Last Saturday, the church that I have the privilege of serving in had its annual Independence Day Celebration. There were several thousand people on our campus. Many of these have never attended a Sunday morning service at our church. For some of them, this is their first contact with our church. For others, this is the only contact they’ve ever had with our church because many of them come year after year. But, this is one of three major outreach events we hold each year – the other two are an Easter egg hunt that we call Eggstravaganza and a family Christmas show that we call Jingle Jam.
And there are some key elements that must be present in order for an outreach event to be effective:
- The mission of your church must be central. It’s easy to get caught up and lost in the fact that these events are about an egg hunt or they’re about fireworks or celebrating Christmas with presents/giveaways. And, although these are important parts of the events, it cannot be the central thing. It’s about lives being reached for Christ. It’s about reaching out into your community and doing something positive for and with them. It’s about showing others the love of God in a tangible way.
- It takes a team to do it well. We always have a planning committee that is made up of both staff and volunteers. This team is tasked with coming up with ideas, planning the event from set up to tear down, recruiting volunteers, and generally owning the outreach. In my opinion, it cannot be done well with only a couple of people doing all of the leading and it certainly cannot be done well with only staff members doing the leading.
- Volunteers make it happen. Without those who attend your church serving as volunteers for these types of events, the outreach will fall flat. If people from your community show up and it’s only staff people working, then it gives the impression that your church doesn’t love the community. And, what better way to develop and disciple the congregation of your church then through a major, church-wide outreach event? It’s a great opportunity to create a synergistic, unified energy for your church that will take it to another level.
- Senior leadership buy-in is key. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I’ve far too often heard of churches where the senior pastor or other senior leadership does not have buy in to these types of outreach events. The momentum for the events definitely start at the top and trickle down throughout the organization. Senior leadership must be excited and on-board with the outreach event or it will fail – no matter how many volunteers and staff members are a part of it.
- Systems are vital. Who will do what? How will you follow up with the people that attended your event? What time will each part of the event happen? What happens if a kid gets separated from their parents? Who will approve budget requests? All of these and many more are questions that need to be answered prior to your event – and many can be answered through the intentional systems that you put in place. Make it clear and easy to understand.
- Get the word out. As a church, we often stay away from words like marketing and promotion. For outreach events, it is essential to having people show up. Use posters and postcards to put around the city in restaurants and grocery stores. Canvass a neighborhood with door hangers. Use billboards, radio, or tv ads to promote the event. The best way to get the word out, however, is your own people. Equip them with invite cards and empower them to invite their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and family.
- Create excitement in your own congregation. Make sure that your congregation is excited about the event. It goes hand in hand with the buy-in of senior leadership. If the congregation isn’t excited about the event, then it will fall flat too. Talk about it from the platform on Sunday mornings. Tell stories of life change and show video of previous events. We have a volunteer call-out lunch on a Sunday to do these things too and it inspires people to be excited as well as sign up to volunteer. We also have a volunteer pep rally the night before the big event to cast vision, inform them of the details of the event, allow them to meet with their area leader, and then pray for the event.
Has your church ever held an outreach event? What elements have led to its success? Where have you seen an outreach event fall flat and what was the cause? Comment below…