Context of Ministry

One of the biggest lessons I have learned in over 20 years of ministry is stated simply: “Every ministry must function in its own setting.” I believe God has your Church (and mine) in a unique city with unique people who are uniquely gifted to reach a unique group of people. The key to great ministry is understanding your own context and community and then unlocking your own potential.

I was reminded of all of this today when I checked the Church answering machine. (Yes, we still have a machine!) The message was from someone who is coming to Alaska for the summer and they were upset that the Church they wanted to attend over the summer does not have any “small groups” meeting over the summer for them to attend. Did we have any programs that would meet their needs?

Well, I had to chuckle because I realized that this person was bring their thinking from the lower 48 into Alaska. In Alaska, for most Churches, Sunday morning attendance swells in the summer. We have “snow birds” who return from the winter. We have guests from all over the world. We have people moving into our community. It is a great time for Sunday morning outreach. We try hard to capitalize on this time of growth and prosperity.

The flip side of that is that all other programs cease in almost every Church. Summer is the time to get out in Alaska. There is May & June bear hunting. There is the red salmon run in July. Hopefully the silver salmon will arrive in August. Businesses are open. Sales are high. The sun shines nearly 20 hours a day. Life in Alaska is busy, busy. Many long time Alaskans depend on this time of year to make all their money and stock their freezer for the long winter ahead. As a result, Churches shut down almost all activities outside of Sunday morning.

When I moved here I did not understand this context. I expected big crowds on Christmas and Easter, but they did not arrive. I saw crowds in the summer and tried to plan activities for them and they failed. It was a completely different world than what I normally experienced. I needed to learn the context of this people in this community in this part of the state.

Now all of that is easy to see in Alaska, but I can guarantee you that it is true in your Church and community too. You are in a unique city with unique needs and you have unique Church filled with uniquely gifted people ready to meet those needs. The question is, “What is our context and how can we use that for the greater glory of God.”

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