Churches grow when they focus on outreach. There are tons of ways to grow a ministry, but outreach initiatives have proven themselves as useful for decades.
Outreach initiatives are cross-generational. Millennials and Boomers will engage in an outreach initiative…well, maybe not Gen-Xers, but that’s because the punk rock generation still has issues with institutions and authority. (Kidding!)
Not all outreach initiatives are equal.
Some outreach is more effective than others. In my experience, the best outreach projects are ones that create opportunities for conversations, for personal service, and that require involvement from large portions of your church body.
I’ve gathered the absolute best, most effective, most payoff, best ROI, most fun, and most engaging outreach opportunities that every church and ministry can pull off. Then I broke them down into which season of the year they work best.
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Now, I challenge you to invest heavily in three of these ideas…one each season. Let Winter be about Christmas events, but build up momentum with one of these ideas during each season. I promise you will see growth in your ministry in the next 12 months if you do that…and, of course, pair each project with stellar follow-up systems for the outsiders you engage.
There’s one catch, though.
Each one of these outreach ideas requires that your people be equipped to start conversations with strangers. The one key to making any outreach idea work is that your people have got to start conversations with strangers. There is no way that an outreach will work if your folks only talk to people they know.
That will take some actual training. So, consider using TrainedUp to get your people, uh…trained up…and ready to have conversations with strangers. Check it out on our home page.
- Advertise and host a community festival that encourages conversations.
About 98% of churches do a Fall Festival, but few churches equip their people to have actual conversations with people they don’t know. Equip your people to talk to every family that tosses a ring at a floating duck or parent that’s watching their kid in a bounce house. No human should be standing alone without someone talking to them. Period. That’s the rule.
- Clean up a strategic neighborhood that includes conversations.
There are two key aspects to this outreach initiative. First, talk to the people in the neighborhood about who you people are, what you’re doing, and why you’re doing it. Knock on every door in the neighborhood, leave a note in their mailbox or in the door jam.
Second, strategic neighborhoods are ones that are close to your church’s campus or one of your locations, a neighborhood that maybe has a heavier presence of people that attend your church living there, and one that needs to be cleaned, of course. Don’t pick a gated neighborhood across town with an HOA and a maintenance crew.
- Offer job mentoring for juniors/seniors at a local high school, which requires conversations.
Gather people in your church who have jobs, both bosses and employees at local companies, and approach your closest high school about offering a job mentoring and placement assistance program for juniors and seniors at that school.
If you can convince the principal, then you’ll have the opportunity to connect with dozens of young adults in a way that impacts their future and blesses their parents. And, what’s more, mentoring requires real conversations.
- Prayer-walk neighborhoods and include conversations.
Prayer walking is good, but praying for neighbors that you’ve talked to is even better. Setup a program to target neighborhoods with weekly prayer-walkers who knock on doors, ask for prayer requests, keep track of those needs, and then follow-up regularly with those families.
Bonus points if your people find ways to meet practical needs while praying for spiritual needs.
Summer is my favorite season for outreach. Instead of taking the summer off, flip the script. Families are less busy in the summer, so you have the chance to engage them. Yes, vacation can make some participation tricky, but that’s a small issue compared to crazy schedules in the Spring and Fall.
- Advertise and host a big back-to-school party for families that encourages conversations.
Whenever you run a “come and see” outreach project, you have to advertise it seriously. Of course, coach your people to invite, but you’ll need to invest in advertising to reach people that your church folks don’t know.
Like the Fall Festival, a back-to-school party only works if your church people talk to people they don’t know. If they’re standing around only talking to people they know, then the whole project is a waste.
- Advertise and host an “At The Movies” sermon series.
This one sermon series has probably had more growth impact in American churches than any other series in the last 30 years. Life.Church perfected the “At The Movies” series and now they’re running around 90,000 in weekend attendance. Surely they know something about making this series work.
- Host a school supplies thrift-away on a Sunday morning
I love this one. It’s super duper effective and easy to pull off. Every family with kids in school has to buy oodles of new supplies every school year. Some states do a tax-free back-to-school holiday, but that only saves a few bucks.
Your church can do a thrift-away. Allocate a budget and buy a ton of school supplies based on what teachers are asking their kids to have on their first day. Then host a one-day event where families can come buy school supplies at a ridiculous discount (at your bulk cost or less). Maybe offer vouchers for families to get a certain amount of supplies for free before they have to start paying anything at all.
It’s generous, meets a real need, and gives your people another opportunity to talk to people they don’t know. Again, train your people to have conversations with strangers.
- Advertise and host a weekly errand day.
This is my favorite idea of all. Moms with kids have a very long summer. One big issue is that moms don’t get a day of the week to run errands without dragging the kids around. You can help with that.
Bring together a group of volunteers once a week to offer moms a time where they can drop off kids for a few hours and run errands kid-free. The great thing is that you have a phenomenal opportunity to build trusting relationships with moms/families in your area.