myriad, but might sound like this, “there is so much work to do, we will never be done anyway” or “we don’t want to set a goal because if we don’t achieve it that will make the people we are serving feel bad, like they didn’t matter to us.”  There are others, but those are two I’ve heard more than a few times.  How can we get away with this attitude of a wanderer when it comes to service when we would never tolerate that from a company like Apple or Wal-Mart – and we certainly wouldn’t tolerate it even for our own family vacation (imagine just starting out to drive to Florida with no idea where Florida even is)?  We would never even think of doing that, hopefully.


We get away with it in the community service realm because not setting concrete goals and holding ourselves accountable to them has become acceptable in our society.  Not everyone neglects goals (and there are some awesome people doing great work and KEEPING their promises to communities), but it is prevalent enough in our society that setting goals can somehow seem to be too serious, not relaxed or “not organic”.  So how do we set a new standard of accountability and excellence, yet still maintain our laid-back, hipster image?  We must be forward-thinking and backward-looking.


Forward Thinking

Being forward-thinking means that we must start out with the end in mind.  We must have a goal before we get started, which to some puts you in the category of “brilliant visionary” and to others “nerd”.  But it is more simple than the first and more cool than the second.  The marathoner doesn’t just start out running haphazardly, somehow expecting to be ready to run 26.2 miles within a few hours.  No!  He sets a training schedule based on a reasonable expectation of completion time, then he diligently implements that schedule, even in bad weather.  In the same way, we have to decide beforehand what our goals will be and how we will know if we have met them.


So, say you were wanting to help your school’s Boy Scout troop do a community service project of cleaning the roadsides around the school.  You would decide beforehand what the definition of clean is – this might include trash picked up, leaves raked, twigs and fallen limbs removed, and maybe grass trimmed and mowed.  Maybe it only includes some of those.  Then, during the project if one Scout is not meeting the definition of clean, he can be held accountable and sent back out to rake or trim more thoroughly, or whatever he has fallen short in.  But if there is no goal, any work, even shoddy work, is OK.


Backward Looking

Being backward-looking means that along the way we must check, as a group, to see how our progress has come along toward that goal.  If that same scout troop knew they had 2 miles of roads to clean up and half of their time had passed, then they should have completed 1 mile.   If at the halfway point of time the troop is less than halfway in progress, then they can figure out what is slowing the work down and change their plan.  In that way, problems could be identified quickly and solved, while the group as a whole kept their pace up to ensure completion within the given time frame.  Or maybe they realized that another day would be needed to finish the job to the accepted standard.  That day can be scheduled and the community aware of the extension in the project time.  That might even motivate some community members to come out and help too, just to save the troop from the second service day!


Every project, even a modest one like a road clean-up day, should have a goal so that the participants and those being served can acknowledge the job is done – and so that there is a natural break time for evaluation of the project.  Any project that goes on seemingly forever is disheartening to those helping out and will eventually cause volunteers to abandon ship due to burnout.  Working without stop toward an undefined goal will feel like toil, not joyful work, even in service.  On the other hand, goals give us something to celebrate when we achieve them, something we as leaders should provide for anyone sacrificing their time to give back to the community.  Remember, we are still human after all, not emotionless robots, and we need to feel like our work makes a difference.

Want to alienate the very people you are trying to serve?  Here is the best way to do that: make them “pray” to receive Christ before they are allowed to participate in the service project.  Do you really think this never happens?  I’ve seen it with my own eyes – more times than I care to tell.  And not just by Christians, but with other religions as well (obviously they would be mandating adherence to their religion).  I think the only way people get away with it is if the population is so desperate for service that they will agree to just say something that has no personal meaning in order to get the service.  And if we are serving from a pure servant’s heart, we want to avoid this like the plague!

This particular way to ensure failure is LOADED with issues, so let’s highlight a few:

  1. Conversion will not be genuine.
  2. It starts the “game” of converting to this religion to get that service, then going the next time to another religious-based provider to get another service and so on.  This destroys authentic relationships in the community as everyone competes for the same participants and the community pits one institution against others.
  3. It artificially inflates our own sense of achievement as we “count” new souls “saved.”

I know what you are thinking – no one would REALLY mandate a conversion to Christianity as part of the service project. 

But, let me tell you how this really happens.   Take a medical clinic for example: the doctors are running behind so the “traffic flow” director shifts waiting patients into the “spiritual counseling” area where they hear the gospel.  Because so many other religions only provide services to their members, the patient erroneously believes that unless they confess Christ they will not be able to see the doctor.  So, they confess Christ, fake a tear or two and move on to see the doctor, remaining unchanged in the heart.  This story is not meant to belittle the usefulness of medical clinics to bring the gospel message to those who don’t know Jesus, but rather to highlight how we can create this dynamic unintentionally.  I’ve seen other instances when this was not as subtle and the spiritual counseling portion was planned to happen first, for whatever reason, before the patient saw a provider.

Let me give you a real life example: I’ve been in the “doctor’s chair” in a medical clinic (in which spiritual counseling happened AFTER seeing a provider, but before they went to the pharmacy) when a Muslim older male patient sat down and announced to me that he was a Muslim.  I then proclaimed, “well, I am a Christian and I am fine that you are a Muslim. Is it OK if I am your doctor today?”  Then I told him that I was happy to handle his medical concerns, even if he didn’t confess Christ as his Lord.  He was visibly relieved then began to tell me his symptoms.  I diagnosed him with lung cancer that day after we arranged for a chest x-ray at a local radiological facility and a lung biopsy later.  We then connected him with further diagnostic and longer-term treatment options.  He had no idea he had lung cancer – he thought he had tuberculosis or a lingering pneumonia (and had undergone treatment for both).  Eventually that patient did come to know Jesus, but not because we mandated it as part of the clinic visit.  You see, the Islamic clinics in his city only treated those who attended particular mosques.  When we were willing to treat him as a patient – and then to continue our care through follow-ups – it spoke volumes to him as a person.

This post is the balance to Top Ten Ways to Ensure Project Failure #6 – be quiet as a church mouse about Jesus.  We must be willing to tell people about Jesus, but we need to be very sensitive to the local culture in how we do this.  Community service projects are one of the BEST platforms for the gospel of Jesus, but the gospel’s delivery cannot be one-size fits all.  What works in one place will cause damage in another.  And what works with one population group might bring project failure if tried with another.

So how do we weave the gospel into our community service project well?  We have to start with a few questions and dialogue with local church leaders:

  1. What are the prevailing customs locally regarding the type of project we are considering?  What do other groups do or not do?  Are there other religious-based services and are these restricted to members only?
  2. What is the local perception of Christian-operated service projects and how can this project improve that perception, no matter what it is?
  3. What is the best way to share the gospel in this culture?  How should we involve local church leaders in the planning process and the project’s implementation?
  4. How can we avoid the pitfall of appearing to mandate a conversion to Christianity, while also being faithful to share the gospel and give the opportunity for true relationship with Christ?

The bottom line on this issue is that we need to be bold, but respectful and aware of local cultural issues, in our presentation of the gospel.  When we can do that, we improve our service project’s likelihood of success and that people will be reached with the message of Jesus.

So, #6 on the top ten list of ways to make sure you fail in community service is a little bit of a touchy subject.  But, I am not going to shy away from it, because I think this is a big sub-message of the book I just reviewed, The Hole in Our Gospel by Richard Stearns.  In case you missed that blog, Mr. Stearns argues that our gospel is missing the action verbs that Jesus was so good at – healing, serving, touching, loving people who are not always easy to love or serve.  He illustrates how the American church has gotten comfortable in our pews and prosperity and abandoned the job that the Lord gave for us to do.  I would go one step further and say that in the US we have even, in some circles (not all!), abandoned the preaching of the gospel message to those who don’t believe in Jesus, to bring them into a relationship with Jesus.  I’m not knocking anyone’s church, but I just wish that the church as a whole, and not just a select, super-spiritual few, in the US would be serious about seeing others come to know Jesus!

In a service project, shying away from the gospel message might look like these statements:

  • “I’m not a preacher and I don’t know how to preach a salvation message.  So, I’ll love on them instead.  After all, doesn’t the Bible say that ‘they will know us by our love’?”
  • “I’m not comfortable sharing my faith in this current environment, as people might think that I have become too ‘radical’ and that I don’t respect them.  I want people to know that I respect their faith, yet I also want to serve others.  I just don’t know how to tell them about this faith that I have without offending them or someone else hearing.”
  • “If I share my faith and talk about Jesus, I risk being fired from my job.  A good friend of mine, and a former prayer partner at work, got fired for telling a co-worker about Jesus at an outside party.  If my boss finds out that I have shared the gospel on this project, he might fire me too.  Then, who will take care of my family?”
  • “I’ve never told anyone about Jesus and just don’t know where to start.  No one has ever taught me either and I don’t see anyone else doing it.  Maybe we aren’t supposed to do it.  Maybe we should just leave that job to the professionals.”

And many more ways of rationalizing not sharing Jesus, who is the beautiful gospel message of salvation and eternal life for our world, even while we are helping others to live a better life in other ways.

So, what is the answer?  That takes more than a single blog post to answer, but let’s get started.  Consider these passages and we can start a conversation:

  • Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
  • 2 Timothy 1: 7-12 – “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.  So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life–not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. And of this gospel I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher.  That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet I am not ashamed, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.”

There is a balance between proclaiming the gospel message and serving.  That balance will look different in different places around the world.  As you read these passages, think about the following questions:

  1. What is our responsibility if we obey and take to heart Jesus’ commands in Matthew 18?
  2. How are we to respond to fear in sharing the gospel with others, according to Paul’s words in 2 Timothy above, if we are afraid to share our faith?

If you have never done so, take a minute and write out how God has impacted your own life.  Start with how you were living before you met Jesus, then write how you met Jesus.  Finally, write a little about how your life has been changed because of your relationship with Jesus.  This shouldn’t be any longer than about 2 minutes, as few people will listen for much longer than that.  Now, find someone to practice with – a friend, prayer partner, small group member, or neighbor.  Then tell someone who might not know Jesus personally.  It is your story!  No one can argue with what God has done in your life!  And as you share your story, you will become more skilled in weaving the gospel message into it, using verses that have impacted your own life.

More in future posts about how to best incorporate community service and evangelism.  First things were first, we need to get into a mindset to share the gospel!

* All verses from the New International Version,

World Vision’s President Richard Stearns wrote a book that came out in 2010 called The Hole in Our Gospel.  Now, World Vision has 6-session DVDs and workbooks for churches and small group studies.  In light of this recent addition, I decided to post a review of the book and some comments on the workbook, which just arrived from World Vision at my house.  I don’t have the DVD series, but it looks star-studded, so if you’ve seen it, please comment!

The Hole in Our Gospel

Mr. Stearns in this book boldly proclaims, mainly to the American church, that we have a “hole” in our gospel, meaning that something is missing from our life of faith.  This “something” is our view of and care for the poor.  Now, immediately you might say, “well, my church helps at the homeless shelter and we as a family support such-and-so inner city project.  All that is well and good, but you’ve missed the point – or maybe you should read his book to see!  In Mr. Stearns opinion, this is not enough.  These are merely token involvements because we have not allowed these interactions to affect us, to shape how we view the world and ourselves in it, and how our churches operate.  And why do we have this hole? Mr. Stearns believes that this hole is of our own making, as we have allowed our view of God to shrink to a cosmic tamed mix of Santa Claus and all-supreme but uninvolved Being.  He also feels like we have diminished the role that God calls us to play in advancing His kingdom.  Too many of our church members are sitting on the bench, waiting patiently for heaven and not activated into this great charge we have to advance God’s kingdom here on Earth.  I know this probably doesn’t describe most of my readers, but search your heart – maybe deep down it does.

Throughout the book, Mr. Stearns gives facts, statistics and reality checks to us as American Christians.  These facts and stats are mostly shocking and all true.  He tells stories about his own personal transformation that many who have been involved in overseas compassion ministries will easily relate to.  I cried many times, feeling the burdens that Mr. Stearns felt and remembering my own similar encounters, so I can say that he truly has encapsulated what it feels like as an American to be exposed to grinding poverty and walk away a changed person.  But what I like best about this book is his call for us to examine ourselves, our true situation and to allow God to change us – our motivations, desires / needs and thinking.

So, what are we to do?  Stop, look and listen would be a great start.  Stop – stop the activity we are doing “for” Jesus and evaluate our lives.  Look – around us, at the needs in our community, in our own families, and in our cities.  Listen – ask God for His heart for the poor and His solutions to the issues of our day.  As Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow Creek Community Church says in his introduction to the workbook for The Hole in Our Gospel: “God whispers a word of insight to that pair of willing ears and then waits to see what will happen once reality of the prompting sets in.”  God is ready to speak and give insight to those who will seriously listen.  And even small steps taken in faith will have magnified impacts, because God is behind them.

The Hole in Our Gospel – workbook

The book is an easy read, challenging to someone who has never really considered such ideas as engaging in community service activities but it left me with the question, “so what is the next step?”  I am a community development professional, so I knew the answer in my own life, but realized that others might not.  The workbook picks up where the book leaves off – and helps small groups come up with their own answers to that question.  The workbook is challenging, well-produced to engage the youngest generation who might be reading it.  And for those who are leading the groups, it has lots of great advice for how to effectively lead small groups.  This can make the whole concept of leading a group a bit easier for some to swallow.  The workbook has sections for individual study, pre-study and post-study questions, group discussion questions and challenging personal application questions.

I think you could do the workbook without the video series, but not having seen the videos and knowing the high quality of video production from World Vision in the past, I’m sure the videos would add an extra element of impact to this study.  So, I would definitely recommend getting the videos, especially if your church will be doing the study in one large group.  Also, World Vision makes this easier by assembling pre-packaged sets of books, DVDs and workbooks at reasonable rates (when compared to other available products).  Unfortunately, the only place you can find these products is on the World Vision website.  I had a fairly difficult time ordering just one workbook, so would recommend you call to place a non-standard order, rather than rely upon the website ordering process.  Also, the 6-session study is available for free download at the link below.

I would greatly recommend finding some friends, reading the book and going through the workbook together.  If you can’t afford the DVDs, don’t sweat it, but they would add additional zing to the impact.  Then ask God what He would have you do.  I’ll be posting new blogs in the coming weeks and months on some more technical aspects of community service to help groups who are beginning to serve their community.  Keep an eye out for those and for my own 12-chapter Bible study that I am looking to get published.  It will be a great companion to both of these resources as it goes more in-depth about simple, but effective practices for those doing community service without prior professional training (which is most of you!).

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