Recently I came across a statement that challenged my thinking about our ministry as a church to the families of our community. Pastor Mike Holmes wrote, “We have learned that to reach people no one else is reaching, you often need to do what no one else is doing.” What exactly are we doing as a church to reach people in our community that no one else is reaching? Certainly there are families which have been overlooked by the “conventional” methods of evangelism and outreach whom we might have the opportunity to reach if we would target them specifically. I am afraid that too often we have tried outreach programs that did little to engage them, though they cost a great deal of money, time and effort. For a small church, with very limited resources, these efforts can be very frustrating when they do not result in any visible results.
To avoid this frustration and make our outreach into the community more efficient, Pastor Holmes suggests a simple plan. First, we must aim for our target. It is very difficult to reach people outside the church, if all of our attention is focused inside the church. In fact, it is necessary for us to find a way to export our church to the community at large, going to those whom we would like to reach and engaging them in an attempt at relationship-building. This can be done individually by those who have already found the church and collectively through special events designed for this purpose. Our 2013 Memorial Day picnic and Back2School Block Party are two such events.
Second, we must plan accordingly. The families in our community who do not attend our church do so for various reasons. In some cases, they simply may not be aware of us, and we need to become more visible in the community to capture their attention. (Of course, there are both positive and negative ways of getting attention, and I am not suggesting we make ourselves the infamous Emmanuel Baptist Church of Elkhorn.) Others may have some obstacle that prevents them from attending church, or even some misguided ideas about who we are and what we do. Special community events, planned with these factors in mind can help to eliminate some of this misunderstanding and help us build relationships with these families.
Third, we must promote our event. While printed media and advertisements may have some value, they are becoming less cost effective in our digital society. On-line ads are often much less expensive and can be targeted for specific audiences with a much higher rate of success. I am convinced, however, that “word of mouth” remains the most effective promotional tool. The question is whether each of us will take advantage of the opportunities within our circle of influence to engage non-Christians or believers who simply need a good church home.