Community Outreach for Churches: Where to Start

Most faith-based organizations engage in community outreach on a regular basis as part of their standard operations. For this reason, it is important for your organization to understand the principles of effective faith-based communication and community outreach. Below are some tips to help you improve community outreach, helping you accomplish your organization’s goals more effectively.

Church or faith-based nonprofit organizations need to have a communication and community outreach plan.

1. Create a communication plan.

In order to communicate effectively with members of the community, you must have a clear plan. Develop a written plan that covers all types of communication, including standard communication, special events, and emergencies. Make sure this plan is as detailed as possible so staff members can execute it effectively. It should include what methods of communication will be used. Also, be sure you know who the communication will come from, and test whatever technology is used ahead of time. It’s a good idea to pre-draft some standard messages to use a guide in case of a death in the community, for specific holidays, and other inevitable occurrences.

2. Set goals for community outreach and communication.

All of your community outreach efforts will be more effective when you have a clear goal on which to focus. Hold a board meeting to discuss the intended goals of your community outreach efforts. Are you looking to grow your number of congregants? Do you want to reach out to young professionals or retired community members? Do you want to boost attendance at your big annual event? Be sure you know the audience and “ask” for each piece of communication. Make these goals as realistic as possible and be sure they are recorded on paper so you can refer to them later. If possible, create measurable goals so you can monitor your progress year over year.

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3. Communicate regularly.

Members of the community will forge a stronger, deeper connection with your organization if you engage them with regular communication. Keep community members up-to-date on all the activities of your organization with newsletters or other forms of communication at regular intervals. These newsletters can be mailed and / or sent electronically. In fact, you will reach more people if you are careful to diversify your methods. Some may not be on social media and need an email or text message. Other demographics are best reached on a Facebook page, for example. When possible, get the word out on different platforms.

4. Appoint specific people to handle community outreach.

One of the best ways to make sure you are doing everything in your power to meet your community outreach goals is to appoint one or more board members to serve on a community outreach committee in charge of this task. Alternatively, you can also elect these individuals. Your community outreach committee should focus its time and energy on scheduling events, communicating with community members, and evaluating the organization’s progress toward its community outreach goals.

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5. Host community outreach events.

Another way to reach out to the community and make connections is to host events that bring community members together with your organization. For example, you may host fundraisers or events designed to welcome people who have recently moved to the area. You may also host charity events in which community members can take advantage of free services or products offered by your organization. Whatever your chosen event, make sure you have clear goals and tell people about it well before the event. Actually, you should also tell them all about it AFTER the event. An update on attendance or funds raised will make community members want to join next time!

6. Ask for feedback from community members.

In many cases, it’s difficult to determine whether your organization is reaching the community effectively without speaking to community members themselves. Give members of the community opportunities to provide feedback and suggestions to your organization. You can seek feedback from community members by posting surveys online, sending surveys in the mail, or contacting individual community members directly. After you collect some information, hold meetings to discuss the feedback you receive from community members. Finally, look for ways to incorporate it into your future community outreach efforts.

Community Outreach Benefits Everyone

For many faith-based organizations, community outreach is a key component of success. Following the tips above will help you create a community outreach strategy, set goals, and connect with as many community members as possible.

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