The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

The Summer Outreach Planning Guide (and 5 Ideas)

As a church leader, the summer can feel like an overwhelming onslaught from a powerful enemy. 

During the spring, you see the summer months coming, and a tinge of anxiety strikes your chest. 

You see what’s about to happen. 

Your attendance declines. 

Giving decreases. 

Your ability to reach your community feels thwarted. 

In these moments, you’ll feel tempted to hide for cover, close your doors, and bury your head in the sand until school starts again. 

Be encouraged!

I know the summer can be a challenging time. But I’m here to tell you it can also be a fantastic opportunity to reach your community for Christ!

Below, I’m going to share a handful of outreach events your church can use. 

Before I share those details, I think it’s essential to talk about two things first:

  1. 5 common mistakes to avoid when launching an outreach event
  2. How to plan your next outreach

Let’s get started!

5 common mistakes to avoid when launching an outreach event

Launching a new outreach event is exciting. 

The thought of connecting with new people, sharing the gospel, and making disciples is awesome. 

In your excitement, it’s easy to make mistakes in the rush of launching something new. 

Before you dive headfirst into your next outreach event, take a moment to learn these common mistakes. This will help you to avoid stepping on any potential landmines that can blow up your progress. 

1 – Moving too fast

I just alluded to this first mistake: 

Getting caught up in the moment and launching something too soon is a common mistake. 

In other words, it takes time, planning, volunteers, and money to make most outreach events work. 

What is more, if you try to launch something in the next few weeks or months, you may not be able to secure the support you need  or have enough time to promote your event to the community. 

When planning your next outreach event, be sure to forecast the amount of time you’ll need to make it a success, which leads me to the next point. 

2 – Misguided vision

Pop quiz:

What's the goal of an outreach event? 

Time’s up! 

Have your answer?

It’s to reach or serve your community. 

When thinking through how to reach your community, keep in mind that your goal is to connect with non-Christians or people who are unaffiliated with a local church. Your outreach event needs to be about just that: outreach—not (only) about doing something fun for your church family. 

Launching an outreach event unanchored to a clear purpose of serving your community will naturally lead your plans to become simply an event for your church. 

Before getting started, clearly identify your goals, think through who you want to reach, and make sure every staff member and volunteer is in the know. 

3 – Lack of promotion

Who are you trying to reach in your community? 

How will they find out about your outreach event? 

If you’re not thinking about these two questions, then stop what you’re doing. 

If you don’t have the time or resources to promote your event, then don’t plan on anyone showing up other than your church members. 

To reach your community, you have to do more than build something and expect people to come. You have to make a plan and provide people with a compelling reason to show up. 

4 – Expecting one person to do everything

Don’t expect one person to do everything that needs to be done. 

Running an outreach event is no joke. 

It takes a village of people to run a successful event. 

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have a project manager. What I’m saying is that you can’t expect for only one person to accomplish all of the tasks that need to be completed. 

Whomever you assign to spearhead your outreach event, encourage him or her to build a team of volunteers, be open to ideas and input, and empower everyone to pitch in a helping hand. 

5 – Mismanaging your outreach event

It’s easy to be inspired by an idea. 

But implementing an idea through to completion is a different ballgame. 

When (not if) you run out of steam, there’s a good chance your outreach event will derail.

Why? 

If your only motivation is inspiration, and you don’t make a plan and work your plan, then your outreach event will go nowhere fast. Excitement can only take you so far. You need to clearly define what needs to be done to get ready and to get your community excited. 

With these common mistakes out of the way, let’s take a look at how you can plan your next outreach. 

A checklist for planning your next outreach

I know you’re pumped about launching a new outreach. 

Before you get caught up in a whirlwind of excitement, stop for just a moment. 

You’ll need to take a moment to think through the nitty-gritty details. I know this stuff isn’t exciting. But like I just mentioned, it’s a huge mistake to overlook planning, organizing, and managing any outreach event. 

We’ve covered project management for churches elsewhere. So I don’t want to get into the weeds here. However, I’d like to share with you a few quick practical tips for launching a new outreach. 

Here’s a 7-step checklist you can use for launching any outreach:

  1. Figure out who you’re going to reach
  2. Pick a tactic
  3. Assign a leader
  4. Make a plan
  5. Build a team
  6. Launch
  7. Follow-up

Let’s take a look!

1 – Figure out who you’re going to reach

Who are you trying to reach in your community? 

Are you interested in making inroads to local schools? 

Is there an at-risk community who you feel burdened to reach? 

Are you trying to think of ways to reach families in your area? 

I know talking about this can feel awkward. But you have to know who you’re trying to reach so that you can identify the best ways to serve this group of people—to build relationships, share the gospel, and invite them to your worship service. 

Here’s why:

The outreach tactic you choose will influence who you want to reach, which leads us to the next point. 

2 – Pick a tactic

From the list of events below or elsewhere, decide what you’re going to do. 

I know this sounds obvious. 

But many church leaders (maybe you?) struggle with merely pulling the trigger. 

If you wait too long to make a decision, then you’ll miss out on reaching your community. 

As a friendly reminder, keep in mind whom you’re trying to reach. 🙂 

3 – Assign a leader

Who’s going to run point on your outreach event? 

Someone on your staff? Or do you need to tap on the shoulder of a volunteer? 

Whoever it is, just be sure it’s not your senior pastor or teaching pastor. I’m not saying your senior leadership is above managing an outreach event. 

Far from it. 

But at Church Fuel, we believe senior leaders must focus on the things only they can do, such as preaching and teaching and casting a vision. 

4 – Make a plan

Know what you’re going to do? 

Great. 

Now it’s time to get to work. 

To make a plan, there are a number of essential things you need to nail down:

  • When is your event?
  • Where is your outreach taking place? 
  • What’s your budget?
  • How many volunteers will need to help? 
  • What tasks need to be completed?
  • How are you going to promote your event? 
  • Do you need to print anything? 

These questions will help you to start thinking about what you need to do. 

Now, as I pointed out above, everything that needs to be doesn’t fall under the responsibility of one person.

5 – Build a team

Alright, so you know who you’re going to reach, what you’re going to do, and have a pretty good idea of what needs to be done. Now it’s time to build your team. 

This process doesn’t necessarily have to start at this step. 

This is something you can (and should) do while you’re thinking through who you want to reach and what you need to do to reach them. 

As you build your team, think through everyone you’ll need to not only launch an event—but to reach the people you want to reach. 

6 – Launch

Launch your outreach event with a bang!

For anything you do for your community, you have one opportunity to do it well. 

Don’t hold anything back. 

Give it everything you’ve got to make it pop. 

7 – Follow-up

This is an essential step and it’s easy to overlook:

Follow up with your community and your church. 

Here’s how: 

Be ready to follow up with new guests by collecting information (if relevant). Also, consider planning a follow-up event to lead them one step closer to getting involved with your church. From launching a relevant sermon series to promoting your children’s ministry, there are several ideas you can pursue. 

For your church, share stories, images, and videos from your outreach event. Let your church know how everyone together—donating and volunteering—made the outreach possible. 

5 summer outreach events

The outreach tactic you pursue will depend on three things:

  1. Your community
  2. Who you’re seeking
  3. Your resources (time, volunteers, and finances)

Below I’m going to share several ideas you can consider. 

As you pray through your next outreach, run through each idea with this lens. 

Let’s dig in!

#1 – Do something sporty

Sports can reach one of two groups:

  1. Adults
  2. Children

Depending on whom you want to reach, there are several different approaches you can take. 

For adults, you can either gather a team of players to join a preexisting league (e.g., softball) or start a sports ministry. For this latter option, you can tap an expert in an area (e.g., archery, MMA, aerobics) and offer classes.

For children, you can pursue similar opportunities. For example, you can recruit a team of children (both affiliated and non-affiliated) from your church community to join a preexisting league. What is more, you can also consider launching a sports ministry where you offer basketball, soccer, or baseball lessons. 

In both of these scenarios, don’t stop at offering sports training alone. Be sure to provide a great experience, offer refreshments, and find ways you can collect contact information and invite people to visit your church’s worship service, small group, or Bible study. 

#2 – Watch a movie

There is one thing most people in the United States have in common: 

They LOVE watching movies. 

During the summer months, watching movies is one of the most popular activities. So, why not tap into this crowd-pleasing activity and reach people in your community? Besides, your church probably has a sweet audio and visual setup or at least access to a legit location to host an outdoor movie. 

Now, if you go for hosting an outdoor movie, be prepared to have a backup plan. It’s impossible to forecast the weather, and you want to be able to pivot on the spot (go inside somewhere) or at least postpone the movie for another day. 

Regardless if you host an outdoor or indoor movie, go all out to create a movie theater experience. 

Get a popcorn machine. 

Buy boxes of candy. 

Provide drinks. 

To manage this, provide attendees with a ticket for one popcorn and/or candy. As for drinks, you can keep them flowing. If there’s plenty of snacks leftover, then offer people seconds and thirds.

#3 – Host a book club

People read books. 

I know that reading, in general, is on a downward trajectory. But depending on whom you want to reach, starting or joining a book club is a great way to connect with your community. 

You can start a book club for men, women, or both. 

You can start a book club to read through a “spiritual” book focused on an introduction to Christianity like The Reason for God by Timothy Keller or Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. Or you can pick a famous book people in your community are interested in reading. If you go this latter route, read ahead and find ways you can naturally weave into your conversations discussions about Jesus—but don’t force this if it doesn’t fit. 

#4 – Provide a date night

Parents need to go on dates. 

Just because people get married and have kids doesn’t mean they don’t want to or shouldn’t go out. 

But here’s the deal:

It costs a lot of money to go out on dates, and the cost of childcare can make it cost-prohibitive for many couples. Give parents a night out by providing free childcare, and ensuring their children have a great experience too. 

Here’s another thought:

Provide a gift card to a local restaurant or elsewhere for couples. This can be a total surprise for parents. But a tremendous blessing. 

#5 – Serve schools and families

During the summer, your church has two BIG opportunities to serve the schools and families.

First, is there a school in your community you can serve? Is there a school in need of restoration? 

Identify the local schools in your area, and reach out to them to see how you can help them during the summer months. From cleaning to painting classrooms to providing general repairs, unearth the problems they have, and then reach out to your congregation to see how you can help. 

In this scenario, see if a member of your church can spearhead the work. He or she can work with the school to nail down what needs to be done, then he or she can put together a list of what you need to purchase, and then you can get to work raising the money and recruiting volunteers. 

Second, you can purchase school supplies for families. 

Let’s be honest:

It’s expensive for families to get ready for an upcoming school year. 

From purchasing new clothes to buying the supplies they need, the expenses add up. 

As a church, you can provide real, tangible support by purchasing the school supplies families need. 

Here’s what you’ll need to do:

  • Coordinate with local schools
  • Get a list of supplies
  • Set a goal for how much you want to purchase
  • Raise financial support
  • Go to the store!

After you collect school supplies, you can donate these to families in your church, or you can work with the local schools or shelters in your area to coordinate delivery. 

Over to you

The summer doesn’t have to be a time of retreat. 

It can be an opportunity for you to make forward progress with the gospel. 

For additional ideas, check out 7 Summer Outreach Ideas

5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

5 Ways to Immediately Improve Your Church Website

Your church website shouldn’t be static.

It's not something you can “set and forget.” 

Rather, it should adapt to updated technology and how people interact with websites, which is continually shifting.

This doesn’t mean you have to revamp your website every month. 

Far from it. 

But there is a precedent for keeping an eye on how well your website is performing. 

Is your website leading people to visit your church? 

Is it helping visitors to engage with your church community? 

To help you assess whether your church website is serving a purpose and not collecting dust, here are five things your site should accomplish—today. 

#1 – Clearly display your purpose

Your website must be (really) clear. 

I’m not talking about the quality of your images. 

Instead, what I have in mind is the communication of the ONE step you want your website visitors to take. 

Do you want them to visit your worship service? 

Do you want them to listen to the most recent sermon? 

Do you want to promote what ministries you have available? 

Ultimately, what ONE action do you want visitors to take? 

Now, let me ask you these follow-up questions:

Is this ONE thing made crystal clear on your website? Can your website visitors easily find this ONE thing? Or is it buried in one of your website’s internal pages, toward the bottom of your homepage, or crowded out by 10 additional calls to action? 

If you don’t make your ONE purpose clear on your site, then you’re making a big mistake. 

Here’s why:

Based on a recent study, when someone first visits your church’s website, he or she will only spend 5.59 seconds reading your homepage’s written content.

What’s the moral of the story? 

If the ONE step you want people to take isn’t clearly displayed, then the majority of your website visitors will not take that step. 

Action: Ask five people (friends, colleagues, volunteers, staff) to look at the homepage of your website for six seconds and answer this question: After looking at our website, what would you say is the ONE thing we ask you to do? 

#2 – Improve your website load time

Your website has to be fast. 

Like, really fast. 

According to the same study I mentioned above, nearly half (47%) of the people visiting your website expect it to load in two seconds or less. If it takes your church's website longer than this to load, then your website visitors will bounce. 

Here’s the deal:

You can have a slick website. It can have killer images, crazy good copy, and stunning design. But if it takes longer than two seconds to load, then your website will be more like an online trampoline. 

Action: Go to PageSpeed Insights by Google to see how long it takes for your church’s website to load. This is a free service, and Google will provide you with some tips on how to improve your website’s speed. 

#3 – Help people find your church

Your website doesn’t have to be complicated. 

In fact, most people visiting your website are looking for practical information. 

Based on a report by GreyMatter, here’s what visitors are looking for: 

  • What time are your services?
  • What activities or ministries do you offer?
  • Where are you located? 
  • Can I listen to or watch a sermon? 

Make this information easily accessible. 

Fight the temptation to bury this deep within your website. 

You want your website visitors to quickly figure out where you’re located and what time they need to be there. 

Regarding your sermons, uploading your most recent content is a bonus. 

Here’s why:

Based on a survey conducted by the Pew Research Forum, 83% of respondents said that the “quality” of the sermon influenced whether they chose to visit a church.

When you first read this, you may be tempted to compare  yourself to the local megachurch pastor. 

DON’T. 

The definition of “quality” differs from person to person. 

Be faithful. 

Preach the Bible. 

Upload your sermons. 

Call it a day. 

Action: Make practical and useful information available and easy to find on your church’s website. 

#4 – Make your church website is easy to find online

“Churches near me.”

“Easter service near me.”

“Churches in Atlanta.”

“Baptist church Charleston West Virginia.”

These are common phrases people use to find a church in their town. 

If you want these potential first-time guests to visit your worship service, then it’s best for your church’s website to appear on the first page of results. 

Here’s why:

Per MOZ, a leader in search engine optimization, the majority of organic clicks (71.33%) take place on the first page of search results. 

Know what else?

Results that rank in the 1–5 range will receive 67.6% of EVERY click. 

To get the attention of these would-be visitors, you’ll need to brush up on what’s called “search engine optimization” (SEO). I understand this sounds technical. But you don’t need to be a software engineer or have a considerable budget to boost your church’s ranking in search results. 

There are practical things you can do to improve your church’s SEO. 

Action: Read 3–5 articles on church SEO, and see if you or someone in your church can help improve your website’s SEO. If you hit a dead-end, consider hiring an SEO expert to boost your church’s rank.

#5 – Show people what your church is all about

There’s one last way you can make it easier for people to visit your church:

Let them see what your church is like. 

To do this, it’s essential to include photos of your church on your website. 

From pictures of your church staff to candid shots taken during worship services or church events, include as many images as you can. 

Adding photos of your church to your website will help people see what your church is like. It will help them get a better feel for your style of worship, what to wear, and what they should expect. 

Action: Get someone to take high-quality, professional photographs of your staff and candid shots of services or events. This person can be on your staff, a church member, a volunteer, or someone you hire. Upload these images at relevant locations on your church’s website. 

Improve your church’s website

There you have it. 

The five things you can do to improve your church’s website today: 

1. Clearly display your purpose

2. Improve your website load time

3. Help people find your church

4. Make your church website easy to find online

5. Show people what your church is all about

After reading this post, take 10–15 minutes to walk through the action steps above. These short exercises will place you well on your way to making your church’s website a more effective tool for communicating with your church members and community. 

6 Ways Pastors Can Equip Millennials to Evangelize

6 Ways Pastors Can Equip Millennials to Evangelize

Evangelism is scary for most Christians.

Despite the fear evangelism creates within Christians, most believe sharing their faith is essential—especially millennial Christians. A recent report by the Barna Group illuminated this reality about millennials:

  • 96% believe part of their faith means being a witness about Jesus
  • 94% said the best thing that could ever happen to someone is for them to come to know Jesus
  • 86% expressed confidence in responding to questions about their faith

Even though Christian millennials possess an urgency for evangelism, like every other generation, there is a gap between intention and reality. In other words, many Christian millennials don’t evangelize.

Talking about generational differences, the challenges millennials face are different. They experience unique internal and external objections. So, to equip Christian millennials to evangelize, the strategy you use must reflect these differences.

In this post, I’m going to share six ways you can equip millennials to have more faith conversations. Use these tips to create a custom evangelism training plan for your church.

#1 – Cultivate an evangelistic culture

You cannot turn people—especially millennials—into evangelists.

There’s not a program you can provide, a book you can share, or a message you can preach that’ll turn people into evangelists overnight.

For most people in your church, a desire to evangelize will slowly develop over time.

The best way to grow this desire among millennials is to create an evangelistic culture. But let me warn you: Building an evangelistic church culture isn’t easy, and it takes (a lot of) time.

What is an evangelistic church culture?

In short, evangelistic church culture is when the members of your church share the gospel because it’s just what your church does. Like attending a worship service, joining a small group, or bringing food to a potluck, evangelism is what your church pulls together to do.

But my church culture doesn’t support an evangelistic lifestyle. Now what?

If this is what you’re thinking, hang tight.

All hope isn’t lost.

Thankfully, your church culture is something you can influence.

Below are several ingredients you can knead into the life of your church to compel your millennial church members to share the gospel.

#2 – Treat evangelism like a spiritual discipline

As a church leader, you’re called to make disciples.

To make disciples who live and love like Jesus, you have to teach them Christianity 101: reading the Bible, prayer, biblical community, and baptism and communion, to name a few.

Why state the obvious?

Simple.

To help millennials embrace an evangelistic lifestyle, show them that evangelism is a spiritual discipline similar to praying and reading the Bible. Per Jesus, sharing the gospel is one way we can live like him (Matt 28:18–20).

Let’s be honest:

Sharing the gospel isn’t always fun.

Often, the people we talk to about Jesus will not be open to hearing what we have to say. What is more, many millennials fight the fear of “offending” someone, which makes sharing the gospel … tricky.

But here’s the deal:

The gospel will be offensive to some people (1 Cor 1:18). But we don’t have to share it offensively. There’s a big difference between the two.

Arguably the best way to share the gospel with someone else is in a relationship, which leads us to the next point.

#3 – Build bridges with people

Millennials highly value relationships.

Most millennials grew up with divorced parents, and they’ve experienced the pros and cons of developing friendships in light of social media and unfettered access to the Internet.

What is more, based on the survey by Barna, many millennials (40%) feel judged if someone disagrees with them.

Here’s what you need to know:

Millennials will be more open to hearing about the gospel if they know who you are.

Practically speaking, to equip Christian millennials to share their faith, encourage them to build bridges. In general, evangelism is most effective when the person you’re sharing the gospel with believes you have a genuine interest in their well-being.

Sure, there will be times when you’ll feel prompted to share the gospel with a stranger or acquaintance directly. But equipping millennials in your church to start faith conversations is enormous.

Encourage them to ask questions such as:

“Do you believe in a god or God?”

“What do you think about religion?”

“Have you read the Bible before? What did you think?”

These simple questions only scratch the surface. But asking questions is a great way to encourage millennials to engage in conversations about faith.

Equip the millennials in your church to ask good questions and listen well. If they don’t know how to answer a question, let them know that’s okay. They can tell their friends, “I don’t know. But let me look into it for you.”

Here’s another practical idea:

Encourage millennials to share how Christianity is relevant to their everyday life.

From sharing how God is leading them to ways he’s influencing their life every day (forgiveness, reconciliation, overcoming sin), transparency goes a long way in deepening relationships, and it also helps non-Christians see how Jesus is real and relevant today.

#4 – Start a mercy ministry

The gospel is good news.

To share the gospel, we have to use words.

This doesn’t mean doing “good” deeds isn’t necessary.

Far from it.

Acts of mercy are an essential part of living and loving like Jesus. But we don’t want to confuse the gospel (good news) with the fruit of the gospel (love, kindness, feeding the poor, etc.).

With that being said, here’s one way you can lead millennials to build relationships with people in their community:

Start a mercy ministry.

Think about it.

When you help people in your community, you will naturally build relationships with people, which will place you in a better position to have faith conversations.

#5 – Model evangelism

As a church leader, you have to model evangelism.

As you know, most of what you share will be caught—not taught.

If you want to lead millennials to have more faith conversations, you and your leadership team will need to hit the pause button and take a long look in the mirror.

Do you regularly have faith conversations?

Do you want your church members to model your evangelistic behavior?

If you answered “no” to either one of these questions, then you’ll need to prayerfully consider whether you can serve as a better model. Remember, it’s hard to ask a millennial to do something that you don’t do yourself. They’ll sniff out your hypocrisy a mile away.

#6 – Share evangelistic stories

Sharing stories of God’s work goes a long way toward inspiring millennials to evangelize.

Here’s why:

  • Stories are relatable
  • Stories help people “see” God’s work
  • Stories are contagious
  • Stories are memorable
  • Stories are motivational
  • Stories appeal to everyone

Don’t stop reading this if you don’t have an “epic” story to share.

Millennials aren’t interested in hearing something fit for the big screen. Instead, they want to listen to stories they can easily relate to in their everyday lives. As they see God at work in your church, they’ll become more inclined to share these experiences with their family and friends.

Not sure what to share?

Think about the answers to these questions:

  • Did someone recently commit his or her life to Jesus?
  • Is someone getting baptized?
  • Have church members recently built new relationships?
  • Can anyone share how they overcame the challenges of sharing the gospel?

As you share stories, you’ll inspire people to evangelize.

Know what else?

You’ll reinforce an evangelistic culture in your church. As a church, you will celebrate what you cultivate.

Over to you

Remember, evangelism training isn’t as easy as downloading software, recommending a book, or running a one-time program. It takes time to cultivate an evangelistic culture in your church, and for Christian millennials to grow in their ability and comfort in having faith conversations.

Launch a College Ministry: A 6-Step Guide

Launch a College Ministry: A 6-Step Guide

Starting a college ministry is arguably the best way to reach people for Christ.

Think about it.

Colleges are one of the remaining institutions in the United States where a large group of people gathers together on a regular basis throughout the year. From classes to clubs to fraternities, college students spend most of their time on or around campus.

Know what else?

Many college students are asking tough questions about faith. They’re being introduced to new ideas, and they want to know what they believe and why they believe it. This is an ideal time to share the gospel and make disciples.

Even though colleges boast a potential huge harvest (Matt 9:35–38), starting a college ministry isn’t easy. It takes faith, prayer, and a whole lot of time.

If you’re not discouraged, hang tight.

In this post, I’m going to share with you 6 steps you can take to launch a college ministry, build relationships with students, and make new disciples.

Let’s dive in!

#1 – Do your research

Starting a college ministry isn’t like starting another ministry in your church.

It’s not a Bible study.

It’s not a small group.

It’s not just another hangout.

Will your college ministry include some of these components?

Absolutely.

But that’s missing the point.

Here’s what I want to stress:

A college ministry is primarily an outreach ministry.

Starting a college ministry is not only about creating a program for the college students in your church to join—it’s about launching your church into the life of the college or university in your town.

Possessing a missionary mindset is crucial to whether you can successfully launch a college ministry. Starting a college ministry without a missionary mindset would be like starting a cross-country road trip with a half a tank of gas—you’re not going to make it.

As a missionary to a college or university, there are two main things you need to do:

  1. Know the college
  2. Know the students

Before moving forward, you need to know who you’re going to reach before you can know what you need to do to reach them. Also, during this process, you’ll be better able to explore your calling to know if God is leading your church to start a college ministry.

The first thing you need to do is to get to know the college or university.

To get to know the college you want to reach, you’ll need to gather some basic information.

For instance:

  • What is the strength of the school?
  • What majors are popular?
  • Does the school draw male and female students?
  • What nationalities are represented?
  • Are sports popular? What teams?
  • Do students live in dorms or off campus?
  • Are fraternities and sororities present?
  • What events or student organizations are popular?
  • Where do students spend their time outside of class?
  • What Christian organizations or churches are on campus?

A lot of this information you can gather online or by checking out the college on social media.

But you’ll be able to learn so much more when you explore the campus.

Plan on spending time on campus.

Take more than one day to walk around, observe, and ask questions. If possible, connect with professors or staff members of the college or university to get their input.

While you’re getting to know the school, you’ll also want to get to know the students.

Getting to know what types of students attend the college or university in general, as well as meeting students in person will help you to clarify how to best reach them with the gospel.

Here are some questions you can ask:

  • What is their gender?
  • How old are they?
  • Where do they live (e.g., on campus, off campus)?
  • Do they attend sporting events?
  • Are they involved in fraternities or sororities?
  • Do they participate in student groups?
  • What are their values and beliefs?
  • What does their day-to-day life look like?
  • Where do they spend time online?

As with the school, you can get a good idea about most of this information online. But you’ll receive so much more clarity and insight, and get a better feel for the overall vibe of the school and students by being physically present on the campus.

While you’re gathering intel, start to think through what objections to the gospel you’ll encounter or ways you can best connect with students on campus. Keeping a running log of this information will help you create an outreach plan, if you believe the Lord is calling you to start a college ministry.

#2 – Build a team

Like any ministry in your church, college ministry isn’t something you want to do alone.

You must build a leadership team from the beginning.

The team you build should include two key ingredients:

  1. College students
  2. Church Members

Before exploring these two groups in detail, I encourage you to think through the size of your leadership team. To get started, you don’t need a huge number of people. Gathering 3–5 college students and 3–5 church members should be sufficient to create a solid core team.

Reaching a college without the help of college students is really … difficult.

As you prepare to launch a college ministry, I’d strongly advise you to include your church’s college students from the get-go. The college students in your church have relationships with other students, access to the campus and school events, and they will be a tremendous blessing to your ministry.

Do you have a few dozen college students in your church?

Well, I hate to break it to you, but not every one of them can be on your leadership team. That’s way too many cooks in the kitchen.

Before narrowing down who you’d like to invite onto the leadership team of the college ministry, pray and observe who are natural leaders. If college students are already serving in your church, then that’s a good indication they’re open to taking on more responsibility.

Here’s another idea:

Host a night for all of the college students to meet and talk about the college ministry.

Give them an opportunity to dream. Hear their hearts. Listen to the ideas they have to share.

Also, during this evening, see if anyone comes forward as a clear leader of the group. Pay attention to what everyone has to say and see if there are individuals in the group whose peers naturally gravitate toward as a leader.

One last word of advice:

Don’t treat the students on your team like … students. Said another way, don’t give them a voice and then not really count their vote or opinion (you know what I’m talking about). God can work through every single member of your leadership team—including your college students.

The second group of people you want to include on your college ministry leadership team are church members. From this group, be sure to include individual adults and couples.

Your church members can provide support, host students and events, and take part in whatever tactics you put together. Like any other ministry in your church, be sure the church members you invite express an interest and have a calling for this type of ministry.

Recruiting your team

Ready to recruit your leadership team?

Hang tight.

There are two things you should do to make it easier:

      1. Clarify expectations
      2. Set a date

For anyone serving on your leadership team, make sure to clarify their expectations. Let them know what they should focus on. Give them a handful of things they’ll be responsible for.

Letting your volunteer leaders know up-front what’s expected will help them to make better decisions.

What is more, set a date for how long you’d like for them to commit. For example, do you want them to commit for the fall and spring semester, and maybe one event over the summer?

Here’s the deal:

When volunteers know there’s a deadline to their commitment, then they’ll feel so much more comfortable accepting your offer.

Need more help developing your leaders?

Take the time to develop a leadership pipeline in your church.

#3 – Pray, pray, and pray

Prayer is so much more than a rote activity.

Prayer is the engine that runs your church.

As you explore starting a college ministry, first commit to praying.

At first, you don’t have to launch a church-wide prayer campaign. The best thing to do as a church leader is to pray yourself, and then invite your church’s leadership and others who may be interested in starting a college ministry to join you.

After you launch a college ministry, the way you approach prayer will change.

You’ll want to continually pray for the college or university, the students (in general and by name), your leadership team, and for your church.

Here are three ways you can incorporate prayer:

      1. Ask for church-wide prayer
      2. Build a prayer team
      3. Use social media

When encouraging your church to pray, be sure to add your college ministry to whatever prayer lists you currently have available. Also, if your church hosts prayer meetings, add time into your meeting to pray for your college ministry.

Another idea to consider is building a prayer team. When it comes to your college ministry, many people may not be able to physically participate in your work. But they may be able and willing to join you in your spiritual work through prayer. Find someone in your church to lead this prayer team, and provide him or her with updates and prayer requests.

At times on social media, share prayer requests or let your social media followers know how they can join you in prayer. One easy way to do this is when you share updates about your ministry.

#4 – Build relationships

As a missionary to a college campus, God calls you to make disciples.

There are many ways you can connect with new college students and share the gospel.

But there’s one thing you can’t afford to miss:

Building relationships.

Before thinking through events, programs, and Bible studies, you and your team will need to clarify how you’ll build relationships with college students.

Here’s the deal:

According to one study and confirmed by many others, most college students (64%) feel lonely.  But like the vast majority of people, most of these college students will not be open to hearing what you have to say if they don’t know you.

There’s a time or place for hard-hitting evangelistic tactics. But in general, that’s not going to work on a college campus. To reach college students, you have to get to know college students.

Practically speaking, be slow to share the gospel and be quick to build relationships. It’s okay to take your time with this process. In other words, don’t focus on building a program or hosting a one-time event. Instead, focus on building long-term relationships with students.

To be honest, there’s nothing too fancy about this process. All it requires is to be present and patient.

In your college ministry, there’s a good chance that most of your time will be spent hanging out with students, and that’s okay. This tactic may not be looked upon favorably by people who are not involved in your ministry. But building relationships is vital to the livelihood of your college ministry.

Practically speaking, plan on carving out a significant portion of your schedule to be present on campus. It’s also a good idea to empower your leadership team and others to spend time building relationships too.

Now that we’ve settled this point, let’s turn our attention to reaching and discipling students.

#5 – Reach and disciple students

There’s at least one good thing about starting a college ministry:

You have a ready-made calendar to work with.

When launching your organized events, it’s best to work with the school's calendar. For instance, you don't want to launch a big event during spring break—no one is going to be on campus.

As you think through your plans, work your way into the natural rhythms of the school.

There are two ways you can do this:

  • Weekly
  • By semester

During the week, life at the college or university you want to reach has natural ebbs and flows. In other words, it’s best to swim with the tide instead of launching something that goes against the rhythms already in place. As a missionary, your goal is to work yourself into the life of the campus—not against it.

For example, you’ll have to work around class schedules, time students tend to hang out during the day, or sporting events, programs, or clubs taking place during the week. Instead of competing with popular events or scheduling a Bible study during normal class time, find a way to work whatever you do into the life of the school.

Three additional big items you want to be aware of are fall, spring, and summer semesters.

As you think through your plans, be sure not to launch big events during midterms or finals. Instead, think about providing food and drinks for students or a place to refresh themselves during this time.

When it comes to the different semesters, keep in mind that activities on campus ramp up toward the beginning of the semester, but life on campus tends to die down toward the end.

Finally, during the summer semester or break, consider hosting events or mission trips to encourage college students to stay connected or serve others. Organizing short-term trips can be a great way to build community and maintain your momentum going into the next fall semester.

#6 – Evaluate your college ministry

Your college ministry will never “arrive.”

There’s not a destination you’ll reach when you know your work is done.

As you build a team, pray, and reach college students, you can learn a ton along the way and God may lead you to do something you didn’t originally plan on.

After you start your college ministry, plan on gathering your team together to evaluate how things are going after the fall and spring semester. This doesn’t mean you can’t address things in between these times. But it’s best to set a time to evaluate (and celebrate) your work.

Here are some questions you can ask to evaluate your ministry:

  • How does everyone feel about his or her role on the team?
  • How many new college students did we meet?
  • How many students took next steps?
  • Did we accomplish our goals with the events, Bible study, or weekly gathering?
  • What can we do differently?
  • How well did we keep the prayer team informed?

These questions will help you to get started.

To put together a more thorough evaluation, our team created an evaluation tool you can use. It’s a part of the resource library we created at Church Fuel. This form will help you to evaluate every nook and cranny of your college ministry, and it will also provide you with a list of topics for conversations.

During your evaluations, make it a point to celebrate your wins. From meeting new students to starting a small group, provide everyone on your leadership team an opportunity to share one or more recent wins, as well as how he or she is growing from the experience.

Over to you

If you have a college or university in your town, consider starting a college ministry.

If your church isn’t in a great spot to launch a new ministry, consider partnering with another church in your community or an organization that is already active on campus.

There are countless college students who need to hear the gospel. Pray and see if God is calling you to be the one to share the good news.

First-Time Guest Gifts: What Churches Need to Know

First-Time Guest Gifts: What Churches Need to Know

Visiting a church for the first time is intimidating.

For someone to visit your worship service is a big deal.

First-time visitors likely have a host of questions racing through their mind and they probably have a ton of reasons why they should just turn around and go home.

Regardless of why someone visits your church, easing the tension your first-time guests feel is essential. By creating a positive experience, you will compel them to visit your worship service again or take the next step in getting further involved.

One way to create a better connection with your guests is to share with them a small gift for visiting your worship service.

In this post, we’re going to talk about:

  • Why you should give gifts to your first-time guests
  • How much your first-time gift will cost
  • How to make people feel comfortable—not awkward
  • 5 examples of first-time guest gifts

Let’s get started!

Why you should give gifts to your first-time guests

Inviting people to your house (or house of worship) is a big first step.

You’re extending a personal invitation for someone to enter your space, and making your guest feel comfortable is a hallmark of Christian hospitality.

Think about it.

You’re inviting someone new into your family’s weekly gathering. There will be many people they don’t know. They probably won’t know how to handle him or herself. And they’ll have no idea where anything’s at in your facilities.

By giving your first-time guests a gift, you’re not only creating a good first impression. But you’ll be able to do three additional things:

  • Show people you care
  • Get their contact information
  • Follow up later

When you give a gift to a first-time guest, you’re letting them know you care. Gift giving is a simple act that lets people know you planned ahead for their visit, and that you’re thankful for their presence.

“When you give a gift to a first-time guest, you’re letting them know you care. Gift giving is a simple act that lets people know you planned ahead for their visit, and that you’re thankful for their presence.” – Church Fuel, Twitter.

By providing your visitors with a gift, they will be more inclined to share with you their contact information. When visitors share with you his or her contact information, they’re expressing an openness to hear from you in the future.

Following up with your guests is essential in encouraging them to consider visiting your church’s worship service again or to get further involved. Touching base with your guests after their visit is one way you can extend a positive experience, answer any questions, and let them know you’d love for them to visit again.  

To accomplish this goal, be sure to include connection cards in your gift bags.

With your connections cards, aim for simplicity. In other words, only require visitors to share with you the bare minimum of information—their name and email address. Making it easy to complete your connection cards will increase the number of visitors who will actually complete them.

By giving your first-time guests a gift, you’ll be better able to close your church's backdoor and encourage visitors to come back.

How much your first-time gift will cost

Sharing gifts with your first-time guests is a nice gesture.

It can do all of the things we just talked about above and more.

However, if the gift you share is done half-heartedly, you’ll end up discouraging people from returning, which defeats the entire purpose.

When planning your gift, be prepared to budget accordingly.

After talking to 33 church leaders across the United States about the gifts they provide to first-time guests, Rich Birch discovered that the average cost per gift was $4.88. In his research, he discovered that the least expensive gift was $0.75 and that the highest amount spent was $15.00.

How much you spend will look different from church to church and city to city.

For your gift, we suggest investing in a few gift bags to get started. This will let you know how much you should expect to pay, how much time it takes to put them together, and what type of feedback you’re receiving from your visitors.

How to make people feel comfortable—not awkward

Giving someone a gift is more of an art than a science.

Here’s the deal:

Make guests feel comfortable—not awkward.

What time you give a visitor a gift during your worship service is key and there are several times you can choose to give them a gift. But one of the best ways to hand your guests a gift is after your worship service.

To pull this off, here’s what you need to do:

  • Dedicate a space to first-time guests
  • Let first-time guests know where to go after your worship service

For this last point, it’s best to let your guests know during your announcements where they should go and to include this information in other places, such as your bulletin or in your foyer.

If you have a dedicated space with clear signage and volunteers present, first-time guests will be better able to identify where they need to go. But whatever you do, make sure this location is easy to find and not tucked away in a dark corner of your worship space.

One final point:

Don’t ask your guests to raise their hand or stand up during your worship service to get their gift.

For the vast majority of people, this is uncomfortable and making this request is arguably the number one way to drive away your guests. If you didn’t know, now consider yourself informed.

5 examples of first-time guest gifts

Not sure what your first-time gift should be? The ideas below will help you to get started.

Feel free to use these examples or come up with your own.

Regardless of what gift you give, remember that whatever you choose, it should help you do these three things:

      1. Show people you care
      2. Get contact information
      3. Follow up later

If the gifts you choose accomplish these goals, then go for it!

Whatever gift you give, make sure it’s also something you think your visitors will like and that it’s relevant. For example, providing a gift to first-time guests with children may look different than a gift you will give a single person or grandparent.

In the meantime, here are five first-time guest gift ideas for you to consider:

#1. Book

The sky's the limit with the type of book you can give away.

Sharing copies of the Bible, The Jesus Storybook Bible for families, or seasonal books related to Christmas or Easter are all viable options.

With the book you give, keep this in mind:

Make sure it’s relevant and accessible.

Giving everyone a copy of a children’s book may cause some blowback, and giving someone a book fit for a seminary class isn’t the best idea, either.

#2. Gift card

Do you know what most people feel after your worship service?

Hungry or tired.

Not because your service is long or boring. Since 10:00 AM is the most popular start time for Sunday services, most people will be ready for a bite to eat or a little coffee afterward.

With this in mind, consider giving your visitors a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop.

#3. Coffee mug or tumbler

Did you know that 64 percent of Americans drink a cup of coffee every day?

Did you know that tea can be found in 80 percent of American households?

These stats may sound random, but here’s the point:

A coffee mug or tumbler is an excellent choice for a gift.

There’s a chance someone won’t appreciate this gesture, but we don’t talk to people who don’t drink coffee, so that’s okay (just kidding).

#4. Local item

Is there a small gift from a local business you can provide?

Not only will this gesture support local businesses in your community, but it’s also a way to share something heartfelt from your town that people will enjoy.

#5. Food

We’ll admit:

Giving away food can be tricky.

Since nearly 15 million Americans have food allergies, you’ll need to give away basic food, such as:

  • Desserts
  • Popcorn
  • Jams/Jellies
  • Coffee
  • Hot Chocolate
  • Tea

Speaking of popcorn, you can pair this treat with a gift card to Redbox, Amazon, or iTunes to create a movie night experience for your visitors.

Giving gifts

If you’re just considering first-time guest gifts, then we encourage you to start small.

Don’t spend a ton of money at first.

Test out different ideas.

See what resonates with people.

Remember, whatever gift you give is not only about making your first-time guests feel comfortable, but it’s also about leading them to get connected and ultimately about placing your church in a better position to share the gospel.

7 Summer Outreach Ideas

7 Summer Outreach Ideas

Summer time is my favorite.

And not just because my birthday’s in June.

There’s watermelon, killer BBQ, the warmth of the sun on your skin, and my personal favorite…trips to the beach.

Summer is a time when things aren’t so chaotic and people are a little less tense. They can relax a little.

The squash is out of season and the holiday festivities are out of sight. And it is a GREAT time as a church to make yourself known in your community. We’ve got seven ideas for you to do this this summer.

1. Host a “movie under the stars” night.

According to the American Association of Retired Persons, the third most popular summer activity is watching movies.

Sure, you could pay a whopping $12 to go see the newest Marvel movie.

Or…you could have your church host a movie night for a fraction of the cost (or for free!).

You can use your church’s space, rent out a green area, or another cool space in your town. You can have food trucks, BBQ, or make it a dessert night. The possibilities are up to you.

If Disney does it, it’s gotta be a golden idea, right?

2. Join or host a book club.

Everybody loves a good story.

Summer is the perfect time when school is out, people are going on vacation, and they might have more time to crack open the novel that they’ve been meaning to get to.

While book clubs tend to be more of a female-geared activity, there are certainly men who enjoy participating in a good book club.

Regardless of whether you join or host a book club (for ladies, men, co-ed, or even kids) they are a time to get together, talk about real life issues, and easily open up deeper and more meaningful (even spiritual) conversations.

We highly recommend finding a book club that’s already going on in your city to be a part of.

You can use the “Meetup” app, the local library, or the local bookstore website to see what book clubs are going on in your city.

If there just doesn’t seem to be any going on, then start one in your city so new people who aren’t necessarily from your church can attend.

Or encourage people in your church to start one in their neighborhood!

Do all kinds of different books, not just Christian literature.

Here’s a popular book list for book club books in 2018.

3. Hold a 4th of July concert.

We all know you’re not American if you don’t enjoy good BBQ and fireworks on Independence Day.

It’s the Christmas of the summer.

Or maybe New Years?

Either way—it’s just about the only fun holiday that happens during the summer. And it’s a great opportunity to get together with your city and celebrate.

A great way to do this is to partner with your city to put on a local concert!

You can get local bands to play, have food trucks, offer to make or pay for good barbecue, provide games/entertainment, free refreshments or desserts, and figure out how to put together a firework show!

Families love having a place they can get together to celebrate and spend time together. It would be cool to make something like this happen—even on a smaller level.

4. Challenge your church to host neighborhood game nights.

When most of us think of board games, we think of the classics: Scrabble, Monopoly, and a good game of Clue.

But today it seems like there are as many board games as there are books.

Game nights can be a fun way to get to know your neighbors and friends better, let everyone’s competitive side come out, and share a fun experience together.

And since the summer time means off season for practices, people can bring their kids along as well!

Some of our favorite adult board games are: Speak Out, Ticket to Ride, Catan, and Codenames.

And here’s a list of some kid-friendly board games.

5. Start or join a biking, walking, or runner’s club.

Working out alone is the worst.

It’s true of anything else—doing something alongside another person just makes it better, easier, and more fun.

I am way more likely to actually take a yoga class, run, or go to the gym if I have someone I’m going with. It’s easy to cancel on yourself.

Summer is a great time when people are re-evaluating their New Year’s resolutions and starting to think about their health again.

This can be a great time to find or join some sort of club that meets your level of movement capability and meet other people who have a similar interest as you. You can share why your health is important with each other and hear other people’s life stories. What a great way to get to know your community!

You can use the “Meetup” app for this, look at your city’s website, post notices in your neighborhood, or ask some friends and co-workers if they want to join you on a weekly bike ride, run, walk, or whatever works for you.

6. Offer free car washes or yard care.

You don’t need big events to reach people in your community.

Acts of service are a great way to show people in your community that you care about them and aren’t just out for them to attend your church.

You can set up a car wash in your church’s parking lot and make sure to advertise well in advance. Or, if the space isn’t able to host a car wash, you could offer this in neighboring areas.

Here’s a guide and a list of all of the supplies you may need for this.

Offering to do free yard work will offer a little more flexibility, as you’re going to people’s homes.

For yard work, you’ll just need a good lawn mower and to be ready to pull some weeds!

7. Watch kids on “date nights.”

The off-season of the year is a great time for parents to get some quality time in together.

It makes it tough if parents don’t have money to afford a sitter and don’t know anyone who can watch their kiddos for them.

Have your church host a “date night day care” so parents can go out while you watch the kids. Make it fun, exciting, and a mini camp-like experience so that kids will want to come back.

You can also encourage your church to do this in their own neighborhood.

Let us know which of these you'll try this summer and how it goes.