From VBS to Harvest Sunday: How Calvary Baptist Church Transformed Outreach

A few miles from New Orleans’ busiest tourist spots lies Calvary Baptist Church—a vibrant and passionate church deeply committed to sharing the gospel. Recently, they embarked on a journey of intentional outreach and evangelism during this year’s Serve Tour + Crossover.

Led by Audra Love, the missions and ministry coordinator, Calvary Baptist Church seized the opportunity to connect with their community. Through prayer, innovative ideas, intentional planning and the dedication of their staff and volunteers, Calvary witnessed God’s hand at work, bringing transformation and hope to those they served.

Audra, who moved to New Orleans with a desire to serve and share the hope of Christ, fell in love with the culture and diversity of the city.

“I moved to New Orleans and haven’t left,” says Audra. “The context down here is, be authentic—be who you are—there’s no judgment. There’s an openness to sharing why I moved here—and that’s because of Jesus.”

Working at Calvary for the last 13 years, Audra has dedicated herself to mission work locally and internationally, nurturing a heart for outreach and community engagement.

When Audra learned about the Send Relief teams coming to assist with various projects for Serve Tour + Crossover, she sought to involve them in their church’s evangelistic initiatives. The idea, however, evolved into something more significant. It meant including a Harvest Sunday.

Inspired by the concept, Audra envisioned a culmination of their Vacation Bible School (VBS) week, inviting families to return and experience an event that would leave a lasting impression.

“I said, ‘What if we figure out a way to get them to return that Sunday?’ We blow it up big, so the kids want to come, adults want to see what their children learned and then we will share the gospel with them. It would be a harvest—what we want for our community and God’s kingdom.”

Audra and her team utilized various communication channels to spread the word to ensure maximum participation, except they changed the language to resonate with those outside of the church walls.

They employed digital platforms, email reminders and tangible handouts during VBS. The church’s social media presence played a crucial role, with the congregation enthusiastically sharing the event on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

The Calvary Baptist Church team meticulously planned the activities, considering what would genuinely engage and excite families. They transformed their campus into a welcoming space with a water slide, a photo booth, VBS decorations and a gospel candy wall.

Sharing the life-transforming message of Jesus Christ was at the heart of the event. During the worship service, the church celebrated the children’s VBS experiences.

“We had three baptisms that Sunday of children that we celebrated,” Audra shares. “And then our senior pastor, Michael Carney, just brought the word and said, ‘This is why we follow Jesus, and it’s because He gave His life for us.’ And so, we took that time to hone in on the gospel and did a response time where we allowed those parents to respond to the gospel.”

After the service, they did all the activities and provided free hot dogs, nachos and cotton candy, water slides, inflatables, etc. Calvary and the Send Relief volunteers served all the families.

“It was amazing to see how many people showed up for this moment,” Audra says.

One of the highlights was the Gospel Candy Wall, where families encountered volunteers who shared their personal gospel stories. This approach allowed for one-on-one conversations about Jesus and His impact on the lives of the volunteers.

“It was the simple act of sharing the gospel with people,” Audra explains. “We had volunteers who would say, ‘If you want some of this candy, can I just share a story of Jesus in my own life?’ And so, they shared how they recognized they needed Jesus in a few sentences; then they shared how they responded when they realized, ‘Man, I need to do something to have that relationship with Jesus,’ and how they walked in faith with Him.”

Calvary Baptist Church witnessed an overwhelming response, with numerous families returning and staying to connect with the church community. The event provided a platform to share the gospel and fostered a sense of unity and joy within the church family. The commitment to prayer, intentional communication and creating an enjoyable experience played vital roles in the success of this outreach.

Audra’s planning offers valuable insights and inspiration for pastors and ministry leaders seeking to make a gospel impact in their communities. What did they learn?

  1. Embrace prayer as a foundation: Dedicate intentional time to pray before, during and after outreach events, seeking God’s guidance and provision.
  2. Tailor your communication: Be mindful of the context and use language that resonates with your church family and the community you seek to reach. Ensure your messages reflect genuine care and concern for the needs and interests of those you serve.
  3. Provide an inviting and enjoyable experience: Plan events catering to your target audience’s interests and desires. Consider how you can create an atmosphere of celebration and joy, allowing families to connect and enjoy themselves while encountering the love of Christ.

As churches and ministry leaders consider their outreach efforts, they can draw encouragement from Calvary Baptist Church and utilize similar events to proclaim the hope of the gospel in their communities.

“It was a lot of extra work,” Audra explains. “After a week of VBS, I mean, thinking about doing a Harvest Sunday was not, as a staff member, the first thing that we wanted to jump on board to do because we were exhausted. But the fruit that we’ve seen from it and the impact? Oh, it was worth everything, if not more so.”

Find additional tools to share the gospel at our Evangelism Resources webpage.

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Published July 19, 2023