Chet was carrying a crockpot for his mom to the church kitchen. Once he got situated, he left the kitchen to find his big sister Anna to play with the toddlers and other kids joining them for dinner. He was only 9 years old, but he and Anna were actively part of the ministry to feed and provide a home to homeless families in the church for a week. And this happened 4 times a year. Chet was on the team to serve families with the love of Jesus while they waited for stable housing to come through.
To Chet, outreach was a normal part of his life. His mom expressed to me that she wanted her kids to serve others as a way of life instead of an extracurricular activity to put on their college applications someday. She wanted them to know what outreach was so they knew what Jesus was like and how he served us.
We can sometimes feel like our events are the only time to do outreach, but so many ministries have wonderful outreach activities and events throughout the year!
What Chet’s mom explained to me in the gym that day was important. It reminded me that outreach can become a way of life and doesn’t have to cost us anything financially. It can also be a way that we serve with the kids in our ministries and invite them into a lifestyle of outreach for the length of their life.
So how can you invite kids into a lifestyle of outreach? Here are 3 easy steps toward making outreach with your kids and families a reality.
1. Become aware.
What is your community already doing? Maybe you encourage kids to become friends with the kid who feels alone at school. Maybe your families have supplies in their car they can share with homeless people asking for help by the road. Maybe you already partner with a local food shelf where you know the people you serve and they know you.
Whatever you are doing, that’s a start. Maybe you have programs at your church that don’t typically include kids as volunteers but could. Maybe you have opportunities in neighborhoods or schools that kids can do to serve and reach out to their communities with God’s love.
Whatever the case, make a list of outreach you already are doing.
2. Talk to God about it.
Maybe when you think of your community, you can’t think of ways that kids and families are already invited to do outreach. And if you can, you’re thinking of how your kids and families can reach even farther.
Ask God, “What are you inviting us to do?” Take some time to stop and pray about what outreach ideas have already been presented to your community.
Around Christmas one year, I sensed God’s invitation to make a greater effort to encourage kids to invite a friend to our midweek party. The ministry was at capacity in terms of space, so I rarely did a major invite out of fear that the room would be overcrowded and uncomfortable for our kids and leaders. It wasn’t unusual for kids to invite their friends to midweek activities. But for special events, we usually only had one or two new kids participate. This year, I challenged parents and kids to invite a friend from school or a team. Of the 65 kids who participated in the event, two-thirds of the kids invited a friend. We had nearly 100 kids that week! And several of the kids heard the story of Jesus’ birth and why he came to save them for the very first time.
We already had a midweek service, but we emphasized the invitation for outreach. What might God be asking you to do that is already within reach? What opportunities can you say yes to that present themselves naturally?
3. Make a plan and start your experiments.
Once you sense a direction, whether communicating more regularly and clearly opportunities or language around outreach, you need to make a plan. Plan some experiments. You don’t need to start a big ministry. And you don’t even need to reinvent the wheel. Maybe you partner with another ministry that is already doing something, or you decide to try something out each month. Whatever you choose, try out ideas that your community supports.
- Make a plan with a deadline. Having a deadline can be motivating.
- Do the activity.
- Debrief the activity right away.
- Ask: Where did you see God move?
- Ask: What felt easy to do as outreach?
- Ask: What challenges were there?
- Ask: Do you sense God inviting us to do this again or try something new?
In the busyness of ministry, being intentional about outreach can be challenging. But the more you practice and include it in your ministry, the more naturally kids and families will remember to do it and so will you.
Ultimately outreach is meant to bring people into the presence of God through relationships and service, so try some things out so others may see your good works and in turn glorify God because of it.