When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." John 8:12
Random Acts of Kindness Service Projects
Encourage your church to adopt a community service project such as sponsoring a youth center, developing job training, distributing food, cleaning people's homes, and/or cleaning up neighborhoods, local shops, and businesses. Provide safe and value-centered local entertainment. Find out from the schools how to help out with educational programs. Partner with secular local organizations, women's needs, men's needs, and health outreaches such as vaccinations and checkups. Start a health center. Of course, sport outreaches are phenomenal successes in most areas. Now, consider what the church is not doing that it is called to do, such as an outreach to people suffering with AIDS. Still need more ideas? Need money? Our government in the U.S. has lots to give and few churches are applying for it. Faith-Based and Community Initiatives Grant Catalog is available at http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/fbci/grants-catalog-index.html
The needs are endless. Start by selecting and targeting the greatest need you can fulfill. Do not bite off or promise more than you can deliver. One great idea that my youth group did a few years ago was to help elderly persons and underprivileged people by doing simple gardening and light maintenance in their homes. This was very well received and we were even written up in the local newspaper. My Junior High group painted a disabled person's house. We also did "Parents Night Out" (see our website, www.intothyword.org, at the Youth Ministry Channel for more details) and provided free babysitting once a week to give community and church parents a much-needed night out.
What are the various needs you and your church can fulfill? A service with no strings attached? This can be an all-church endeavor, and a platform for evangelism. If your church is too small, OK; partner with other churches or para-church organizations for this. No time? Be the wallet and find another church to be the hands and feet. You will find success in partnerships and cooperation!
Super Bowl/ TV Sporting Parties
Rent a big projection TV with a great sound system and invite the community to view any major sporting events such as boxing or baseball; offer refreshments and babysitting, too. This can also be done for movies. The key for this to be effective is your being willing and able to offer sincere hospitality with care without force or pretension.
Going door-to-door in your neighborhood and seeking information on how you, as a church, can serve them better is a great way to get to know your neighbors and their needs. This is the method Willow Creek uses! Keep it short and simple so as not to tie up your neighbor's time, and be very friendly! There are always people who do not want to talk, and there are those who do. The biggest barrier to this is the misgivings and fears of your congregation. The people of the church must relinquish their fears and embrace the call of Scripture to seek out people and then make Christ known to them.
Small Group Outreach
There are numerous good programs out there that are designed to bring Christ into a neighborhood. "Alpha" is a small group introductory Bible study imported from England by Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena. This program has had great success in this area. My church has been doing this for several years with great success. It is a video series that trains and equips ordinary Christians to do extraordinary outreach (http://alphacourse.org/).
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 22:37-39
There is also a program from Campus Crusade for Christ called "The Lighthouse," which is a neighborhood prayer and evangelism tool. This is a wonderful way to reach out to your neighbors by opening your home with care to share with prayer (www.missionamerica.org/). I had the privilege to be a small part of this when I was on staff at Campus Crusade in the early 1980s. The organization I am a part of, Into Thy Word, is partnered with Mission America that now facilitates this "Lighthouse" movement. I have found that this is the most successful evangelism endeavor that I personally have done (for more information see the following chapter on "Prayer").
Consider programs such as having a neighborhood "invite night" as good and effective. Once a month on a Thursday night might be designated as "Invite Night" where members are trained and encouraged to invite the people in their lives who do not know the Lord or have fallen away from Him to their homes for fellowship and friendship. People are more likely to go to a home then to a church. Once they know you, then they are more inclined to participate in the programs of the church.
And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. 1 Thessalonians 5:14
Offer good programs with qualified, trained leaders for people suffering from various addictions. This is a prime need in any community and the church should fill this role. Then offer babysitting, refreshments, and get to know them. They need encouragement and prayer; be the church that does this most needed work (www.rapha.info)!
With your surveys and these evangelism tools, you can invite people to your church programs. Start off with baby-step programs such as the "Matthew 10" idea, then maybe get a big screen TV and invite people to watch Monday Night Football or movies. Try having concerts or dinner parties. The possibilities are as endless as the ideas. The key is to model Christ's character and show hospitality as we are called to do.
What Causes These Programs Not to Work?
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:31-32
Not doing these programs or not doing them with sincerity and care will cause them not to work, as will a refusal to pray! The church leadership must be supportive and encourage outreach. Another reason these programs fail is that many churches just do it without forethought or training. Providing training for these events and follow-ups for members is essential. Without follow up and discipleship, the church's back door becomes as big as and sometime larger than its front door.
Having a "follow up" program to disciple people is essential. Remember, the Devil always follows up! Do you? Without follow-up, all of your witnessing efforts may be in vain! Most people who accept Jesus as Savior go back to their normal lives after a few weeks. The main reason for that is they did not fit in. The church did not welcome them, did not treat them well, or did not mentor, place, or encourage them.
The more organized you are in your evangelism campaigns, the more successful you will be! Who are the prospects? Who will witness to them? How will you do it? What are the people's needs? How can you meet those needs, such as digging a well or building a youth center? How will you follow up and disciple them? Have a map of your city and target area. Divide it among people, with a supervisor for each region. Have committed prayer warriors for each region and mark your progress.
Sometimes, people are traveling, just checking out what others are up to; others are looking for a new church home. We need to be sensitive, be aware, be concerned, be friendly, and be Christ-like. The friendly atmosphere and being a good host are your primary strategies for reaching out. We cannot effectively reach out unless we are reaching within and receiving Him.
Questions to Ponder
1. When people see your church, what are they seeing? Do you have a good reputation in the community? If not, what are you willing to do about it?
2. How are you with using the Scriptures? Do you feel you are infused with the Holy Spirit? If so, how so? If not, why not?
3. Take some time to consider what role God really does have in your life. Then, make the determination to make Him more involved!
4. Carefully and prayerfully consider how you are really trusting in God. Do others see this in you? If not, why not? What are you going to do about it?
A cheerful look brings joy to the heart, and good news gives health to the bones. Proverbs 15:30
Some passages to consider: Proverbs 15:30; 21:3; Matthew 12:33; Mark 1:35; John 1:1-14; Acts 8:12, 26-40; 1 Corinthians 3:6-9; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Galatians 5: 16-26; Colossians 3:12-15; Philippians 2:12; 1 Timothy 6. 14-16 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22; 1 Peter 1:2, 14; 1 John 2:26-29
© 2006, Richard J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org