When starting a new church or wanting to impact a community for Christ through evangelism, scattering seeds should be one of your primary missions. On Church Planter reports we ask for the # of contacts made each month. No coincidence that often the church plant with the most salvations & baptisms is also the one with the most contacts made in the community over the course of the year. That’s not always the case at first, because some communities will take more of the spiritual work of cultivating the ground through prayer & serving before seeds can be planted & harvest gathered. But if a church planter aggressively devises a strategy of seed scattering & planting, eventually a harvest can be expected (Psalm 126:6).
What is scattering seed for a church planter? Seed scattering is any activity that intersects believers &/or the gospel with the lives of people in the community. The more directly evangelistic the better. But considering that it probably takes 20 touches for someone to become a Christian, plan for activity that cultivates, plants, & draws the harvest.
Here’s 5 Proven Ways to increase your contacts & seeds planted in your church plant:
1. Invite Cards – Always have something to invite people to & a card with the time & place with you. Print hundreds at a time & make sure your core team & congregation take a stack with them to give out or place on community bulletin boards as they go each week.
2. Direct Mail – Direct mail can be done on a small, affordable scale. You’ll need a Bulk Mail permit & someone who can do at least basic graphic design. Keep it simple. It’s the two color postcards that stick out in today’s mail boxes. Get to know Vista Print & Outreach.com for affordable starting points. Even better, get to know a local printer & include seed scattering to building relationships in the community. Also, check out the Mapping Center for Evangelism to get your communities addresses plus much more.
3. Facebook Page – likes & shares. Facebook is a great tool for spreading seeds about the gospel & your church. Start a Page, post regularly, & encourage your core team to like & share, which spreads the message to their network. Love what the Church at Addis did with Facebook. They found out one of the biggest needs in their community was help with blended families & they started a Facebook Page called Blended Family Help to connect Gospel resources with the need in peoples lives.
4. Facebook Ads – for $5 you can get your message to 1,000’s of people in a small town or neighborhood. Facebook Ads are easy to use, simple as posting about an event, then hitting a button to “boost” it & make sure it gets out there with a little bit of cash. Check out this helpful post from Outreach Mag on 6 steps to a Facebook Ad.
5. School Newsletters – Few people subscribe to newspapers anymore, everybody hates spammy email advertising, direct mail is a low % read for most. How can I get into the home of almost every young family in my community? Consider an ad in the local elementary & Jr. High newsletter. Goes home with every student. Even if it reaches no one, you’ve done something that supports the local school & administrators won’t forget you for that. Our local schools allow a business card size ad for about $25 per issue.
What are some other ways that you scatter seeds in your community? I’ll share 5 more next week.
When it comes to outreach a lot of Christians & churches usually quit too soon. Why? Two reasons:
- We’ve been trained to think that if we don’t “close the deal” & get “decisions” or have a big crowd every time we reach out & share the gospel, then we’ve failed. It was the great evangelist Billy Graham who once said, “it takes 20 people to lead someone to Christ. The first person thinks they had nothing to do with it. The last person thinks it was all him.” You never know if you’re #1 or #20. Be faithful, leave the results to God.
- We don’t account for the need for cultivation. Outreach & Evangelism are like farming. Everything tends to happen in seasons. There’s a season for cultivating the ground, a season for planting seeds, & a season for harvesting. Knowing which season you’re in is the key to success. And in today’s cultural climate with Biblical literacy at all time lows & culture rot firmly entrenched, you must be prepared for hard ground & cultivation wherever you are.
So, if you’re church or group or family is planning an outreach event, use these rules of thumb:
- Pray & ask God to help you imagine what kind of outreach will best reach your target population.
- Plan for at least two events. My answer to people that say: “We’ve already tried that” is usually, if you’ve done it once, that doesn’t count as “tried.” Keep going!
- Make adjustments, don’t quit. You’re plan may need tweaking, but if God has moved you to do something, don’t give up. “We tried that once” will seem like a small, weak excuse when we stand before him responsible for the souls of those around us.
I like the quip, “There’s no such thing as failures, only those that quit too soon.” Cultivate, plant, harvest. Don’t give up. All heaven is behind you! Go! (Matthew 28:18-20).
Fall is a favorite time of year for all of us in the South as weather cools & Football season kicks off. Fall also offers some great open doors for reaching out to the community through your church or small group. Here’s a few ideas for getting on the “Go…” (Matthew 28:19-20) this Fall:
1) Serve the Local School – No matter how open that your local schools are to church involvement, there are ways for you to serve them. And no better time to start then right at the beginning of the school year. Here are a few ideas:
- Pray. Host a prayer meeting for school officials & teachers & send notes letting them know you’re praying for them. And of course, have special prayer for teachers & administrators that attend your church. Recognize them as missionaries to the next generation.
- Lead a school supply drive for teachers or kids in low income school districts. Most teachers will have a list of needs or wants for their classroom & will know the kids that may need help buying school clothes & supplies.
- Stock the teachers lounges of local schools with baked goods & notes of encouragement from your church for the first two weeks or so of school.
- Get involved in the schools mentoring or tutoring program.
- And of course, encourage members to volunteer, get involved in PTA, & add salt & light to one of the most influentials places in your community (like it or not).
2) Fall Festivals – Whether it’s a Halloween alternative event like Trunk or Treats or just a Fall Harvest Party, Fall Festival type events have proven to be great cultivative and seed planting opportunities for many churches. During the summer, new people relocate to our communities & a special event that invites EVERYONE to your church can give them an opportunity to connect with the body of Christ. Don’t forget to plan for follow-up & celebrate the work of volunteers who plan & implement.
3) Outdoor Movie Nights – With weather getting milder & days getting shorter, outdoor movie nights make for a great fall outreach event. Our church has done these in local parks, in subdivision common spaces, or front & back yards. All you need is a projector, outdoor movie screen or large white sheet, & a popcorn machine. If you’re trying to cultivate relationships you can show a newer kid flick or classic movie. If you’d like to be a little more evangelistic & harvest oriented, you can choose a more evangelistic or directly Christian film. Another lesson learned, made for TV kids movies work great, b/c they are shorter & keep short attention spans engaged.
4) Tailgate Party – With Football season kicking off in the Fall, the words Tailgate Party will be plastered in every store & commercial coming our way. Redeem this seasonal phenomenon by hosting a Tailgate party at your church with great food & a big screen & speakers blaring the pre-game show &/or game. There is also a variety of Christian sports personality testimonies on sites like Sports Spectrum & I am Second that can be shown during half time or at a certain point during the game to make the event a little more evangelistic.
5) Hands on Service Project – Cooler weather also makes for a great time to get your hands dirty with a hands on Missions Project. In every community there is elderly & needy residents living in substandard housing. Connect with local relief agencies like the Council on Aging, Volunteers of America, or Parish Housing Authority about needs for wheelchair ramps, weatherization projects, etc. Or poll church members about widows & elderly living around them or in your congregation that may have needs. Wheelchair ramps are one of my favorite Fall projects.
What Fall Outreach ideas have worked in your area?
Great article on evangelism from Facts & Trends Mag – Go + Tell: Taking a Personal Approach to the Gospel:
“If you know how to pray, if you know how to be a friend, if you know how to help people experience God, and if you have learned how to tell the story of the gospel, you can do evangelism,” he (John Teter) says.
When it comes to evangelism, that kind of personal approach works best, according to a 2009 report from LifeWay Research. Most Americans are open to hearing about faith from a friend or neighbor (56 percent), or from a family member (63 percent).
Other approaches seem to turn off most Americans. Three out of four (76 percent) say they are unwilling to hear about matters of faith from people going door to door. Americans are also unwilling to receive spiritual information from door-hangers (66 percent), a letter in their mailbox (55 percent) or social media (66 percent).
Less than half are interested in a TV ad (40 percent) or radio spot (41 percent) on faith.
A personal approach is also a better way to invite people to church. Nearly two out of three (63 percent) Americans surveyed say a personal invitation from a friend or neighbor was an effective way to be asked to visit a church. An invitation from a family member was rated as effective by 67 percent of those surveyed.
Less than a third (31 percent) say a door-to-door invitation would be effective. Radio (33 percent) and TV (34 percent) also received low ratings. So did email (30 percent) and social media (30 percent).
About half (52 percent) say they might visit a church after receiving a postcard on a topic that interested them.
Time of year and current events also impact Americans’ openness to spiritual conversations. Americans were most open to matters of faith at Christmas (47 percent), Easter (38 percent) or after a natural disaster (34 percent). They were least open in summer (11 percent) or fall (11 percent).
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!
Our church partners with a few area Multi-Housing complexes to provide New Resident Welcome Baskets. We also want to make them available for the rest of us to bless new neighbors with as well. We stuffed a bunch at our last Faith In Action Sunday. Here’s the list of stuff in ours, which was put together by our Creative Team. Their leader Angie McGinty sent me this list.
- Basket (I have been lucky enough to find some the perfect size in the dollar section at Target, but I think they are out now)
- Archer Farms Brand (@Target): Box of cheddar sourdough cheese straws and caramel macadamia popcorn in the big clear container (by chips). I picked these because they look nicer and more gourmet if you will.
- Some type of gender neutral note pad (I found ones with magnets in the Target dollar section)
- A nice pen to go with notepad (I usually only get these if they have some in the dollar section…nice pens are not cheap)
- Antibacterial hand soap (I get the nice ones from Bath and Body Works..they were running a special for 7 of them for $20 but they may not be running that anymore. If not, I know that Target has some nice ones like the organic hand soaps) I think adding a nice soap with a great smell really makes the baskets kick up a notch as opposed to just some random everyday soap. I still have 4 of these left.
- A nice dish towel/hand towel. You may be able to find some cute Spring ones on sale at Hobby Lobby right now. I got a neutral color from Target for a few bucks.
- Thick wire edge ribbon to tie around the basket (Hobby Lobby has great ribbon and usually on sale)
Cost of each basket: less than $25
- Every multi-housing complex had a partnering church to welcome new residents.
- We noticed & took responsibility for new movers into our neighborhoods & cultivated relationships during this important season in their lives.
What else would you include? Does your church do anything like this?