The outreach team at our church had a daunting task. We were responsible for attracting the unchurched, making newcomers feel welcome, and helping reach out to our community in practical ways. All of us were enthusiastic about doing just that, but not all of us agreed on the best methods to accomplish such a herculean task.
Robert* was a man who loved charts. He immediately wanted to graph the different people groups in the community and map a strategy to reach them. He felt that everything should be in writing and that the team should develop concrete, measurable steps to take in reaching out. In his estimation, each month's activities should be planned at the outset of the year and then we should stick to that plan like glue. His approach to outreach involved a comprehensive door-to-door evangelism strategy that would leave no one untouched.
Deborah, on the other hand, was appalled by this idea. She felt that Robert wanted to approach outreach as if we were expanding a business. In her eyes this was no more than a marketing plan that left no room for the Holy Spirit. She insisted that door-to-door evangelism no longer worked and that we needed a creative method to draw people to the church. She wanted to host an arts and crafts fair and invite the entire community.
Needless to say, these two people could not have been farther apart in their philosophy of ministry. And the reason they were so far apart was because they were so different from each other–Robert was an accountant and Deborah was an art teacher. A lively (putting it nicely) discussion ensued. Robert insisted that he would never go to an arts and crafts fair anywhere, and especially not at a church. Deborah declared that she would never go to a church because some stranger showed up at her door to invite her.
As I listened to them, I realized they were both right. When we reach out to others, we each tend to do so in a way that would appeal to us. We think, Would I want to come to that? or Would that work for me? If the answer is no, then we shut down the idea and don't want to pursue it any further. I could see the team leaning toward one or the other of the ideas according to their own personalities. So I saw my role on the team as helping to validate and marry both camps, and this is how I did that.
Let both people clearly present their ideas.
Because Robert and Deborah each felt so strongly that their strategies were right, the discussion became pretty heated. I saw the need for both parties to state their cases without interruption and without their ideas being shot down. So we tabled the discussion for that meeting and ended it in prayer. I let everyone know that each person who had ideas about how to do outreach would be given five minutes to present those ideas at the next meeting. I emphasized that we were still at the brainstorming stage, which meant there were no bad ideas. I asked anyone who wanted to present ideas to let me know in advance of the next meeting so I would know how much time to allot for that.