Interest-Based Outreach Ideas
On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon, I sat on our covered front porch with our local "family" magazine--you know, the kind you pick up for free at the grocery store or pediatrician's office. It's one of the few publications that I read less for the articles and more for the ads. As I went through the event listings, looking for fun (and free!) things to do in my area, I was struck by some of the activities and events local churches were advertising that appealed to niches of the community with certain interests, be it time with the kids, a personal hobby or vocation, or a difficult life issue.
There were some great offerings for community outreach in there that might inspire other churches with some cool new ideas to open your doors to your community. Here are a few that might inspire you:
Family Movie Night
Any church with a screen (and a CVLI license) can host a free movie night. Pick a G-rated film so that all ages will be welcome, pop popcorn and offer beverages (at least water, if you're concerned about sticky soft drink spills in the worship space). Consider having child care available for infants and very small children who might not be able to sit through a whole feature film. Note that the CVLI prohibits using the title of or characters from the film to advertise your event, so it has to be a surprise! (Read the CVLI Terms for yourself.)
Concerts or Recitals
If your church has a concert-quality choral or instrumental group, planning an evening concert is a natural idea. But even if you don't, look into groups in your town that may need a venue for their performances or that you can book for a special concert. Especially around Christmas, people seek out traditional musical performances like Handel's Messiah, and could discover your church for the first time by attending such an event. Consider partnering with private music teachers to host a recital for their students, and if you have a stage, dance recitals might be an option as well.
An extremely popular hobby among women of all ages today, scrapbooking is often a solitary activity, but doesn't have to be! Hosting a scrapbooking group requires little from your church beyond a room with tables and chairs, and a few enthusiastic scrappers to provide critical mass. Participants bring their own supplies and work on their own projects while enjoying fellowship with others who share their interest. Broadening the group to include all arts and crafts (knitters, painters, etc.) can open the fun to even more people.
While I think the name of this group is limiting and perhaps misleading (as I assume the church is targeting business professionals of any status--though probably only male ones), the idea is a good one. Meeting early on a weekday morning for coffee and breakfast (6:30-8 a.m. or so), the group could offer some Christian fellowship and a networking opportunity for a specific niche within the community. This was a large church in an affluent bedroom community advertising this group, so depending on the demographics of your town, a different career-centered group might be ideal.
'Tis the season for fall festivals right now, and Christmas will soon be upon us, but whether it's a Spring Fling, a Summer Fun Fest, or a Harvest Hoedown, events like these can draw quite a crowd. Families will love games and activities for the kids, others may enjoy a craft fair component, and everyone appreciates good food and music.
Though I recently complained about churches favoring stay-at-home moms in their offerings for parents and kids, a weekday storytime for young children is a great draw to help parents of young children get out of the house for some free, enriching fellowship and activity. This can also be a great time to showcase your children's program, letting visitors know what they could expect if they returned on Sunday. After all, a church that kids want to come back to will get their parents coming back too.
If your church has people trained in special needs ministry, offering a "Buddy Break" enables caregivers of special needs children and adults to have some much-needed time to themselves. I'm not sure how much training is needed, but this article offers some valuable advice for churches to be prepared for special needs guests on Sunday morning.
While divorce care groups have long been common (and much-needed) in churches, I have not seen as often a support group for women and couples dealing with infertility. What an opportunity to minister to a group of people whose crisis is often kept secret and for whom understanding peers are hard to find (offline, at least).
What groups and events have you heard about or tried in your church to reach certain people in your community?