Innovative Ministry
Ramps vs. Signs: Saying 'Yes' to Unexpected Ministry Opportunities
Churches on offense don't have to be offensive. We can meet people where they are while staying true to our message.

What are we afraid of?

So many churches and pastors act in fear and stay on defense when we should be acting in love and staying on offense.

I’m not saying that we need to be offensive. Quite the opposite.

A church on offense – a church that is aggressively offering concrete examples of Christ’s love to the world – will not push people away, but will draw them in. No matter how big or small we are.

It’s time to start getting innovative and aggressive about expressing Jesus’ love to people. And meeting them where they are instead of expecting them to come where we are – or demanding that they come to where we are in the way we expect.

Learn from Unexpected Sources

The story below is an excerpt from my book, The Grasshopper Myth. It’s about one of the ways the small church I pastor, Cornerstone Christian Fellowship, started operating in love, not fear. And how we continue to stay on offense, not defense.

Don’t do what we did. It wouldn’t upset me if you copied us, it just wouldn’t work for you.

Our church isn’t your church. Our community isn’t your community. God’s way for us won’t be God’s way for you.

Innovators don’t copy others. But they do learn valuable principles from others – including unexpected sources.

Innovators don’t copy others. But they do learn valuable principles from others – including unexpected sources. Then they adapt from those principles to follow God’s leading for them and their community.

If the principles we stumbled upon can help you establish a foundation for outreach, innovation and health in your church, we’ll all thank God together for it.

Ramps are Better Than Signs

Most of the best ministries we start at Cornerstone happen when we do one critical thing: stop acting in fear and step out with boldness.

Fear keeps more churches on the defense than anything else. A defensive church can’t do anything but hang on for dear life to what it’s got – until it usually loses that too.

Several years ago we re-tarred our old, weathered church parking lot. The tar had barely dried on it when we started hearing a commotion outside. Local teens were showing up to skateboard on the smooth new surface.

That’s right. Teenagers just showed up, hanging around a church parking lot, thinking they had the right to use it as their own personal playground.

We had a choice to make. Did they have that right, or didn’t they? Was the building built to welcome the community or keep it out? Do we put up signs to keep them out, or do we find skateboard ramps to invite them in?

Churches on defense put up signs. Churches on offense put up ramps.

Churches on defense put up signs. Churches on offense put up ramps.

That was one of the defining moments of our church’s history. Not only do we still have the only skateboard park in the city, but those ramps and the attitude behind them have set the tone for everything we’ve done ever since.

Grab the opportunities when God gives them to you.

Determine that the church building is going to serve the ministry, not vice versa.

Be a Ramp-Building Church

Build ramps, even if it costs you more parking spaces and liability insurance than you think you can afford. What you get in return is of far greater – literally eternal – value.

Since the day we chose ramps over signs, hundreds, maybe thousands of kids have come to what they call Skate Church to have fun, make friends and hear about Jesus.

Many of them have made commitments to follow Christ. Some of their families have followed. Several of them are in our church on Sundays now, while many are worshipping and serving God in dozens of other churches.

Small church pastors like to complain that many big churches have given up passion for competence, but on the other side, many small churches have given up innovation for survival – offense for defense.

No one scores goals on defense.

And ramps are more fun than signs.

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