Soup? Rich neighbors? What? Let me expand on the metaphor and apply it to being/doing church.
I'm not sorry when believers from other local churches benefit from SGF's efforts (such as our Parenting or Marriage Courses), but with a limited amount of energy/time/money I would want to primarily serve and relate to people who are not connected to a life-giving body.
In everything we plan, I want us to be either increasing vertical relationships between humans and their Creator or increasing our peer-to-peer relationships with others. If you see a trip to the Pumpkin Patch on our church calendar, it's not there on accident. We intentionally create opportunities to expand our lives to touch others around us, to invite the uninvited, to help others come into a positive contact with God and his church. If there's a Go-Deep or a trip to Bethel planned, it's all flowing out of a desire to increase relationship . . . in that case both vertically and among those who make the trip down to Redding.
So how does that relate to a Marriage Course or retreat/campout or other high-investment activities? I want to make sure that the energy that a home church is expending is going to the best possible recipients. How would we know who are the "best recipients"? Here are some target audiences that I would perk up and work hard to make a good course or event for:
- people who used to know God but are adrift without fellowship or mission
- people who have never known God (and are suspicious of the Church?)
- people who want to try a course because they think they might lead it in their own church
- people who specifically need that course (Marriage/Parenting) or event
Those people would make me excited to figure out how to run the course again! I'm counting the cost of running a course, which is not a negligible expenditure of $ and energy, and I'm ready to start up the soup kitchen again. But to expend our energy to feed people already eating at other tables? Not exciting to me.
I'd welcome your thoughts on this. I don't feel that I've provided the definitive word on the matter or set down any laws. I do know that I want my time and effort to be intentional and wisely distributed.*
*It's about relationships, but more specifically it's about intentional relationships. I once added up the number of waking-non-working hours I have in a week to designate to building my family, resting/working/playing, and investing in people. Not all that many! I'm specific about which relationships I pour my life into, because I've counted my hours and I want to make my life count.