“What are some outreach strategies that you use?” “How do you meet new people?”
These are examples of the kind of questions that people ask me when they find out that I’m a pastor at a new church. My answers to these types of questions are usually pretty basic; make friends, work networks, get involved in the community, etc. When people ask those types of questions they are sometimes looking for specifics and ideas. With one year under my belt, I haven’t been at this long enough to know what is effective or not in the long run. However, one of the best outreach strategies that we employ at Amazing Grace started years before I even got here.
The active city of Dickinson has many vendor events throughout the year. Each one is sponsored by a large entity in the city. The Dickinson Press puts on an event called “The Women’s Expo.” The name makes it clear that the event is tailored to appeal to the women of the community. A member of Amazing Grace knows the person who runs the event and made a deal with her five years ago. Amazing Grace will provide entertainment for the children that come to the event in return we get a free booth space. It’s simple, a win for everyone; the mothers can shop or take a break while they or dad brings their children to play, The Dickinson Press has another thing to attract people to the event, and Amazing Grace has a booth presence as thousands of people walk by and are seen as a sponsor of the event.
Some years Amazing Grace sets up arts and crafts tables, other years we bring in a bouncy house. This year we had a bouncy house and six volunteers from the congregation to help manage all of the children. From 9 a.m. through 4 p.m., the bouncy house was full of kids.
So, why is this an effective outreach strategy for us? Maybe you can see it already. The dad or mom stays by the bouncy house to watch their child. This leads to a natural, unintrusive conversation environment. I and the members of Amazing Grace meet so many wonderful people and couples, some of whom are interested in checking out our new church. We had invitations to our launch service on October 15th out on the table if anyone was interested and had exposure to thousands of people in the community. Plus, over the years we’ve built a reputation with a major entity in Dickinson, the Dickinson Press. Five new prospects have connected with us from the most recent Women’s Expo.
Each situation is unique. We can’t run a whole vendor event on our own, but we can provide a valuable service for the event and the community through the Women’s Expo. If you are asking yourself the question, “How can my church meet new people?,” think about providing a service to a big event that’s already happening. Setting up a booth at an event is great, and the way I see it, being a part of the event in any way you can is even better. All of this is to open up more doors into people’s lives so we can share the saving gospel message with them.
Written by Rev. Joel Prange, home missionary at Amazing Grace Lutheran Church in Dickinson, N.D.
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