It’s probably not a surprise that recent surveys and studies show that secularism is on the rise and church attendance is on the decline. But what may come as a surprise is that in our digitally-connected society, recent studies show that “social media” can be anything but social – in fact it may be leading to increased isolation and loneliness.
The people in your community are not exceptions to this phenomenon. So how do you reach a digital generation and show them that God’s plan is for people to be in fellowship and living in a faith community together? It just might take getting out of the church and out onto the streets of your neighborhood to meet, pray for, serve and invite.
1) Meet people where they are
As a church leader you want people to come to your church, but in a society that was not raised on weekly church attendance, going to church is a foreign concept that may seem like more trouble than it’s worth. So instead of spending resources to get people to come in, you may have more success when you go out – build relationships and demonstrate God’s love before you invite people into your church.
Ideas to get started:
- Make yourself a regular at a local spot. Study, write and answer emails from a coffee shop or diner. As you build relationships with the staff and other regulars you may just be able to have deeper conversations. Plus you will hear the concerns, stresses and struggles that are key to your community.
- Get involved with local sports teams. This is an easy task If you have kids – and really something that you can encourage every parent in your church to mimic. Attend practices and games, talk to the other parents, make friends, learn about their lives and then invite them (or the kids) to church activities.
But even if your members are past the “soccer mom” stage, supporting the local High School or college football and basketball teams are still great ways to meet people, support the youth in your church and connect with other fans.
Another sports related option is to put together a team from your church to play in a local sports league – just make sure all your players are good sports and can honor and represent God well even in the heat of competition!
2) Become a Third Space.
Often church buildings are not fully utilized during business hours or during the evenings. By opening your building up to other organizations for meetings or as a location for classes, you are providing a new avenue for people to get more familiar with your facility and staff. You may even want to think about working with local organizations to house an after school program or a senior citizen’s activity space.
3) Pray for Your Community
You probably already do this instinctively but what about intentionally and corporately? We all know that prayer is powerful and we are even commanded to pray for our leaders. But what if you planned and executed a more purposeful prayer plan with your congregation, such as sending out small teams to walk through a neighborhood and systematically praying for each household? While that may sound like a big assignment, “Prayer Walking” can be a great way to not only cover your community with God’s power but also to strengthen the faith of your members.
So what is a Prayer Walk? It is physically walking “onsite” and praying at the places you are trying to reach and change. Take a walk in the neighborhood around your house or church and stop for a moment at each home; ask God to meet that family’s needs, to bring them into relationship with him, and to enable you and your church to be a conduit to show them the love and forgiveness of Jesus.
Want to go even bigger, and organize all of your church’s prayer walkers? Well, it’s not hard now with a new app from Every Home for Christ (EHC). “Encounter Outreach” is a free mapping tool that helps mobilize the Church to reach their neighborhoods and cities with the Good News. Churches can organize multiple-group outreach initiatives and then view and track the collective stats – giving them a complete picture of the areas that have been reached as well as those that need additional attention. The app even lets users create a list of people they want to pray for and a list to follow up with.
Plus Outreach and EHC have partnered to give Churches FREE evangelism tools called Engagers that can be left at every home to start the conversation. The back of the Engager includes room for your church info so recipients can visit and learn more about Jesus. It’s a simple and powerful way to impact your community!
The saying “People don’t care what you know until they know you care” is really true; actions do speak louder than words. A good question to ask is what is your church doing to make a difference in the community? And the answers don’t have to be huge, complicated strategies that require a big budget, they can be as simple as recruiting a team of volunteers to help serve meals for the Salvation Army or local food kitchen, collecting supplies for a local food pantry, or organizing a backpack give away for a low income area.
One suburban church started delivering hot coffee and donuts to morning commuters at the train station one day a week and then serving hot cup of soup in the evenings. They were able to share God’s love to commuters, vacationers and the homeless population. Paired with other service activities, their church became known in the community as a church that cared and was willing to help others. What a great reputation to cultivate!
This one seems pretty obvious but being clear that your church wants new people to visit is a key step in evangelism. People are not familiar with church or Christianity may view church services more like a club meeting and may not realize that they are welcome to stop in any Sunday for service.
And offering multiple types of invitations multiple times is important – studies show that it takes up to 7 impressions before someone acts on an ‘ad’ and really a church invitation is just that. So take advantage of all the options open to your church including: Direct mail, personal invites, social media advertisements and events, doorhangers and outdoor banners.
Every Home for Christ’s website says this: “ONE ENCOUNTER WITH GOD – that’s all it takes to shake up and transform a person’s life. It gives hope to the hopeless, restoration to the broken, and healing to the hurting. It isn’t complex and doesn’t need to be elaborate. A simple word, gentle action, honest story or humble prayer has the ability to lead people to an encounter with God that changes everything. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been given the honor of playing a pivotal role in sharing the Good News with the world, inviting others to experience the saving love of God. When we intentionally interact with the people around us, we see amazing things happen!”
So make a commitment this ministry season to encourage your members and staff to get out into the community, meeting new people, listening to their stories, praying and serving needs and ultimately inviting them to meet Jesus. It’s time to hit the streets.