5 Ways to Reach More People Through Your Church Preschool

More and more churches are offering a preschool for families in the community.  This is a great thing as it fills a need for affordable childcare and pre-Kindergarten education.  The church preschool can be a great ministry to use to reach new families.

yay-15208846Now, make no mistake about it, the primary purpose of any church preschool must be to lovingly nurture and teach young children in their care in a Christ-like atmosphere.  While this must always remain the primary purpose of the preschool it is also wise to recognize that the church preschool offers a great opportunity to reach new families that might not attend your church or any church.  Here are five ways.

  1. Gift and Invite!  Ensure every preschool family receives a gift and an invitation at different times throughout the year to attend worship or some other event.  Back to school in September, Christmas, Easter and at the end of the school year for Vacation Bible School are great times to gift and invite.  A small gift such as a church coffee mug filled with chocolates and an invitation to Christmas Eve or a small flowering plant for Easter are great ways to gift and invite.
  2. Be Present.  At least once a month or more the Lead Pastor as well as other church staff should be greeting parents and children on a regular preschool morning.  One of the pastors should lead a monthly chapel service to connect with the children.  Being present at the Christmas Concert and other events is also important and this time should always be used to give a soft invite to parents and families.
  3. Offer a Parents Night Out.  What a wonderful Christmas gift for families to offer 4 hours of childcare for busy parents to shop, wrap or just enjoy some adult time during the Christmas season.  Send the kids home with a craft that invites the family back for Christmas Eve.
  4. Build Relationships Through Groups.  Try offering a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group or a book group or a Bible study.  This will not only allow parents to get to know one another and build community but will allow church staff and lay persons to build relationships with preschool parents.
  5. Sponsor a Family Mission Project.  Have parents come in early one day at preschool and package rehydration kits or stock the food pantry or visit a nursing home.  If you are making something to give away like rehyrdation kits be sure to have a time of dedication at your Sunday service that you invite preschool families to attend.

I have never heard someone talk poorly about a church preschool.  I am sure there are bad church preschools but I think most are really great.  Why not take your preschool ministry to the next level and come up with some creative ways to offer Christ to your preschool community.

What are other ways to utilize your preschool for reaching new people?

The Right Door

It might seem silly to church folks to think anybody would not know which door to go in to attend worship.

yay-830075The reality is that many of our church structures have a myriad of doors and it is not readily apparent which door one should enter to attend worship.  Regular ‘ole church folks take it for granted that everybody knows what door to use.

Can you imagine as a guest coming to a church for the first time, driving up a little bit late and you get our of the car and you do not know whether to go in the side door, the front door or the back door.  After trying the first set of doors and finding they are locked said guest may just turn around and go home to watch the pregame show or or catch “Joel!” on TV.

This simple issue of hospitality can be remedied through effective signage.  A church might have effective signs on the building or near the building clearly directing guests which door to enter to go to worship or the multipurpose space or some other place.  This is important to remember as well when the church has multiple worship services that meet in two different places.

After trying the first set of doors and finding they are locked said guest may just turn around and go home to watch the pregame show or or catch “Joel!” on TV.

This is also remedied by having parking lot greeters and outside the door greeters before worship begins who hang out for a few minutes even after worship begins.  Even after they go in at least a guest will have the signage.

Some may think it silly or too much work to have greeters or too expensive to have signage.  Think about it this way though…what if that person who is coming for the first time is giving the church and God one more chance and they get frustrated because they don’t know where to go in.  What if they are on the brink of hurting themselves and are turning to the church but the church found it too hard or too expensive to ensure they were welcomed.

Then that is on us as the church and shame on us.  We need to do all within our power within the bounds of the Gospel to ensure persons are welcomed to our churches so they might experience the life changing power of Jesus Christ.

Christmas Eve Fishing Expedition

In most parts of the United States the last thing on the mind this Christmas Eve will be fishing.  Unless one is an ice fisherman then it is unlikely anyone will be fishing this Christmas Eve.

yay-2536105At least no one will be fishing for fish.  But churches would be smart to remember that Christmas Eve is a great time to fish for people.  In his book Leading Beyond the Walls, Pastor Adam Hamilton of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection describes what he calls the Christmas Eve fishing expedition.

We all know that Christmas Eve will bring persons from the community that do not regularly attend as well as persons who have fallen away from the church to the church.  This is a great time to invite the crowds that gather on Christmas Eve back in January.  The easiest way to do this is by offering an attractional “felt needs” series for January.  Marriage or relationship is a good topic for this series.

After the message on Christmas Eve the pastor might announce that there will be a new series starting in January and invite everyone present to come back in January for the series.  At the very least you will want to put a slide up with the message graphic and theme as well as the dates and titles of the messages.  If you go the extra mile then create a video introduction to the series to show on Christmas Eve.  Additionally, consider making a postcard sized invitation and put one or two in the Christmas Eve worship program.  When the series is announced point these out to persons inviting them to put it on the fridge at home to remind them or to think about who they might invite to come back with them.

This message series can then be used in follow up with guests from Christmas Eve.  Whether you do that through email or snail mail mentioning the upcoming series and giving an invitation will help make it easy for persons to return.

By doing the above, you will be doing your own fishing on Christmas Eve and you don’t even have to get your hands dirty!

Use Small Groups to Reach New People

Small groups in the church can be a great way to reach new people.  Encouraging members of a small group to invite their friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors to participate in small group life is certainly one way to do that.  And, there is no denying that starting new small groups in the church helps to connect persons who have recently started attending worship as they are more likely to be a part of something new than something already established.

yay-14458636  Small groups can be used on a larger level to reach people in the community.  This can be done by offering small groups and short term classes that meet a felt need in the community.  Examples might include offering Financial Peace University, parenting support groups, Mothers of Preschoolers groups, Caring for Aged Parents support group and more.  The key is to find what the needs are of the community and seek to meet them through these groups and introduce people to Christ and the church.

Similarly, knowing the interests of your community can offer the opportunity to begin a small group or offer a class that is faith based and connects people to Jesus and the church.  Do you have a lot of wine drinkers- offer a wine in the Bible class.  Or, how about an exercise class that starts with a devotion and ends in prayer for the needs of the class.  Again, the possibilities are only limited by our imagination and ability to know the needs and interests of our community.

It is always a good idea to offer as many groups and classes as possible off site in a neutral territory as opposed to the church as this will help those who are hesitant to enter a church more likely to come.  Rent out the neighborhood clubhouse or community center to hold your group.  Have the group meet at the grocery store cafe or in someone’s home.

Make sure you present the Gospel in the group or class.  This doesn’t mean you have to have an “eyes shut every head bowed” type of call to Jesus after the first class but don’t shy away from connecting what your group is about to Jesus and the salvation and new life he brings.  Then give persons next steps which should include attendance at a weekly worship service among other things.

What other ideas do you have for using small groups to connect people to Jesus?

Evangelism: An Invest not an Expense

At the church I regularly attend we are beginning to put together the budget for 2015.  It is that time of year.  I am helping to put together the evangelism budget for this upcoming year.

headline faith and magnifierBeing involved in this process reminds me of something I heard a long time ago.  Spending in evangelism should be looked upon as an investment, not an expense.  Spending on the evangelism ministry of the church is an investment in the lives of those who are not currently followers of Jesus.  It is an investment that pays off in changed lives, saved marriages, changed communities, new family dynamics and a changed eternity.  The case might be made that all the church’s spending is in some way an investment.  There is some truth to do this.  However, it seems more than almost any other area of spending evangelism is truly an investment in others.

Does this mean then that we should just give the evangelism ministries of the church all the money?  Of course not.  While evangelism is important it is not the only the thing the church does.  Likewise, just as material investments like, stocks, bonds and real estate must be invested wisely and stewarded, the investment in evangelism must receive the same treatment.

As you think about monies spent on evangelism, think about them as investment and it will change your perspective regarding the funds allocated.

 

Take VBS on the Road

Back around Easter time I wrote about the advantages to taking the church Easter Egg Hunt on the road and off campus.  A church can do the same with Vacation Bible School.

iStock_000009407723SmallWhy not consider holding your regular Vacation Bible School at the public park, at the subdivision common area, a community building or some other public place so that you might reach more children and families with the important message of God’s love? Yes, it will take some logistical maneuvering, your decoration won’t be as ornate, and you will have to get permission from some entity- but the opportunity to make a greater impact is worth it.

Parents in your community are looking for something constructive for their children to do in the summer.  VBS is one of those things that parents would love to send their kids.  What a great way to begin to forge relationships with persons who may never darken the door of your church even for VBS.

As with your regular VBS, follow up with your VBS attendees.  Invite them to worship, invite them to the next children’s program, invite them to the next mission event.  And, consider going back with a follow up activity or back to the same neighborhood the next year.

There is nothing (okay, very little) that can be done better inside the church than outside (including VBS).

VBS Follow Up to Connect Families for Fall

Many churches are holding or will hold a Vacation Bible School (VBS) over the next couple of months.  These are usually great events that bring a church together.  VBS offers a wonderful opportunity to welcome new persons and introduce them to your church.  Though our world as changed tremendously in the last decades, VBS remains a great way to help children grow in their faith and reach out to the community.  In our day, when parents are working and looking for something for the kids to do, VBS is an appealing alternative to high priced sport, art, or day camps.

wilderness-escape-vbs-logoOne thing churches might think about doing is following up VBS with a late summer event to reconnect with VBS families and connect families to the fall ministry offerings of the church.  This does not need to be an event as big as VBS.  It can be a one day event that lasts a couple of hours one morning or one evening.  For example, at one church I served we had a VBS in June and then the week before school started we had a 2 hour morning event called “Water-palooza” where we invited all the children and families who attended our Vacation Bible School.

Timing this event at the end of summer, and before school begins is a wise thing, as this is when families are thinking about getting back into the routines that come with the start of school.  At this event you can further build relationships with new and loosely connected persons and send them home with a gift (a basket or gift bag) with some small token and information about the church and particularly plans for the children’s ministry in the fall.

In the end I believe VBS should be about sharing the love of Christ with children and helping to children to learn about the love of Jesus and grow in their faith.  But why not at the same time use VBS as a tool to connect people to the church?

 

Start a New Message Series this Easter

New icon blue glass, isolated on white backgroundEaster Sunday is a great time to start a new message series. 

Most churches will experience a larger attendance on Easter Sunday than most other Sundays.  If you start the first message in a new series on Easter and invite people back to hear the rest of the messages then you give the persons attending a reason to return.  You may pique their interest.  For example, let’s say you were doing a series on “Miracles.”  You might start on Easter with the “Miracle of Resurrection” and then in subsequent Sundays offer messages like “Turning Water into Wine” or “Opening the Eyes of the Blind.”

In addition to simply announcing this is the first in a series of messages on Easter and inviting persons to return, you might also include a series postcard in the worship program or promote the new series with a video introduction.

As you follow up with guests from Easter Sunday whether it be by email, handwritten note or letter you can be sure to mention the next message in the series.

Starting a new series on Easter Sunday is just one way to use this important holiday to seek to make disciples of Jesus Christ.

Take Egg Hunt on the Road

I like to say that there is nothing done inside the church that can’t be better done outside the four walls of the church.  This is true of so many things but especially about egg hunts sponsored by churches.  Egg hunts represent a wonderful opportunity to interact with the community.

Many churches are content though to just have their egg hunt on the church lawn.  Yes, many will put out a banner advertising the event to the community, put the event in the church section of the newspaper (only read by other Christians btw), or maybe even pass out some door hangers.  This is well meaning.  What usually happens is that all the kids whose parents already attend the church have a wonderful time at this event.  Maybe even a few guests from the community come out as well.

EggWhat if…instead of doing the egg hunt on the church grounds the church took the egg hunt on the road to a subdivision playing field, a local park or a community center and invited not only the kids whose parents went to that church but everybody from that community.  It does take a bit more in the way of planning and logistics but now the church has the opportunity to bless and impact 200 more kids and their families than if they had settled for an egg hunt on the church lawn because many of these kids would never have come to the church location but will come when the event is in their neighborhood.  It is called being incarnational or “sent outside the church.”

Be sure to give something away to bless people when they leave whether it be candy or a small craft for home with an invite to Easter worship.  Collect attendee information through a give away that persons have to register for and where you have a check box on the registration “Is it OK to send you information about our church?”  Then follow up.

Most importantly, bless your community.