Everyday outreach

By Bob Bickford

I need to make a quick confession, our block parties, held on our church property, the kind with inflatables, music and free food have been a really big nothingburger. I don’t mean in terms of us not seeing anyone begin attending church from those events–although that has happened. I don’t mean that they were not well thought out and planned and that our people came out to meet and serve the community. I mean that they were hardly a draw to our community.

Honestly, I am a bit jealous of your block parties, the kind that draw hundreds from your community. The kind that make for great photos on Facebook and Twitter. The kind that gives everyone from the church something to celebrate and cheer about. The kind that you’re happy to talk about at the local pastors gathering.

Our church is located in an affluent community where over scheduled families are shuttling their multiple children off to soccer, dance or music lessons. On Saturday dad is golfing, mom is at yoga and on the rare occasion there is nowhere to rush off to, the family sleeps in, goes to the lake or grabs a late breakfast at the local diner. They skip our block party.

Block parties in our context don’t work all that great. So, we’re not doing them anymore.

But, we’re not giving up on serving the community or welcoming them to our facility. Instead, we’ve shifted our outreach by serving the community every day of every week. Here’s how.

We make our building and land available

Church real estate is the most underutilized space in every community. Hundreds of square feet go dark and quiet throughout the week. In a declining church Sunday School rooms may begin to look like grandmother’s living room or a funeral parlor. Doilies adorn tables, lamps and window treatments are common and there’s often a maroon and hunter green wallpaper border somewhere to be found.

Instead of becoming curators of a museum of church history from the 70s 80s or 90s we decided to remodel and refresh and fill our classrooms and spaces throughout the week.

Every week we host: a ladies workout group, a women’s AA support group, the Classical Conversations Homeschool Co-op and college students from the local Inter Varsity group.

During the soccer season we welcome 250 kids and their parents to our playing field (which was renovated by the soccer club for FREE!). Each morning/afternoon over one hundred parents and students use our parking lot for drop off and pick up from the elementary school next door.

On many occasions we host music recitals and concerts for community kids who perform for their parents and grandparents and neighbors and friends.

We are blessing our community

Over the years we’ve seen a few stop in and worship with us from time to time, were confident that some will stay. We’re opening our facilities because we believe that God has given them to us to bless the community and serve them as a practical demonstration of the gospel. We’re also seeing that God is changing the perception of our church in the community. Previously, our church was little known, often overlooked and an afterthought in most people’s minds. But if you asked about The Groves Church now you’ll hear a different story.

Your block party probably reaches several hundred people every year. Keep doing them, I pray that they are successful and fruitful. Our regular everyday/every week outreach impacts thousands of the same people each year. Would you pray with me that we can communicate Christ to them not only by serving them but by giving a clear gospel witness in word as God opens the doors?

Published March 30, 2017

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Bob Bickford

Bob Bickford is a Replant Pastor in suburban St. Louis, serves as the Associate Director of Replant for the North American Mission Board and is the co-author of Am I a Replanter,  Pathways to Partnership and the Associational Replanting Guide. Follow Bob on twitter @bobick