Paul says, "For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel! (1 Corinthians 9: 16)."
Being conscious of this inevitable accountability, we as a congregation of believers ranging across all ages, work towards reaching to the people of our respective localities following the strategic steps discussed below.
Begin with a plan
Determine what the need is and what kind of outreach will best meet that need. Will it be an evangelistic effort, serving the community, a mercy ministry, meeting someone’s physical needs? Whatever the ministry or method, you will need to come up with a plan and draw up your goals around it. Having a systematic strategy in place will ensure that important aspects of the outreach don’t get overlooked in the shuffle, and you will stay focused enough to keep the program on task without letting distractions pull you away.
Create a leadership committee and relevant community relationships
In order to avoid burnout, keep the efforts fresh, and reach diverse audiences, most outreach programs should involve a team. You will need a group of individuals to pray for the effort, actively support it through encouragement and participation, and help continue and grow the ministry. Look for people to help you who are of the same mind and have similar vision, those who are seeking to serve God by serving others. Find jobs for people that match their interest and gifting. Keep in mind that the more you involve members at the planning level the more likely they’ll be strongly involved throughout the life of the effort. Through prayer and applying Godly principles, strive to keep the team on the same page and pursuing the same goals.
Know your audience
Consider other demographic factors when deciding on methods of outreach. Seek to adapt to the culture of the individuals you are reaching without compromising in any way the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Apostle Paul is a good example of this: “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ), that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.” (1 Corinthians 9:19).
Practically speaking, what you do to communicate to children will look a little different than how you reach adults. In a diverse audience you will need to mix it up a bit so as to include everyone. You need to know what the main issues and needs of the group you are reaching are if you are to serve them effectively, so research and interview those in the know. Remember, not every method is right for every audience.
Maximizing existing resources
Determining the type of resources your church already has, such as a room to meet or a gym for sports outreach events, will help in doing things that don’t involve the extra cost of investing in additional resources. Also find out if there are other church programs already in place that you can join with. Consider community outreach programs as well to partner with.
Executing the plan
Think about logistical factors such as parking, seating, and sound equipment. If other services such as childcare and worship are needed, make sure you coordinate with all parties involved and speak with leadership about scheduling. Another important factor to implement into the overall plan is to make sure people attending the event are connecting with each other. An event that does not result in connecting people with other people is a lost effort. It is important to make sure there is time for interaction between members, leaders and visitors since many people participate in events so that they can become a part of a network of people who are in their same situation. One example might be moms with small children hope to meet other moms with small children for support and fellowship. Food should also be in the mix. Hospitality is a big part of our culture and sharing a meal or refreshments is a great way to show care.
Get the word out
Define the image of the effort through communication and design that uniquely appeals to the focus group. One way to let people know about your outreach is to utilize social media since statistically most of your audience will be registered with at least one social media platform. Signs, printed media, your website and announcements are all other viable means to get the word out. Let your community know who you are and what you have to offer that may meet their needs.
Call a prayer meeting or send out a request for prayer via physical or electronic mail. Everyone involved should be in prayer for the success of the outreach. Others may not wish to participate in the actual outreach but would be glad to pray behind the scenes.
Meet with your team after the event and share testimonies to encourage everyone about the fruitfulness of your outreach. Discuss the ways you fell short and have team members share observations and make suggestions for improvement. Don’t allow your pride to get in the way of hearing and taking to heart honest, objective feedback. No matter how effective your effort may be, there’s always room for improvement, and if the event was not a success, you need to know how to improve in the future, or whether or not you should continue at all. Appraisals are necessary to refine any work for God. Always evaluate and make efforts to improve and ensure the program is making an impact in order to bear lasting fruit.