Bright lights from local churches

February 22nd, 2016

The driver side headlight went out on our minivan, so I bought a replacement bulb and opened the hood. A few minutes later I turned the lights on. The new one shined bright, but now the other side looked too dim.

After another trip to the store, and a few brief moments under the hood (I had experience, so it went fast), I again turned on the lights. To my dismay, the second headlight remained illumination-challenged. How could this be? I returned the bulb and purchased a new one; still no change. Another return, another disappointment. Frustrated, I sat in the car and out of frustration flicked the high beams on and off, on and off, on and off. Ugh.

That’s when the solution came into view. Each headlight contains two bulbs, one for the high beam and one for low. I needed to change the low beam, but instead kept swapping out the high.  

Put the right bulb in the right place, and the lights shine bright.

In similar fashion, when a local church puts the right community outreach program in place, a light shines bright—which should serve as a priority for every congregation. Unless, of course, Jesus didn’t really mean what He said in Matthew 5:16: “In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.”  

Some programs illuminate better than others. Some are dim. Some are plugged in and use energy, but provide no light. Still others provide an amazing, halogen-like glow. Which one does the surrounding community see best? And how can a church know?

After all, the degree to which a church thinks a program shines bright pales in comparison to what those outside that church believe. So ask. Repeatedly. And ask the right people, of course.

As a provider of an outreach program for local congregations, Kids Hope USA encourages churches to gather input from schools. Why? Because an educator’s candid feedback serves as the best indicator of whether or not mentoring students makes lights burn bright. Bottom line: Place high value on the opinions of people whom the broader community trusts.

The hard questions church leaders should ask are these: What comments do we receive about our program(s)? Do they contain more punch than a requisite thank you?

A positive reputation (aka, bright light) happens as a result of what others say. 

Good news travels far and fast, which serves as the key reason why over 2,300 public schools now stand in line waiting for church partners to mentor at-risk students. The full credit for this escalating demand goes to the local churches (“…honor those you should honor.” Romans 13:7) who light up the dark world that too many students must navigate.

Of course many program options exist for churches to serve schools. Yet, congregations are wise to challenge how much light any outreach effort truly produces. This logic applies to any manner in which a congregation seeks to make a local difference. After all, a dim bulb requires as much energy as a bright one. Go for the halogen.  

Just make sure to put it in the correct socket.

Note: Today, 156 United Methodist congregations run Kids Hope USA mentoring programs. Learn more at

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