Monday, January 31, 2011

Outreach! Sunday School . . . and more!

This week we will look at Outreach. When it comes to outreach we all know we should do it . . . and we do want to do it, but deciding what to do and then how and when to do it can be almost overwhelming. I mean, we are all busy . . . in many cases, too busy. Planning an outreach can, and likely will, add another thing to our "plate", so we need to consider some important questions before we move forward with our outreach.

First of all, should we have outreach? Clearly there is a Biblical basis for doing so . . . Jesus Himself told us to "Go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to obey everything that I have taught you, and I will be with you always, even until the end of this age." (Matthew 28:19,20 NCV) He also told us, "You will be my witnesses—in Jerusalem, in all of Judea, in Samaria, and in every part of the world." (Acts 1:8 NCV) We are supposed to go and make followers of all people in the world . . . this certainly includes the people in our own communities. Since Jesus Himself told us to "Go", clearly there is no questions as to "if" we should have outreach or not.

So, since we know we should have outreach, how do we decide the "how" and "when" of outreach? Before you consider adding additional "outreach" to your calendar, look at what you are already doing and evaluate those things to see what you can do to be more effective and make them a more inviting opportunity to reach out to the people in your community. Today, let's consider two components of your ministry where you have already invested your time, resources and people. 

You may not think of your Sunday school as "outreach", but if your church is inviting and is generating interest from the people in your community, you will have visitors. Is your Sunday School "visitor-friendly"? When a visitor arrives is your children's ministry a place which generates confidence and communicates they are welcome? Are visitors are they greeted by someone who will welcome them and answer their questions when they arrive at your church? Are your children's classes easy to find? Do you have a flyer with all the important information about your children's ministry? When they reach your children's classes is there someone available who can patiently explain your security/sign-in procedure? Do your volunteers wear name-tags or something that makes them easily identifiable? As they "peek" into your classrooms do they see children engaged with caring adults? Are visiting children welcomed by the other children and invited to participate, or are they left on their own?

These are all important questions for you to know the answers to so when a visitor visits, your children's ministry is welcoming. They are also important for you to know the answers to before you plan any big "outreach" event as the goal of that outreach event will be to bring community people into your church. If you have a great outreach event, but then when the visitor visits your church they find an unwelcoming atmosphere, you will have a much more difficult time enfolding them into your church community. So consider re-focusing and strengthen your Sunday school ministry so it has the vision, passion, focus and plan to be an effective "outreach" of your church! 

Be sure to also take a look at the curriculum you are utilizing. If your outreach "event" is engaging and exciting, but your Sunday school is boring it will be significantly more difficult to get visitors to become members of your church community. Does your curriculum enable you effectively and intentionally engage the children so they are able to remember and understand God's Word and then take it out the doors of the church and know how to live it in their everyday lives? The month of March I will be reviewing several curriculum resources and will provide a side-by-side comparison chart to help you as you evaluate curriculum.

So, as you consider outreach, look first at what you are already doing with your Sunday school ministry. My next post will consider the second thing you are probably already doing for outreach!

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