Churches that want to effectively impact the world around them will celebrate experimentation and nurture risk-takers. We must create an atmosphere in our churches in which people are free to try new outreach opportunities without fear of failure. The work of the church is so important that we should be willing to fail, even a thousand times, if that is what it takes to succeed in taking the love of God and the message of Jesus to our world.
Few of us will have to experience a hundred failures before landing on one good idea for outreach. As we take risks and try new ways of reaching out, many of them will bear fruit. Some will not. But the process of trying new things and risking for the sake of God will grow our faith and bring glory to God. Our willingness to risk creates space for us to depend on God and His power. When we step forward in faith, God always responds.
Where do we get ideas to try on?
There are all sorts of fun ways to cultivate innovation in your church. Rather than giving you a list of creative outreach ideas, I think it will be more helpful to tell you where to find ideas and how to create your own.
Don’t’ feel like you need to reinvent everything. Find out what ideas are working for other churches and try them out for a while. Rummage through the closet of outreach ideas at a friend’s church to see if you can find something you want to borrow.
Sometimes the best ideas for outreach are the programs that have worked for years. Innovation does not always involve embracing the newest and latest ideas. Some churches mistakenly abandon some of the best outreach ideas simply because they aren’t trendy. There is nothing wrong with using an idea that has been effective in the past. If you have an outreach event or program that worked years ago, consider using it again.
To spark creativity with a team of leaders or church members, begin with a blank wall covered with paper, a pile of Post-It Notes, a bunch of pens, and a prayer. After you ask God to lead you, have people write down ideas to engage your community and reach out in new ways. Make it clear that there are no right or wrong answers. Give them freedom to be creative and dream. Have them write ideas on Post-It Notes and stick them on the wall. Make it your goal to come up with a hundred ideas. Then, have several people group these ideas by themes. Have your Outreach Influence Team see if there are a few they want to try.
For outreach to be organic, the key is learning what works best for your church at this time. An innovative idea that worked twenty-five years ago might work again today. An idea that was a home run just three years ago might no longer work. You need to use wisdom and discernment.
Rev. Dr. Kevin G. Harney is the Founder and Visionary of Organic Outreach International. He is also the Lead Pastor of Shoreline Church in Monterey, California.