Keeping Your Church Engaged In Missions Over Time

Kevin Cram is the Pastor of Global & Local Engagement at Liberty Bible Church in Chesterton, Indiana. Kevin is working to develop innovative ways to keep the members of Liberty engaged in missions year round.

Liberty Bible Church is a historic church that has existed for nearly 100 years. For any church to thrive over such a significant period of time, there has to have been lots of changes and growth. Kevin Cram, Pastor of Global & Local Engagement, shares how a church like Liberty has remained committed to keeping their members engaged with missions for so long.

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First, the goal we should focus on is keeping our members engaged in missions, not continuing to do it the same way we’ve always done it. Our focus needs to stay on what we’re trying to accomplish and not so much on how we’re doing it.

Second, gather a team around you to help you in engaging the church in missions. You don’t have to it alone. God has already brought some supporters into your church who want to help you. Look for them and ask for their help.

And finally, constantly keep your pastor engaged. In reality, your senior pastor should be the first person you are working to engage in missions. Keep them updated. Bring them on short term missions trips. Let them hear stories of exciting things God is doing on the mission field. The church will only be as engaged in missions as the senior pastor.

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Welcome to The Missions Pastor Podcast, presented by OneChild. OneChild is a global community of Child Champions that serves children in poverty so they can discover hope and reach their God-given potential. We believe that the local church has the message of Hope that the world desperately needs to hear. And in every episode, we highlight churches, pastors, and ministries who are working to bring that HOPE to hard places.

Yeah, we have seen people be more engaged in what’s a slow process. And one of the things that we’ve recognized early on is that has to be intentional process. It can’t just be like, Okay, we’re going to do one isolated thing here, and then hope that there’s 30 results down the road. So we really kind of began focusing early on, like, what are our steps? How can we create like a stepping stone?

So welcome to the missions pastor podcast presented by one child, one child that is a global community of child champions that serves children in poverty, so they can discover hope and reach their God given potential. We believe that the local church has the message of hope that the world desperately needs to hear. And in every episode, we highlight churches, pastors and ministries, who are working to bring that hope to heart faces. I’m David Jesse, I’m your host for today’s conversation with Kevin Kram. Kevin is the pastor of global and local engagement at Liberty Bible Church, in Chesterton, Indiana, Kevin is working to develop innovative ways to keep the members of liberty engaged in missions year round. Liberty Bible Church is a historic church that has existed for nearly 100 years. And for any church to thrive over such a significant period of time, there has to have been lots of changes and grow. I asked Kevin to share why a church like Liberty has remained committed to keeping their members engaged with missions for so long.

Yeah, well, I guess the first thing I would say to that, is, it I think it’s because it’s the calling of the Lord on the on the life of every believer is very passionate about at our church is is that every local believer has a role to play in what God is doing around the world. And, you know, obviously, we have institutional commitments that we have in global missions. But we really want to see every local believer involved in God’s global mission. And that can look a lot of different ways. Obviously, everyone has various different talents, gifts, giftings experiences and capacities to engage in that mission. And so really, one of my job’s is to shepherd people in discovering what those giftings are, and how do they relate to what God’s calling them to do in mission. And so awareness is just a key part of that. Because most of the time, people aren’t aware of what actually is going on. There aren’t aware of the ways that God is moving in the world, I, in my experience, as soon as people begin to understand and see for their own eyes, the way the Spirit of God is moving in the globe, that they, most of the time, they want to be a part of it, they get excited to be a part of it. They want to see how God can use them in that story. And so a lot of it, a lot of what I do is is just that education piece, because that opening people’s eyes, it’s just such a critical part in that mission of engaging the entire population, the entire church, in that calling.

That’s awesome. So how has Liberty Bible Church traditionally done this in the past? How have they raised awareness about these global outreach admissions opportunities?

Yeah, that’s a question. Well, I’ll just back up a little bit, kind of give you some context, because we’re pretty established, old established church. We are approaching our 100th year as a congregation, in our community. And from the very beginning, the church has been about the world, I always like to say that our first offering as a church didn’t go to a pastor or go to our, towards a building, we took our first offering and gave it to a missionary and a woman in China and so that for for 90 plus years, that’s been a part of our history. And so the, but that has, obviously over 90 years has evolved over a lot of different ways. And so how we’ve gotten the congregation involved in that has changed a lot, even in the last 10 years. has previously the traditional idea is is that you know, the church would would identify people in the in the congregation that guys move in calling to go serve overseas, they would raise up those individuals and send them out and generally those people would join a missions agency and they would go overseas and maybe they would have contact with their church, but the church would write a check and that would kind of be it. The most that you’d hear about it, our church tried to do more to make sure that that our people were connected with those missionaries and those people abroad. But as the years rolled on, and you know, as, as the century turned into the 2000s, it began to change that, it began to become more realistic for individuals in the congregation to feel really connected with the mission field, whether that’s through technology, like the communications revolution, where individuals can be in contact with ministries and local partners and missionaries around the world at an instant from your phone, all the way to transportation revolution, where people can hop on a plane and go to the farthest reaches of the earth, in a pretty cost effective way. And so that’s why you get things like, you know, short term missions that become very popular and other means through technology where the church can become more involved. So obviously, the way that the church has been connected has evolved over significantly over the last 20 years. And so what we have seen happen is that we’ve we’ve tried to use those innovative ways to help the individuals in the church feel like that they have a role and a part in what x or so missionary is doing overseas or whatever y partner is doing in this country. And so we do we now we try to do that in a lot of different ways. So historically, we’ve we’ve tried to do events that are geared towards missions. You know, previously, we did, like an annual global missions event that we had a very speakers that came in, we took over Sunday morning services, we integrated children’s ministry and youth ministry into that event, we had overseas partners go into small groups and present. And it was a big deal, we took over the church for basically a month and did this. And it was very effective for its time, but especially even before COVID. But going into COVID, we saw diminishing returns in that kind of model.

Because it was a lot of love effort to put in so much organizational effort to create this month, or sometimes a week or whatever, to go all in on missions. It was great. But it was a lot of energy. And we saw that it wasn’t quite producing what it had done over the years. And so we made a shift. And COVID was kind of a catalyst for that. But we had been talking about it even before then, we made a shift to doing more frequent events and more personal individual smaller group events to try to increase the frequency it’s in front of people. But the same time, you can’t do a huge event every month or every other month, it has to be a smaller scale, and more sustainable. And so we started doing that, how to get out of the pandemic. And we’ve been doing that for now, a year and a half or two years, where we do basically creative quarterly type events, where we try to do get ways where people can be exposed and get involved. So examples of that, like this past spring, we have a partnership in with an organization in Lebanon. And they were sending a representative that was touring around the United States, very typical for national missions, organizations. And they said, We’re coming to Northwest Indiana, can we use it? Can you use us? And we’re like, yes, this would be great. What can we leverage your presence or to have a kind of a Middle Eastern meal where we can invite people and gather around a dinner table and just hear stories of what you’re doing and what your organization is doing in the Middle East. And it was a great little event, we’ve maybe had 100 people. So out of a church of about 1000. It was a good well attended event. But more so than just the attendance. It was just a really great interaction time, fellowship time and people came away just incredibly encouraged. And they got to learn a little bit more about what God is doing in the Middle East. coming up this fall. Another example is we felt very cold that we wanted to structure something around the concept of engaging people in prayer for the world. And so we have someone on our team that’s really passionate about that. So I kind of gave the reins to them and say would you be willing to organize kind of a movement of prayer in the month of November to help people begin and engage prayerfully for various different aspects of our global outreach. And they were really excited about that. So we’re looking forward to that. In the month of November, just little engagement type events centered around prayer, you know, on all night prayer, visual, you know, prayer walk within our church, with stations where people on Sunday morning or during the week and engage in various aspects of prayer, and a physical, tangible way. So things like that are kind of the things that we do now in order to keep it in front of people. That’s awesome.

So what are some of the positive results and maybe even some of the unexpected challenges that you guys have seen as you’ve been very intentional about keeping these missions opportunities in front of the church?

Yeah, I think the biggest thing that comes to my mind is, is that maybe, maybe I’ll get chuckles from if other missions, pastors are listening. But missions a lot of times tends to be a very niche, passion in ministry, you have a great group of core people that are really, really passionate about missions. And it’s usually the same people that kind of show up to those events. And they they are, they love it, and they are completely sold out and completely engaged. And they really do provide the amazing bedrock and foundation for the kind of global ministry that we have in our church. They’re amazing group of people. But we don’t, we’re not settled for that we don’t, we don’t want to settle just to have those people that are already passionate about it engaged, we want to engage everyone in some way in this. And that’s been a real challenge of like, how do you build excitement and people that have limited bandwidth, limited capacity? There’s a competition in the church world for attention and resources and volunteers and to get in front of people. And so it’s always been a challenge, like, how do you stir that and people that aren’t quite there yet, you know. And so that’s part of why, you know, we’ve been challenged to kind of think outside of the box and some of these things, we’ve known that we can’t just run an event. Because that’s probably just going to attract the same people that it’s always attracted. And so for example, one of the things that we’ve done to emulate what you’re doing, we actually started a podcast about six months ago. And so the idea of the podcast was, let’s tell stories, let’s tell stories that we can, that we can share with people in our church and beyond in a non lettin, less traditional way that hopefully, will engage a set of people that wouldn’t have been engaged otherwise, through the kind of traditional sense.

Very cool. So have you seen, as you’ve, you know, you bring up this challenge of, and we all know that you talked about that missions, pastors kind of chuckling with this, they do. Because we all know this in the missions world, within churches, it is the same people that are passionate, they’re the same people that go on the trips every time they’re the same people who show up at the events, at the prayer meetings and everything else. But you guys are very committed to making sure that people that are on the outside that are on the fringes even are being brought in and engaging in this. So you know, have you seen them become more engaged? And what has that done for the Missions Program and the church as a whole as they become more engaged?

Yeah, we have seen people be more engaged in it, but it’s a slow process. And one of the things that we’ve recognized early on is that has to be intentional process. It can’t just be like, Okay, we’re going to do one isolated thing here, and then hope that it bears fruit and results down the road. So we really kind of began focusing early on of like, what are steps? How can we create like, a stepping stone for people because your idea, you’re going to get people from zero interest and zero engagement to all of a sudden, they’re like, super passionate about it, they’re going on missions trips, they’re, you know, giving a percentage of their income or whatever. You’re not going to get people from step zero to step 10 in with one thing. And so you have to have an intentional, like, way of guiding and shepherding people along so that God can use those things like breadcrumbs through intentional plan that they’re moving through so that they’re growing in that interest. They’re growing in that exposure. So like, for example, like we have those awareness events, but the awareness event is meant to to move people to explore more, like we want. And we don’t always do the best job of this, but it’s always in the back of our minds of like, how can we use the awareness event to move people to the next step? So Like an example of that, that we have is, one next step that we do is we partner with the organization in Minneapolis called engage global, I don’t know, maybe some people might have been familiar with it. But it’s a fabulous organization, founded by former missionaries that came back and had a passion for mobilizing the local church, they bought a house in inner city, Minneapolis, and they provide immersive cross cultural training experiences for local congregations. And basically, the church will go out for a long weekend, they’ll get some classroom training, but then they’ll go out into ethnically majority communities within Minneapolis. And there are a lot of them, Laotian communities, Somali communities, East Asian communities, and they’ll go and have these little excursions where you’ll go and to these majority communities, and just learn about what it’s like to minister cross culturally. And it’s a short commitment, like a long weekend, you don’t have to fly overseas to do this. But you get the closest thing to an overseas trip by experiencing these communities as you can right on your doorstep. And so we do that as a next step, we say, okay, you maybe you’ve never dreamed of going overseas and doing a short term trip, you know, that that never crossed your mind. Or maybe it never worked out because of your vacation schedule, or you know, work. But more people can do the smaller commitment, you know, you can get, they can give a weekend to go and just get exposed to what cross cultural ministry looks like. And the idea is, then they okay, they do that and they come back on fire, they come back like, oh, this, this is something that I could get behind. This is something that I get passionate. Okay, what’s the next step? What might be another, like opportunity in our local community that you can get involved with international students with people in the cross cultural environment? You know, what’s a trip that we can construct that might be another intermediate opportunity for people? So the idea is just trying to think strategically so that the awareness event isn’t just some isolated thing. We’re moving people in direction so that they’re, they’re brought along in the process? And to answer your question, yeah, we’ve had some fear in that. But it’s a long term kind of commitment to the to move people in that direction.

We’d love it. If we were able to just communicate our vision for missions or a need a specific ministry has, and then the whole church just immediately springs into action. But that’s just not the way it works. I love how Kevin reminds us that engaging our people in outreach ministries takes time and patience, but it always pays off in the end. We’ll continue our conversation with Kevin after this brief message from one child.

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It may seem as if you’re never going to see the fruit of your patience and engaging your church and missions pay off. I asked Kevin to share a story of someone from Liberty who has moved from less than engaged to very passionate about missions. Yeah.

You know, I’ll tell one story. There’s a woman who is an amazing part of our church, just a connector an influencer a absolute prayer warrior. She’s done a lot of ministry, a lot of volunteer work throughout various ministries of our church. And she always had kind of a general like, I’m sure no, she just had a general heart for the world. And for the last like, I mean, I think she was she’s, she’s, she walks with Jesus enough that she, she, she knows it. And she breeds that because of her discipleland are being discipled by him. But I think that there have been things that have opened the scope of her understanding of what her involvement can be in that. And so we did a We attempted two years ago, in the midst of COVID, a virtual missions trip, it was something that was very, a little bit out of the box, we wanted to do something continue on the momentum that we had in short term trips, obviously, we couldn’t send teams overseas, it was impossible at that point. But I mentioned we had a partner in Lebanon, and they were kind of thinking the same thing. And so they ended up constructing kind of this virtual experience with the ministry that they were doing in Beirut, partially with Syrian refugees, and a lot of other stuff. And it was just a really well thought out, we worked on it together. And it was basically people from the US engaged over zoom with local ministers in the root who were doing the ministry, and they had a lot of creative things. They had offline activities. And it was just a really great experience. And this woman participated in that. And during the same time she was guy was working in her heart, specifically about Syrian refugees. And it was actually one of the reasons why she was attracted to this opportunity, because she had looked watch the news, and it really tugged on her heart and was something that she was passionate about, but didn’t know how to be involved. And then she heard about this trip got involved. And she was just like, she lit up. I mean, she just it was like a bonfire. And she was just at now sees just like anytime there’s an opportunity to work in that part of the world. She’s like, I’m on board, where can I help? What can I do? Like, she, she does, like, you know, have side gigs on the side, and all the money that she or she sends into missions now, you know, just stuff like that. And she is she’s great. And she’s all she’s also like, as soon as you go to Lebanon, you need to tell me, she’s like, I’ve been afraid of going overseas my entire life, it never crossed my mind. That’s something I want to do. And I’m still scared to death of it. But as soon as you go to Lebanon, I am the first one that signing up for that trip. So that’s just an example. Like God was already working in her heart guy was already planning something and for that people group, but the fact that we had those kind of intentional steps that she could plug into it, you guys just took that and ran with it. I mean, she’s just, she’s incredible.

That’s awesome. So what advice would you give to a missions pastor who maybe isn’t as far down this process as you are? Or perhaps they’ve they’ve been sort of just doing missions work, you know, they’ve got this event at their church, and then they’ve got this trip, and there’s just no process of really helping people stay, get informed about missions, and then engaging in it and then becoming passionate about it, like you guys are, are helping people do there? What advice would you give to that missions pastor that realizes that that’s really where they want to go?

Yeah, I can think of a lot of things. I’ll just, I guess I’ll just rattle through a couple. The first one is like, find people that can walk with you in this, you know, find a team that you can, that, that shares that same heart and that vision that can be your hands or feet in this because you can’t do this alone. And one of the one of the things and this is just a shout out to the to the people that are at our church, like I have an amazing global team who their their let their lay volunteers that put in their own time and effort into helping in this strategy in this vision. And I don’t know what I would do without them. They’re an incredible resource and incredible encouragement. And they are amazing. So if you if you can gather a team around you, that would be your support, and that have various different giftings can help you in your where you’re weak. That would be a huge, huge thing. The other thing is, when you have once you have that team, like don’t neglect the need to pray. When we were about three years ago, we realized that we had lacked, we were lacking some little focus in what we were doing in missions. And so So, instead of like trying to figure it out or coming up with an ideas or plan or whatever, like our team said, we just need to come before the Lord in this. And so we set aside very intentional time, almost nine months actually have regular set aside times, we’re all we’re doing what we were praying. And we were saying, God, we have, you’ve given us these resources, you’ve given us this desire, and this calling and this vision, like, but we are, we don’t know what to do with that. And so we just asked, and we listened. And we waited. And God has showed up in those moments, and gave us very clear and very clear understanding and direction about how he wanted us to step into that. And so that would be the second thing is just just pray your socks off, like as much as you can pray, listen and wait. Because the Lord be faithful, he’ll show you what you guys need to do. But finally, the final piece of advice I would give is, I cannot I cannot overemphasize how critical it is, for you to have the buy in of senior leadership. I would even say that if you do not have at least a commitment of support from a senior pastor, and from an elder board, what you want to do is going to be very, very difficult, especially when you’re talking about getting the entire church mobilized and engaged. Because frankly, it’s those people that have the influence in the, in the platform, to be the communicators and the influencers for that. And so, you know, I’ve been, we’ve been fortunate that we have leaders and we have an elder board that that really does see the importance of what, of the reaching of reaching the nation’s for Christ. And but I know a lot of I have a lot of friends at churches that that’s where their roadblock is, they they have all the passion in the world, they have great plans, they have the desire to move forward in this, but they constantly run up against the fact that they can’t get beyond that niche. Because they don’t have the support or the the backing of the senior leadership. So getting that getting those people on board. And we haven’t done this yet. But this is something that is on my mind, if I have any elders listening, I’m coming for you. The one of the things that we want to do is it’s just a prat, like a practical thing. I would love to institute kind of an expectation that every elder goes on the living missions trip at least once years. Like get that kind of get that level of involvement of engagement. You know, or if you’re going overseas and you’re doing a partner visit or whatever, rope your senior pastor like get him and just say, hey, you need to take a week and you need to come and just spend some time with me with this partner. Like those are the types of things you can do to get that buy in. But that buy in is so so critical. You cannot do anything I think of any substance and long term impact without.

Kevin’s advice on how to really get your church engaged in missions is so helpful. Here are three takeaways from today’s episode. First, the goal we should focus on is keeping our members engaged in missions not continuing to do it the same way that we’ve always done it. Our focus needs to stay on what we’re trying to accomplish, and not so much on how we’re doing it. Second, gather a team around you to help you engage the church in missions. You don’t have to do it all on your own. God has already brought some supporters into your church who want to help you so look for them, and ask for their help. And then finally, constantly keep your pastor engaged in reality. Your senior pastor should be the first person that you’re working to engage in missions, keep them updated. Bring them on short term missions trips, let them hear stories of exciting things God is doing on the mission field. The church will only be as engaged in missions as the senior pastor is.

I want to thank Kevin for joining me on this episode of the missions pastor podcast. If you want to learn more about Liberty church, go to find and listen to the church’s missions podcast. Search for go a great commission podcast or you can click on the link in the show notes. And thank you for listening to the visions pastor podcast. This show is presented by one child we are a global community of child champions that serves children in poverty so they can discover hope and reach their God given potential. To learn more about how your church can partner with one child to bring hope to heart places, go to one

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