Before Christy and I ever planted Echo Church, we wanted to be people that would make a difference in the city. What a simple ideal, but a very difficult task! It’s hard to answer the following questions about outreach in the context of your city: How? When? Who? and With what money?
Have you been there? The struggle is real! Outreach isn’t as simple as I wish it would be.
If we are not careful, it’s easy for us church leaders to fall into the trap of “in-reach.” In my past ministry experience, I got stuck in the rut of hoping that people would be reached by coming to us, entering into our building, signing up for our giveaways, and attending our events. Although we made an impact on a few individuals, we missed the opportunity at large for true outreach.
Effective outreach requires the collision of the following:
- The right people
- The right resources
- The right idea
- The right time
Let me tell you about one outreach that was extremely effective for us in this last season.
It began with a brainstorming session a month or so into experiencing major changes due to Covid-19. We gathered as a team and started to ask the following questions:
Who can we bless?
Who’s needing some joy?
Who can we partner with in the community?
When is the right time?
Can we afford to do this?
We sat back and processed this for a while instead of jumping in immediately, knowing that God would reveal the right time to us. We wanted to find a unique outreach bringing joy, hope, love, and help to meeting a need. After hearing how stressed the schools were, we made the decision to focus on the school staff. To really make an impact, we partnered with a local pizzeria that also strives to serve our community. Not only would we be helping take the load off with a meal for our school staff, but we were also supporting a home-grown business to keep their doors open.
It all seemed to fall into place. We worked with the pizzeria to determine how many pizzas they could prepare in an hour. We selected slower days and hours (Monday-Thursday, between 1-4 pm) to distribute, to avoid overtaxing the business. To get the word out, we created and shared a video and posted details on our socials, as well as via email. A local radio show also promoted the details. We used the Clearstream texting service as a tool to receive and confirm sign-up information, including the type of pizza, day, time slot, phone number, and name of the person. We underestimated the response that we would receive and had filled the time slots before the evening ended.
The distribution of pizzas was all thanks to our volunteers, who did 100% of the setup, distributing, and teardown. We created postcards with “ECHO JOY” to hand out with the pizzas to share about Echo’s mission to spread joy. We knew we’d need to grab attention and be visual to the drivers looking for the location, so volunteers held signs greeting them at the edge of the parking lot. Our parking lot crew was there to direct traffic to the pop-up tents to receive a pizza. It was simply amazing to see the smiles, waves, and JOY beaming from each school staff member.
We felt an outpouring of love and gratitude afterward for weeks to come. We received messages online and emails about staff feeling seen and loved and the burden lightened in this difficult transition period. ECHO JOY’s mission was accomplished – meeting a need, bringing joy, and spreading His love to those in our community.
Outreach isn’t always easy, but it is worth it!
Andy Cass is the Lead Pastor of Echo Church in Rochester, MN. He and his wife Christy planted Echo Church in 2019 and share the same vision and heart for the city of Rochester: inviting all to the table and being a church that is all about the rescue and restoration in Jesus. They love challenging people to step out of the box of their own comfort, and step into their calling. Andy and Christy have been married since 2005 and have 3 beautiful daughters, and love their community of Rochester.