The High School serving trip to Branson I wrote about last week and the strategic view of a spiritual path of lost to leading has had me thinking quite a bit lately. Gateway Branson is crazy focused on reaching the homeless and working poor in Branson. Currently, they are working with about 20 hotels, serving meals to 700 or so people every week. They know that there are about 400-600 more that they need to provide meals for and they’re working hard to get the resources to do this.

Here’s what I love about this model of ministry. They have a hyper specific target, the poor and homeless. They know how many they are. They know where they live. They are actively pursuing ministry to their target. Probably within the next couple of years, they will have a significant presence that saturates their target. I think that success for them is probably where everyone in any one of those hotels feels loved and cared for by Gateway Branson. When that kind of environment is created, people will experience the life and freedom that only comes through Jesus. I’m sure their work will never be done, but with this very strategic target, you could almost set a deadline for “completion.” X Number of meals a week, X number of events at each hotel each month and X number of small groups/recovery groups at each hotel. I love that kind of strategy.

Last night I experienced the same kind of excitement about Gateway Austin. Over the past 2 years, Gateway has been making a very intentional shift in strategy. Although we only have two campuses with no new campuses on the immediate horizon, we have set our sites on a very specific decentralized model. We have separated Austin into several specific geographies with Serve and Grow staff overseeing each of these geographies. Within each geographies are networks, either a collection of small groups within a focused geographic area or people in a specific geographic area that want to see the church expand and grow, impacting their neighbors. Last night, Sara and I attended Core Network meeting for the 78717 Network. That’s my zipcode which consists primarily of my neighborhood and parts of other neighborhoods. Avery Ranch, where I live, has about 3500 homes. Last night we met as a core team to discuss what it would look like to love and serve our community in 78717. We talked about the demographics, the community focal points, opportunities to serve and other organizations that we can partner with to serve or better reach our community.

Driving home I told Sara, “For the first time ever, I’m at a church where I feel like we can truly reach our community. It’s not like we just built a building and we’re expecting people to come to us, but it’s more like guerrilla warfare.” Without utilizing a church building at all, we’re going to serve our neighbors, meet their needs and see life-giving community grow out of the opportunity. It feels like the work of a church planter, but we already have the support and resources of a large church in our city that we can always point people to. I feel like if we really focus on this and pour our energy into this over the next 3-5 years, we can see something amazing happen in 78717.

The really cool part is that we’re just one network. One network of over 20 already in place. The goal is to see 300-400 of these networks develop in the coming years. With this kind of strategy, one feels like they really could reach a city, right?

So, what are the implications for Kids and Students within that context. Well, we’re going to have to re-write the rules. More on that in the future…