Everybody can do it! Is your church small? Does it have limited resources? That’s our church, but our bridge-building and outreach can go against the “big boys.” We focus on forming relationships and touching the unchurched and irreligious with the kindness of Christ. To paraphrase Jesus, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. . . . In the same way let your light shine before men that they may see your good deeds, and say thank God you are here!” (Matt. 5:14, 16). This is the test for your efforts.
Teacher lunches—No group feels more underappreciated than teachers; our church expresses our appreciation by serving lunch to them at their schools. To gain permission from our school district, we approached the superintendent with a one-page proposal, assuring that there would be no strings attached and no solicitation. After making prior arrangements with the school principal, we served pizza (a local shop gave us a special deal for this purpose), salads, brownies, and pop for the teachers at a cost of approximately $100 per school. Initially we provided a lunch in the spring and in the fall. Currently a local restaurant provides sandwiches, brownies, and chips to us free of charge, and we are able to serve a school every month. We serve the food, engage the teachers, and repeatedly express our appreciation for their service. Serving the lunches helps our church gain community awareness and interest. While we do not solicit, teachers do ask us who we are and why we are providing lunch. We touch about a thousand lives per year.
Poinsettia giveaway—Three days before Christmas we give away poinsettias to two thousand workers in the community. Greenhouse wholesalers often have thousands of poinsettias left over at Christmas; the orders to retailers are finished about two to three days before Christmas. One wholesaler donates all the poinsettias we can use; another company provides the sleeves for the plants. We give the poinsettias away at stores and businesses in town, as well as to anyone we pass. Every poinsettia has our Random Acts of Kindness business card attached, which states, “We hope this small kindness brightens your day and lets you know that God loves you with no strings attached.” On the back of the card we tell who we are because we want them to know that our motivation is Christ. This year we took poinsettias to store employees at the mall. As I passed the mall office, I handed a poinsettia to a lady seated outside and simply said, “This is just a random act of kindness.” As I walked by the mall office later, the secretary ran out and said: “You made that lady’s day. I had to give her a box of Kleenex she was bawling so hard. . . . You made my day too!” We never know what lies behind the façade of the people we pass.
Black Friday Shoppers “Rescue”—We do an act of kindness in the early morning hours on the day after Thanksgiving, providing refreshments for bleary-eyed bargain shoppers. Originally we served coffee, hot chocolate, and donuts for early shoppers outside Wal-Mart, after gaining prior permission. Now we serve hot chocolate, as it is easier, cheaper, and the most popular. A local restaurant donates cups and lids. We use a turkey fryer to make the hot chocolate and transport it in five-gallon insulated containers. The mall permits us to set up inside from 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. This year we gave away 25 gallons of cocoa in 25 minutes. We don’t make shoppers come to us; we use cardboard trays to deliver the drinks while people are in line or walking by.
Carnations for Mother’s Day—We give away carnations to women the day before Mother’s Day at the mall. If you can get the carnations from a wholesaler at cost, you can often get them for ten cents apiece. One thousand contacts for $100 is pretty cheap. We have amazing stories from the carnation giveaway that include tears and deeply revealing expressions of thanks. When coupled with the love of Christ, these activities gain attention and interest. This year mall management joined us in giving the flowers away to celebrate the May grand opening of the mall’s expansion. They paid for three thousand roses for us to give away and permitted us to give our Random Acts of Kindness business card with each flower.
Invitations—To get the community to our church, our church people need something safe to which to invite family and friends. Most unchurched people don’t respond well to the implication “you need church,” even if they do need it. We provide our people with a special, attractive reason to invite unchurched people. We produce invitations for everything—the current topic, special music, kids’ events, holidays, etc. We often format the invitation as a postcard, as it is easy to use and provides a mailing piece to send our prospects every month. When creating invitations, we keep the invitees in mind—what intrigues, attracts, and interests them? Also we print generic fold-over business card invitations that people carry in their purses or wallets for surprise opportunities. These invitations include a map of the church’s location and an underlined blank space to write in an event, time, and date for something special if a specific invitation is not available.
Recently we received an encouraging response to our efforts. Our town’s assistant to the mayor stopped by, saying their office needed help at an event. A comment had been made in the mayor’s office, “What about New Community [Baptist Church]? They do those kinds of things.” I met with the mayor for a half hour to talk about church. At the end I rose to shake his hand, and he surprised me with a hug; I think the hug was about our church.
Dan Simmons, Pastor
New Community Baptist Church of Strongsville
Olmsted Falls, Ohio