Threading a teeny tiny needle. Folding a fitted sheet. Painting the trim in your bathroom without painter’s tape.
When you think about these three pretty random tasks, can you think of anything they might even remotely have in common?
Personally, I’ve broken a serious sweat tackling these joyous chores lately, and let me tell you, the common thread is focus. With all of these, it took every ounce of focus I could muster to thread it, fold it and paint it!
Webster’s Dictionary defines focus as—wait a minute, we don’t use Webster’s anymore . . . and come to think about it, I don’t even own one. What I meant to say was the search engine defined focus as “the center of interest or activity.” Let me tell you, as the sweat from wrestling with that blasted fitted sheet rolled down my back, it had truly become my center of interest!
Think about all the times we talk about being focused. It typically requires an extra amount of effort that only a select few leaders are willing to give. Now, the fact that you’re following Orange Leaders probably means you’re one of those leaders. So, what’s the last thing you really, really focused on? Was it work related or personal? Think about the organization, ministry or business you work with. What is something they focus on?
Currently, I have the opportunity of a lifetime to serve with an amazing team who shares the same laser-focused center of interest. How do I know? Well, it’s through the stories we hear from first time guests and repeat visitors. Week after week, I have the privilege of hearing stories about how easy it is to come to church and how genuinely friendly everyone was.
So, what makes the volunteers I serve with focused on being genuinely friendly, welcoming and helpful? Are they just simply better than the people serving at one of the churches down the road? Have we spiked the coffee or put a secret ingredient in the doughnuts and bagels? While that’s not a bad idea, we all know that’s not it. But wait, although you can’t put it on a cinnamon crunch bagel, there really is a secret ingredient . . . that’s really not so secret.
See, as a church, our not-so-secret ingredient is our intentional focus on first time guests . . . also known as outsiders. Every Sunday, we know it will be someone’s first Sunday. We know there will be people coming through our doors who are ready to give us—the church people—and God another chance. Because of our shared focus, we go to great lengths to prepare for them and be ready to show them they are welcome.
In hopes of making this helpful, I’m going to share a few thoughts and ideas that I focus on in order to ensure we remain a church focused more on outsiders than insiders.
Leaders set the tone.
This begins with the Lead Pastor, not only believing in an outsider focus, but owning it, defending it and instilling it in his team of leaders. In turn, they pass it to all leaders and volunteers in the organization.
It’s an all-in concept.
Everything, from what’s said from stage, shared in meetings, found on the website, posted via social media or allowed in printed pieces must be filtered through the lens of a first time guest, an outsider, seeing, hearing and reading it.
It’s not easy.
Outsiders don’t typically complain or send nasty emails. Those typically come from insiders who want an insider focus. Fight against the pull to drift toward the wants, wishes or demands of those who aren’t your primary focus.
It requires a mindset change.
Thinking outsider versus insider requires changing an established set of attitudes. At this point, you see why the first bullet point is crucial! One more. . . .
It’s not for everyone. (And that’s okay.)
Some will like it and many will love it. Some will never wrap their arms around it and they eventually leave and begin attending an insider-focused church.
So, I’ll wrap up with this. In the book of Acts, James the brother of Jesus, told the Jewish Christian—the insiders of the day—they should not make it difficult for the Gentiles—the outsiders of the day—who are turning to God. I find it interesting that this same problem exists over 2,000 years later. So, what’s your center of interest? Are you actively making it easy for outsiders to turn to God or are you stuck in the busyness of keeping insiders happy?