Insiders or Outsiders

One of the most important decisions we ever made as a church came very early on. It was a decision that would dictate numerous decisions down the road. The decision was to place our focus on reaching those outside the church, instead of focusing on keeping those inside the church.


Many churches think you can do both, you can’t.

Many churches think they’re outsider focused, but they aren’t.

And many churches know they’re insider focused and don’t have any plans to change.

We’ve been at least two out of the three above within the short life of our church. Hopefully, we’ve got it figured out now, although we still can get a little insider focused at times.

So, what’s wrong with focusing on insiders? I mean they’re the ones who serve, give, and show up on Sundays. It makes sense to focus on them, doesn’t it?

In a way, yes, we definitely should appreciate them. However, if we only focus on the insider, we lose our chance to reach those outside the church.

I believe a better option is to teach those inside the church why it’s so important that we reach those outside. I believe this is what Jesus was able to accomplish with his disciples, and I believe when church members get this concept your church has the potential to grow rapidly.

So, how can we accomplish this?

With clever mission statements like “Building believers, and serving seekers”? Absolutely not. (*Disclaimer* We had this clever saying on some early t-shirts.)

We accomplish this by running every decision through a filter. How would this connect with someone outside the church?

You use a filter also. Take a look at these examples and see what side your on.

Sunday School

Inside Focused: It would devastate the older adults if we did away with their Sunday School class, so there’s no way we could ever do that.

Outside Focused: Those with little to no church experience don’t attend Sunday School. They are more likely to attend small gathering in homes. Let’s try offering small groups instead of Sunday School.


Inside Focused: Attendance declines when we do a giving series, so we stopped doing them and try not to talk about money around here.

Outside Focused: We teach on giving throughout the year letting our church know that their giving changes lives. We also teach people to budget and how to get out of debt.


Inside Focused: We like a good blend of contemporary music mixed with traditional hymns.

Outside Focused: We play the most modern worship music and occasionally try to work in a “secular” song that connects to the message.


Inside Focused: We do a potluck dinner every third Sunday, Vacation Bible School every June, and revival in October.

Outside Focused: We get involved with community events throughout the year and look for areas we can serve others.

You get the idea. It’s pretty easy to see what your focus is when you break it down this way. Focusing on outsiders can get messy, and taking your focus off insiders can lead to complaints. It’s easy to see why some churches stay insider focused and get stuck. But healthy churches know you can only grow when you’re able to convert outsiders to insiders. This only happens by staying outsider focused.

Who does your church focus on? Insiders or outsiders? Let us know in the comments below, and make sure to subscribe to the blog for tips on how to grow your small town church in a big way.

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