by John Hailes/ May 13, 2014
Children’s pastors today have more resources than ever before to reach children who live in the shadows of the steeple. However, based on the stories I hear children’s pastors tell about their summer outreaches, I get the feeling we are missing the mark by only reaching kids who are already attending another church.
There are approximately 24.6 million elementary children within the USA. Certainly there are more children to reach than those who are already attending church.
Since there is no shortage of outreach resources available at the local Christian bookstore, what’s missing? I’m glad you asked . . . it’s strategy.
Even the best outreach resource will fail at truly reaching the lost if a few key strategic questions are not answered.
1. WHO do we want to reach?
If you want to do outreach, you need to know who you want to reach. Different events will attract different people. For instance, if you’re interested in attracting the local Muslim population, you’d best not host a pig roast. Just saying!
We are located in a university town, which means a huge percentage of our parent population is drooling at the thought of their five-year-old child one day receiving a sports scholarship . . . so in the past we hosted a sports camp VBS and saw 350 kids attend.
Figure out WHO in your community you want to reach, and decide exactly where those people are located. The more specific you are about who you want to reach, the more effective you can be at reaching them.
Keep in mind that sometimes to reach the WHO in your strategy, you need to go to them instead of trying to get them to come to you.
2. What are their NEEDS?
Once you identify your target, you need to get to know your target. Learn their population makeup, routine, likes, dislikes, wants, and most importantly—NEEDS.
The greatest outreach you can do is one that meets a need. This past summer our church began a summer-long kids’ feeding program in an especially underprivileged part of town. Why? It was birthed out of a need. The local school has an extremely high percentage of kids on the free lunch program. When summer hit, those parents still needed help with their kids’ lunches. Through the summer we fed up to sixty kids a day.
By getting to know the people you want to reach, you can decipher what you can do to reach them effectively.
3. Who is being MISSED?
A good question to ask yourself in prayer is, “What are the needs of kids in my community who are most overlooked?” Consider crafting a special outreach just for them. Find creative ways to show them the love of Jesus and build relationships.
Sometimes I get the feeling that churches are in a bubble and are blinded to what is around them. It is important to understand what is already being offered for families when strategizing your summer outreach.
VBS is the most commonly used summer activity. While there is nothing wrong with a church doing a VBS, we often fall into a rut of doing the same activity each year simply because it’s known and easy.
I challenge you to think about where the children are who truly need Jesus. This summer find ways to go to them. Throw a party in their honor, and let them see just how much Jesus loves them.
4. What comes NEXT?
If your outreach has been a success and children have made a profession of faith in Christ, you will need to be ready for the next step—integration into your church family.
Don’t forget to think about what the child’s/family’s first service experience will be like. Will their outreach leader be there to greet them at the door? Will they need a ride? Who will go out of their way to ensure each child continues to feel special? What if these first-time attenders need a Bible or a friend?
I could have written a blog full of ideas for you and your ministry, but strategy comes first. Without a strategy, you won’t find your niche and you will never be truly effective at reaching the people your church is called to reach. Verified 1/27/14 at www.childstats.gov/americaschildren/tables/pop1.asp