Last fall my church’s senior leaders introduced the staff to the book “The Externally Focused Church” by Rick Rusaw and Eric Swanson. Over the summer I’ve been thinking about how to apply some of those principles to children’s ministry.
In Matthew 22:1-14, Jesus tells the parable of the Wedding Feast. Click over to Bible Gateway and read it before you finish this article! Swanson uses this parable to highlight differences between Attractional and Missional churches. Here’s why.
According to Swanson, the attractional model asks people and communities to substitute the things that the church deems important for what the people and communities think is important. In the parable, the king has a problem. The banquet hall for the feast is going to be empty because no one is going to come to the party. The king wanted to make sure the people who refused knew what they were missing, so his servants started telling people what was on the menu. “Hey! This banquet is the cat’s pajamas! We’re having the fattened calf!” In fact in verse 4 the servants say, “Come to the wedding banquet.” People didn’t pay attention.
Then the king does something extraordinary. He changes his “Come-to” strategy to a “Go-to” strategy. He told the servants in verse 9, “Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you can find.” In the case of the church, we need to do more than have an incredible and flashy “Come-to” strategy. The truth of the matter is that many in the community are not going to come, so we need to go. You cannot be salt and light from a distance, those agents of transformation only work up close.
So as I have been pondering these issues over the course of the summer, I’m doing so in preparation for the fall ministry season. I don’t know what you do for the fall, but we make a big deal of our “Come-to” strategy for the fall. We invite people to come to our ministry and serve, attend services, and programs. What is the “Go-to” next step? And I’m curious: what do you think of the Swanson’s Attractional versus Missional model?