It’s one of the great questions of our ministry age: How can we keep families coming back through our doors?
Ministry experts note that if families step inside your physical church building at least twice, chances are much higher that they’ll keep coming back. We asked five children’s ministry leaders to give us their most innovative and effective ways to keep families coming through their doors year-round.
Family-Friendly Outreach Idea #1: Random Act of (Keep Coming Back) Kindness
We do Random Acts of Kindness events that last several weeks. I distribute envelopes weekly to each family with an act of kindness inside for them to do together. Throughout the week, families send me photos of them doing the activity to post on Facebook and Instagram. We set up a hashtag so every time a family completes one “RAK,” they can tag it.
Each week’s envelope is labeled “Secret RAK Mission.” Inside, there’s a card outlining the mission, a list of any items families may need to complete it, and several RAK cards describing what our church families are doing, and why. We also include invitations for recipients to join us at church services. Some of the RAK missions our families have done:
- Make cookies and deliver them to a neighbor or friend.
- Put a sealed bag of uncooked microwave popcorn in a resealable bag and tape it to a Redbox or something similar.
- Make a card for someone who’s ill, lonely, or confined to home.
- Tape coins to gumball machines and candy dispensers as a fun surprise for someone to find.
Each week, families are excited to get their secret mission. I get lots of texts and photos from our families showing their efforts, and some families without kids have requested cards so they could participate in the secret missions each week, too.
Family-Friendly Outreach Idea #2: Box of (Boomerang) Blessings
To keep families in our church engaged and forming relationships, we do Boxes of Blessings where we deliver boxes packed with food and lots of love to other families in need. This project provides a common goal for our families over an extended period of time. For six weeks prior to the actual “boxing” event, we collect food. Each week, we ask families to collect and bring specific items. We always include kid-friendly food, coloring books, and crayons. Once the church-wide collection is complete, we have families come together to make cards for each box and assemble the boxes.
We partner with a local food pantry to select the families who’ll receive the boxes. Our families personally deliver the Boxes of Blessings, from one family—and our church family—to another.
Family-Friendly Outreach Idea #3: Meetcha at the Four-Way
Our church is out in the country, located near a four-way stop. We’re allowed to set up tables throughout the year for various things such as bake sales and other fundraisers. In the spring, we use it so our church families can bless the community. We give away free tomato and pepper plants at the stop. The plants are a gift—no strings attached, no preaching—just showing love from our families to our community. Our families make signs representing our church, but we don’t hand out church materials, preach, or even invite anyone to our church. It isn’t about drumming up new members or making anyone feel anything other than God’s love. Our families give plants to every person who stops at the four-way. The giveaway is a great success, and it makes families feel great to give back.
One of the best benefits is that people aren’t surprised to see us at the four-way now. We use the location to announce our annual free community barbecue, where our families provide the labor and serve hundreds in our neighborhood. We use the four-way to let everyone know about our fall festival in October and when we’ll feed the high school football team at the beginning of each season.
Our church is where our families connect and grow in faith, but our four-way stop is where families in the community look for us, curious to know what we’re up to next.
Family-Friendly Outreach Idea #4: F.R.O.G.s (and Family) for Lunch
I go to a local public school and eat lunch with a bunch of “my” kids from church. At the beginning of the year, I gave the kids frog pen- cil toppers and told them whenever school gets tough to remember that they could “Fully Rely On God.” I bought a big bag of small plastic frogs on Amazon to take with me when I have lunch with the kids. When I come to visit, I give kids each a frog to remind them to fully rely on God.
As I sit with the kids, what happens is that their friends want frogs, too. So I give my kids frogs to hand out. As they do, I explain who I am and why I’m there. “My” kids invite their friends to come to church with them. I emphasize that I’ll be there and the kids’ friends will be there. I follow up the invitation by letting kids know their entire families are welcome.
This experience is awesome. We probably invite more kids to church in that lunchtime than in most of our outreaches, all because of some plastic frogs and some really great kids. Our Frogs for Lunch serves two purposes: We get to invite kids to church who don’t usually attend, and it motivates our attending families to keep coming back, whether because of the personal connection they feel or because they bring friends with them. This has shown me how much a small thing like this can mean. And I get texts from parents thanking me for visiting their kids at school, which is also pretty cool. (Be sure you get an okay from the children’s parents and the school office to visit your group of kids from church.)
Family-Friendly Outreach Idea #5: Open House at God’s House
We partner with the local schools to offer free childcare at our church on open house nights. This way, parents and older kids can interact with their teachers and listen to their presentations. We background check everyone and let the schools know we do. This service gets so many people through our doors, and we publicize it to families who regularly attend as well as those who attend our outreach events. To ensure kids have a great experience, we provide activities and lots of fun. Families throughout the community have come to rely on our church for this fun evening every year.