Recently, I chatted with a local pastor about his evangelism efforts in a smaller, rural community. His church isn't that large so finding volunteers for any kind of outreach initiative is challenging. The larger churches in town seem to have most of the popular holidays-like July 4th-wrapped up with all their resources. This pastor tried many things that just did not seem successful over the years, except for their live nativity scene at Christmas that usually garnered around seventy or more cars. He was at his wits end and looking for options.
In talking with this pastor I sensed his discouragement, frustration, and hopelessness all at one time. It wasn't like the church wasn't interested in evangelism, or had not tried to reach their community. They had tried numerous things to seemingly no avail. So what is a church leader to do in that kind of situation? When it seems as though you have tried it all but the fruit is missing?
The first thing I encouraged any pastor to do is "Don't give up!" When so many things go wrong or seem unfruitful, it's easy to get discouraged and quit doing even those things that have been fruitful for your ministry. Step back and prayerfully consider what has provided even a slight reward. Repetition is often a church's best avenue of bringing awareness to a community and the live nativity was a prime example. Seventy cars is a great number for a smaller community!
The second thing I encouraged this pastor to pray about was their web site. Since over eighty percent of first time visitors explore a church's website it should be easy to navigate and up to date. Too much flash (small videos) on church websites can actually be a turnoff to many people, so keep it simple. Although difficult to believe, not everyone has high-speed Internet.
Lastly, for now, see what's important to your community and become involved. Most smaller communities-and even larger ones-value authentic relationships. That means visibly building relationships one at a time in that community and finding out where there are needs that your ministry could help with-from adopting school playgrounds to the volunteer fire department. So don't give up! As St. Augustine once said: "Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you."
TAKE A SEC: Do you have an interesting evangelism thought or outreach idea? Leave a comment at http://evangelismgroup.wordpress.com and share what has really worked for you in your community!
Marshall M. Windsor, D.Min.
National Evangelists Presbyter