Big outreach events are fun & can be fruitful, but can also leave people & the church budget exhausted. Our church examined the fruitfulness of outreach & saw that more people had connected to Christ & our church through relationships & neighborhood events (block parties, small groups, neighborhood BBQ’s, etc.), than our big, expensive Spring Easter Egg Hunt. Doesn’t mean we should never do it again. Even if it seems unfruitful, seeds were sown & relationships cultivated. You never fail when you reach out in the name of Christ. But we wondered if we could put our money into Spring Outreach that had proven the most fruitful in our context & could give incentive for us evangelicals to actually get to know our neighbors. So our teams came up with the Neighborhood Outreach Basket. This Spring they provided two: Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt basket & the Neighborhood BBQ basket. Basically, a starter kit for a party!
And maybe your church can do both! Whatever it is, do something to gather people & cultivate relationships toward the Gospel.
For more info on throwing a block party check out my post Why Block Parties? And check out the Bridge Church Block Party Manual. For more info on Creative Outreach Check out my post Proven Ways to Plant Seeds & Cultivate Relationships.
Update: Here’s a couple of pics from a recent Neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt in St. Tammany Parish.
Our church & association of churches conducts a lot of Block Parties. Bridge Church does so many we decided to get our own Block Party Trailer. Our Associations Block Party Trailer is used at least 40 times each year for a wide variety of events. Recently I was asked if Block Parties are effective or just something else to add to a long list of things that keep Christians busy, but not bearing fruit. Here’s a few reasons why I think Block Parties are a great tool in the outreach strategy of a missional church:
1. GATHERING. Someone said there is three keys to church planting or church growth: 1) Gathering people, 2) Gathering people, 3) Gathering people. The Evangelistic Block Party is a great way to gather people or gather where people are & build relationships, share the gospel, cultivate community, & have fun doing it.
2. INCARNATION. “The word became flesh & blood & moved into the neighborhood” John 1:14 (MSG). A Block Party is a great way to get the church building relationships where people are. We do Block Parties in neighborhoods & subdivisions, at local parks. I also love to incarnate at the communities Block Party type of events. Why try to gather people when they’re already going to be gathered somewhere else. Just build the right relationships, show you care, & add Incarnational Christians to the party! Some good places to incarnate through Block Partying:
- Multi-Housing complexes. Many times the manager already has a budget for community events. He/she just doesn’t have the time or know how to pull them off.
- Subdivisions & neighborhoods. Use your yard or the communities common space.
- Area Events. Every community has a festival of some kind. Get involved, pay for space, or whatever you have to do to add your life to the party.
In the incarnation, Jesus got close to our needs. Be prepared when you get close to the needs of people to be changed & challenged. Incarnation can hurt if you have thin skin. That’s probably why we don’t do it that much. I can send a postcard mailer & 40-50% of the people will throw it away. No harm to me b/c I don’t see their reaction. When you’re there, you do see their reaction. You’ve got to know the season, which leads us to #3…
3. SPIRITUAL FARMING. There are really three reasons for any outreach event a congregation or small group conducts: 1) CULTIVATION, 2) PLANTING SEEDS; 3) HARVESTING. Block Party can be an environment for all three to take place. And it’s important to know ahead of time which one of these you are doing so that you can measure effectiveness.
Using Block Parties to CULTIVATE. Cultivation is an important part of evangelistic ministry & it’s something that we are leaving off our strategy as churches in the West (see Dr. Chuck Kelly’s great message about Spiritual Farming here) Why? Probably because it doesn’t net immediate results. But it is necessary for healthy multiplication of disciples over the long haul. If I plant seeds without knowing & improving the conditions of the soil, my garden may have a short life.
We’ve used Block Parties to Cultivate or initiate relationships in new communities over the past three years & it’s helped us in several ways:
- To show apartment managers & community leaders that we care.
- To test the spiritual soil or readiness of an area or population segment for the Gospel.
- To find the persons of peace in a neighborhood.
- To train a team & work out the kinks in the “how to’s” of Block Partying
What does a cultivative Block Party look like? No real agenda. Loud music. Food. Opportunities to interact & engage in conversation. A lot of “this is what we’re about” talk. And a hardy “WE’LL BE BACK’ when it’s over. Focus is on finding those few people that show interest & readiness to hear the gospel.
Here’s a list of goals that one of our Block Party teams recently wrote up for a cultivative event we do each month in our city:
- learn/memorize the name of one child you speak to (so you can call them by name next month when you see them)
- tell at least 10 people (total): who Bridge Church is, what we are about, and what we believe
- see at least one person/family we meet at the BP at another Bridge Church event – (“If you like what we do here at the Block Party, you would love coming to ______ (Our neighborhood block parties, Guy’s/Girl’s Night, Outdoor Movie night, FIA, Sunday morning service).”
- each time we speak with someone, have the conversation go beyond, “what type of balloon would you like”, “would you like a fan”, “what color face paint do you want”….actually engage others in conversation, “what is your name”, “where do you work”, “how long have you lived in this area”.
Using Block Parties to PLANT SEEDS. Cultivating & planting seeds are closely related. In gardening you’re often doing both at the same time. In Evangelistic ministry like Block Partying it denotes another step of intentionality. For us in some of our new communities where the soil has been hard, this has looked like…
- introducing New Testaments & giving them away to everyone who attends
- having a Mic & having someone give a quick testimony as to why we’re there
- inviting people to a follow up event like a Bible Study in the area
- or inviting them to church
Using Block Parties as a HARVEST tool. It takes a season to grow a harvest. It also takes mature plants, the right conditions, the right tools for a harvest, & a somewhat knowledgeable harvester. For an evangelistic Block Party to be a Harvest event you should have the trust of the people that have given you permission, people who are ready to harvest – i.e. that can share the gospel & lead someone to put their faith in Christ, & the right harvest tools. Some ways to use Block Parties to harvest:
- Have 12 or more people trained to actively share the gospel with the crowd.
- Have a Prayer or Spiritual Interest tent designated with trained counselors stationed there.
- Share the gospel & give an opportunity to respond from a stage. Utilizing an evangelists, an entertainer of some kind, or a personal testimony of someone in the group.
Block parties can be an easy & fun tool to have in your outreach strategy. For best results apply gardening principles:
- Know what season you’re in – cultivating, planting, or harvesting.
- Plant generously. the more seeds you plant the more you’ll harvest.
- Prepare for a harvest.
- Have fun! Christian should bring life to every party!
If you’re interested in doing a block party yourself, start at our Northshore Baptist Associations Block Party Trailer page, or join Bridge Church this week at several Block Parties we’re doing:
- Columbia Street Block Party in downtown Covington, tonight, Friday, June 29, 6-8pm. Cultivative event. We’ll be painting faces & passing out balloon animals & making new friends.
- Oak Villa Mobile Home Park, Sunday, July 1, 5-7pm. We’ve been cultivating & planting seeds for two years in this community. Getting ready to start harvesting!
- The Groves Apartments, Monday, July 2 5:30-7pm. Cultivating relationships in a brand new apartment complex.
- Madisonville 4th of July Celebration, July 4, 2pm-until. Incarnating at a local 4th of July party. This one’s going to be a blast!