Q&A with Sharon Hoover

Q&A with Sharon Hoover


Sharon R. Hoover is director of missions at Centreville Presbyterian Church in Centreville, Virginia, where she develops partnerships and equips the congregation to connect with mission partners. In her 20 years on church staffs, she has traveled extensively to lead teams alongside domestic and global partners. Sharon writes and speaks on missions, discipleship and living a faith-filled life in the world God loves. Her current project is a book to guide people in their search for effective missional engagement. Sharon lives in the Washington, DC, area with her husband and occasionally visiting college children

Q: How would you advise pastors to identify international and local needs that their congregation is uniquely equipped or called to partner with? 01

To identify your congregation’s callings, first consider the missions and outreaches you did over the past year. What drew the most support from members / attendees? What received little contribution? For example: Did the collection for school supplies for impoverished children draw an abundance of donations? Did the request for canned goods fill the church lobby with hundreds of pounds of food? Did the special collection for your missionary planting churches in Nepal receive funds far beyond expectations?

Second, listen to congregation members as they talk about their activities outside the church. Do they love volunteering in schools? Do they garden? Are they woodworkers? Do they have a heart for the elderly? What about employment—does your congregation have an abundance of lawyers, engineers, police officers or teachers? Consider distributing a short survey to ask about hobbies, interests and employment.

Then, put it all together. While asking these questions of my current congregation, a heart for “vulnerable children” rose to the surface. Several families foster children, others are adoptive parents. Many members sponsor children with mission organizations. Special collections for children’s needs drew tremendous responses. We began investing more with our local and international partners who focus on meeting the needs of vulnerable children. Now more congregation members join in and even create new opportunities to serve, from mentoring children in the local school to serving on mission teams with international partners.

Q: What do you see as metrics for success when pastors are evaluating their church’s service and outreach ministries? 02

Metrics are an accountability tool. By themselves, they are a neutral collection of numbers. When accumulated over time, however, metrics provide valuable insights of change. Trends emerge to reveal outcomes far beyond the initial lists of funds raised, in-kind donations given, number of volunteer hours served, and so on. In no particular order, helpful measures include the number of:

• Professions of faith and baptisms
• Participants (in an event or with a mission opportunity)
• Members / attendees trained to share their faith stories and the gospel message
• Annual mission opportunities
• Mission partners who share via video, Skype, in person or written articles to update the
congregation on their ministry
• Members / attendees who go to the next level of involvement with mission partners

Just as significant, yet difficult to quantify, are the incremental moments of progress in missional engagement. How do we quantify starting a spiritual conversation with a neighbor, inviting a friend to your small group or exploring first steps with a mission partner? These moments are best celebrated through story. The metric then is to ask, Do we have a story this week of God’s hand at work and our willing response?

Q: A church’s smaller size and budget can be barriers to service and mission projects. What are some simple or low-cost ways to engage in outreach? 03

People want to give time to outreaches that make an impact. Connect with your mission partners to learn their needs, both locally and globally, then explore ways to meet their needs through the abilities and passions of your congregation. Be open to new expressions of outreach as well as reruns of older yet still-needed projects. When we create opportunities that matter, people are willing to join in the work.

Congregation members / attendees have a wide range of financial and time availability. Whether a single mom or an empty nester, people want to serve. To best engage them, offer a variety of outreach options. Not only will a range of opportunities provide ways to explore the members’ best fit and calling, they will allow a natural progression for your church family to deepen their con- nection with your mission partners. For example: In your partnership with a local homeless shelter, a member could donate a dozen oranges, bake a hot casserole, join the rotation to serve breakfast monthly, contribute to their building fund, join their social media team to raise awareness about local poverty or lead the shelter’s weekly Bible study. From an addition on the grocery list to weekly en- gagement, these types of opportunities offer numerous ways to engage with your mission partners.

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