LeaderLines – from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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“A Homework Assignment for You – Really!”
Hillcrest Church Office
October 2, 2003

LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

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Here is this week’s LeaderLines. . . .

“A Homework Assignment for You – Really!”
by Tom Goodman

A word of warning before you read any further: this e-briefing ends in a homework assignment! Let me explain . . . .

Churches become successful in outreach when they develop a clear understanding of the kind of people in their community.  What they discover helps them figure out how to minister in their context.

Few churches do this, and so few churches reach lost adults with any real success.

Most church members – even among church leadership – define outreach as “what it took to attract me to a church.”  But most of us have been committed church-goers for a long time.  That’s why even the most well-intentioned outreach efforts tend to reach other committed church-goers who happen to move to the area.

(Watch out!  The assignment is coming up!)

Churches that are successful at reaching lost adults don’t define outreach as “what it took to get me to this church.”  Instead, they define outreach as, “what it takes to get my neighbors to church.”

Reaching lost adults, then, begins with a clear understanding of who they are.  The 25,000-member Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago drew up a profile of the typical lost adult in their area and called him “Unchurched Harry.”  The 20,000-member Saddleback Church in California described the characteristics of the typical lost adult in the Saddleback Valley community and called him “Saddleback Sam.”  For over 20 years, these churches have chosen every program, every sermon, and every song with a burden to introduce Jesus to Unchurched Harry or Saddleback Sam.

As my fellow “leadership partners,” you can help me identify the typical characteristics of lost adults in north Austin.  Who is “Austin Al”?

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you!  Now you’ve read far enough to get to the assignment!)

In the next day or two, I want you to write me back with your image of the typical lost adult in north Austin.  The operative word is “typical.”  No doubt, Austinites vary widely in age, marital status, and so on.  But is Austin Al “mostly” a guy in his 40s, married, with 3 teen kids, for example?

This “homework assignment” should take you about 30-40 minutes.  Get alone so you can think about Austin Al.  What’s the average age and education level of Austin Al?  Is family important to him and, if so, does he have a happy home life?  How many years has he been married and what issues/struggles is he dealing with as a husband?  What is the number and age of his kids?  Is he a lifelong Austinite?  If not, where did he come from and how long has he been here?  What are his politics, if any? – remember, I said north Austin!  What are his interests – does he golf, work out at the gym, cycle?  He may be unchurched now, but did he have a church upbringing as a child (hint: most adults did).  Even if he’s not a church-goer, does he consider himself “spiritual”?  What’s important to him?  While you’re thinking, how about “Austin Alice”?  Who is she?

I’m serious about this assignment!  Don’t worry about being “right” – I can find statistical accuracy from other sources.  I want to know your impressions . . .  I want to know what your eyes are seeing!

We send LeaderLines to about 200 of you, and I want to hear from at least 20 of you in the next 3-4 days.  In next week’s LeaderLines, I’ll report on your observations.  (No anonymous replies, please, but I won’t use your name without permission.)

I’m already praying for your “think time,” and I look forward to reading your comments!

Desperately Seeking Al,

IF YOU ATTEND THE FIRST SERVICE, REMEMBER OUR TIME CHANGE!  The early service now begins at 8:15 a.m.  This will give us the time we need for worship without crowding the start of Sunday School.

IF YOU ATTEND THE SECOND SERVICE, HELP US WITH PARKING!  This Sunday we’ll run a shuttle between Hillcrest and Anderson High School from 9:00 to 9:30 a.m.  This will give you plenty of time to get to Sunday School, even if you have to arrive early for set-up!  The shuttle will return you to Anderson following the second service.  If you bring people with you, you can drop them off at Hillcrest before bringing your car to Anderson.

RESPONSE TEAM TRAINING will take place this Sunday, October 5, following the evening service, from 7:30 to 8:15 p.m.  The “Response Team” helps people with decisions and prayer needs following our services.  If you’re interested in joining the Response Team, join us for this important training event.

REQUESTS FOR THE 2004 BUDGET should be turned in by this Sunday, October 5.