This Not That: External Focus Edition

The Church Leaders Conference is underway, and Watermark's outreach team (that we call "External Focus") has the chance to share our church's principles for serving.

While preparing, I noticed that two of our biggest values fit the "This Not That" format. And they provide a simple, helpful way for you to weigh how you serve your neighbor, your community, or the world. (If "This Not That" sounds familiar, it's probably because you've heard about "Eat This, Not That" - a popular weight loss approach that focuses on trading bad meals for good ones.)

So without further ado, here's content we're sharing with church leaders this week. I hope it helps you understand Watermark's approach better. And I hope it gives you some ways to assess your own serving opportunities!

Impact, Not Activity

"Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth." 1John 3:18 (ESV)

One of our outreach values is a focus on impact instead of activity. We want to move beyond good intentions to truly helpful and impactful service. Activity is needed to accomplish this impact, but activity is never our goal or what we celebrate.

Impact is more difficult to measure than activity, and often Christians earn easy applause by highlighting activity, numbers of volunteers, and numbers of people touched by service. But activity and numbers alone don’t mean a long-term difference is being made in people’s lives.

Instead, the External Focus team wants to ask ourselves what outcomes we hope for – what we’d want the newspaper headlines to be one year or five years from now. And then we must adjust our aim to match our goals. We recognize the messiness we’ll face, the patience demanded, and the special skills or preparation often required. If the best possible impact means mobilizing fewer people more strategically, impacting deeply rather than widely, training for months to impact for a week, visiting fewer nations or having fewer partners but investing day after day and year after year… then we still choose impact over activity.

Partners, not Going It Alone

We focus on partnering with local ministries and churches, rather than on creating new efforts.

Recognizing that our local church is just one part of how God is moving in our community and world, we seek to cooperate whenever possible. We love coming alongside the resources and local heroes already present in communities. Not only do we believe “recreating the wheel” can be a foolish investment of resources, we also believe that many non-profit organizations or churches are accomplishing ministry work better than we could! So unless we see a gap and sense that a new organization is called for, we partner.

We also want to be excellent partners, complementing and supporting rather than controlling or supplanting. (But as we build trust, we might have the chance to influence our partners, even as we are influenced and challenged by them.)

A partnership structure requires wise partner evaluation. With thousands of non-profit organizations in our city and many more around the world, there are hundreds of "good" opportunities for partnership. Not only that, but the involvement of Watermark members in numerous organizations – from the most basic volunteer roles to Board or staff positions – means our church is already well-connected to more organizations than we could (or should) officially partner with.

So we formally evaluate both potential partners and present partners with a variety of criteria, to wisely determine how to help our people invest their time, talents, and treasure. We gladly celebrate other organizations and our people’s involvement with them, but our official Ministry Partners receive our corporate focus in financial support and volunteer recruitment.

So as You Serve...

What do you think about those values?

These two principles aren't just for our church, they're for individuals, too. So as you serve others, ask yourself:

  • Am I planning for impact, or just planning for activity? And which one do I celebrate?
  • Am I trying to start something new, when others are already doing this well? Could I cooperate or "partner" with something that is already happening in my neighborhood, our city, or our world?

These are always great questions to ask ourselves as we serve... and they help us choose This Not That!


Find fantastic External Focus ideas and more at our weekly blog here - or subscribe below to get the posts in your inbox.

Photo Credit: Simon Greig Photo Flickr via Compfight cc

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