I think one of the best pieces of advice I received as I began to get involved in Christian ministry was this: “Make sure you are involved in some ministry outside your own patch”.
(By ‘patch’, my advisor meant my normal sphere of ministry—be it my neighbourhood / campus / school / workplace … whatever. In my case, my patch was my local parish, and the outside ministry I got involved in was teaching Moore College ThC courses to pastors in Kenya.)
I want to give six reasons why this is good advice.
1. It encourages Kingdom growth, not kingdom growth
When we’re involved in Christian ministry, it’s easy to become engrossed in our own tasks and ideas—and understandably so. If there’s a new small group starting then you want to pour your effort into it. If you’re starting a new sermon series that you’re excited about, then you want to share that excitement and have as many people as possible come. If there’s a carols event or a men’s breakfast coming up then it’s right to pray hard, invite as many as possible and make it the best event you can.
All this enthusiasm and focus is great—but it can have a downside. It can lead us to build our own kingdom and lose sight of the bigger game: building the Kingdom.
2. It encourages generosity
Being involved in a ministry outside ‘home base’ encourages generosity not only in yourself, but also in those around you. When you model an attitude of giving up your time for a different project, others will follow—sometimes in quite diverse ways.
In my case, my involvement with ThC teaching in Kenya led me to where I am now, with CMS in Mexico. But I also think it encouraged my congregation at the time to think more about the resources they have, and how they can share them with the wider world.
3. It benefits others
Being involved in an external ministry helps others, and that is a good thing. For example, many of us benefit greatly from conventions and conferences throughout the year. Most of these events would not happen if there were not people prepared to minister outside their patch.
In my case, our church was greatly helped by the enthusiastic help from the youth group of another local church who came and ran the kids’ program at our weekend away so all our people could be in all the sessions.
4. It helps share resources
When we serve outside our patch, often resources are flowing from the ‘resource rich’ to the ‘resource poor’, and that is a great help for kingdom growth.
Chances are, that kids’ club package you worked so hard on, or the training course you developed on reading the Bible in church could be just as helpful in a neighbouring church or a church an isolated area. Why not take the time to make some connections, develop a ‘sister church’ link, share resources, take a team from your city church to a country church for a weekend of kids’ ministry?
5. It encourages a broader ‘prayer horizon’
There’s nothing quite like coal-face involvement to encourage prayer. I hope we regularly pray for our church, our friends and our missionaries, but having more links into additional ministries beyond our local borders encourages wider, kingdom prayers.
6. It provides great training opportunities
Often the external ministries we get involved in provide excellent opportunities for getting training in, and practicing ministry skills that we might not have at other times. Summer missions are a great example of this. In the preparation times before the mission, and on the mission itself there are great times for evangelism training and practice, large scale kids’ programs and public events.
There’s six—I’m sure there are more.