We live in a technologically mobile culture, but do internet resources and podcasts actually alleviate the need for face-to-face interactions? Despite the way in which the web touts a level of connectedness beyond the front-porch interactions of days gone by, the world longs for human contact.
Is your church ready to step back into the past and, like the circuit-riding preachers of old, take worship on the road? If so, here are a few ideas to consider:
- Offer a worship service at a nursing home on Sunday afternoons.
- Conduct backyard Bible studies or vacation Bible schools geared toward families of young children.
- Lead an outdoor worship service at the tournament/race venue before weekend ballgames or sporting events.
- Find a venue that allows you to have church services for individuals who are homeless.
- Team up with a Christian college ministry to offer a weekly on-campus worship service.
- Consider starting a jail ministry.
Obviously, a nursing home ministry is very different from a jail ministry. The needs of an inner city ministry will vary from those of a suburban backyard Bible study. A worship service made available to the homeless will not be carried out the same as a college mission. And not every church can, or should, try to create all these ministries. If you are considering a mobile ministry, the first thing you need to do is decide the values and vision of your church.
Develop a vision
To develop a vision, you first have to determine where the need is greatest in your community. To do this, you may want to ask questions or conduct a church survey.
If the nursing homes near your church already have employee chaplains who hold worship services, there may not be a need for that particular ministry. However, you may have noticed that many children who attend VBS during the summer don't come to Sunday school or worship. Could you take church to them?
If particular types of services are already being offered in your community, ask if you really need to reinvent the wheel. Perhaps, you should reconsider the role of the church and look for other organizations that may welcome your partnership.
Design a plan
Once you have cast your initial vision, you are ready to design your plan. You will need to answer questions, such as:
- What specifically will your commitment be? Will this be a long-term endeavor or just a summer community outreach?
- Once established, how often will you meet? Once a week? Once a month? Bi-monthly?
- What is the goal? Are you looking for small group meetings or large community worship services?
- How will you attract worshippers? Will you advertise?
- When do you want to launch?
- Will you require guests to register? If so, how will you register them?
Think about your congregation. Are there people in your congregation who already have ties to certain areas or a heart for particular ministries, who may be willing to serve as contact points or who already feel called to help in specific ways?
Perhaps you want to target college students. Do any of your congregants work on a local campus? Maybe there is a recovered addict in your church who would like to help reach out to homeless addicts on the street? Are there parents who are familiar with the local parks and recreation facilities and activities?
Take inventory of your resources. Does your church have the time, money and volunteers to undertake a new ministry? Does your church already have a means of providing transportation or would that even be necessary? Will you need to conduct a fundraiser or rethink your budget to raise the money for this ministry?
Get your details on paper, and don't be afraid to think outside the box. Church services don't always have to be on Sunday mornings. They don't have to be indoors. They don't have to look or sound the same all the time.
Once you have a vision and a plan, it's time to start recruiting volunteers. Begin by looking for people who already have a heart for the type of mission you are working toward.
Look for volunteers:
- Who enjoy working with the age range you are targeting.
- Who are energetic and motivated.
- Who aren't already covered up with other responsibilities.
- Who have the specific skill set that will be needed (musicians, child care workers, van or bus drivers, etc.).
You may want to host a recruiting party to provide information and answer questions about the vision. Committing to a new ministry is a big deal. Urge people not to make spur-of-the-moment decisions. Encourage them to pray about it and only commit if they feel God is leading them to do so.
Determine the needs
The basic requirements of a mobile church service are like any other worship service:
- a place to worship,
- a pastor to preach,
- musicians to lead worship, and
- a congregation to participate.
However, there are some unique challenges to meeting these needs when establishing church on the road.
Finding a venue
You need a location. If your ministry is to be ongoing, you need to make sure that you can use the same place on a consistent basis.
- Is there a rental cost?
- If it is an outdoor venue, you have to consider what happens if the weather is unfavorable.
- If it is a public arena (park, street, shopping center) or private property (college campus, someone's land), you have to find out whether written permission is required or whether a special permit is needed.
Another important aspect of a mobile ministry is working out transportation and trips.
How will your volunteers get to the location?
If they drive themselves to the venue, where should they meet, and where will they park?
If the church is providing the transportation, you will need to make sure that the church van or bus is big enough to transport everyone and the needed equipment. You also will need to make sure that your driver is appropriately licensed. The vehicle will need proper insurance and maintenance. Be sure there are no conflicts with other ministries that may need the church van.
In addition, you must think about any needed equipment. Does the venue have electricity? Does it already have a projector or sound system, or will you need to bring your own? Are there limitations on what type of music equipment can be used? Will there be extra charges for equipment use? Will there be chairs available for use, or will you need to provide seating? If people will be sitting on the ground, should you provide tarps or blankets?
Depart in faith
Finally, remember to pray, pray and pray. Spend time in prayer, ask your congregation to pray, and then launch your new ministry in faith.
In nursing homes, city neighborhoods, community parks and rural districts, there are opportunities for churches to meet people where they are. Determine where there is a need, and then ask yourself if you should take church to the community instead of asking the community to come to church.
It won't be an easy endeavor, but the rewards can be extraordinary.