8 Ways Your Church Can Ignite Outreach
What are some of the most effective methods and resources God is using in churches today to reach people with the Gospel? We asked pastors across the country to share their concrete, evangelistic ideas that have been field-tested and proved effective in their contexts. We heard from smaller churches and larger churches everywhere from Alaska to North Carolina that have found evangelism success with specialized tools and curricula, outreach events, relational evangelism and more. Here, in alphabetical order, is what’s working for them. We want to hear from you too. Sign in or register and tell your story.
(1) Alpha USA
A weekly, 10-session course that gives participants a chance to explore the meaning of life and spiritual questions in a “relaxed, friendly setting”
Sharing Life Stories in West Des Moines, Iowa
Helping church members understand they can share their stories as a part of their normal relationships at work, home, school or neighborhood is a huge key to effective evangelism, says Caroline Boehnke-Becker, teaching pastor at Lutheran Church of Hope in West Des Moines, Iowa, a congregation of more than 8,000 people.
“Street preachers just aren’t effective because they have no relationship with the people they’re preaching at,” she says—a stark contrast to a regular person who can “preach a sermon every single day” through outward actions. “Too often we forget others are watching us closely to see if our actions match our words.”
The Alpha course helps learners open up about their own spiritual experiences, and they, in turn, can more readily enter into dialogue with others about spiritual topics, Boehnke-Becker says. The main points are for people to describe what life was like before a relationship with Jesus, how they came into a relationship with Jesus, and what life is like now, she says.
“I explain that their stories should be no longer than three minutes—to hit the high points and don’t bore people because attention spans are short,” she says. “And that they need to practice and be very honest.”
(2) Community Outreach
Simple acts of meeting needs and serving the community in different capacities
Focusing Outward in Monterey, Calif.
With 2,000 weekly attendees, Shoreline Community Church in Monterey, Calif., has found that a variety of special events to help the surrounding community have built bridges for the church to share the Gospel with others.
Lead Pastor Kevin Harney says the church recently organized a free training and job fair for people looking for work. Harney led participants in prayer before the day commenced and let them know that they could receive prayer or just talk about their situations at designated spots. “People were sharing their stories and being prayed for through the entire day,” Harney says.
Shoreline also provides backpacks to students from struggling families each year. The backpacks are filled with school supplies, a small Bible and a letter to students that shares God’s love and lets them know church members are praying for them.
Harney says churches also need to shift the focus of what they do for believers a couple of degrees to include people from the community as well. Doing so helps churches build “all kinds of relational and evangelistic bridges,” Harney adds.
Hosting Events and Serving Schools in Thompson’s Station, Tenn.
A big focus for Thompson Station Church in Thompson’s Station, Tenn., is having an impact on schools for Christ. One of the best inroads has been food donation—specifically hot dogs and hamburgers given to area middle and high schools that they can sell at sporting events (and keep the money).
“This gives us a good working relationship with the schools,” says Stephen Witt, the evangelism and discipleship pastor at the 2,000-attendee congregation. He adds that he helps coach at one of the local high schools, which gives him closer relationships with non-Christian teens on campus.
Thompson Station Church also hosts a number of community events throughout the year, including a fall festival and an Easter egg hunt, which each attract more than a thousand kids—and such activities lead to “pleasant dialogue” with parents—and then evangelistic opportunities. “When you love on the community, especially their kids, they are much more likely to talk with you,” Witt says, “and then we can share why we do this—because of Christ.”
Other ways the church serves the community include opening its doors as a voting place, as municipal meeting spots, and even for “Zumba” exercise classes. The key, Witt says, is learning your neighbors’ needs and meeting them—adding that a great way to find out is through surveys.