By Mary Frances
Time for Outreach
Keeping Congregations Connected is a series on strategies and tools for helping congregations survive and thrive in the face of the COVID crisis.
Click here for the previous post.
It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that just about everything you learned about how to do church has been turned upside down in the last several weeks. You have led your congregations through change that may have taken decades previously, you have turned on a dime to offer virtual worship, online bible study, and calling teams for pastoral care.
And to all of that I say, well done!
And now that you have all of that (AND Easter) under your belt, is it now time for outreach? How do we make sure that the people outside of our communities can access what we are doing online? How do we continue to invite, connect, and serve? I realize that this may seem a bit extreme to some, yet I think about the disciples, in the upper room after the resurrection, scared for their lives. And what did they do? With the blessing and breath of Jesus upon them, they went out into a very scary world and told about what they had seen and experienced. It’s our turn to tell about what we have seen and experienced. Perhaps we can’t go out physically, but we can still connect and invite. The time for outreach is now.
Here are just a few ideas for ways to move beyond the walls of your virtual community:
- Maybe it’s time for a mailing to your neighborhood. Yes, a physical, hard copy mailing to the geographic community around you. Let them know about your virtual worship and other online offerings. Include a personal invitation for them to join.
- Inviting a friend is still the most effective way to bring people to your church – virtual or otherwise. Encourage your community to invite friends, family, and neighbors to your online experiences (many are doing it already without your encouragement).
- Support your local coffee shop and invite the community to join you online. This is truly a win-win. Contact the manager of your local coffee shop that has drive-through service. Offer to pay for the first 20 cars that come through the drive through on a particular day. Of course, the number of days and number of cars can be flexible depending on your outreach budget but, let’s face it, you probably haven’t given spending much on outreach lately. Include with the free coffee a postcard invitation to an online event that is not worship: your online office hours, a virtual social gathering time, happy hour, etc. You will want to include other online information but be sure this first invitation is open, easy and non-threatening… just a get to know you, check in with the neighbors kind of thing.
- And finally, an idea from one of my clients. They were planning a big spring community barbeque and figured that plans for that had to be nixed. But what if they didn’t cancel? What if they delivered barbeque and all the fixings to their neighbors and then invited them to an online party with music, games, and get-to-know-you time? It’s doable and who wouldn’t love a little barbeque?
These suggestions are just that: suggestions, and also the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ways that you can reach beyond your virtual walls and stay connected with your local community. There are ways to still be the church outside of our buildings and beyond our computers.
What are some of the new ways you have started doing to make time for outreach with your congregation?
This blog post is part of an ongoing series. Future posts may include
- CDC Social Vulnerability Scales and Other Tools and Strategies to Locate Vulnerable Neighborhoods and Populations
- Things your congregants can do to create a sense of community with their own neighbors and neighborhoods.
- Tools and strategies for hosting online fellowship.
- Tools and strategies for facilitating online bible study and formation.
- Tools and strategies congregations can use to locate and reach populations most vulnerable to COVID19.
- Tools and strategies by which judicatories can resource their congregations.
- Before You Go Back to the Building: Tools and Strategies to Prepare You for the Aftermath and Recovery.
Want to help your congregation more effectively engage the neighborhoods it serves?
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Important Note: A Neighborhood Missional Intelligence Report can also be a useful tool for identifying the prevalence of at risk groups within your membership and ministry areas, and a Neighborhood Missional Assessment can help you identify the neighborhoods where they are most prevalent.
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FaithX is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and Ken’s faith-based consulting practice at FaithX is carried out under an extension of ministry from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington.