This month we’ve looked at inreach—engaging with the body of Christ—here and here. Now let’s shift our focus to the outer world, to those who don’t yet know the sweet power of the gospel and the freedom it brings. We weren’t saved to live in our holy huddles; we were saved with a mission in mind, and that mission is waiting just outside the church walls.
Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll dwell on some practical ideas for outreach. Because we’re better together, most of the things I’ll suggest work most effectively when adopted by a small group (as opposed to living missionally all by your lonesome). Pooling resources and manpower not only makes these ideas more feasible, but also a lot more fun and fulfilling. My hope is to help us balance being the hands and feet of Jesus with inviting dialog about faith in a safe environment. Here’s a smattering of through-the-year seasonal opportunities to try. Pick your favorite and go for it.*
1. Fight back the winter darkness by hosting a Java and Jesus night at a local coffee shop in January to let people ask questions about God, church, faith, or life in general (bonus if you can buy coffee for participants—attendance will spike).
2. Put on a Valentine’s Day expo at your church. Arrange for vendors to come in and display their wares as gift ideas; have a couples’ symposium; host the newlywed game; give talks on communication and date ideas; set up a chocolate buffet; etc. (This could also work for Christmas with vendors, a gift wrapping booth, a craft/recipe session, talks on how to budget for the holidays and ways to decorate festively, etc.)
3. Create a real community Easter egg hunt: hide a few plastic eggs around town that hold a church info card, a prayer for the finder, and a gift certificate to a local restaurant. Encourage social media participation.
4. Offer a spring cleaning day giveaway to an elderly person, a harried single mom, a disabled individual, or someone else in the community who really needs it. Have them vacate the house for a day, and then descend upon it with the purpose of cleaning, brightening, and sprucing up both the interior and exterior.
5. Hold small Mothers’ Day and Fathers’ Day giveaways for different vicinities. Choose recipients out of school kids’ nominations, out of various workplace nominations, out of friends’ nominations, etc. (This means five different moms might be awarded a small pamper pack, etc.)
6. Participate in your town’s local beautification days. If they don’t exist yet, what a cool impact for the body of Christ to make, bringing redemption to the inside and the outside!
7. Kick off summer with a block party. Think hot dogs, a family movie, slip ‘n slides, games, prizes, sno cones, etc.
8. Set up a table at local events (like Putnam’s River Fires and First Fridays). Be willing to chat, pray, answer questions, and give out freebies/info about your church.
9. Partner with the library’s summer lunch program (or start your own if there’s not one in your area) to be available for food, games, readings, entertainment, or just meaningful conversation with kids in need.
10. Provide back-to-school haircuts, school supplies, and outfits for children who live in the government housing units.
11. Serve donuts and coffee in the parking lot on the first day of school.
12. Tailgate at big ball games, inviting the community to chow down on some fabulous food for free.
13. Get involved in townwide Trick or Treating. Set up an after party at your church and let different members or small groups decorate booths and give out candy (like Trunk or Treat except with inside tables instead of outside cars); hold a costume parade for the kids and give prizes; have games; etc.
14. Prepare and deliver boxed meals to shut-ins on Thanksgiving morning.
15. Have an acts of kindness spree for the month of December. The more creative, the better.
16. Set up a booth at the Christmas parade to give out free cocoa/coffee and hot hands packs. (This can also work for lemonade/water at the 4th of July fireworks show.)
17. Host a townwide Christmas party at the church, complete with cookie decorating, carols, stuffed stocking giveaways (for kids and adults), movies, card making, etc.
18. Provide Christmas presents for underprivileged kids at the school and offer to help sort/prep them.
Admittedly, some of these are way more involved than others. But can you just catch a glimpse of what it could be like, how it could change lives, if God’s people rose up with all of our resources and holy energy and the power that comes from on high to push back the dark? Sure, it’s daunting—the work is much and the workers few. Do what you can and rest in the fact that Jesus’ cry of “It is finished!” covers your heart and fears just as much as anything else. He made a way for this broken mess of a world to know healing and beauty and purpose and hope and grace. Let’s get busy, shall we?
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works…
*Please check with your pastor before doing any of the big public ideas. He’ll know how to help/encourage/advise you as you get started making a dent for the kingdom, and it will give him happies that his people are taking initiative.