Your church is ready to serve its community.
Maybe that service will be organized and implemented by your small groups.
Maybe your outreach team will plan a community service project that all your volunteers will step into.
But don’t let community service outreach projects become a substitute of personal evangelism.
- Let’s go out and feed the homeless.
- Let’s go out and build houses for Habitat for Humanity.
- Let’s go out and give away water at the bike race.
- Let’s give our community schools a deep cleaning.
- Let’s setup food trucks for first responders at the local firehouse or hospital.
These are all good “bless the neighborhood” mission projects for the church.
One Example of a Church Community Outreach
I remember on church that setup a free coffee station on Monday mornings in their parking lot.
- a community gathering spot,
- a relational context where evangelism can naturally happen.
Visitors who stayed and drank their coffee at one of the tables would get a card with church information.
Serving coffee in the parking lot on Monday can be a way to connect with the neighborhood and learn of its needs.
A church can raise awareness of its presence in the community.
But this is not personal evangelism.
Another Example of Church Community Outreach
One church I served does a community outreach around Christmas time.
Local churches ask their members donate toys and bring those toys to their own church by a given date.
Each church then brought all these donations to our church in the local low-income community.
A para-church ministry that works in that community then uses our building to sell those toys at a deep discount in that community – giving parents the dignity of buying gifts for their children.
Proceeds from sales during the market day buy more toys for sale that morning until funds run out.
At back-to-school time, there is a similar event centered around school supplies. The local principal comes and welcomes the new kids as well.
The church members who donate the first toys or first school supply bags never really interact with people in the community where the para-church ministry serves.
This is great community service, but not a place where personal evangelism naturally happens.
Personal Evangelism in Context of Church Outreach
Let me be clear. Church outreach projects do bless the community. These community service projects
- Build the reputation for the church
- Give volunteers community service hours
- Enhance the church’s positive image in the community
- Demonstrate the kingdom of God in acts of compassion and justice
- Give a sense of mission that inspires generosity and inspires invitations to church.
But awesome community service work can not become a substitute for personal evangelism.
Rather, personal evangelism can happen in the context of the church serving and blessing the community.
Church members can look for evangelistic opportunities to plant seeds through:
- Offering to pray with people being served or those who serve with them.
- Sharing a word of hope from a passage of Scripture
- Watching for the prompting of the Holy Spirit to have an evangelistic conversation.
Look for the Divine Appointments During Outreach
The Lord might just give us divine appointments to help a person move one step forward in their journey towards Christ.
There are a couple of different ways to create the context for those divine appointments during community outreach.
1. Setup a Prayer Station
A prayer station is a booth or table a place where people wanting prayer can seek it out.
Perhaps that’s a spot to give Bibles away.
People can be invited to fill out a card if they wish further follow up.
2. Church Information
You might want to setup a display booth with promotional materials about church programs, contact information, schedule of future events, etc.
This can give materials that can increase the personal invitations your members give to church
3. Gospel Information
Having gospel literature available could be another way to create a context for faith sharing conversations.
It can help church members as a discussion tool, and it can be a take home piece the Lord may use later.
Conversations about Christ give meaning to outreach
Do the recipients of your community service projects understand that your church’s outreach is movtivated by love for Jesus?
Do they think you are just another version of the Rotary Club, Kiwanis Club, a good corporate citizen, or a foundation that likes to give money away and serve the poor?
For a perfect illustration read Is Neighborhood Outreach Evangelism?
You can see how a pair of shoes on an Olympic jumper gives us great insight into this.
The essential point: Meaning is generated where none is provided.
When you do your community service projects, are your recipients generating their own meaning that is very different than what you are intending?
If we don’t look for opportunities to talk our faith while we are serving, are the recipients missing the point?
What is it about our work in the minds of the recipient that sets our work apart as being done in the love of the Jesus?
With our community service projects and with our outreaches, do we communicate that we are doing this because of the love of Jesus?
What motivates us to give ourselves away? What is it that motivates us to engage our community?
Does our community know that we are doing these things because Jesus loves them, and Jesus has called us to serve them?
Steps to grow on:
There is no better way than starting together with a shared project for your community.
Start small with a one-time act of service or go big and commit to serving together monthly.
The key to increasing the personal evangelism during these awesome community projects is to regularly remind participants to:
No matter how your church event is done, an important feature is to repeatedly do it.
This will help your church become known for in the neighborhood.
No need to be disappointed if there is not an increase in attendance at church the next day.
I’ve observed through experience that it may take a few years before people start trickling in after they’ve learned the church cares.
Let me ask you this:
Does your church regularly host an event that is geared towards serving the neighborhood?