Outreach is an ongoing challenge for most churches.
Many churches hold the same outreach activities — often because of tradition or because other churches have had success with them.
If your church is struggling to reach out to new potential members in the community, it’s time to consider changing your outreach activities.
Building strong relationships in your community is an important part of successful church outreach. Events are a great way to introduce more people to your church.
Tried-and-tested ideas such as bake sales can quickly feel stale, especially if they’ve been a regular staple in your church fundraising plans.
Taking a community approach to your outreach can bring better results for your church. If you’re not sure how to do successful church outreach events, here’s some inspiration.
Before you begin outreach, set some SMART goals for what you hope to achieve.
SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-Based.
Examples of SMART goals for church outreach events include:
Your SMART goals can inform your outreach ideas and makes it more likely you’ll achieve them. Aim to be as specific as you can when setting your SMART outreach goals. You’ll find it easier to track your progress and determine whether you’re achieving your goals.
If you’re hoping to attract non-members to your outreach events, consider holding some of them outside of your church.
If non-members are invited by one of your church members, they may feel more enthusiastic about first attending an outreach event if it’s in a neutral location.
Is your church struggling to come up with new ideas for outreach activities? Instead of falling back on outreach events that haven’t worked well in the past, focus your efforts on offering value to the local community and building your church’s reputation amongst local demographics.
Here are some ideas that can help:
Sponsoring a classroom at a local school is a great way for your church to build trust in the community.
It’s probably not going to bring people to your congregation right away but over time, it can create a lot of goodwill for your church.
There are likely plenty of people in the community who are struggling with anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems.
If they aren’t already members of your church, they may not immediately think of you as a source of support. Even those who are members may feel unable to speak openly about their situation.
Mental health outreach can bridge this gap and address needs within the community.
You can host a mental health outreach group at your church. Emphasize it is a safe and non-judgmental place to discuss mental health. Many people fear being judged if they open up about their mental health. They will feel welcome in a setting that openly embraces mental health conversations.
Getting involved in a literacy program for young families is another way to reach out to this demographic.
You don’t need to teach children to read — put the focus on encouraging them to read instead through dedicated sessions.
Hosting a reading group in your church can make reading a fun activity for children — and adults too!
Reaching out to families in the community is an essential part of church outreach. Helping more families to strengthen their relationships is a great way to form a favorable impression.
Offer to babysit for couples in your congregation and the community. This can enable them to go out on a date night and feel closer to each other.
Many families can’t afford to hire a babysitter regularly. They will most likely appreciate the opportunity to secure free childcare for the evening.
Extending your babysitting offer to the community (including non-members) builds a lot of goodwill and may lead to non-members joining your congregation later on.
Pro tip: Ensure that volunteers providing babysitting services have relevant background checks. This gives families in the community extra peace of mind that their children are safe and well while they’re not home. Gaining this type of trust from local families can paint your church in a very positive light and increase the potential for gaining new members.
If you have a visual set-up in your church and a reasonable amount of space, use it to host a family movie night.
You can reach out to families who aren’t already part of your congregation and may not otherwise attend your church. The idea of a family movie night also makes your church feel less daunting and intimidating for a non-member who may be visiting you for the first time.
Pick a theme for each movie night. This opens up the potential for discussions around the theme in question. Pick a movie that is uplifting and appeals to both adults and children.
If the event is a big hit, consider making it a regular event at your church — fortnightly or monthly, for example.
If you secure a sizeable attendance on the first attempt, consider moving the location to a local theater if your church doesn’t have enough capacity.
Promote “family movie night” on your church website, social media channels, and email communications with members. The local newspaper and radio station may be interested in helping to promote it — especially if there’s a unique angle.
Create a Facebook event for your church’s family movie night. This makes it easy for members of your church to invite their friends and family and gives your church plenty of organic promotion for the event.
You can also produce flyers, posters, or postcards to send to families in the community or put up in local cafes, grocery stores, and other places that local families are likely to go.
These can be easily mocked up on Canva by a staff member or volunteer — even if no-one possesses strong design skills.
If your chosen movie isn’t a very well-known one, consider using a brief trailer clip in your promotion to build interest.
Pro tip: Look at whether your church will need to secure a license to show films.
If your church has the facilities, set up a mini coffee shop and offer to make tea, coffee, and cold drinks for the community.
More churches are doing this and finding success.
Your most expensive outlay would likely be for a coffee machine and a blender (if you’ll be offering frappuccinos, smoothies, or juices). Don’t skimp on the quality of the coffee — great coffee will be one of the main reasons why people visit your facilities, after all!
Pro tip: While you’ll need high-quality equipment, this doesn’t have to be brand new. You can buy used options that will lower the costs of setting up. A good espresso machine will likely be the exception to this since repairs can be costly if the parts aren’t of good quality.
This is also a great way to raise funds for your church since you can charge a modest amount for drinks. The funds raised can be put back into ministries or used to fund outreach activities.
Setting up coffee shop facilities in your church is a fun way to raise your profile in the community. If people enjoy spending time there, it increases the potential for starting conversations around faith.
Pro tip: If your church is in a deprived area, a “pay what you can” approach to pricing can work well. This allows people to access the cafe facilities, regardless of income or situation.
Whatever type of outreach you choose to do, offer value to the community, and look to build trust. Where possible, try not to put the “ask” for donations at the front of your outreach, or your church fundraising activities in general. Learn the essential tips on church outreach. The tips will be very useful as you try various ideas for outreach.
If your church has a reputation for caring for the needs of the community, they’re more likely to attend your events.
Here at Donorbox, we’re helping churches like yours to increase their congregation, build stronger relationships with their members, and raise more funds.
For even more inspiration on taking your church fundraising to the next level, check out our 100+ powerful and effective fundraising ideas.
And if you’re fundraising for a catholic church, don’t miss our blog on how to get the most from your efforts.