Many churches do outreach events each Fall. If your community is like mine, Trunk-or-Treats and Harvest Festivals seemed to abound this year. But if your church is like mine, two things are equally true: 1) You don’t do these type of community events just because you like to. You do them with the hopes of engaging people with the gospel and seeing people come be a part of your church family. 2) Following up with guests from these types of events can be difficult at best. That being said, here are five ways you can see better results from your Fall outreach and other community events.
1) Be Intentionally Evangelistic. A lot of times we think we need to go soft on the gospel to attract people to our church. We might not even say this out loud, but we let our fear of offending people sway what we do at these type of events. In truth, I’d say this actually has the opposite effect of what we might be hoping to accomplish. These people have come to your church property. In general, they are expecting people to talk to them about faith and church related things. What happens when we aren’t direct is that they are constantly on guard about who is going to “hit them over the head” with some Christian ninja sneak attack. Being forward helps them put people at ease and opens up conversations throughout the night. We did this by stopping all games and activities each hour and doing a short welcome and gospel presentation from a central location. This went incredibly smooth and most people seemed to really enjoy the friendly welcome.
2) Invite Them Immediately. During the event we had several trunks that promoted other upcoming events going on at the church. As we handed out candy at these trunks we also handed out invitations to the families. Doing this gave us opportunity to let them know we were serious about continuing to minister to their families. An event can come off as a gimmick if you don’t show the families that you have a plan to continue to care for them.
3) Follow-Up Makes A Big Difference. Here is where most of us fail. The community event is over and we are off to the next thing on our calendar. If you do this, you are missing one of the greatest opportunities your church has to personally connect to the community. Here is how we did it: First, we registered almost everyone who came. Registration was required in order to have tickets for the free food we were providing. Each ticket was for a different food item. Not everyone registered, but a majority did. Second, we scanned the registration forms and sent them to a trusted data-entry company. That sounds like big bucks, it’s not! In fact, it might have been the best $20 we spent all year! We used Invensis Global Outsourcing Services. They compiled all our scanned contact information into a simple excel document within 48 hours. I was easily able to then forward the document on to church members who called the families, thanked them for coming, invited them to church, and asked how we could be praying for them. Families were blown away that we were thanking them for coming.
4) Follow-Up Again. Can this one really be overstated? In addition to phone calls, we also send out a “thank you” email. In the email we included a link to a short survey that asked about what we could do better, if we could add them to our emailing list, and how likely their family was to come to our church in the next few months. We received great advice and a lot of really positive feedback. In every follow-up we have asked if the family already has a church home. If the family responds that they do we then remove them from the next layer of contact. For those that don’t have a church home, we plan to send postcards in several weeks to advertise our Christmas sermon series and Christmas events. None of these ideas cost a lot or take a lot of man-power, but they do take intentional planning.
5) Be ready for guests. Over the next few weeks you will likely notice an increased number of guest visit your church. If you are not ready for them, they will leave as quickly as they came. Here is an article by Lifeway on how you can be ready: 7 Do’s and Don’ts of Welcoming Guest to Your Congregation.
None of these things are rocket-science. If they were I wouldn’t be able to do them. They also don’t cost very much and they don’t take very much time. Any church of any size ought to be able to put some if not all of these ideas into practice. As you do, pray that God would use your efforts to draw people to your church, to reach people with His gospel, and to build up His body.
Josh Carter is CABA's Leadership Catalyst and pastors Clough Pike Baptist in Cincinnati.