Organized outreach (read “visitation) has fallen on hard times over the past few years. Coincidentally, so has the number of baptisms in Southern Baptist churches. This may be a coincidence and there is no doubt that other factors weigh on the declining numbers of baptisms that we are seeing in our churches. However, at some point the local church must follow the Great Commission and “Go”.
One of the biggest drawbacks many people have about organized outreach is that once a person participates, there is some kind of “code of the outreachers” that they must participate every outreach night unless providentially hindered. This long-term commitment causes many people to make other plans on outreach night. Another drawback to ongoing, 52-weeks a year outreach is that most churches just do not have a large enough pool of guests and other people that are new for their outreach teams to visit.
We have factored this issue into the ReConnect START Campaign. Instead of a 52-week outreach program, try a 10 Week Outreach Burst. Select an evening during the week and encourage your small groups or Sunday School classes to have an outreach team present for 10 weeks. After 10 weeks, the Outreach Burst is over. Consider doing another burst in the spring that overlaps with Easter. By using these 10 week bursts, you will follow up with your church guests without wearing out your people.
Also, understand that the Outreach Burst is part of a strategy of developing soulwinners. Many, if not most church members are not engaged in evangelism. I have discovered that there are 7 Stages of Evangelism in a typical legacy church. The 7 Stages (or steps):
- Pray for lost friends and neighbors;
- Invite lost friends to church and small group;
- Learn to share their faith story (testimony);
- Learn a Gospel presentation;
- Gain experience and mentoring through church outreach;
- Spiritual conversations;
- Lead people to Christ (soulwinner).
Too often, we try to engage people into the soulwinning process at the level that they are most uncomfortable (stages 5, 6, or 7). Instead, start people with little or no soulwinning experience at a level that they can best participate and then offer opportunities for them to gain experience and confidence as they move forward in their commitment.
We recommend that you begin your 10 Week Outreach Burst the week of September 7 to coincide with the beginning of the START Campaign. Continue through the first week of November. This schedule will give you 10 weeks of outreach.
Who should participate in the Outreach Burst?
Anyone can participate, but ideally you would want to have at least one person from every adult small group, a student team, and a children’s team. But realize that it only takes two people to commit to the 10 Week Outreach Burst. Your church outreach may consist of the pastor and the leader of the new group your church starts on September 7. The important thing is not to get discouraged by low numbers. Simply organize your outreach effort so that the people that do show up have guests to visit and then be sure to thank them for their faithfulness. Many lay people that are excellent soulwinners got their experience and were mentored at weekly outreach ministries.
Want to participate in the ReConnect Sunday School movement? Join here.