As one of my old bosses used to say, “Plan your work and then work your plan” and that is sound advice for your outreach efforts. Planning should include all aspects of your outreach effort and how it will be carried out and by whom. This is a classic activity based on the “What, When and Where” approach. click here for a guide to help you with solving specific problems, particularly those having multiple facets or symptoms.
All plans need to start with some basic assumptions thus there is a need to reflect inwardly to determine just where the congregation is in a number of areas. Always remember the foundation of all activities, including evangelism and outreach, is to start with a solid position on Word and Sacrament. In other words don’t go charging off to start doing outreach planning if you don’t have a solid core group trained on Vocation and evangelism/outreach to carry it out. That core group needs to be reasonably well catechized on Lutheran doctrines. That core group should be the good percentage of your congregation, and your planning includes training as many of the remainder as possible. For more information on how the dynamics of your congregation’s culture works please refer to The Lay Persons Guide to Good Church Government where topics on administration, types of personalities and groups of people in a congregation, planning, and dealing with apathy, are addressed. This book can be ordered on the Educational Products Page. Once you have determined that you have the core group ready to go then proceed. There is no sense going forward without this core group as it will only lead to a lot of frustration and an ineffective effort.
A major aspect of your outreach efforts needs to include building bridges into your community, using every opportunity available. This is not all about public advertising, it is about establishing real relationships so your community knows who you are, what you stand for and how to be reached in the time of an individual or family emergency. This approach should also provide ways for Lutheran vacationers or those visiting your town on business to have multiple opportunities (Up to date Website, listing in multiple public church directories, etc.) to find your church. Participate in as many community events as possible as well as hosting of wellness fairs, senior care, craft bazaars, etc. Now turn that around and look at the activities within your church that could be revamped to make them public events for an opportunity to bring people into contact with your church on an informal basis. Leave no stone unturned.
To assist each member of your church to “be prepared” when the occasion arises to invite someone to “come and see” (John 1:43-49) take a look at the aids provided on the Visitor’s Corner Page.
Remember, many denominations do not observe Advent, Lent, Holy Week and other Holy Days on our calendar. The world is generally less informed, thus you can use these special events to emphasize outreach in your plans and a way to start a conversation or build a bridge with a person or organization in the community. Do know where your boundaries are in the area of participation in the community regarding religious events, such as prayer breakfasts, joint worship services, etc. In general these are to be avoided. Synod has much to say on this topic so best to check there regarding this area. Start at this link, https://www.lcms.org/faqs.
Consistently pray for those in your church involved with your church’s outreach effort and for the people they come in contact. Remember to solicit prayer requests from those contacts as well and let them know in some way you are praying for them.
Your planning also needs to provide for activities for those who “come and see” and have taken heed to the Gospel message. Think of group activities in which they participate based on their skills and vocations such as: choir, ushering, Trustee helper, Sports, Sunday school helper, greeter, etc. These are the beginning steps of assimilation of visitors into your culture and are a big help to them to feel accepted and part of the flock. Be inventive regarding your assimilation activities, including inviting them to Bible class, adult instruction, Outreach for adults or children, etc. A note on Bible classes for adults – be sure you have a “beginners” class to start with. Example; nothing is more destructive than to have a new Christian come into a class where there are routine look-ups of different verses in the Bible. They may not even know many of the names in either the Old or New Testaments. I actually saw this happen in a class several years ago and the people never came back to class, they were too embarrassed by their lack of knowledge to participate. Another no-no is put a new Christian into a higher level Bible class, like a class on Revelation. Start them off on “milk and pablum” and solid spiritual food to follow.