Church outreach ideas are often stale.
The bake sale.
The parade booth.
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
First, outreach is first and foremost about connecting to your community.
If your 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:
- Write the words for the marketing strategy (Come to our movie night this Sunday, May 5th, at 7pm! We’re watching Cars 3!)
- Design the ad (anything from a template online to a sign in front of the church)
- 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:
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 at the cross-section of ongoing events.
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.
Here are 10 great ideas for Christian church activities for your members as a way to bring your community together.
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. Fundraising 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 a social cachet so that if you ever ask them to participate in a charity event of your own (e.g., a mission 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, or a movie night.
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.
Possibly collect donations of school supplies for the upcoming school year.
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:
Great ideas add 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 manage 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.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on May 11, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.