More often than not, reaching out to your community’s children equals reaching out to their parents, and the key to reaching your non-church-going neighbors might mean you need to shift your thinking about how you approach outreach. We have a few outside-the-box ideas that will engage kids, families, and even businesses/organizations throughout your community!
Draw People in
Art Show. Team up with a community day care for this event. Kids make works of art and parents are invited to an art show held in your church. Mount the art on colorful cardstock to make the pieces look like they’ve been matted and hang them (gallery-style) with non-stick tape along a hallway, or in your community room. Attach a little card that includes the name of the piece as well as the name of the artist. Prepare trays with cups of punch and cookies and have volunteers walk around the “gallery” offering refreshments to your guests. Offer to give tours of your church and have a handout about your children’s ministry activities available to give to guests as they leave.
Piano Recital. Piano teachers need to hold their recitals somewhere, right? Ask around and you’re sure to find a music teacher who would love to invite his/her students and their families to your fellowship hall or sanctuary for a recital. Offer to print the recital program in exchange (and with permission) to add information about your children’s activities and service times on the back. Have a post-recital coffee reception so parents will stick around a few minutes and use that opportunity to invite families to visit your church again.
Scare up Interest . . . at Halloween
Treat Coupons. Make some simple coupons redeemable for a candy bar or some other treat. Include wording explaining how the coupon can be exchanged for the treat at your church at a certain date and time. Give copies to your members and ask them to drop the coupons into trick or treat bags—in addition to their treat, please—on Halloween night. Be sure you’re prepared with a coupon-exchange location that includes information about your children’s ministry, too.
Reverse Treats. This outreach idea actually involves your current roster of kids. Create a note that invites people to attend your church or Sunday school. Let your child sign his or her name to the note. Attach it to individual pieces of candy, or to personalized pens, magnets or other promotional items your church might have. As your child goes door to door receiving treats, he or she gives a treat back as well. You may have to help your princess or superhero explain the proceedings, but that gives you a chance to introduce yourself.
Reality Outreach. Admittedly, the To Hell and Back walk-through drama presented each October by Grace Chapel (Westerville, Ohio) is extremely outrageous. No matter what you think of this idea, Pastor Doug Meacham says the anti-drinking driving/texting event delivers a powerfully spiritual message. Grace Chapel has put on this event for years and it’s become an October staple in the community.
“The event takes guests on a journey through a teen party scene, followed by a very realistic car accident scene from distracted driving,” Meachum explains. “Then, the group will see a death notification scene by a police chaplain to the parents of the teen who died in the car crash, a police interrogation scene for the teen driver who took the lives, and a funeral scene.”
“At this point, the focus turns towards the spiritual,” he continues. “Guests are taken through an ‘outer darkness’ maze where the devil gives a speech about choices and the consequences of those choices.”
Again, you might need to think about outreach a little differently than you do now—so what do you think?
Judy Bumgarner is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee. She also works at Brentwood United Methodist Church in the church’s Caring Ministry.