Recently on vacation I had an opportunity to talk with some people who are trying to assist their church with new outreach ideas. It seems we're (local congregations) always trying to find new ways to reach out to our communities. I applaud you for that!! NEVER STOP!! But like anything a church body does we must ask ourselves a few questions before we begin an outreach.
WHO ARE WE?
Does your outreach align with your churches identity? In otherwords if your church is loaded with artists but you're trying to do an outreach at a sporting event, eh, you may wanna think about another outreach. Why? Because an outreach at a sporting event is going to attract people to your church that are "sports" minded. When that individual walks into your church they may likely feel out of place.
Churches tend to attract people like them. Mostly, if the pastor is given full reign to lead, the pastor will attract people like them. That will begin to bring a certain identity and culture to the local church.
If your church is really, really good at cooking, then have a chili competition. Or have a meat fest night where members of the community can enter their chili, jerky, etc.
2. WHAT IS NOT BEING DONE?
Look around your community. What is already being done? Is there a food pantry? Or a Back to school bash? Then DON'T DO IT!! Do NOT compete with other organizations. Instead come alongside them and support them.
Find something that is NOT BEING DONE and fill that void. For example, when we started our church there was another local church that did a big back too school bash. They distributed backpacks, pencils, etc. to families. They were excellent at it.
As a local congregation we sat back and assessed. No need to "compete" with another church or organization. Because we wanted to reach out to our community and wanted to help the schools we provided things for teachers classrooms. We got permission from the local principal to provide, pens, post-it notes, dry erase markers, etc. to the teachers. Why? Because teachers go back to school too. They pay for all of those items out of their own paychecks. So our church did a BIG drive all summer long for those items and then a couple days before school passed all those items out to teachers.
Find what is NOT being done in your community and fill THAT void.
3. DO WE EXPECT AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT?
In our world of instant gratification we want to see results immediately. I know waaayyy to many churches that do an outreach and expect their attendance to increase. Or they expect to get a new family. Really? Ask yourself, "Why does our congregation do outreach?" Is it to grow numbers or meet a need? The answer matter and likely reveals the heart of your church.
Churches too often do an outreach and if they don't see an immediate response they don't do it again. STOP IT!!
Our church use to do an annual egg drop a week before Easter. Our first year we had about 500 people. You know how many of those people showed up for Easter that first year? Zero. None. Zilch. Nada. We had invitations to church printed up. We had a cool new series planned. We intentionally had people positioned for the sole purpose of connecting. We had bounce houses, face painting, games, prizes and I even shared the gospel message as we waited on the helicopter to come drop the eggs on the field. Our local congregation did that egg drop for three years before we saw a family come to church. It was consistently loving the community that eventually broke down the walls.
Before we ended it, the egg drop had reached a yearly attendance of 4,000 people. Size of our town? Two thousand.
Most churches I know would have quit after the first year when they didn't see their numbers increase. Why? Because all the effort, time and energy wouldn't have been "worth it." You must understand it's the consistency over the years that causes and helps your church break down the walls of distrust in a community. The community needs to see you're there for them and NOT to grow your church.
4. DO NOT ACCEPT MONEY
I shouldn't have to say this but I do. If your church is selling brownies, Strawberry Shortcake, having a rummage, and people are giving you money for it, it's not an outreach. It's a fundraiser.
This was our motto for any outreach. The outreach should cause people to feel so loved they get "whip lash" from doing a double take about what your church is doing. Make it meaningful. Make it over the top. Make it sound ridiculous to those outside the church.
Think about it, isn't that what Christ did for us on the cross? He left the beauty of heaven for this place we call earth then died gruesomely for us. That's enough to force us to take a double take. Well, love your community like that!!!
Here's what you need for an outreach to be affective:
Be Who You Are
What's need is NOT being met
Do we expect an immediate return
Do not accept money
Make People Sit up and take notice
Here are some outreach ideas we have done:
Eggdrop - litter a football field with 20,000 eggs
Back to School for Teachers - Provide things teachers need for their classrooms
Destress Teachers Week - The week of state wide testing for teachers provide snacks each day
Free Rummage - have people in your church bring gently used or very good items. Set up a rummage, maybe during a community rummage event, and give everything away. Don't even set out a donation jar. It's like legally stealing!! People love it!!
Year End Fundraiser - At the end of each year most churches do year end financial push. We did but from Thanksgiving to Christmas the money was to be donated to a non-faithbased community organization. We've given money to local fire department, police, school, parks department, etc.
Hand out Free Lightbulbs - Everyone needs lightbulbs
Give Away iPad or Large TV's - Each year our town does a village fair. They shut down main street and allow vendors, carney food, games etc. Our church set up in a vendor spot (we paid for it) and gave away 55" TV's iPads, and more.
Gave out Rally Towels - before the big football game against our rival we handed out rally tools with school mascot on them.
What are things your church has done? Post in comments.
If your church would like help coming up with outreach ideas, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'd be more than happy to meet with you or your church team.