14 ways to make a warm-season connection to local families.
Grow and Go
Last summer, Connection Church of Medina, Ohio, merged its two services into one. The church then used the second-service time to go into the community and share intentional acts of service, such as passing out break-time snacks at local businesses.
“We found this to be very inspiring,” Lead Pastor Tony Myles says. “It helped us be intentional about encouraging others and taking notice of people—a practice we hope to maintain.”
Thanks to Veterans
Show appreciation to the men and women who have served our country. Host an Independence Day celebration and brunch for veterans and their families. Ask each veteran to stand or come to the front of the room, introduce them and thank them for their service.
If a public pool in your community doesn’t already offer swim lessons (or if your church has a pool on its premises), offer to pay certified swim instructors and host free or low-cost swim lessons. Or recruit instructors in your church. (Tip: Ask college students home for the summer.)
Last summer, Union Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, N.C., bought and outfitted a truck with the sole purpose of bringing its community ice cream, tracts and church literature. The church asked for a suggested donation of $1 per ice cream, which went back into Union Baptist’s evangelism ministry.
“The result has been phenomenal,” says Union’s pastor, Walter Mack Jr. “Ice cream is an easy in—you automatically appeal to people with something they already enjoy. And it’s a very real way for our church to remain present in the community all week long. Many people have visited our church as a result of our ice cream ministry.”
Appeal to moms of toddlers throughout the summer. Convert your church into an indoor lounge complete with Wi-Fi, a play area and an ice cooler stocked with bottled water. Open it up to the community and contact local mothers’ play groups to let them know they’re welcome.
Mobilize your church for a Summer Service Day in your community. Provide tools and projects for various renovations and services, or choose one large project everyone can participate in. North Coast Church of Vista, Calif., encourages its small groups to take part in beach cleanup.
“Our small groups really enjoyed cleaning up the local beaches,” Community Service Pastor Casey Yorman says. “Families loved it because it gave them an opportunity to teach their kids about service and earth-friendly practices. Plus, it serves as a great evangelism opportunity with co-workers when you head back to work the next day and talk about your weekend.”
If your church has a gym or other exercise facilities, open them up to your community for free use. Organize summer basketball and soccer leagues for youth and adults, as well as exercise classes.
Offer free lawn mowing on a regular basis throughout the summer—a much-needed service, particularly for the elderly.
Church at the Park
Designate a Sunday to host your church’s worship service at a local amusement park—complete with a post-service picnic. New Hope Community Church in Meadville, Pa., held this event the last three years—and last year enjoyed its highest-attended service of 2008 as a result. New Hope worked with the park to offer reduced-price tickets for all attendees.
“We encouraged our members to use the park service as an invite-a-friend day,” former Pastor Mike Dodson says. “People who normally didn’t attend church would hear the Gospel. We not only built relationships with them, but also park staff.”
Facilitate relationship-building opportunities between people in the church and their neighbors by making vacationing more affordable to families. Ask people to sign up to help, and then offer free house-sitters, plant caretakers and dog-walkers to the community. (Screen volunteers carefully.)
Set up areas at the beach or at local swimming locations. Offer a list of sun-safety tips, bottled water and trial-size sunscreen tubes, complete with connection cards imprinted with your church’s contact and services information.
In an event called Summer With a Purpose, Peace Church of Eagan, Minn., brings together local fourth- and fifth-graders for five separate activities throughout the summer. Last year, the church set aside one day as a day of service that was so well-received that organizers plan to expand it to two days. Other summer activities include visiting a water park and a daylong picnic.
“We’ve found that SWAP provides a great way for kids to stay connected to the church all summer long, and we encourage them to bring their friends,” Children’s Ministry Director Nancy Pruis says. “It gives us a unique way to build relationships with kids, and simultaneously build trust with their parents.”
Host a weeklong camp—fine arts, cheerleading, soccer, space or something similar—even several small camps at the same time. Enlist high school and college students as volunteer leaders.
Ask your church attendees to submit their recipes for favorite and easy camping dishes. Make several copies of each one, then head up to local camp sites and pass out recipes to campers (a good service project for outdoor ministries).