I think there are some very fundamental across the board mistakes we make when it comes to outreach.
1. Everyone else does it outreach – I fell into this one with VBS. I am not a VBS hater I just began to judge the effectiveness of what we do and VBS was not working for us. Our goal was to reach kids who don’t come to our kids church on Sunday. We ended up attracting kids from other churches. It was a huge financial and volunteer drain and most importantly it was robbing from Sunday morning.
2. Bait and switch – This is the huge event tons of fun, lights, music, excitement guests. Everyone has a great time many come back the following sunday to a so-so weekend experience. You baited them in and switched the product on them. I hate that when that happens. One of our values is constancy. I feel that in the long run a great weekend experience week in and week out will bring much more healthy growth.
3. Non-demographic outreach – You know this one. The all white starchy church doing a hip-hop concert the reach the kids. Only to yell at them for wearing jeans and playing their music to loud when they come to church the next week. There are many great churches in every town. Don’t be in competition and just be who God has called you to be. Reach the people that God is calling you to reach. If you are a white starchy church and God is calling you to reach out to the hip-hop community then do it. Don’t let trends and fads determine your outreach. Let God do it.
4. Failing to have the right success markers – This is a huge mistake we to often judge our success of an outreach event based on numbers of people who attended. Numbers are one marker but they can also deceive you into having a false sense of success. I know for Uptown and Mt. Zion our goal is to create life transforming environments that reach people far from God. We are not passionate about having the coolest church for all the people who are already saved to come to. We want to reach people who are not being reached right now. Success is not a numbers thing alone but is defined by a church that is healthy, growing and reaching all at the same time.