Friday, February 24, 2006
Capturing the Attention of Your City this Easter
By Steve Sjogren from Pastors.com:
A number of years ago I hit a wall when launching my new church in Cincinnati. Just four weeks after arriving, nationwide survey results were announced that our fair city was the fourth most unfriendly city in all of America! Wow, what a challenge. That's not the kind of information you can find in a demographic study!
I had planted several fairly successful churches before coming here, but in this city on the river, I tried everything I knew to connect with people and absolutely nothing worked. Finally, one day I got an "inspired idea" – as I like to call it when the Lord impresses something on my heart. "Give up on planting this boring little church and just begin to serve people and see what happens." So my wife, Janie, and I did just that. After two years and more than 2,000 vision casting conversations we had gathered only 37 people. We announced our new direction. Immediately, 12 people left. They were angry. "That's a stupid idea," they told me. But we persevered. We did a car wash. We washed windshields. Before long we were doing five or six projects each Saturday.
We gave out "connection cards" so people could follow up on a church connection if they wanted to – but for the first six months we put other church's names on the cards – we were embarrassed at our own church's quality! But amazingly our church grew greatly. Our people got excited about our outward focus.
Fast forward a few years. I led the church for 15 years until a major medical accident. The church had grown to more than 7,000 on weekends, and we had spun off about 20 other churches – all of them doing the same sorts of things.
Easter is a fantastic "excuse" to serve people into relationship with Christ. Pretty much everyone is thinking about God during Holy Week. We go out everyday that week in groups and do all sorts of things to show God's love in practical ways. Here are some practical, simple ideas to consider:
Fill parking meters if it's not illegal in your city. Put together a card that says, "Your parking meter looked hungry so we fed it!" You can see derivations of what that card looks like on my Web site, under "Cards." If you do this put the card by the driver's side window, not the windshield.
Give away flowers. Carnations are inexpensive. Order them a bit ahead of time. We have found that when we tell the bulk florists that we are going to give them away, that they usually give us an even better deal!
People go crazy over a single flower – it is amazing.
Hand out Hershey Kisses in a small Ziploc bag. Put three or four of the kisses (be generous!) along with a "connection card" into the bag. You would be surprised at how many of these you can give out in a short space of time. We have given out as many as 2,000 to 3,000 in 90 minutes at a good location with a lot of traffic.
Give out gift bags. Fill that area assembled in the front of your church by the platform on either Palm Sunday (ideally) or even on Easter with colorful gift bags that have paper stuffing coming out the top. Encourage your people to give these out to people they run into – cashiers, waiters (after they have given them a big tip – 30 percent in any case – that's a normal rate for Christ-followers in my mind). These bags can contain candy, lip balm, mints, pocket tissues – get some of your more creative people to work on the contents that would seem appropriate for your area of the United States. Again, show the generosity of Christ! Of course, put in a connection card.
M & Ms packs. Everyone likes M & Ms. You would have to be a Communist to not like M & Ms! Get the plain ones, not the peanut – many are allergic to peanuts. I have found that you can get these at a gigantic discount when you buy them in bulk at either a Sam's store or a Costco. They are as little as 20 cents per pack.
Doing these outreaches now and then such as something on Easter is a good start. The goal though is to begin to do these things all of the time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In my new church plant in Tampa our motto is, "See a need and meet it; feel a hurt and heal it." Our goal is that 80 percent of our people will each week spontaneously touch between five and 10 people with radical acts of generosity and love and then give those people a connection card. When you gather a few thousand people, it begins to add up to a lot of touches. As one friend of mine puts it, "That's a whole lot of God's love!"
FOR DISCUSSION: What are you doing to capture your community this Easter? Will any of these ideas help you?Add Your Comments and Ideas now...
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Some real good ideas. I e-mailed this article to our Senior Pastor to see what he thinks. Meeting peoples needs is usually a good thing.
Posted by: Jade | Feb 24, 2006 10:28:51 AM
"The church had grown to more than 7,000 on weekends, and we had spun off about 20 other churches – all of them doing the same sorts of things. "
Wow- 20 churches, that sounds amazing. Sounds like he's onto something. It would be interesting to be able to experience that. He's talking about being "salt of the earth." He talking about being a blessing to others. He's talking about giving, not receiving.
Posted by: Bernie of FreeGoodNews.com | Feb 24, 2006 1:29:02 PM
FYI - the church that my family has attended for the past year has latched onto Sjogren's "kindness evangelism" and has seen great results. I've been skeptical, to say the least, coming as I do from a background of more traditional evangelism (Four Laws and other methods that lead to an immediate gospel presentation and opportunity to respond). But I have seen the impact the church has had on the community. I want to read Steve's book and continue to learn more about this "philosophy" of reaching our neighbors for Christ. Seems like a good thing that God is using to build his kingdom.
Posted by: Randy Ehle | Feb 24, 2006 1:51:14 PM
Yeah, Randy, I agree. I think I'm going to go ahead and order this book for our staff. Love is kind (Dare I say... Love is "nice"?)
And Bernie... I see on another topic that you are gone till the middle of next week! Well, then why should I even bother reading MMI then?
Only half-kidding, though, I love reading your posts, Bernie!
Posted by: Peter Hamm | Feb 24, 2006 2:01:32 PM
Randy & Peter,
The book is awesome! Steve is as real as we get and so is his passion for the Lord, His Kingdom and reaching the lost.
See, even some of us in the Vineyard get near the "cutting edge" once in awhile! LOL
Me too! Not fair bro. I gotta wait a week to get on the same page with you. Oh well, see how you are. Have a blessed time.
Posted by: Jim Eaton | Feb 24, 2006 2:16:10 PM
I have met Steve Sjogren and heard him speak many times. I think Steve, the Vineyard Church, and Servant Evangelism are phenomenal. I was introduced many years ago, and have been actively serving my community through SE.
I believe you will enjoy his website (www.servantevangelism.com) and you will enjoy any and all of his books.
As an example of his attitude: A few years ago I attend the SE conference in Dayton, Ohio. They had large rolling coolers with bottled water for the conference attendees. The conference alternated between times of listening to speakers and times of actively doing SE in the community.
One night a group of guys were so pumped up about serving they "stole" one of the coolers of bottled water and went to the party district. They distributed the water and prayed with many people. The next morning they confessed and apologized.
Steve and the staff brought these guys up front as an example of just going out and loving people.
I believe very strongly in the power of lovingly serving those around us. Check out the website. Be sure to see the FAQ page.
Posted by: eric | Feb 24, 2006 3:00:00 PM
i agree with the servant approach totally but i say go one step further and don't bother advertising your church in the process. it'll really have an impact on the skeptics when they just know your giving anonymously as a christian and they have to find out where you're from!
Posted by: gb | Feb 24, 2006 7:05:44 PM
What harm does it ever do to do some one else some good?
Posted by: Dean | Feb 24, 2006 8:49:40 PM
Steve doesn't consider it advertising. He considers it giving them a reference point to make contact. No one has ever been offended when we included a card because we simply gave them the item, the card, and then we left without being pushy.
Also, the card isn't so much of an advertisement as it is a way to let the person know why you are doing what you're doing.
Posted by: eric | Feb 25, 2006 6:16:42 AM
I agree with eric about using the cards to let people know why you do what you do. Jesus did not tell us to simply give people a cup of cool water. He told us to give a cup of cool water "in His name". As much as people need to know we care, they need to know that Jesus cares even more.
Posted by: Brett | Feb 26, 2006 6:31:01 PM
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