EveryOne:Reaching Farther Together
by Richard Atwood
An “Ideas You Can Use” article
Learn more about the ministry of Free Will Baptist Home Missions at www.homemissions.net.
Tim is a popular name for Free Will Baptist Home Missionaries. Missionary Tims stretch across the U.S. map: West—Tim Lewis, Utah; North—Tim Byers, Ohio; the Deep South—Tim Riggs, Alabama; Mid-south—Tim Osborn, Tennessee. I asked each Tim to share some of their successful ideas for outreach. No matter where you are located, outreach takes prayer, loving people, and preaching the truth. Maybe something these men share will stir your thinking about outreach in your community.
Our church in Ashtabula, Ohio, has grown through a strong youth program. Young people today look for people they can trust. We are trying to be those people.
Activities include snow tubing and sledding, field trips to baseball games and amusement parks. We do things that are fun with the cause of Christ in mind. We become their friends, part of their lives, and when a crisis comes—as it always does—we are there with the gospel of Jesus to help them through it. Over time, word spreads and teens invite their friends to join them at church.
We have come to know many adults because their kids came to church. It is one of our goals to reach people you wouldn’t normally see in any church—those struggling with alcoholism, drugs, and other addictions and problems. We have started many programs to help those we reach such as the Celebrate Recovery program (www.celebraterecovery.com). Programs with different emphases may change throughout the year, but all are centered on helping people make the right decisions.
Not everyone becomes a success story. I could share some sad stories about people who go back to their old lifestyle, but we are deeply thankful for those we can help and reach for the Lord.
Since moving to Mobile, Alabama, in December 2006, we have tried many creative ways to get the gospel out, and to let people know there is a Free Will Baptist church in the area. Hundreds of flyers have been distributed; two large ads appeared in the newspaper, and four thousand attractive, color postcards were mailed. One family came the first Sunday because they received a postcard in the mail.
They never stopped coming, and today they work in different ministries of the church. Door-to-door visitation is our primary, regular method of outreach, and it has brought about the most growth. In fact, 65-70% percent of new attendees in the 21-month history of Bay City FWB Church have come as a result of visiting door-to-door in the community.
Big events also provide a great opportunity for bringing in new people. We recently sponsored a booth at the city’s Azalea Festival and hosted a big Fall Festival and a Christmas play followed by a meal.
Our church members invite family members and friends to a monthly fellowship meal held after the Sunday morning service. It is easier to invite someone to church when you invite him to a delicious (and free) southern buffet. Eating together provides a great way to meet new people, and it also gives our church people a chance to establish relationships with the visitors.
Much of the outreach for our new church in Oakland, Tennessee, revolves around sermon series. Mass mailings, newspaper ads, and door-to-door saturation all promote an upcoming series. That provides an opportunity to invite people to something new, so we are not just passing out the expected church flyer or brochure every time.
I try to be creative and make the series and sermon titles catchy. One such series was entitled “Christmas Special,” using the titles from old Christmas movies for the four sermons. The sermons and subtitles were:
• Miracle on 34th Street: The True Miracle of Christmas (A sermon about the Virgin Birth)
• The Grinch: a Christmas Gift for the Heart (A sermon about how God can change your heart)
• A Christmas Carol: A Man’s Journey to Faith. (A sermon about salvation)
• The Nativity (No subtitle is needed for this one, it was simply the biblical Christmas Story)
Using creative sermon themes lets people know you have something new going on at your church, yet it places preaching at the heart of the ministry.
We also participate in community activities as a way to meet people. Our church joined the Chamber of Commerce, well worth the $150 annual fee. Using the Chamber mass-mailing permit saved more than the dues with our first mass mailing. Two families we met through the Chamber now attend our church.
I also serve as the chaplain for a local fire department. As chaplain, I have opportunities to minister to firemen and their families on a weekly basis. The fire chief and his family, the assistant chief and his family, and another fireman and his family all attend our church.
Sixteen of our adults wrapped hundreds of gifts for free at the mall on the last Saturday before Christmas. (Some shoppers even went out to their cars and came back with a dozen or more gifts to be wrapped, and if possible, we wrapped them all.) Everybody received information about our church, and when people asked why we were doing this, we simply told them we wanted them to know God loved them. This gave our church free publicity and was a great way for our people to focus on outreach during the holidays.
One of our most effective outreach events has become an annual tradition. Each summer we host a community barbeque, often with the help of a visiting mission team. Held at the park that borders our church property, we prepare hamburgers, hot dogs, chips, drinks, and all the fixings, as well as a mini-carnival and prizes for the kids. We usually serve between 500-600 hot dogs and hamburgers. Again, we do not accept donations. We tell people that this is our way of sharing the love of Christ. Almost without exception, visitors attend our service the following Sunday.
About the Writer: Richard Atwood is the director of missionary assistance for the Home Missions Department. To learn more about Free Will Baptist Home Missions, visit www.homemissions.net.