by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 5/12/16.
I encourage my students to spend more time in their ministry lives ascertaining the needs of the community rather than trying to entertain the community.
Often churches offer block parties, festivals, yard sales, concerts and the like as “outreach events.” But really they seem to me more like avenues for the church to boast in its presentational power.
As I’ve pointed out in the book ORGANIX one of the “signs of leadership in a changing church” is incarnational ministry, which means going in-the-flesh to connect with people one-on-one.
Here is how one student described her block party and my response regarding how to make it an incarnational event rather than an attraction no one:
“Lastly, we are planning on hosting FX (Family Experience) events several times a year, where jump houses and carnival-like games are coupled with a short, Biblically-based play. These have been wonderful ways to do community outreach at our sending church. Once again, these can be advertised through the virtual school newsletters, in mailers, and via strategically placed signage in the local neighborhood. During the actual FX event, short surveys can be handed out to those attending.” (bold lettering student).
Remember when you’re planning something like the neighborhood festival spend equal amounts of time on gathering information about community needs as you do setting up the bouncy house and organizing the games.
Thus, it seems like the “short surveys” are tacked onto the end – as an afterthought. This must be 50% of your energy, money and time because I know you agree with me that ascertaining needs is more important than entertaining the community.