How many years has your church been doing Christmas outreach events? Most churches automatically put it on their calendars because it’s just “something we’ve always done.” Has it been done effectively or has it just become another one of those events to check off the list? That’s the hard question we’ve had to grapple with at Calvary.
One tendency that many churches may have is to reproduce the same event year after year. Although this may work for some churches, it may be the case that things have changed. Maybe your event was once extremely effective but has waned in recent years. Now’s your chance to rethink your strategy and reboot your event.
For us, outreach during the holidays is critical to reach people before the long Maine winter sets in. Here are the questions that have helped us understand and serve our community in a more effective way.
Who are we trying to reach?
We can get very spiritual and say that we want to reach “everyone” and that should be true, but in order to make the work effective, you need to be specific. By narrowing your focus to one or two primary groups in your community, your impact can be greater. Our focus will be to engage non-churched children and their parents. Just like most of you, we have noticed a great opportunity with families during the holiday season. But, by being more specific about how will reach them, we are able to better meet their needs and show them the love of Jesus.
Where should we hold the event?
It may be very enticing to put this question as number one on your check list for outreach planning, but you may be making a big mistake. For many of us, our location has been and will always be our church building. But, depending on your target group, you may want to reconsider. If you’re reaching people who go to your church, then your church building may make the most sense. But, if you hope to reach non-churched people, your church building may be less strategic than a more “neutral” location. Unless of course your church is in a very popular area.
For our outreach events at Calvary Baptist in Caribou, Maine, we plant ourselves where the most people will already be gathered or can be most easily reached. By moving our events to the most popular places in town, we engage hundreds more families than we would have at our building. For you and your church, please consider whether your location is the most strategic. The most strategic place will be where people in your community feel most comfortable and are most easily engaged.
How will we advertise?
The beauty of having your outreach in a location where everyone is already gathering is that you won’t have to advertise as much. But, if your event isn’t where your community is already gathering the best type of advertising is still word of mouth. Research continues to show that most people would come to a church event if their friends would invite them. After word of mouth, social media (like your church’s Facebook) is the most effective and inexpensive way to advertise. See this post for more on using social media to advertise your events.
Are we doing it with excellence?
Just like Jesus, bring the best to the party. Excellent service communicates love in a way that no words can, and this can open hearts that might otherwise shut you out like a harsh New England winter.