Bounce houses in the church parking lot has been done . . . a lot. Easter egg hunts in the church lawn . . . yeah, there’s always going to be a couple of churches in your community doing that. And Halloween parties—I mean, fall festivals—are a time-honored tradition that will continue to provide another option for the Halloween naysayers every October 31.
There is a time for church gatherings such as these, but make no mistake: they are not the effective community outreaches some may think they are. Community outreach involves getting off the church property, allowing yourself to be uncomfortable, and meeting the people in your community where they are—not bringing them to where you are.
Is the willingness there from your outreach team and the rest of your church to get out into your community, but the think-tanks are coming up empty? Here are five ideas everyone can rally behind that may not be what they are used to when it comes to church outreaches, but the bottom line is they will be loving others as Jesus loves them, and that is all that matters.
Date Night: Okay, so right off the bat I’m going to break my rule of getting off the church property. But if you have the facilities that would allow you to serve others, then here is an atypical by highly effective way to do it. Advertise around the community free child care on Valentine’s Day. Do you think people won’t entrust strangers to watch their kids? Wrong! Don’t underestimate the strain on a relationship that having kids and no affordable babysitting options can have on a couple. With this event, you get to love on children, love on their parents, and encourage marriages. You can’t go wrong!
Community DIY day: They may not all know it yet, but your church is already filled with painters, plumbers, carpenters, and good old-fashioned muscles. To go along with that, your community is filled with businesses and schools that dream of the day when a stranger would walk though their doors and offer a morning or afternoon to do whatever renovation or repair or beautification project of their liking . . . for free! The most effective DIY day for your community would be one where you planned ahead, visiting different businesses ahead of time and asking if you may be able to serve them in one of these ways on a specific day. And then arrange for the right-size team to be there on that day. At the end of the day, all your different teams can meet for a barbecue or pizza party and share all their great stories from the day. And trust me, those they served that day will be going home and sharing stories of the amazing love of your church members too.
Car-Care Clinic: You can be guaranteed that every single driver you see out on the streets also has car problems from time to time. Or at the very least, they are needing to change the oil every few thousand miles. Do you have a few people in your church who are familiar with car engines and love to get greasy? Then find a way to merge these two groups of people and host a free general car maintenance day, either in your church parking lot or perhaps even the parking lot of a willing local business. If you can find a way to gear it toward single women, that’s even better. But no matter who comes, you are loving and serving a child of God in a way they desperately need.
Feed the Firemen: If your local Fire Departments are like mine, they are filled with men and women, some volunteers, 24/7 who do not leave save for the emergencies they pray never come. Though they probably have a wonderful fully-equipped kitchen in their precinct, those don’t come fully stocked with their own personal chefs. But like us, they still need to eat. How about arranging different groups in your church to go to multiple local Fire Departments and bring them dinner as well as bags of groceries to stock their cabinets and refrigerators with? Be sure to plan ahead with the department captain to find out the best way to serve them in this way.
Back-to-School Backpacks: You can never go wrong when you’re loving children. Partner with a local school(s) and donate backpacks filled with school supplies and snacks to children whose families need financial assistance. The schools should be able to easily get these to the right children by simply looking at the list of those who receive free and reduced lunches at the school.
Kevin Harvey is the author of two books, his most recent being All You Want to Know about the Bible in Pop Culture. He also writes at BibleInPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter under the handle @PopCultureKevin.