the shape of leadership

Popping the Ministry Bubble

Five things you can do now to connect with people outside the church

Chris Colvin on May 25, 2017

It’s easy for us to become isolated and insulated as ministers. It’s not that we intend to separate ourselves from the people we are trying to reach. It’s that our schedules grow cluttered, our day becomes packed, and our attention drifts from the goal of making disciples of the unchurched.

Besides all that, it’s comforting to be around those who think like us, believe like us and even talk like us. But the bubble we build can keep us from growing as leaders. Sometimes we need to pop it!

I have discovered five habits for popping the ministry bubble. They are not necessarily life changing or earth shattering, but they can lead to significant spiritual development in your life and the lives of others.

Office Out of Your Office

The easiest way to pop your ministry bubble is to get outside the four walls of your church. Get out of your church office and find another place to get work done.

This is really a no-brainer. Every time I go to a coffee shop, I expect to see a pastor or two working. They’ve figured this part out. And it’s not just coffee shops. You can find good spaces at restaurants, libraries and college campuses. Some cities even offer communal office space, free to the public.

But when you “office out of your office,” be intentional. Don’t sit in a corner with your headphones on and your head down. Make it a goal each time to meet someone new.

Walk Outside Your Door

You don’t have to go far to pop that ministry bubble. Look outside your front door. Do you have neighbors? How many? What are their names? How many kids do they have, where did they grow up, and what do they do for a living? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, you’ve probably spent too much time in your bubble.

When you’re outside working in your yard, playing with your kids or going on a walk, use that time to engage your neighbors. It’s so simple to stop and have a short conversation with someone you live near. Don’t miss the opportunity.

You can also become active in your neighborhood homeowners’ association. You don’t have to serve on the board, although that’s another great way to exercise influence. But even showing up for the meetings keeps you in touch with those you won’t necessarily meet at your church.

Get Your Game On

Who doesn’t love sports? (For those who don’t, stay with me because there’s an important point here.) Another great way to pop your ministry bubble is by joining a sports league. I’m talking about a pickup league, street ball league, or league at your local YMCA or park board.

The bubble we build can keep us from growing as leaders.

Think outside the church league. You spend enough time around Christians. Use sports to broaden your relationships.

If you’re not into sports, maybe your kids are. Don’t just drop them off at basketball practice; hang around and engage the other parents there. Don’t just show up for the baseball games; offer to coach third base. Don’t just travel with your kids to their soccer tournaments; volunteer to be a team chaplain on out-of-town trips.

This goes for non-athletic activities as well. If you have a hobby you love, try doing it with those who are different than you. Make use of these outside activities to expand your influence.

Get On Board

Find a cause you’re passionate about, and get involved. But here’s the catch: It can’t be a ministry project. Maybe it’s feeding the homeless, preserving historical landmarks, advocating for the vulnerable, or participating in the local arts scene.

The possibilities are endless! And most of those organizations are not only looking for volunteers, they’re interested in board members with leadership skills just like you.

Schools are a great way to get on board. Your time is limited, but prayerfully consider joining the PTA of the school your kids attend. If you don’t have space, maybe your spouse does.

One of the perks of being a pastor is a flexible schedule. Plan to have lunch with your kids at their school, taking the time to meet teachers and other parents. If you don’t have children in school, many schools have “lunch buddy” programs that bring together adult volunteers and disadvantaged children over lunch. What a great way to show Jesus to the world!

Make Some Intentional Friends

Use your relationships to pop your ministry bubble. That means making friends outside of your church. And that should also mean making friends with people you wouldn’t normally find in your church. Be intentional about it.

Do you know a Jew or Muslim? Have you ever met a Buddhist? Are any of your friends atheists? If not, find ways to engage with people of a different belief system — not just as a witnessing opportunity, but as a way to understand them better.

Popping the bubble is not all about finding new followers for Jesus. It’s also about changing our perspective so we can be more effective in ministry. When we isolate and insulate ourselves, we lose sight of what’s happening around us. People disagree with us for a reason. Their worldviews are different than ours, sometimes drastically so!

We can’t wait around for them to change their minds and make their way inside the church walls. We need to go out to them, listen to their points of view, and offer help to them in the best way they can receive it.

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