Health and Growth

Church Outreach Ideas: The Definitive Guide to Maximizing Your Church's Growth Potential

It's easy to stunt church growth by relying on church outreach ideas that don't work. Use this guide to perform an honest self-analysis so you can double down on your strengths.

Church Outreach Ideas: The Definitive Guide to Maximizing Your Church's Growth Potential
by

Paul Maxwell

Church outreach ideas are often stale.

The bake sale.

The parade booth.

The dinner.

These aren’t bad ideas per se.

But it's easy for churches to get stuck in the frustrating place of trying to fit popular strategies to their unique location and resources.

The truth is that you must first understand how to properly analyze your church’s unique makeup of resources, and only then decide what outreach ideas are best for you.

In this article, we’re going to walk through the exact protocol you need to generate, optimize, and perfect outreach ideas that are unique to your strengths and needs.

Stop church outreach until you’ve done this 3-point asset analysis

Three points—

First, outreach is first and foremost about connecting to your community. If your community community knows you as the church that cares about the community, people will show up.

Second, you must devote marketing resources to your outreach ideas. This means putting up posters in local businesses, putting new banners out in front of the church whenever something new is happening, buying ad space on the local radio station, and most importantly, marketing through social media.

Marketing will require church staff to do three things:

  1. Write the words for the marketing strategy (Come to our movie event this Sunday, May 5th, at 7pm! We’re watching Cars 3!)
  2. Design the ad (anything from a template online to a sign in front of the church)
  3. Execute the ad on relevant channels (hanging the poster in stores and pressing “Post” on Facebook)

Third, make an outreach goal and timeline. If you don’t have a goal, you won’t grow as much. The actor Jim Carey tells a story about how when he was starting out in comedy, as a very poor man, he wrote himself a check for $10 Million, dated for Thanksgiving 1995. Shortly before Thanksgiving 1995, he made that $10 Million with his famous movie Dumb & Dumber.

This isn’t a guarantee that if you write something down, it will happen.

But if you don’t write a specific goal and give yourself a deadline for that goal, you are leaving your chances of success to the whims of chance rather than a strategy you come up with.

Do you want to grow by 10 members?

Do you want to grow by 50 weekly attendees?

Write down your goal, share it with your leadership, devise a strategy, and then share that goal and strategy with your congregation.

Ditch chance. Make your goal specific and strategic.

Assets for Outreach

Not every church has the same outreach opportunities, because they don’t all have the same resources.

Survey the list below to discover what are your church’s greatest assets before you commit to any outreach ideas. Only when you understand your asset strengths can you decide how to leverage them to meet your goal. biggest assets that a church has in place to serve its community:

1. Land

Land can be an asset in three ways — its size, terrain, and location.

If you have a large amount of land with smooth and level terrain, you can leverage that to host sporting events.

If you have large land, but it has rugged or forested terrain that isn’t good for sports, you can host other events such as 4-wheeling, paintball, and camping.

If you have a well-located church in the city, you can leverage that to make a public presence for downtown events such as parades, marathons, walks to raise money for charity.

A big lot means you should seek to maximize events that require a lot of space.

A great location means you should seek to serve serve at the cross-section of ongoing events.

2. Facilities

Your church facilities can be an asset in at least two ways — its spaciousness, its features, and its technology.

A church with a lot of space, such as a gym, can host indoor sports during the winter.

A church with unique features such as basketball hoops, or sectioned rooms can become a center for many community events such as winter sports, or addiction groups such as AA and Al-Anon. Most churches can leverage their stage as a location to host a local theater group.

A church with technology can become a hub for creators — during work hours, the church could convert high tech spaces into a co-working space for young professionals. Or, if a church has cooking technology—such as an industrial kitchen—it could partner with a local restaurant to host a monthly cookout or cooking classes hosted in the church’s kitchen.

3. Time and talent

Don’t overlook members with free time and valuable skills.

As a church, you can proactively organize ways to channel this free time into something productive and inviting for the community based on the strengths and the skills of the volunteers.

Don’t forget—people want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Asking for time isn’t always a burden. For many, the opportunity to serve is itself a gift.

4. Child safety

One of the greatest assets a church can offer the community is child safety.

As you should be coordinating with your local police department to run appropriate background checks for volunteers and run extensive childcare training for volunteers, the church has the opportunity to become a safe and trusted place for parents in its community.

This can be leveraged in several ways—for example, as a babysitting ministry (more below) or a safe place for youth to attend events in a warm and welcoming environment.

5. A diaconal fund

Many smaller churches lack a significant diaconal fund, but a devoted diaconal fund ensures that the church carries out the spirit of the early church, where “all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44).

This fund enables the church to give financially to people in need, or on a larger scale, to supply 0% interest loans to those who meet certain criteria.

10 Categories of Outreach Ideas

Most stock outreach ideas like “host a meal!” aren’t helpful, because it’s just a random idea—it doesn’t take into account the specific nature and makeup of your church.

Hosting a meal might be a great idea if you have people with the time and talent, and a building with the facilities to make it an enjoyable and interesting event.

Nevertheless, you should accurately understand your assets and weaknesses (above) and try to maximize your weaknesses by manifesting them in the form of the following kinds of events, which have an infinite number of applications.

1. Babysitting

For example, you could host a “babysitting night” for the church so that couples in your church can go out on a date.

When you market this event, flaunt how excellent are your childcare services.

If your church uses a software like Tithe.ly ChMS, you can showcase that participants will be able to receive regular push notifications updating them on the status of their child.

Make this night open to others in the community.

If people can trust your church with their kids, they are far more likely to attend a service and eventually become giving members.

2. Fund-raising for a local cause

Search local charity walks/runs and organize to send a group of church members to participate in the fundraiser.

Fundraisers really appreciate this, and this will establish a very positive relationship with a local business such as a hospital or research center.

More than that, other businesses and groups will see your church well-represented at this event, which serves as free advertising to business leaders in your community.

This supplies your church with social cachet so that if you ever ask them to participate in a charity event of your own (e.g., a missions trip fundraiser), they will be far more likely to do so.

3. Mental health education

Suicide is at an all-time high in the United States.

Most public institutions are not equipped to deal with these issues.

The church is God’s means of sharing the hope-giving gospel of Jesus Christ to the hopeless. The Apostle Paul writes: “God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).

Fulfill your calling as the church by educating and helping those about those enduring the dark stress of a mental illness.

More than this, if you have members who are equipped and impassioned to do this sort of work, you could be one of the few churches that has a ministry space on Sunday specifically for the mentally disabled.

4. Financial health classes

Host bi-annual classes on financial health and invite the local community.

Some good classes that provide full DVD classes, including books and workbooks, are:

5. Community gathering

People are lonely.

The New York Times recently reported that loneliness is one of the biggest problems in 21st Century America.

Solve this with community get-togethers hosted at your church.

This can include small groups, meals, and movies.

Give people in your community opportunities to interpersonally connect.

Don’t end it with a pitch to come to church.

Make the social connection the pitch for why they should come to your church.

Relational evangelism and discipleship is an indispensable tool and an undeniably attractive element in any church’s growth strategy.

6. Community service

Find local mercy ministries in your area, mobilize a group, and show up weekly.

Serve at the homeless shelter.

Partner with other churches in local ministry trips.

Find needs in your community and strategize how you can meet that need as well as possible.

Ask your local town supervisor or mayor how your church could best help the community become a better, more beautiful, well-integrated community of people.

7. Prayer ministry

People often need prayer and don’t know how to ask for it.

Christians often feel embarrassed to share their faith because they feel like it’s an imposition.

But to many unbelieving people, prayer is a fresh remembrance that God really does exist and helps those who ask (Luke 18:1-8).

8. Street evangelism

This church outreach strategy is often reserved for churches with an ideal urban location, rather than a rural church in a small town that would have to create a mobile cohort in order to do street evangelism.

9. Partner with local, like-minded organizations

This is one of the best church outreach ideas for those on a budget.

Find your local crisis pregnancy center and ask them how you can support. The beauty of these partnerships is that they are already putting on events. You get to do outreach as a church without taking on the difficult responsibility of event planning.

Reach out to your local Boy Scout and Girl Scout regional managers and ask if there is a troop in need of facilities.

Find ways that your church can participate as outreach instead of sponsoring every event in-house.

10. On-site coffee shop

An on-site coffee shop is a church outreach idea that many churches can offer their communities at a low maintenance cost.

Offer fast wifi and good coffee near the windows and you’ll draw lots of youth—especially over the summer.

Your up-front cost doesn’t have to be more than $500 if you already have kitchen facilities.

All you need are a good coffee machine, a blender for frapps and smoothies, a refrigerator, and signage.

Over to you

If you want a super simple rule for all your outreach, remember this:

The best outreach adds value to people’s lives.

Don’t lead with an ask.

Don’t begin a relationship with a marriage proposal.

Give valuable things to your community.

Listen — find out what your community wants, needs, and would enjoy.

And most importantly, use Tithe.ly ChMS to manage your outreach.

This is an all-inclusive church management software that allows you to send push notifications, manage groups, and schedule church events that notify just the right people.

Otherwise, all your work will be relegated to the black hole of Google Docs and Gmail threads.

If you want to do effective outreach, get Tithe.ly ChMS.

Tithe.ly ChMS even lets you turn any computer or tablet into a check-in kiosk so that you can capture visitor information and manager guest registrations.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by neglecting this simple and affordable solution to the heavy administrative task of outreach.

You’re called to outreach as a church, so do it excellently and simply with Tithe.ly ChMS.

Author: Paul Maxwell, Ph.D., is the Content Strategist at Tithe.ly. He lives in Fishers, IN with his beautiful wife and rowdy wheaten terrier.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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Church Outreach Ideas: The Definitive Guide to Maximizing Your Church's Growth Potential