Outreach Ideas for small churches

Last year we had 300 first time visitors at our church. I think that’s a lot of visitors for a church running 100. I’d love to tell you we kept them all, but we didn’t. Often we get asked what we do to attract visitors. We’ve had over 1,200 visitors in 5 years. I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are some simple things we do.

Festivals.

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If there is a community gathering, festival, event, etc, we are there. We rent a booth and give away peanuts and church information. it’s a simple way to get out into the community and meet people. Most cities have festivals with booths available. We invest about $1,000 in the two festivals we participate in every year. We have people attending our church right now that we met at these festivals.

Postcards

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When we launched we mailed 10,000 postcards. About 60+ people came from the mailing alone. We tried it again on our 1 year anniversary. The results were like 10-15. What happened? We had peaked in that 10,000 postcard market. We learned a valuable lesson 3 years later when we mailed 10,000 postcards advertising our community day. Lesson= give them a deadline or date to be there, and give them something they want (free food and carnival). About 100-150 visitors showed up to our community day. About 20-30 came to church the following Sunday. This leads to our third outreach tool…

Cookouts

time to eat!

Where there is free food and games, there’s a crowd. This past summer we had our VBS. 17- 20 kids showed up each night. On Friday we pushed a big cookout. We had food for 75 and ran out. Count on it, if there’s a cook out, people come and invite their friends.

The most important aspect of outreach events is planning. The more time we have to push an event like a cookout, VBS, or a big Sunday etc increases the likelihood of it being a success. Getting the information into community calendars around town or online or on the radio with K-Love requires you to know the dates up to 60 days in advance. Plan out your year around 3-4 big events/services. This will give you and your people time to get it ready and invite people.

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Grow your church quick: just another get rich quick scheme

We see them everyday. Signs, ads, commercials for stuff that is too good to be true. The majority of scams and schemes out there tell you they can make you an over night success. Many people believe these infomercials, emails, and websites, because they desire so badly to get rich quick. Others usually refer to these people ignorant, foolish, simple-minded, etc. Here are a few verses dealing with obtaining wealth.

Proverbs 23:4
Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.

Proverbs 28:19-20
He who tills his land will have plenty of food, but he who follows empty pursuits will have poverty in plenty. A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished.

Proverbs 14:15
The naive believes everything, but the sensible man considers his steps.

Now back to my title. What does this have to do with church? I believe the great majority of church leaders and pastors are falling for a spiritual version of the get rich quick scheme: grow you church quick. We watch videos about huge mega churches building new campuses and begin to desire to see our ministry do the same. We start reading about what other churches have done, and attempt to mimic their “success.” Millions of dollars are spent every year on book, conferences, resources, etc to show us how to grow our churches quickly. Don’t misunderstand me here, I am all for books, conferences and bettering ourselves and our ministries, but I am afraid many are walking away convinced success, growth, increase, can be built up in a year. Am i saying God can’t grow your church? No. Am I saying God doesn’t want to increase the kingdom? No. I am saying if we aren’t careful we’ll get so caught up in the “stuff” that goes along with growth, we’ll start chasing growth, buildings, success, and everything else except the main thing: growing the kingdom. Here’s my point: when a person starts trusting a scam, they start making poor decisions. When we as leaders start trusting in programs, ideas, processes instead of the power of the Holy Spirit, we will start making unwise decisions.

What is the goal? To grow the Kingdom? Let’s ask a tough question. For the kingdom to grow does your church have to have a 5 million dollar sanctuary? Or could your church send 100 missionaries and 5 million dollars around the world and do more for the kingdom? Kingdom mindedness takes the emphasis, glory, pride, possessions, away from us.

The sobering truth is this: anything worthwhile, takes a while. Apple, Microsoft, GE, Toyota, and Walmart didn’t become huge companies in one year, it took real hard work over a long period of time (sometimes generations). The hard truth is: impact takes time. People who want to get rich quick are always changing their minds. One day they want to start a business, the next they want to invest in a penny stock. They don’t stay focused on one thing long enough for it to work out for them. Many churches are acting the same way. One year the push is Upward sports, until it gets tough to find workers and growth didn’t happen as quickly as they’d hoped. The next year their main push is starting a new ministry (a new banner and cool name is all you need right?). The following year they quit that and start a TV ministry, but as that gets expensive and again nothing happens immediately, so they bail on it too. Ministry shouldn’t be a multiple personality disorder. It only shows our weakness for desiring quick easy success. There is nothing wrong with trying new things, but our generation is so addicted to instant gratification that we simply aren’t willing to wait on God to move and grow His church. We feel we must DO something NOW.  Our mission should remain unchanged as we use new methods over the long haul to grow the kingdom of God. Besides Jesus said He would build His church, so why do we exhaust ourselves attempting to do what only He can do?

Church Planting Models: Multi-housing communities

We love reading about church planting. We are always researching to find out what people are doing to start new churches in places people might often overlook. CrossPointe has met in a house, a hotel, an elk’s lodge, and finally a funeral home. However, there are numerous models for starting a church in a school, rec center, or even outdoors. Over the next few posts I want to look at a few of the models for starting a church. Today I want to focus on the multi-housing model.

What is a multi-housing community church model? Until a few days ago I had never heard it called this. It is simply when a group of people start a church inside a Multi-housing community (Private Apartment Communities, Condominium Communities/Community Associations, Manufactured Housing Communities, Public Housing Communities Senior Housing Communities). In this model, a church planter moves into one of these communities with the intentions of renting the cummunity center/party room/conference center/clubhouse that many of these communities have. Many of these community centers have parking for outside visitors as well. The goal is to plant a church within walking distance of 1,000+ people.

Why use the multi-housing community church model? Here are some stats from NAMB (SBC Mission Board): An estimated 57 percent of all people in North America reside in multi-housing – apartments, expensive high-rises, mobile home parks, condominiums and townhouses.  An estimated 95 percent of them are lost without Christ. That works out to over 150 million people living in High rise, apartment, mobile home, and public housing communities. Most of these communities are closed. You can’t solicit, invite, or even direct mail most of them. Many are gated, walled, and closed off as a community within a community. This church planting model places the church community within a smaller community inside the bigger community. 1 out of every 2 new housing projects in America is using a community based model. It is quickly becoming the wave of the future, and people are starting to prefer living in a smaller community within a big city. The good news is: people want community- something the church has.

Another reason to use this model is the cost. If a community is looking to rent their clubhouse, it is usually very affordable. Most of them are large enough for 50+ people. The management is key. If you can form a relationship with the office staff this will help immensely.

Who is using this model? Many denominations have started using this model for new church plants, as well as a mother church models (a church adopts an apartment community in the area, and begins mid week Bible studies in the apartment community). In our denomination I have known of a few missionary teams using this model lately. One team in particular is Jeff Goodman and Josh Bennett. Recently, I asked Jeff a few question about their church plant in Marana AZ. Marana is 15 miles north of Tuscon, where 90% of the population is unchurched. They started holding Bible studies in an apartment community that both Jeff and Josh moved their families into. They are not even a year into the plant and are seeing God move in a mighty way.

Here are Jeff’s answers to some questions I had about the church model.

When you guys moved your families into the apartment community, did you know you were going to start using their facilities to meet in? Was that your goal? Yes, we moved in here planning to use their facilities. It is a community within a community. We see people getting their mail, walking their dogs, playing outside, etc. We were upfront with the office staff when we moved here about our plans, none of them went to church but they were very helpful. Building community even through a church plant helps them retain leasers.

 Is it hard to rent the facility in the community? Are there times when it is over-booked?  Nobody ever rents the facilities here but us. We have had superbowl parties, christmas parties etc.

Does the apartment community model have some drawbacks?
 

 

 Can people from outside the apartment community join the Bible study (are there places for them to park)? We have plenty of parking in the main lot and overflow if we need it inside the complex. People are allowed to come from outside the complex.

How many people at your Bible studies live in the apartment community? We are around 70% apartment people to 30% outside people. 90% of our group are unsaved and far from God, but that is the type of people we are looking for, the lost! They love each other are thrilled to have met friends and work super hard. They are all very excited about helping us launch our church about a mile away. We will still have several things at our apt. complex rven after our launch.

Is it expensive? We pay $50 per use to rent the community building it is normally 75$ but our apt. Manager got us a 25$ break and we did not even ask them to do that. We have a large open area with a kitchen, a conference room and a movie room, which we use for a nursery along with 2 nice bathrooms.

What’s been the hardest part when it comes to planting a church in Marana? Hardest part-meeting new people is always a challenge, but living here at the apt. complex has truly helped. The city of Marana told us we could not post a sign about our bible study on or near the sidewalk it is their property. The office manager at our apt. complex told us to put it next to their sign by the road. She said Marana doesn’t own that property. No other problems from the city of Marana.

What are some highlights so far for you guys?  All 3 of the office staff now attend our bible study and Jessica (ast. Manager) was our 1st baptism. We love that 90% of our people are unchurched, those are the people we want to reach!

To find out more about Jeff and Josh and the Marana church visit their website http://www.themaranaproject.com/

 

the current crisis in youth ministry

When I was in high school I attended youth group activities quite often. I was warned that at age 18 many teenagers leave church. I watched at age 16 though as many of my friends became disinterested in church. The exodus used to occur at 18-20 years of age, but now I am seeing signs that kids are leaving church at age 15 and 16. The church has lost its ability to connect with teenagers and even kids today. What has changed? Is the church doomed? I believe there are many answers to these questions. I also believe that we don’t want to hear some of the real reasons kids are leaving the church. I have three questions I believe we need to answer honestly.

Why is the church trying to compete with sports and activities?

 Over and over I see programs at churches aimed at kids who want to play sports. The thought is “if you’re gonna play sports, why not do it at our church?” Many kids programs at churches rely heavily on using games and sports to keep kids involved. Churches are investing lots of man hours, money, and space in being the hip new place to play sports. When did the role of the church transform from teaching kids about God, to training kids to be athletes with a hint of spirituality. When did we stop going into the sports world as coaches making a difference, and start sectioning off our own little christian leagues with few if any lost people?  When did Sunday morning become this big game we play with kids? We have themed rooms, professional stages, bright fancy areas for games, etc. When God sees us turning kids ministry into a carnival, do we really think He is pleased? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for top notch, first rate kids programs at church- if discipleship is the goal. With all the effort we have put into making kids and youth ministry in general more fun and exciting, why haven’t we seen a decrease in the numbers of young people exiting our churches. We aren’t just another fun place. We aren’t just another youth sports league. We are the church. Our job is to connect people with Christ, and teach them about His Word. Sadly not everyone will stick it out, but does this give us the right to fun it up to keep the numbers up? We are sacrificing the minds of real dedicated Christian kids to entertain the kids who just want to play soccer, dodge ball, or duck, duck goose. We’ve added so much stuff and fluff; the message is getting lost in the mix. We have to remember who and what we are, and what we are called to do.

Why is it that the role of a youth pastor is usually entrusted to someone who either has no children or is currently raising their children?

 Wouldn’t it make more sense to entrust this position to someone with a little bit of experience with raising kids. Imagine a youth pastor helping parents raise teenagers, and explaining how to deal with a difficult 13 year old girl using the illustration of how he dealt with his daughter when she was 13. Instead I am 25 with no kids, trying to help people with decades more experience than me. Sadly by the time most guys have the experience, they’ve moved on into Associate or Head Pastor Positions. I admire guys who are 40, 50, and older who still work with teenagers. Because ultimately it’s the parents we are trying to help. Many churches have this idea that the youth or children’s pastor should be a kind of second parent to the kids at the church. The truth is my job as a youth pastor is to equip the parents to train their kids to be Godly young Christians. I can’t raise a child or teenager in 4-5 hours a week. If a child is going to make it, there has to be a solid home life backing up what is being taught at church. The same principle is true in schooling. A teacher can’t raise good kids, even with the 45 hours a week they have with the children. Kids are capable of being taught any and everything. So the question is what are Mom and Dad teaching them at home? Next what are they being taught at school? And finally what are they being taught at church? I decide what they are taught at church. I can only recommend Mom and Dad what to teach them at home. I have no say in what they learn at school. How do we as youth Pastors overcome this challenge? I believe we need to involve Mom and Dad as much as possible. Tell them what you see hear by and about their kids. Have regular meetings with parents and kids to explain the goals of raising good Christian kids. Ultimately we have to reach Mom and Dad and help them be the best parents they can be with God’s help. It won’t be easy. It’s not the 50’s anymore. Most homes have two parents working at least two full time jobs. Kids have more activities than to fill their schedule than ever before. Parents are busier than they have ever been. We need to lift these parents up in prayer and let them know we are rooting for them.
Are we willing to deal with the silent sins in our churches?


There are some sins you hear people talk about all the time. However, there is one sin I rarely, probably never hear mentioned. Pornography is one of those silent sins. We preach against lying, stealing, adultery, murder, drugs, drunkenness, etc. However, over 50% of Christian men struggle with pornography. Close to 51% of Pastors say internet Porn is a real temptation, while 37% say it is a current struggle. Right at 28% of those admitting to sexual addiction are women. Two-thirds of divorces cite the internet as a cause. Let those numbers set in for a minute. We preach and teach on things some are dealing with while the high majority of sin goes unquestioned. Now consider that people don’t just wake up addicted to porn. There is a first time for everything. The adult film industry says that 20-30% of its audience is children. The average age for exposure to porn for the first time is 11. Over 70% of teen girls and 66% of teen boys admit to posting sexually suggestive content. Over 70% of kids get a cell phone within 18 months of their 9th birthday. In a poll of 300 girls, 30% of them aged 9-15 admit to sexting.
The internet is available not just at home anymore, but on your cell phone. A child can view porn on their ipod with an internet connection. I know of a boy whose mom had no internet, and no cell phone. However, he used his ipod’s wi-fi to pick up his neighbors router, and would view porn for hours every night. We have to realize the stakes are higher than ever. We can’t be there 24/7 to watch over them. Therefore, we have to teach them the dangers of porn. The talk used to be sitting your kid down and explaining sex. I’m afraid today we need to start talking earlier about something else-porn. Your child will have plenty of opportunities to view it. Let them know early how dangerous it is.
The real reason we don’t deal with it is simple- because many of us are involved with it. We get nervous talking about it, because we are guilty of it. We have to get ourselves clean, and prepare our kids for the most abundant source of defeat they will ever face. We talk to our kids at church regularly about the dangers of phones, internet, texting etc. It’s real, we need to be real about it too.
So back to the original question, “Why are kids leaving the church?” If teens struggle with a sin (like porn) they feel they can’t overcome, and no one will talk about it, why would they stay. They see the hypocrisy in a church that claims to help people, but won’t help them with the sin that is crippling them. Porn is eating our kids for lunch, and we sit idly by ignoring it. It’s not going away. In fact it gets more and more powerful as technology advances. We are experiencing the shift to 3D, so is porn! HD is crystal clear but the next wave is 2k and 3k, cameras with 3x the resolution of an HDTV and 10X the resolution of old TVs. Porn will be there, enhancing the experience they have to offer through social media, internet, phones, TV, Ipads, etc. The enemy has found a silver bullet for ruining kids, adults, marriages, homes etc. He’s winnig because we aren’t even fighting. We have to stand up for our people. Church, deal with the sin in your pews! Your people will thank you.

turning a funeral home into a church

A while back we had our first service in the new building. 92 people gathered at 2460 Pruden Boulevard for our first ever Sunday morning service in the building. The last few weeks have been busy. We spent a lot of time building, painting, hanging drywall, installing new electrical, etc. That day it all came together and it looked great. I got to thinking, there are a lot of churches looking for a place to meet, so here are some ideas we’ve run across recently:

Funeral Homes

Movie Theaters

Rec Centers

Schools

Local bowling alleys

College auditoriums

Skating rinks

Convetion Centers

Hotels

Here are some pictures of the process of turning the funeral home into a church.