Welcome back with this week’s episode of the unSeminary podcast. I’m honored to have our guest Jeff Maness with us today. Jeff is the founding and lead pastor of Element Church in Cheyenne, Wyoming.
Element Church is an eclectic church in Cheyenne, passionate about being the type of church that would be missed if it was no longer a part of its community. Before ever holding a church service as a new church plant, they first wanted to serve their city. Jeff is with us today to talk about getting out into the community to serve, even and especially when first starting out.
- Serve from the start. // Pastors may think they have to hit a certain number of people at their church before they can do an outreach to their community, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Element Church started out with six people in Jeff’s basement, so for the first outreach program they did, they called family and friends from out-of-town to help. Don’t let the size of your congregation hold you back from reaching out and making an impact on the community. You are called to serve, no matter the size of your church.
- Find out what the community needs. // A coach taught Jeff to find out what his community really needed before deciding on an outreach project. In order to do that, the staff at Element Church planned to reach out to leaders and influencers in their community. These “11 spheres of influence” included people from a wide range of categories—politics, religion, education, military, medical fields, and so on. The staff then split up and asked each leader for thirty minutes of their time to sit and talk with them. During these meetings, they asked seven or eight different questions about the community, what Cheyenne needed most, and how a church could help meet that need.
- Keep meetings simple. // It may seem that you are bothering them, but Jeff found most people were willing to sit down and talk when Element Church reached out. Keep it simple: Look up a leader’s name and number on the internet and call: “Hi, I’m Jeff Maness. I’m starting a church here in town and would love to have thirty minutes of your time. You pick the time and we’ll make it happen. We just want to ask you some questions and learn more about you and your community.” Respect the time of the community leader you are meeting with. Stick to the thirty-minute block you agreed on, even if you don’t get through all the questions you have planned during that time.
- Small projects are never insignificant. // Through these conversations with community leaders, Jeff discovered ways that his small church could help save the city man power and money, whether it was staining fences or putting down new wood chips in the local playground. Too often churches try to reinvent the wheel. There are already things happening in your community that you can come alongside and help with. Don’t be afraid of those things that seem insignificant. The more you serve your community, the more people will come to value your church and see you as an asset to the community.
- Serve with no strings attached. // Every event where Element Church serves is done without strings attached. It’s not, “Hey, you can get free backpacks, but you have to listen to our sermon first.” It’s free backpacks filled with school supplies and a pair of free New Balance shoes with no expectations. The people are invited to come to church and hear the gospel message, but they don’t have to jump through hoops ahead of time to freely receive the gifts. Element Church’s mission is to serve others and they keep that at the forefront of their work. In the end, they have found that the majority of the unchurched people who have come to their church were either invited by someone, or were served in an outreach event.
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Helpful Tech Tools // Rightnow Media
Ministries Following // Donnie Griggs and One Harbor Church
Influential Book // People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue by Preston Sprinkle
Inspiring Leader // Erwin McManus
What you do for fun // TV and movies