Outreach Identity—Does Your Church Have One?
Before your church holds an outreach event, launches a church-wide campaign or plans a direct mail marketing piece, it’s critical to build an outreach identity. Building an Outreach Identity—Law 1 in the Four Laws of Effective Outreach—is the foundational assessment of who you are as a church, who is in your community, and what bridges will connect them. The following are 8 Steps to Building an Outreach Identity.
Step 1 – Develop a Mission Statement
As the foundation of a building holds up and supports the entire structure, your church’s mission statement is the foundation for everything the church represents and strives to achieve. It also serves as a guidepost for the church’s interaction with the community. Your mission statement needs to include an outreach component. Further defining your intended audience, within the community, helps focus your goals and prioritize your activities.
Step 2 – Understanding Your Neighbors
Which specific group within your community is your church called to reach? Start by determining the geographics, demographics and psychographics of your community. Geographics are the unique characteristics of any aspect of your location – e.g. are you near a river, a major highway, or some other potential “barrier” that precludes you reaching those on the other side of it? How close to the church location does your target group live?
Demographics are the characteristics of a group of people—age, sex, race, income, etc. Your demographics greatly impact the style and timing of an effective outreach effort. It’s especially important to understand the demographics of those who live within a five mile radius of your church, since they are the most likely to attend. Outreach’s Demographic Report provides a map of your neighborhood, and the demographics of every household. In addition, the OnTarget report gives you the corresponding carrier routes, so that your direct mail will be sent only to the people who fit your identified target demographic.
Psychographics are the values, attitudes and shared cultural experiences of a group of people. What are their main issues and needs? How do they feel about certain issues? What common cultural experiences (events, activities) do they have? This information also gives guidance as to the best ways your church can connect with the community and how the church can best meet their needs.
Steps 3, 4 & 5 – Maximizing Your Church’s Unique Resources
Your church has much to offer! Look at the following ways you can maximize your church’s current resources in building bridges into your community.
Your people – Look at the unique resources God has given you through the members of your church. For example, if you’re in a college town and your church consists of older families, start an “adopt a college student” program. Of if you have a lot of young moms, neighborhood play groups could also be a bridge building activity to help connect with your community.
Your physical resources – Have you thought of your church facilities as outreach resources? Carefully consider how your resources could be used to meet community needs. Maybe you have a gym and you could offer sports on weeknights and have some of the church members run the programs. Or if you have meeting rooms, offer them to local support and counseling groups to use during the week. These are bridge building ways of connecting to your local community.
Your programs & ministries – You may already have programs in place that could meet the needs of an identified group of people in your community. This may include a MOPS (Mothers of Pre-schoolers) group, a weekly homeless outreach or a free transportation service for the elderly. It is important to have systems in place that meet the unique needs of your community. Doing so not only demonstrates the love of Christ, but makes you a relevant, important resource. When they decide to attend church, they will most likely choose yours.
Step 6 – Team Up with Other Organizations
Research what ministries and organizations you can partner with in your community for outreach. Many large-scale “bridge building” ideas take time and resources that perhaps you don’t have. Creating a partnership with an existing organization can help build a long term bridge and contribute to the outreach identity of your church.
Step 7 – Create Your Brand to Represent Who You Are
You’ve done the work of determining your outreach identity; now its time to create an image and an overall visual representation of your church—your brand. This image is the “face” you show to your community and it includes your logo, signage as well as all your communication materials. It’s critical to have synergy of image on everything—including your website.
Step 8 – Build Short and Long Term Bridges
Now its time to reach out into your community and build bridges between their needs and the identity of your church. Long term bridges are connections and ongoing ministries that meet needs in the community. Short term bridges are one-time, or short-lived, events designed specifically to connect to the unchurched in your community. Make sure you read Outreach Magazine to get some great ideas for bridge building!