Menu for Success
Christians! We are called to "Take the Church, To the People!" Hosting an Outreach Event is just one simple way. Here is what I have found to work. This can be held at the church, but it is BEST if it's right in the middle of the apartment complex.
Bathe the event in prayer. For me, "Prayer is not a strategy, prayer is THE strategy." Understand that what we are engaging in is Spiritual Warfare. Be prepared for logistic difficulties. The evil one hates outreach. The harder it is for you to organize and expedite the more successful the event is likely to be! A good size team is around eight people. Too many more than that and you get your own team talking to each other instead of to the people you're trying to reach.
Survey the area of apartments. Find out two things: where are there the most children, and is the apartment manager a born again Christian. Let them know that you are Christians. If they say, "Sure you can come and have a party, but can't share stuff about your religion" tell them, "God bless you" and leave. Wait for the busses to drop the children off from school. Count everyone. Use that number as a basis for everything you do. Ask the manager for a rough population count based on number of apartments. 90% of the children will show up and about 30% of the other residents.
Once you've been led to the right location, look for an open area with maximum visibility. Shade is also important.
There are three things people love: sports, music and food.
Sports: These can be organized, such as basketball or soccer. (Portable basketball goals cost as little as $100. Goals for soccer field. can be made from PVC pipe for next to nothing. The children like active sports. Kickball and relays are also positive. If you play kickball, you have to use soft balls! Otherwise tell them they have to touch them with the ball not throw it at them. Chasing games are good. The girls tend to like the art stuff, sidewalk chalk being perhaps the most popular along with making beaded bracelets.
Music: Most youth groups have musicians. Take advantage of the talent the Father has provided your church. Jesus didn't need a big sound system, neither do we. Singing and clapping goes a long way. Please, not a lot of "churchy" music. Bring a jam box with fresh batteries and ask your youth what they like to listen to.
Food: Always plan to feed people. There is no better way to show love than to offer food. I always shop at Kroger. I've found their store brands to be the best tasting and cheapest. If you use their "Plus card" you help cut costs as well. ALWAYS tell the manager what you're doing and ask if they're willing to donate items before you start buying. ALWAYS shop at the same store for every event you host. They will get to know you that way and your sincerity for reaching the community. Take a lot of pictures of the event, especially focusing on close ups of the children. You can buy a large picture frame (2ft X 3ft) at Walmart for $10. Paste the pictures and mount them in that frame along with the name of your church, the community/apartment complex you reached and the store's name. Give that large display to the grocery store. This gives them some points with the community, increases visibility of your church and assures more help in the future.
Here's my list based on 100 people:
- 150 hot dogs. (I use Kroger's Gwaltney brand, either turkey or chicken. Avoid pork products because of the possibility of there being Muslims in the community.)
- 150 buns
- 2 large bottles of squeeze ketchup
- 1 large bottle of mustard
- 1 jar of relish
- 1 jar of mayonnaise
- 5 large bags of potato chips
- 2 large bags of tostito-type chips
- 2 jars of salsa - mild
- 1 box of 100 spoons
- 1 box of knives (25 - for spreading relish and mayonnaise)
- 1 set of 100 napkins
- 100 paper plates
- 2 bottles of waterless hand cleaner
- 8 three-liter bottles of Big K drinks (Favorite flavors are cola and orange)
- 4 bags of styrofoam cups (51 each - 8 oz) Use the smaller cups, with lots of ice. They have to keep coming back which equals more contact with the people. Have the kids scratch their names on their cup with their finger nails. For smaller kids only fill up the cup about 75%. For some reason they don't realize gravity applies to them. Most of it ends up on the ground.
- 1 box of large tie-type trash bags. ALWAYS leave the place cleaner than you found it! This is the #1 concern of the manager. They have enough for their maintenance and grounds people to do as it is. Value your relationship with the manager - it is golden.
- 5 large bags of ice
- 5 styrofoam coolers
- 1 portable grill - During the summer Kroger sells these for $10.
- 1 bag of charcoal
- 1 can of lighter fluid (Make a big deal about starting the fire. "OK kids we're starting the fire. . . here we go . . .WHOOSH!" Great stuff! Always my favorite job.)
- 1 box of matches
- 3 large buckets of ice cream (Chocolate, orange sherbet are the favorites.)
- 150 cones
- 2 scoopers
- 2 squeeze bottles of chocolate toppings.
- 5 bags of cookies - Kroger brand for about $1 each. Oreo types are the favorites but get a variety.
All this stuff costs around $125.00 or a little more the first time, less on each following event.
If money is a problem, go with just drinks and cookies and double the amounts of both. Remember to ask the manager of the grocery store for donations. Invite the manager to the event.
At least two people need to be in charge of getting everyone's name and where they live. The best thing is to get a picture of every individual with their name.
Flyers are great, but not the only way to get people there. Post a few flyers in high contact areas a week before the event. (Like at the mailbox and washeteria) Give out flyers to every tenant two days before the event. The next day, go back and look for your flyers on the ground. We do NOT want the reputation for trashing out the place. Most times the management will hand them out for you. Many managers have a monthly newsletter to residents at the first of the month. They normally produce that a week ahead. Get in that newsletter. As soon as you enter the complex on the day of the event, split your team up and have them start knocking on doors.
Go to the Dollar store and buy enough little toys for everyone. At the end of the event, have all the children gather around and say "We have a surprise for everyone, but you have to be really quiet to get it." At that point, share a five-minute plan of salvation with the children. Pray with them and then have them raise their hands if they prayed something like that for the first time. Make sure you get their name, give them a Bible, and have the Sunday School teacher contact them and offer to pick them up.
This is not brain surgery, my friends! Basically you're getting out into the community and loving on people in the name of Jesus. There is not one right way. The Father has shown me time and time again that the most basic element of an Outreach Event is to "JUST SHOW UP!"
I consider Outreach Events to be ground breaking in an area. Short-term strategy will be to use their club-house or community room. Unfortunately, most complexes don't have these community rooms. Long-term strategy should be to partner with the management to get an apartment there. Start after-school sessions with the children (info on how to do these in other documents), Back yard Bible clubs in the Summer, English as Second Language Classes, health events and nutrition classes, opportunities for Bible study and worship in the complex. I call these ministries on site a "Mission" usually with the name of the apartment in front. I put a large sign with the name of your mission in the window. Make sure you put the times when you offer services in the window too. All your signage should be in Spanish and English.
I work primarily in the International Village in Metro Atlanta. Chamblee is home to 145 different countries and 90 different languages. The world has come to us. Currently one out of nine people speaks Spanish as their mother tongue in America. In 10 years estimates are as high as one in four! Notice how the ATMs are in Spanish and English? The USA is going to become more and more international.
Greetings in Spanish
Learn these and practice them with your friends. The children will speak English. Their parents probably don't. Encourage your kids to study Spanish in high school.
Hello! Hola! (OH lah.)
My name is Tim. Me llamo, Tim. (May YAH moh, Tim.)
What's your name? Come te llamas? (Koh moh tay YAH mahs?)
My name is Juan. Me llamo, Juan.
Nice to meet you. Mucho gusto. (MOO choh GOOSE toe)
Nice to meet you, too. Igualmente. (Ee gwahl MAIN tay)
Bye! Adios! (Ah dee OHS)
God bless you. Dios te bendiga. (Dee ohs tay bayn DEE gah)
The Father is working ahead and around us. He is already planning for us to have a successful event. People want to get into the battle, especially our youth. So do it!
This is not a competition thing. This is a JESUS thing. So partner with other evangelical churches in your area. We are all the body of Christ! This helps cut down on costs and increases the chance that the people who accept Christ will actually get discipled.
Count on Whirlwind Missions to help you in anyway possible. Let us "Take the fear out of Outreach!" Currently we are working in 52 apartment complexes in Metro Atlanta. This is the largest ministry of its kind in the world.
Tim A. Cummins