The Five Hour Challenge: Turning Your Church Outwardly Focused

I was hesitant to write this post.

Indeed, I could see church members using this post to advocate that the pastor needs to do more of the work of ministry like evangelism. I’ve heard similar words many times: “After all, that’s what we pay the pastor to do.”

Such words are shameful. Such words are unbiblical.

But I do have to challenge pastors and church leaders. In recent years I have noticed a precipitous decline in the amount of time church leaders spend doing evangelism or doing activities that have an outward focus.

And here is the reality: If the pastors and church leaders are not serious about reaching people with the gospel, you can’t expect the members to do so. Most pastors are spending less than two hours a week in outwardly-focused ministries, specifically evangelism. They have become so busy doing good things they neglect obedience to the Great Commission.

Here is my simple challenge: Commit at least five hours a week to evangelism and outwardly-focused ministries. Mark those five hours on your calendar like any other appointment. Make those five hours a priority. Do not come up with busyness and excuses that keep you from fulfilling your challenge.

This challenge should apply to all vocational ministers on staff. If you are full-time, commit five hours. If you are half-time, commit three hours (yeah, I rounded up).

Here are some suggestions for your five hours each week:

  • Take a non-Christian or unchurched person to lunch.
  • Write five handwritten notes to people who do not have a church home and have visited your church.
  • Email or text 20 people who are looking for a church home.
  • Take two hours to walk and pray for homes in your community.
  • Pray for opportunities to share the gospel every day.
  • Find a person in need in your community. Help them. Let them know you are doing it as an ambassador for Christ.
  • Start a Bible class that meets every week for eight weeks. Advertise on Facebook that the class will give you a basic overview of the entire Bible. Meet no more than one hour a week. You might be surprised how many non-Christians show up.
  • Have a 15-minute stand-up meeting with your staff each week. Ask them how they spend their five hours.

You readers are very creative. I know you can share with us many other ways to be outwardly focused. Let us know some of your ideas. Let us know what you are currently doing.

Don’t expect your members to be evangelistic unless you are evangelistic.

Consider taking the five-hour challenge.

Posted on February 4, 2019

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • What is the resource that you would use to do Bible Studies of the overview of the Bible in 8 weeks? I am interested in doing this in various locations in the area.

  • Christopher says on

    Good article and definitely something pastors should be doing, but the reality is that the American church is not designed for this. The American church is designed to appeal to people that are already looking for a church. Just like I-phones are designed to appeal to people looking for a smart phone and Nikes are designed to appeal to people looking for athletic shoes, the American church is focused on one market demographic. Whether people are believers or unbelievers is beside the point.

    • So do we just give-up striving to become the church that God designed it to be?

      • Christopher says on

        What we give up is using business models and marketing to drive our churches. Stop wasting our time studying trends and culture shifts, stop labeling every generation, stop scrambling for more and more market share, stop basing success on the number of people sitting in the pews, and simply preach the Gospel at every opportunity and disciple those that respond.

  • Todd Sullens says on

    Thanks Thom…I love the insights. Things I’ve used to be outward focused include joining breakfast clubs with men, connecting with public officials/first responders, etc…, fishing clubs, local rotary/lions clubs, joined a pickleball league, coached a recreational league. All of these have given me access to unsaved and unchurched folks. Intentional relationships has become a personal theme. Thanks again Thom for speaking into our lives!

  • An observation: just 8 early relies on this topic as of 8:52 AM CST. I’ve noticed a lot more comments and suggestions on other topics. Does this mean something? Just a question.

  • I volunteer to coach indoor soccer. I coach up the kids, talk to parents, and stay encouraging throughout the games. I take them out to pizza during the middle of the season and invite them all to church. For me, the approach is natural part of who I am.

  • Judith Gotwald says on

    All good ideas, but odd that the greatest evangelism tool ever known is overlooked—the internet.

    Also, whenever I read a post that mentions what a pastor does with “staff,” I wonder if there is a disconnect with reality. Many churches have neglected evangelism (both pastor and members) for so long that there is no staff. There is likely not even a full-time pastor and that pastor is likely to devote most time to preparing for Sunday morning—which is not likely to grow a church. So these are good ideas for starting to break that cycle of impending failure, which is otherwise inexplicably accepted these days.

    • Christopher says on

      I beg to differ, the internet is a horrible evangelism tool. There are so many divergent and heretical presentations of the Gospel from supposed authorities, not to mention every other religion, that it becomes a morass of talking heads and opposing opinions with who knows what hidden agendas. Nothing beats sitting down with someone and simply sharing the words written on the pages of Scripture.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        I beg to differ with your beg to differ. The internet is a tool that can be effectively used to share the truths of scripture. You don’t back down because others skew the message.

      • Christopher says on

        Trying to communicate the Biblical Gospel over the internet is the proverbial “needle in a haystack.” Or maybe a better analogy is a diamond in a cesspool.

        The Gospel was designed to be communicated by word of mouth, face to face. Jesus told the apostles to “Go.” He didn’t tell them to sit behind a computer and hope someone reads your blog one day. (Oh wait, that’s what I’m doing right now!)

      • Craig Giddens says on

        I’m not understanding why a person can’t communicate the gospel personally one on one with someone plus communicate the gospel over the internet with others. It’s not like you’re restricted to one or the other.

      • Christopher says on

        Using a shovel doesn’t preclude you from renting a back-hoe, but one is definitely more productive than the other.

      • Christopher says on

        Unless you’re talking to a specific person online, using the internet for the Gospel is the modern day equivalent of throwing tracks in the air and hoping someone reads one.

      • Craig Giddens says on

        I think there are things believers should be dogmatic about such as Biblical truths, but to throw out a means of sharing that truth because you can’t see the results or the results might be minimal (at least in man’s eyes) is not something to be dogmatic about. Why not share the truth personally one on one, to specific persons online and and to various forums, blogs, facebook page …etc? It doesn’t take a lot of time to share Biblical truths on the internet and if doing so only results in one person getting saved or one believer being helped wouldn’t that be worth it?

      • Christopher says on

        Not being dogmatic, just my opinion. That and a dollar will get you a Dr. Pepper.

        I don’t think using the internet is wrong, I just think in most cases it’s a waste of time. Then again, according to the Bible, wasting time is wrong so maybe I am being dogmatic.

    • Keith Crouch says on

      I am a bivocational Pastor & have been for 19 years. I pastor a small congregation that cannot support a full time pastor. Your comments seem to indicate that churches that do have full time staff will lack in the area of outreach. Yes I spend a great amount of time preparing for Sunday (two services) & Wednesday service because the expounding of God’s word is just that important. Our church does a lot in the area of community outreach through caring for the poor & feeding the hungry through a food pantry that meets people’s needs to the tune of a couple hundred families. Again, to indicate that a church that can only support bivocational staff is “inexplicably accepted” comes off as kind of condiscending toward those of us that work 60-70 hrs per week in a secular job as well as doing the work of ministry which is a 24/7 calling. Perhaps your intention was not to speak negatively of bivocational churches, but maybe next time concider the number of churches that have bivational pastors (which is the majority by the way) and the good they donwithinfntheir communities where the kingdom work is concerned.

      • Numbers don’t tell the whole story.

        In terms of ratios, many of the bi-vo pastors are more successful evangelistically than the full-support guys.

        One year in my bi-vo we had a baptism-to-attendance ratio of about 1/2.6. We had 15 (usually would have 6-10) baptisms that year with an attendance of about 40.

        But, the attitudes I have seen toward bi-vo pastors from the full-time guys mostly stink.

        If a church running 4,000 baptized 1500, it would be the same ratio as one with 40 baptizing 15.

        But, I do not know any full-time pastors who are humble enough to admit that.

        If they baptize 350 with an attendance of 4000, that is a ratio of 1/11.4. They get plastered in the state papers.

        The “big church boys” in the larger churches mostly give the impression they are more important to God than those of us who work full-time jobs and held churches together.

        BTW, I stayed 25 years in two bi-vo churches.

      • Churches with bivo pastors have to rely more heavily on volunteers, rather than depending so much on the pastor and staff. Also, bivocational pastors have more opportunities to reach others, since they meet prospects on their jobs. I’m not a bivo myself, but believe me, you bivocational pastors have my complete respect.

  • Dean Clark says on

    I’m focusing on the needs of others especially the homeless and poor. My wife and I look for jackets on the sale rack and have them in our cars to hand out to people who are outside in the bitter cold. I grab coffee and food to help these folks out to provide the basic needs for them. I agree Thom, we are way too worried about the stuff inside the four walls (important yes) and less on the surrounding community.

    Great post and suggestions from a pew sitter.


  • My Pastor and his family have joined a bowling league. They don’t have a history of being bowlers but joined in the hope of engaging unchurched people and starting relationships with them and sharing the gospel. There are a handful of people now in our congregation that are there only because of the relationships developed in this league.

  • My wife and I have found that the old “…see a sermon vs. hear one” applies 10x to reaching unchurched. One way we have learned to bring an experience with the Lord to someone is via Christian Treasure Hunts. Ever given it a try? Take look:

    We’ve done hundreds of these, and trained about 150 others too. Try to imagine being the “found treasure”. And God’s love received! (Normally, there is no Christmas envelope with the gift inside.)

  • M Coleman Walsh, Jr. says on

    The passion any organization has for its mission will never exceed the passion displayed by the leader. This is true in the church as well as secular organizations. A congregation tends to emulate the actions they see their pastor and staff take. What they say is important, but the words lose their impact if they are not consistent with the actions seen by the congregation.

  • I have 50 years experience in this area. I like your encouragement but unless preachers are trained in how to do effective personal evangelism they aren’t going to do it much less train others how to do it. And if they don’t train others how to do it they are seriously limiting the potential of what can happen with evangelism in their congregation or ministry.
    John Hendee
    Chair of World Evangelism, Hope International University.
    [email protected]

    • Kim Glenn says on

      Lack of training for the pastor or the congregation is not an acceptable excuse. There are too many resources available to allow this to be an obstacle.

      • David G Troublefield, PhD says on

        A square peg can be forced into a round hole, but both the peg and the hole never will be the same again after.

        God knows how He made each person–and that was not so that each one has the same (usually confrontational) style of evangelism as the next one (cf., Becoming a Contagious Christian). Saying that does not excuse any Christian–especially our pastors–from evangelism efforts, but it does explain why each one does what he does and how and when.

        Find your evangelism style first, then aim to spend five hours per week doing evangelism in that way. Then the square peg is in the square hole–and will stay there 🙂

      • Amen; if you know enough of the Gospel to have been saved *by* the Gospel, then you know enough to share it.

    • What material would you suggest?

  • What a timely post! I have been trying to find creative ways that I can reach more people in the small amount of time I have to do so each on my pastoral calendar (I’ve budgeted only three hours, so I need to “bump” it up to five!)

    One thing I have done lately which is “working” is to set up a small table on our town square (yes, we have a square and this is a ‘weather permitting’ kind of thing). The table has a sign, “Free Bibles and Christian Literature.” I just sit there, sipping coffee from the nearby coffee place, and chat with people who stop by to get free Bibles. You would be surprised how many people will approach a little table like this for free stuff. It affords a wonderful opportunity to spread the Word and invite folks to our church. BTW, I got permission from our Township and anyways it is protected by the 1st Amendment. Also, it can definitely be “done” in 1-2 hours (depending on how long you want to stay out there).

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