Over the course of our last few blog posts, we’ve established the importance of Christian community outreach that is effective, service-minded, and gospel-driven. After you’ve analyzed the needs in your locality, assembled your team, and evaluated your resources, you need to brainstorm. What are some creative, fun, and helpful ways to be the hands and feet of Jesus in your neighborhood?
In this post, we provide you with a few ideas to jump-start your thought process or give you some fresh vision for additional ministries. Many of the suggestions are tailored for a church environment, but they can be conducted by a variety of organizations and even individual Christians.
Food Pantry, Diaper Drive, or Community Closet
Food and clothing are necessities in every community. It is extremely likely that at least one person in each city cannot afford new clothes or nutritious food items. The same goes for baby supplies. New parents go through diapers at an astonishing rate, and they can be an expensive commodity.
Keep a room or area of your building regularly stocked with nonperishable food items, water, coats, shoes, pants, diapers, baby clothes, bottles, formula, and other essentials. Place a notice on your door or on bulletin boards in local restaurants, businesses, and community centers that states you provide these services.
Individuals and families can also participate in this ministry. Buy peanut butter crackers, loaves of bread, water bottles, and other healthy nonperishables from your local grocery store. Likewise, purchase or reuse coats, sweatshirts, and shoes (making sure that they are in good condition). Store these items in your car and offer them to people you pass who appear to be in need.
School Supply Collection
Each back-to-school season brings a new list of classroom supplies. The cost of new backpacks, binders, and other items can begin to take a financial toll on families, especially those with multiple school-age children. Hosting a supply collection can be an excellent way to show your care for the community.
Connect with school administrators to learn the need and obtain a list of supplies. Then, distribute that list throughout your congregation, staff, neighborhood, or family members. Establish a collection location for the supplies. In a church, this may be a corner of your foyer or a closet. The same situation will also work for an office. You should also check with the school to see whether they prefer the items be left on their campus.
Halloween: Many parents are searching for safer alternatives to trick-or-treating. Your organization can host a Halloween party, fall festival, or trunk-or-treat. In addition to providing a better option for families, it will also introduce community members to your organization and give you and opportunity to share about it with them.
Thanksgiving: This holiday is all about celebrating community, but many people miss out. For example, there are college students who can’t afford to travel home, people without families or far from families, and employees who have to work on the holiday. By hosting a Thanksgiving meal, your organization or family can show people the love of Christ by inviting them into a supportive community celebration.
Christmas: Christmases are expensive. Between the decorations, gifts, and food, a family has to shell out a substantial chunk of change to meet the American expectations of the holiday. Some parents can barely afford to pay for the meal, much less the presents for their children. An excellent way to take care of the community is by holding a “Santa’s workshop” event, where members of the hosting organization purchase gifts for children in financially struggling families. The church, office, or other entity compiles a list of the most popular toys, sporting goods, clothes, and games for various ages and genders, then distributes the list to staff or church attendees, who purchase the items. The items are staged, and the attending parents have the opportunity to select which presents to take home and wrap for their kids. This event may also include Christmas meal kits, also provided by staff or attendees, including all of the food necessary to make a holiday lunch or dinner, as well as other services (health screenings, haircuts, etc.).
Community Improvement Projects
Litter Cleanup: Aluminum cans discarded at campsites travel miles down rivers and streams. Cigarette butts flicked from passing cars clutter sidewalks. Plastic bags glide through parking lots like synthetic tumbleweeds. Trash is everywhere, and it profoundly decreases the natural and manmade beauty of any town. By organizing trash pickup days, organizations can show their appreciation for their cities. Whether by hosting an annual event or adopting a street for regular cleanup, these initiatives exemplify the concept of leaving a place “better than you found it.”
Meals for Servicepeople: Firefighters, EMTs, police officers, dispatchers, city utilities workers, and sanitation crews do an immense amount of stressful and backbreaking work for their communities. These jobs are often low-paying and thankless. A great way to show appreciation for their sacrifices is to bring meals, snacks, drinks, and treats to their headquarters or stations.
Community Bookshelf: Free book collections are a great way to provide literacy and learning to the community, free of charge. One approach is to build a “little library,” a small cabinet with shelves and a glass window on hinges. Approximately two feet square and placed on a five-foot post, the shelves inside are stocked with books and serve as 24-hour free libraries for community members. Another method is to place a stocked bookshelf inside your building, available during business hours. Books can also be checked out and replenished on a “take one, leave one” basis, whereby users exchange one book for another.
These are just a few ideas to kickstart the brainstorming process for your personal or organizational outreach. If you are looking for other suggestions, be sure to check out the lists at SignUpGenius, Pushpay, or Tithe.ly. By helping your community in these areas, you are demonstrating Christ’s love for the needy and stewarding the gifts He has given you.
Looking for ways to get involved with Adult & Teen Challenge? Visit http://teenchallengeusa.org/volunteer/ to find out how!