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The Ripple Effect

Carmen Kamrath

My daughter's a cheerleader so I regularly attend local high school sporting events. The crosstown rivalry football game is always well-attended by the community and, as usual, I was present in the stands. Just before kickoff, two boys from our church sat by me, still excited about the recent corn maze trip they'd attended with our preteen group. Before long, a small group of 4th and 5th graders gathered to chat about school, the football game, and our next event at church. Aside from the two boys, the kids' faces were new to me, but all were intrigued that our church's next preteen event was laser tag.

I ran to my car to grab flyers and invited the kids to join us. And I made a mental note: Bring children's ministry info to upcoming games.

The game resulted in a win for my daughter's high school -- and for our ministry. Two weeks later those preteens attended our laser tag event. The following week they brought their parents to our family worship service. Several of the families are now active church members.

Making connections with people is what Jesus modeled -- he met people where they were in life, he provided for their needs, and he gave a living example of unconditional love. Your children's ministry can also make connections with kids and families in your community with these outreach opportunities.

Relevant Connections

By providing reputable services and programs in a safe and friendly environment, you can reach out to families looking for quality, family-friendly programs.

  • Sports Leagues -- Many parents want athletic opportunities for their children that'll also teach them good sportsmanship and character values. So form sports teams that compete in local competitions, and recruit quality coaches who teach character along with athletic skills. Or host sports camps and clinics for kids with local Christian high school and college athletes providing instruction in skills and sportsmanship.
  • Community Education Classes -- Parents want help with parenting skills and financial management classes. Parents also want classes they can attend with their child, such as art or music. Offer interest-based children's classes, such as knitting or weird science. Use class time to introduce a simple faith concept that ties into the skill or topic instruction.
  • Parents Night Out -- Finding a good sitter can be tough for parents. So offer a fun and safe environment for kids while their parents enjoy an evening out. Reach out to families that have children with special needs by providing a respite night.
  • Special Interest Groups -- Invite interested children in and out of your church to join a children's musical theater group that performs in your community. Offer field trips and encourage your kids to invite friends. Sponsor discounts to sporting events and local attractions to encourage church families to invite friends to attend at a group rate.

Festive Connections

Holidays and special events provide a unique opportunity for your community to connect with your ministry. Celebrate festive occasions with these community-friendly ideas.

  • Traditional Christian Holidays -- Often the only place to participate in holiday traditions associated with Christmas and Easter is at church. Attract your community to your church at Christmas time with a Main Street Christmas event, including a live nativity, family-oriented Christmas crafts, and strolling carolers. At Easter, open your church lawn to a community egg hunt with invitations to your Easter morning church services.
  • Holiday Alternatives -- Parents today are concerned about kids on holidays such as Halloween. So invite families to your church for a Halloween alternative program complete with games, food, and giveaways. Check out Heroes Unmasked an easy, ready-to-go Halloween Alternative with an outreach emphasis. For Valentine's Day, offer a family sweetheart experience such as a dinner and dance for girls and father figures. On Independence Day, open your church property for families to view fireworks, or offer a free shuttle from your parking lot to your community's festivities.
  • The Party's Here -- Build a reputation in your community as the "go-to" place for family fun. Sponsor family-oriented concerts that are affordable and communicate Christian values. Plan events -- such as pool parties, barbeques, or skate nights at a local rink -- that make it easy for church families to invite other families in your community.

Civic Connections

Go outside your comfort zone to meet people in your community where they're at. Making these connections tells others that you're living your mission and you care about your community.

  • Kids Clubs -- Send teams into local schools to offer an after-school club program. Offer specialized clubs such as ceramics or model cars, or have volunteers provide homework help and snacks two days a week.
  • Be a Volunteer -- Schools are often in the same predicament as the church -- they rely heavily on volunteers to get the job done. So volunteer to tutor, read to children, help at field day, or cover as a lunch monitor. Kids in your ministry will recognize you and you'll get to know your local school's staff and community.
  • Open the Door -- Many community clubs and groups need a meeting place. If your Sunday school rooms sit vacant during the week, offer the use of your facility free of charge. Scouting programs, family support groups, and music teachers giving group lessons all need a place to meet. Providing a room is a great way to invite the community into your church to see what your ministry offers.
  • Model Families -- Give back to your community by providing opportunities for families to serve together. Involve families in Make a Difference Day on Saturday, October 28, by cleaning up a local park or elderly resident's yard (for project ideas in your area, go to www.usaweekend.com/diffday/index.html). Connect church families with a needy family at Christmas by providing a meal and gifts for the family. Or have families go caroling in their neighborhoods with carts of hot cocoa for their listeners.

Carmen Kamrath is associate editor for Children's Ministry Magazine.


Family to Family

The most powerful outreach tool in ministry is the personal invitation. The top reason families visited our church is another family invited them. And the invitation was usually to attend a program or event outside of our regular church services. Help equip your families to extend the welcome mat with these tips.

  • Cast Vision -- Families need to know that you value them as influential members of your community. Tell parents the purpose of your outreach programs and events, and give them examples of your target audience so they can think of families in their neighborhood or social circle to invite.
  • Advance Notice -- Advertise programs and events that are community-focused well ahead. Provide families with flyers or cards with the event, date, time, and phone number or Web site for more information.
  • Cheat Sheets -- Give families examples of how to invite another family to an outreach opportunity. Conversation starters and prompts can help nervous parents feel more confident in a situation that may cause them to feel vulnerable.
  • Give Perks -- Offer discounts on tickets to families bringing another family for the first time, or host a pre-event social with food or entertainment for families and their guests.
  • Share Celebrations -- Sometimes families invite others and never hear whether their invitation bore fruit. Send thank you notes to kids and families when a guest mentions their friend invited them. Let families know if someone they invited begins to attend church regularly. Families are motivated to extend invitations when they hear success stories.

Please keep in mind that phone numbers, addresses, and prices are subject to change.

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