It’s so hard to watch people leave the church. You have watched kids grow up and turn away from the faith that you helped raise them in and you have had whole families disappear, maybe without so much as a goodbye. It hurts. These people were and extended part of your family. They were also your target demographic—you were talking to them! As you move forward in ministry (because that IS what you desire to) it is important to determine who you need to be talking to and how best to share God’s love with them. Because ministering in culturally relevant ways is essential to moving the Kingdom of God forward.


With over 40 years in ministry, I’ve honed in on ten dynamics for healthy church growth. They are durable and timeless. Specific methods may change over time, but these dynamics hold true today just as they did when I started my ministry, and for many centuries before that. In fact, if you look carefully at any successful church multiplication movement, you’ll see these same principles at work there. This series of blog entries covers the ten essential dynamics that allow a church to grow in ways that are healthy, effective, and multiplying. Last week, I talked about discerning God’s direction, this week, I am looking at dynamic #2 for healthy church growth—ministering in culturally relevant ways.

Ministering in Culturally Relevant Ways

Ministering in culturally relevant ways: Engaging with the surrounding world in ways that authentically serve, build relationships, and reach people with the gospel message.

You will not compromise the gospel

Nowhere do we need to adapt our methods more than when going into specific cultures with the message of Jesus. Some strategies will be effective with certain groups but not others. Philosophies of ministry will need to be adapted in order to reach people where they are. Adapting our strategy does not mean compromising the gospel. The gospel we bring is the same in all places and times and among all people. But how we communicate that gospel so that people can understand it will necessarily vary from group to group. 

Remember that God has already been at work even before we have arrived. One of the keys to success is to identify where and how he has already been at work so we can cooperate with what the Holy Spirit is doing. Seeing his evidence of his movement is often a good way to determine how we can best connect with the people and meet them where they’re at. 

3 Elements of Culturally Relevant Ministry

A few different elements are involved in all culturally relevant ministry:

1. We are called to serve.

If we are not serving the community in meaningful ways where they have real needs, we will have no voice to speak into their lives.

2. We are called to build authentic relationships.

These are people, not projects, and we need to engage in mutual, peer relationships with those we are called to serve.

3. We are called to reach people with the gospel.

That means communicating the message of Jesus with our words and actions in the context of the relationships we have built.

If service, relationships, or outreach is missing, your ministry to the culture will be lacking an essential element.  

6 Things You Can Do to Grow in Providing Culturally Relevant Ministry

  1. Identify your focus group 
  2. Actively seek to listen and understand their needs, perspectives, and priorities
  3. Serve people in ways that are meaningful to them
  4. Develop and invest in genuine relationships with the people
  5. Engage in spiritual dialogue to the degree that people are ready and willing 
  6. Compose your philosophy of ministry in one or two paragraphs  

Listen to the Holy Spirit and take some time to assess how your church is currently doing in this area. Then identify some customized action steps you could take to strengthen this dynamic. 


Guide for Discipling: Jesus helped his disciples grow in 8 key ways: Experiencing God, Spiritual Responsiveness, Generous Living, Sacrificial Service, Personal Transformation, Disciplemaking, Authentic Relationships, and Community Transformation. Refresher courses in these areas are always needed—for ministers as well as those we are discipling.

We’ve worked hard to make these guides accessible and culturally relevant. They are available through Amazon in paperback and Kindle, downloadable as a set or individual guides, and have been customized to fit the cultures of the Vineyard, Lutheran, and Episcopal churches.

Photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash