What makes an outreach event successful?

This past Sunday, our church held a picnic outreach at Ft. Halifax Park in ‘downtown’ Winslow.  We held a church service at our regular time, then enjoyed a picnic and some fun in the warm, summer sun.  This is the 3rd year in a row we’ve done this event in the park.  In previous years we had our picnic on a lakefront; it was a difficult location for some to find and not well attended compared to a normal Sunday, but it was usually fun and helpful to fuel our sense of fellowship.

We decided to move the event to the park in order to turn the event into more of a community outreach.  The first year was cold and rainy; we had one guest who happened to wander through.  The second year (last year), we invited residents from the homeless shelter and clients of a local food program to be our guests.  Many accepted the invitation!  The weather was great.  Our members showed hospitality.  Guests judged our dessert contest.  Some trusted in Christ and became part of the church.  It was a success; a real milestone for our outreach.

But what happened this year blew us away.

First, it seemed that almost all of our regular attendees came to the picnic.  During the worship service, several guests joined us.  By the time lunch was served, even more guests arrived and received our hospitality.  Some others just visiting the park also joined us.  Our counters lost count.  We made an emergency hamburger run.  Our members showed compassion; our guests showed gratitude.  Some even revealed that the meal we shared was the only they would have that day.  Kids had a blast as members stepped up to serve at the dunk tank, bouncy house, cotton candy machine, popcorn popper, and snow cone maker.  And they did it all in Jesus’ name.  It was fun!  It was ministry!  It was awesome!

Most encouraging to me was the way I heard members excitedly talk about the impact on the community they knew we had made.  They made a difference for a Jesus and they loved every minute of it.  Our sense of fellowship was stronger than ever as we both communicated and demonstrated the Gospel together.

So, why was our picnic a success?  OK, sure, the weather was fantastic.  We couldn’t have asked for a better day weather-wise.  But there was something else going on too.  I think our picnic demonstrated some important outreach principles:

“What makes an outreach event successful?”

Location, location, location – We went to where the people are (or could be) and didn’t expect them to travel to us.  Our church is a few miles down a major road; too far and dangerous for walkers.  They key wasn’t just an invitation: We went to people rather than expecting them to come to us.

Selfless, sacrificial service – Many gave up their own ‘experience’ to provide one for others.  This was the heart of the event.  It’s also the biblical definition for all ministry, I think.  I was amazed at the way people chose to serve rather than simply enjoy – only they enjoyed even more by serving!

Resources, meet needs – We provided what was needed by those we were trying to reach; a delicious meal, genuine acceptance, compassion for those hurting, and a good dose of fun.  Maybe I’m stating the obvious but when kids have fun, parents have fun too.  (Just think of how little fun parents have trying to keep kids entertained.  That bouncy house rental was worth every penny!)  I think we got a glimpse of just how much our church has to offer the community in the name of Christ.

Those are my thoughts, I’d like to know what you think.  Were you at this year’s picnic outreach at Ft. Halifax Park?  Why do you think it was a success?


About Larry Lakey

Jesus follower, husband, father, pastor, preacher, leader, bass player, recovering legalist.

7 responses to “What makes an outreach event successful?”

  1. Jim Przytulski says :

    Two weeks before this year’s picnic (right after it was announced before our worship service), Marie excitedly told me that the picnic was her one year anniversary. She told me because apparently, I gave her a ride to last year’s event. After her comment and for the next week or more, I reflected on how awesome it feels to have had somekind of a positive impact on someones spiritual life. I want more of THAT feeling!

    At this year’s picnic, my wife, the boys, and I (Krista was at her dad’s for the weekend) attended for the first time. It was cool. The boys had a good time, but they have a good time almost anywhere we go. What sticks in my mind the most was an experience we had in the chow line. My family and I were in between two groups of guests from the community. I was talking to the guy behind me who mentioned he was just there for the lunch. Riley was holding court with a mom and four or five kids of verying ages in front of us. Larry came cruising through from one end of the park on

  2. Jim Przytulski says :

    Oops! My fat fingers caused me to post before I was finished. The bottom line is that when you cut across the line, as soon as you were out of earshot, the matriarch of the group of 5 or 6 in front of us said, “that guy is really a NICE guy.” It didn’t last but a second or two, but everybody heard it, and it was accepted as fact. It struck me afterwards that “nice” goes a long, long way with people. In fact, I can’t help but wonder if that is how people who were barely acquainted with Jesus would have described him? I don’t know, but that is how I want to be thought of. Most people won’t reach out and ask for help from someone unless they perceive that person to be “nice”…I got to go back to work…

  3. larrylakey says :

    Thanks for your thoughts, Jim! I suppose ‘nice’ could mean different things to different people – I hope she meant humble, approachable, helpful, etc. We certainly can’t share the good news of Jesus with people while portraying some kind of superiority! I saw many people in our church show compassion and acceptance to our guests; great stuff.

  4. craig joler says :

    I’ve run in to some of the people we fed that Sunday. They seemed surprised that I remembered them. Never under estamate the power of a friendly hello how are you doing today.

  5. larrylakey says :

    I think you’re right, Craig: Sometimes the littlest gestures or statements can make a big difference. Whether or not we care about people ‘leaks’ out of our words and actions.

  6. Alonzo E. McGee says :

    Great stuff…………..If you are humble, approachable, genuine, caring, empathic, accepting, friendly, lovable and love Jesus, then you are not only nice person, you can be a CHANGE AGENT! What a difference the world would be like if we all loved our neighbors as ourselves.

    • Larry Lakey says :

      Hi Alonzo, welcome to the conversation! We’ve learned a lot by pressing out into the community with the good news of Jesus and plenty of needs to address. Most of all, we’ve learned that loving Jesus creates those character qualities we need to effectively love others. Those goals definitely go together!

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