Christmas events draw a crowd, but the beginning of the new year is also a strategic time for outreach. In January, churches typically attract true seekers: people who, in honor of the new year, have made a resolution to seek spirituality or Christianity in their lives. As a result, this season is an excellent time to offer seminars, classes or other programs designed to address your community’s felt needs. It’s also a good time to get a little creative and demonstrate to your community that you care about all of their needs. Consider these ideas from Outreach magazine:
Offer Rides Home on New Year’s Eve – Help the people in your community usher in a New Year safely by offering free rides home from New Year’s Eve parties. Notify party venues of your service beforehand and ask them to call or text you when someone needs a ride.
Help People Get Fit for Life – Is your church building empty most of the week? Offer a weight-loss support group, senior health or regular fitness class (aerobics, Pilates, etc.) at your church and invite the community to attend. Your church can demonstrate its concern for the whole person—not only the spiritual.
Plan a Community Football Game – The weekend or day before Super Bowl Sunday, hold a touch or flag football game that church members can invite their churched and unchurched friends to play in.
Support Simple Living – Offer a class in simple living (ala Marie Kondo). Promote it as the “Lifestyle Garage Sale: Getting Rid of the Junk.” Using life-mapping, priority assessments or other tools, invite congregation members and the surrounding community to simplify their lives and focus on priorities. Wrap up the class with a garage sale, encouraging people to not just unclutter their attics for the sale, but eliminate the other distracting “junk” in their lives as well. Donate the proceeds to a local food bank or homeless shelter.
Rescue cars stuck in the snow – On heavy snow days, send out teams with four-wheel drive vehicles. Using chains and other safety equipment, pull stuck cars out. Carry pots of coffee, hot chocolate or apple cider to warm up those you help.
Answer Spiritual Questions – Many excellent curricula are now available for leading seeker small groups. Offer a six-week class for people interested in exploring Christianity and promote it in your local paper with intriguing questions: Who was Jesus? How can you know for certain that you’re going to heaven? Make sure the classes are not high pressure; are open and honest; and are a welcoming place to authentically explore Christianity. Encourage worshippers to invite their friends, but the group should consist primarily of unbelievers.
Host Children’s Activities – During the winter school break, give parents a break by opening your church doors for kids to come and enjoy crafts and stories. Like a mini-VBS, plan to offer a short Bible lesson, teach the kids songs and facilitate games. At the end of the week, have the kids present a song during your Sunday services and invite parents to come see them perform.
Instill Financial Confidence – Many people start the new year with a pile of bills from Christmas, making financial issues a hot topic in the new year. Hosting one-night or multiple financial management seminars for your community with relevant topics like getting out of debt, planning for retirement, saving for college and thriving as a single-income family are all subjects that, if well-promoted, will definitely draw a crowd. When your church shows your surrounding community that it cares about the issues that are important to them, you begin to build a platform for connection.
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