I appreciate the uniqueness of every church I have attended. Each one spoke the Gospel and served their community in their own way while leaning on the strengths of their congregation members. Each had its own way of evangelizing and creating opportunities to bring others into their community.
No matter where you are or how large your church is, I think that learning about the different ways churches evangelize can be helpful. Below are some ideas for how every size congregation can evangelize in their unique circumstances.
Small church communities can spread the Gospel through a variety of efforts. At the small congregation I was a part of, the focus of evangelism was on families in the surrounding community. At a small congregation, connecting with the larger outside community is important. For my small church, Vacation Bible School was the biggest evangelism event of the year. And after VBS was over, our church hosted a pig roast for the surrounding community.
It was well-known that we held the pig roast, and the kids who attended whatever wacky VBS we had that year were always excited for it. I remember hearing some of my younger sister’s friends talk about how jazzed they were for the event. They wanted to be back with their peers and with the people who taught them about Jesus. This pig roast served so many purposes, but the main one was bringing the families of VBS attendees into the church community. Not to convert but to connect with the parents of the children that had been at church all week.
Vacation Bible School, school year blessings, or other Sundays that are family-oriented are great opportunities to invite others in your area into a small church setting to hear the Gospel.
My medium church was my college church. This church was probably the most unique in the way it spoke the Gospel outside of the church walls. Situated on what I liked to call frat row, the congregation was a revolving door for college students. While there were permanent members (whom we referred to as residents), there would be people leaving and new students heading in every year. This led to the church having a posture of sending. I often thought of it as strengthening people in the faith to engage the world in their future. Based on this, I could talk for hours about the things this church did for evangelism.
Because the church was next to many universities, we tried to keep up academically with the local schools. One of the ways we did this was through Pubology. These were get-togethers billed as “a public conversation on deep stuff.” The church would meet in a local restaurant and bring in a speaker or another student group to discuss big topics and eat free food. My favorite ones were held in conjunction with the University of Michigan Secular Student Alliance. Our discussions with them included the questions, “Can we be good without God?” and “Why do I believe in God and you don’t?” While we didn’t necessarily have mass baptisms or confirmations after these events, we planted seeds on their terms.
Mid-size churches have great potential to connect with others through speaking and discussion events. In such events relationships are easily made, and conversations can be had without feeling too small to be effective or too large to support. Try an event that utilizes the professions of some of your members or one that aims to discuss and address difficult topics.
The biggest challenge I saw when I joined a large church community (I’m talking average Sunday attendance of over five hundred people) was that there were so many options for getting plugged in. I needed some sort of guide to know when I wasn’t in the right place and what wasn’t the right fit. But I quickly learned that there were multiple opportunities to serve and evangelize.
This church focused on creating connections in your neighborhood and all around the city, often hosting and encouraging events that revolved around caring for your literal next-door neighbors. They organized neighborhood rakes, ice cream socials, and more. By encouraging members to participate in a specific, localized area, the church encouraged connections to form where members lived. And then, through those connections, paved the way to invite people in.
A large church is uniquely positioned to do this. Whereas a small worshiping community may strive to do events that bring a lot of people in, large communities may look to directly connect members to a smaller group within their congregation. By mobilizing members that live all around town to go into their own backyards with other church members to serve, they can encourage forming community with the people you worship with or, hopefully, with those you will worship with eventually.
Of course, all congregations can take from these ideas and apply them to their own setting. During the coronavirus pandemic, it is possible to continue evangelizing in similar ways. Moving events outdoors or online, mask-wearing, and complying with local and state mandates are ways to make sure you keep your members and the people they are meeting with safe. Churches should consider their size when it comes to creating evangelism plans for the upcoming seasons.