Avoiding a Chicken House Approach to Outreach

The gist of this article first appeared as a devotion given to a group of mission administrators and missionaries. It later appeared as an article in Unfinished  magazine (Summer 2008, Issue 41) under the title, No running, please.  It is presented here, in updated form, due to my ongoing work in my own local church in the area of outreach.

As a teenager, I worked for a period of time in my uncle’s chicken house. I recall the preparation for the arrival of the chicks. Workers brought in fresh pine wood shavings to spread over the entire floor of the chicken house. Heaters were lowered from the rafters to keep the chicks warm, and circular tin walls about two feet high were put in place to keep the chicks under the heaters. After they were safely put in these brooders, I took much pleasure in playing with these cuddly, yellow-down chicks.

After about six weeks, the heaters were raised, the tin walls were removed, and the yellow down had given way to white feathers. The chicks were now free to roam the entire expanse of the chicken house. It was at this stage of their development that I noticed a behavior of these chickens that still fascinates me to this day.

The chickens spent their days pecking around in the wood shavings. As they did, they would cluster in groups of 10 to 15 chickens. Every once in a while, one of the chickens, for no apparent reason, would look up, then break and run about 20 feet from where it had been. Immediately, the other chickens in the group would, en masse, would dash off in hot pursuit. By the time they caught up, the lead chicken was pecking away in the shavings again. The other chickens, for a moment, would look all around as if they were trying to determine what that was all about. They then joined the first chicken in pecking in the wood shavings. This scene was played out over and over again as one group after another would break, run, stop, and peck.

Over the years, I have learned that this behavior is not confined to chickens in a chicken house. During my time in the corporate world, I would observe a company break out of its box and do something different. Then company after company would fall in lock-step attempting to do the same thing as the first, all the while hoping for the same results. Rarely did the success of the first company pass on to the wannabes, and soon they were back to pecking in the wood shavings.

This chicken-house mentality is not limited to the business world. We see it in the Christian world as well. How many churches have sought to be the next 12Stone or Elevation Church (megachurches in Georgia and North Carolina)? That’s not to say that some important insights cannot be had by looking at the models and best practices being used by these churches. However, there is only one 12Stone and only one Elevation Church. These churches didn’t get where they are today by chasing the lead chicken. So, if the chicken-house approach to ministry, especially outreach ministry, is not the most useful method for a church, how do we determine what our approach should be? To answer that question, consider the following three points.

1. Your church is unique.
Let’s face it; there is no other church exactly like yours. The combination of location, size, culture, personalities, giftings, resources, etc., makes you unlike all other churches. In God’s eyes, you have your own fingerprint, your own distinctive DNA.

2. Your church has a unique calling.
It is true that all churches have a general calling to make disciples. However, God doesn’t call us all to do the same thing in the same manner. With respect to global outreach, I believe that God has a planfor every local church and that plan is different from every other church in your community, city, and state.

3. Your church needs a unique plan.
To fulfill your unique calling to the world, you need a unique plan. That plan must include where God is calling you, who He is calling you to reach, and how He wants you to reach them. This approach requires focus and discernment.

It’s time to get busy in reaching unsaved, unconcerned, and unengaged in our community and world. It’s time to discover God’s plan for you and your church.

If you would like to know more about developing a plan for your church, leave a comment with your email and I will be in touch. Note: There is never a charge for my advice or service.

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