One of the goals of this blog and of the all-Fellowship periodical FGBC World is to nurture Great Commission teamwork among the people and churches of the FGBC by sharing creative outreach ideas and transferable concepts in evangelism and discipleship. The recent outpouring of comments–favorable and unfavorable–to an idea a church in North Carolina is implementing points out the “risk” element.
Pastor Scott Distler of the Lititz, PA, church, recently addressed this issue of “taking risk for the sake of outreach” in his blog. In our opinion, he presents a thoughtful, insightful look at the thinking behind doing something out of the ordinary to attract people into the hearing of the gospel. We reproduce it here–you can read Scott’s blog regularly at http://www.lgbc.org.
When is it proper to take some risks in ministry? In other words, how do we determine when it is appropriate to try something in order to reach people even though there is no guarantee that it will work?
This is a question that we discuss regularly here at Grace Church. As a result, there have been times we have taken some risks. For example, two years ago we changed the format of our Christmas program from a regular concert style format to a Walk-Thru venue.
This was a risk. Why? First, it cost a lot more money to do it this way and second, it would take a lot more “man power” on our end to pull it off. What if our own people didn’t buy into it? What if no more people showed up to experience it than usually attended the concert style format? To our delight, it worked.
We did the same thing earlier this month when we spent a little extra money and brought in the DeLorean time-car to help us kick-off our new series on the rapture. This was a risk. In fact, we talked long and hard about it before deciding to do it. Here was our thought.
So often we have special events like the Christmas Walk Thru and Christmas Eve services and they are very well attended and that is great. We get a lot of first time visitors which is our goal. But our goal is to go beyond that. We also want to see these same visitors come back again after the event is over.
As a result, this year we tried something that we had never done before. We launched a new and exciting series on the topic of the rapture of the church right after our Christmas events. We also wanted to have something that could be an extra “hook” (for lack of better word) that could quite possibly get the many visitors who came on Christmas to come back. We knew it would be a risk, but we thought it was worth trying. That is why we did a lot of promotion on the new series and the “time-car” at these Christmas events.
Did it work? Well, I can tell you this. Last year, the Sunday after Christmas saw an attendance of 757. This year on that same Sunday, which was the morning we had the “time-car” with us and kicked off the new series on the rapture, the attendance was 1,312 with many, many visitors. This equals out to more than a 73% increase in attendance and this does not count those who came just to see the car but did not stay for the service. These too were first contacts which were positive.
From that perspective, it seemed to accomplish exactly what our goal was. This is not something we will do every week by any means. But when there is a strategy behind it that makes it a credible risk to help us reach as many people as possible, it is by all means worth considering.
But let’s also keep in mind that all risks will not work. I remember organizing and promoting a special Sunday back at the church I pastored in Indiana. Our goal was to see double the attendance than usual on that morning. We spent extra money and I worked hard on promoting the event and motivating the church. In the end, we had less people on that Sunday morning than we typically have.
So was it a failure? From a numbers standpoint, “YES”! But I’m not sure we ever really fail when we are willing to step out on faith and take a risk. After all, remember Peter when he stepped out of the boat?