Churches are called to reach the lost and help those in need. Often this is done through a community outreach program. To create a community outreach program, your church will need to go through some initial planning.
To have a successful church event – whether that is community outreach, vacation bible school or a church business meeting, organization and planning is essential!
Gather a team and begin the planning process. To do that take these 21 questions and answer them. Document your answers and begin creating a manual for your outreach.
24 Questions To Ask When Creating A Community Outreach Program
1. Who is on the planning team?
Identify people who can help you plan a success outreach event. Solicit help from people who have a passion and interest in outreach.
Try to find 6-8 people who can help and commit to planning the detail of the event. Work to solicit help from people who are gifted in organization, marketing, volunteer oversight as well as ministering to those reached.
2. Who are we trying to reach?
You need to narrow your focus to a specific group. Determine what demographic you would like to reach because this will dictate much of the other planning pieces of the outreach.
For instance, do you feel called to reach young children, teenagers, young families, empty nesters or the elderly?
Or do you want to reach the homeless, people in poverty, incarcerated or the sick? If you want to target more than one group, prioritize which group you will begin with.
3. Why are we trying to reach this group?
Once you determine the group you want to target, make sure you can answer the question – why are we targeting this group?
It may be that your community has a large homeless population where you want to spread the gospel.
Or maybe you want to sow into the lives of kids with the hope that it will change their future.
The why is as important as the who so make sure you can answer that question.
4. What are the needs of those we are trying to reach?
Make sure you know what your reach community needs. Don’t make assumptions find out what the real needs are.
For instance, I worked with an organization that assumed a population needed basic health care; however when asked – the kids simply needed shoes!
5. How can we logistically meet those needs?
Ok let’s say you determined that you want to start a lunch meal program for the poor. You need to think about things like:
- where can we distribute the food
- where can we prepare the food
- what supplies and materials are needed for the distribution
- how many volunteers do we need to manage the distribution
- how can we transport food and supplies
- what health standards do we need to meet
6. When is the best time to schedule this outreach?
Timing is everything so make sure you schedule your outreach at a time that works well with your target audience.
Check with local community events to ensure the event you are hosting does not conflict with an annual community event that may hijack your audience.
7. How can we market the outreach?
Determine the best way to market the event. For example, if you are reaching an elderly population use the services they use to help you get the word out.
This can be through physician offices, senior social clubs or elderly day care facilities.
Create audience specific marketing materials. For instance, the tools you use to market teenagers is very different than the tools you would use to market an elderly population.
Find out the preferred method of communication and create materials that will most likely get their attention.
8. What activities will we do during the outreach?
Determine the activities for the event. For instance if your outreach is to reach local families, create events that kids like to attend.
Make a list of activities such as face painting, obstacle course, or bounce house.
9. What are the areas that need to be organized?
Brainstorm operational areas such as:
- Facility setup/tear down
- Equipment and Supplies
- Volunteer oversight and training
10. What is the organizational structure of the outreach?
Create an organizational chart for the outreach. Identify each area of the outreach. Then assign an oversight person, team leaders and assistant leaders for each area.
Now determine the number of volunteers needed to manage the logistical side of the outreach.
11. What is the budget for the outreach?
You now have a pretty good idea about who you want to reach and how you want to reach them. Now you need to create a budget for this outreach. To do this:
Make a best guess as to the number of people you will be reaching. Use your contacts in the community to help you come up with a number.
Next determine the cost per person – for instance if you are creating a lunch program, what is your cost for each lunch (including supplies) for each person you hope to reach
Add 10% for the unexpected expenses and come up with a dollar amount.
12. Where does the funding come from?
Whether you are a church or a nonprofit organization, the budget for outreach events needs to be funded. Will the funding come out of the church’s annual budget or will you solicit funding from outside sources.
For instance, will you be partnering with local businesses to help offset the cost of supplies and materials?
If so how much of the budget can be absorbed from these cost savings? Can your organization support the rest of the funding and if not where will it come from.
You don’t want to put other programs at risk because you didn’t take the time to calculate the real cost of hosting an outreach activity – so spend appropriate time on this.
13. What are the volunteer job descriptions for facilitating the outreach?
Make a list of every job that needs to be done. Get specific and narrow it down to small tasks. Make a list of each of those jobs and create a job description for each job.
This may seem like a time consuming task but the more you can get on paper the less questions you will be answering during the outreach. Include in the job descriptions basic information such as:
- What to wear
- Beginning and end time of shift
- Where to find needed supplies
- Who to go to with questions
- Answers to anticipated questions from outreach group
- Specific tasks of the job
- Area set up instructions as well as post event clean up instructions
14. What training do the volunteers need to go through?
Successful outreach events require volunteer training. For this training include information like:
- Goal of the event
- Do’s and Don’ts
- Behavior expectations
- Standards of service – ie: show up on time, respond quickly to requests, etc….
15. What supplies are needed?
Take the time to brainstorm what supplies will be needed. Most supplies will be easy to think of but try to think of those things that you may need that might not be obvious.
Things like paper clips, pens, paper, markers or anything that will make facilitating the outreach easier for volunteers.
16. Who will order the supplies?
Now that you know what supplies will be needed, identify someone who will order or purchase those supplies.
Make sure this person has access to a credit card or cash to make the purchases. If a volunteer is asked to use their personal credit card to make purchases make sure you provide them with an expense report that can be used to get reimbursed.
17. Where are event supplies stored?
Have a predetermined location to store the supplies while they are being delivered. Use volunteers to unload boxes and get the supplies organized by category.
For instance, label and store all kitchen supplies separate than setup and tear down supplies.
If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of donations after an emergency or natural disaster, you know that storing materials can be challenging.
Identify local storage lockers, vacant tractor trailers or empty warehouses. You can often get the space donated. Keep a short list of people, businesses or organizations that you can call on to help with temporary storage needs.
Assign someone to oversee the warehouse storage and account for materials going in and materials coming out. You want to keep an accurate inventory on what is donated and what is distributed for post event reporting.
Don’t get caught without the answer to questions like: So how many people were you able to serve or how many bottles of water did you distribute?
18. How will we transport the supplies?
Moving supplies from one location to another can be a logistical challenge. Figure out the volume of your supplies and identify an appropriate transportation process.
For instance, if you have a bunch of guys who are willing and able to use their private trucks or vans get them scheduled. If not you may need to find access to a tractor trailer and someone to deliver it to your outreach site.
19. Where will we stage the supplies?
Supplies and events go hand in hand – regardless of the kind of outreach your church is doing. Create a map of the outreach site and designate certain areas to stage the supplies for distribution.
For instance, if you are doing a feeding outreach, determine which supplies need to be in the kitchen and which need to be at the serving tables so that volunteers have easy access to what they need.
20. What is the set up process for the outreach?
Now that you have the supplies delivered to your outreach location, create a process to set them up. Use your map to show where supplies will be staged and add setup instructions to the volunteer job descriptions.
The goal would be for volunteers to show, find their supplies and get them setup for the outreach – without asking questions.
21. Who will supervise volunteers?
Having someone walk around during the event will allow for unexpected issues to be resolved quickly.
Identify a lead volunteer to be a roaming supervisor of all volunteers. Have this person be the go to person for additional supplies, troubleshooting tech issues or giving instructions and answering questions of volunteers.
22. What is process to tear down and clean up after the event?
Everyone is ready to go home after a successful outreach. However, there needs to be a little cleanup after all the outreach recipients are gone.
Create a tear down process with a map that shows volunteers how to pack up leftover supplies, where to put them and how to get them back to a common storage area. Identify a lead volunteer who can answer all questions and ensure all supplies and materials are put away in a predetermined location.
23. What is the process to clean supplies?
Some supplies for outreaches can be used again. Create an inventory of these types of supplies and a process to clean them after each event.
For instance, tents, tables, chairs, coolers are just an example of supplies and materials that may need to be cleaned, wiped down or dried off following an outreach event.
24. What did we learn?
Take the time to debrief after a successful outreach and document lessons learned. Use these valuable tidbits of information to improve your next outreach.
For instance, if you were missing supplies that might have made the event easier make note and add it to a standing supply list. Or if a team of volunteers expressed frustration with a process for doing their job, discuss how to improve it next time. Keep detailed notes and review them when you begin the planning process for the next outreach.
Churches commit time and resources to community outreach because they understand the importance of making a difference. Small gestures that can help a hurting community can translate into someone being exposed to love of Christ and often leads to dramatic life change. And isn’t that what the church is called to do?
What types of community outreaches does your church participate in?