also by Kelly Finegan
‘Twas the night before Thanksgiving,
And all through the church
The deacons and women’s club
Were left in a lurch.
“We didn’t plan well,” they cried.
“Oh, what a sight!
If only we had 10 ideas
To make this season bright!”
Seasonal outreach events are incredible opportunities for churches to minister to both their church body and the surrounding community. We polled the Vanderbloemen Search Group team members, who represent both large and small congregations across the United States, for some of their favorite seasonal church outreach activities.
As you brainstorm and plan for your church events during this upcoming holiday season, here are 10 ideas for seasonal outreach activities spanning from turkey day to beyond.
1. Show a holiday movie in the church parking lot.
Who doesn’t love a drive-in movie? This summer, one of our local churches showed A Princess Bride in their parking lot (complete with princess crown making stations, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” name tags, and local food trucks). This is a great way to reach out to people who might not normally attend your church. Set up palettes and lawn chairs for your church body and the community to enjoy a classic holiday film.
2. Provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need.
Partner with your local elementary school to provide Thanksgiving dinners for families in need. Small groups or families can pick up baskets and shopping lists from the church and fill them up with all the fixings for the big day. This is a wonderful outreach activity to show Jesus’ love to those who otherwise would not be able to provide a Thanksgiving meal for their family.
3. Organize a coat and essentials drive for the homeless.
Whatever this looks like for your community, spend a month gathering essentials for those in your area who might not have access to necessary items. Try to think beyond coats and blankets! One of my colleagues suggested new undergarments and socks as an alternative.
If your church has the facilities, offer a place for the displaced in your community to come and shower. You could gather travel-sized toiletries and towels to give to those who need them. A few churches we know have a gently-used clothing boutique attached to their shower facilities where people can “shop” after getting clean.
4. Sponsor a Christmas fun day for kids in foster care.
This is a great partnership opportunity for you and your church to team up with the local foster care system. This opens doors for healthy relationships with peers and adults in a safe environment. Note: There can be a bit of a process to go through in order to work with the kids, so be sure to “foster” that relationship with your local agency. But if you make the effort, putting together a Christmas fun day with food, activities and small gifts for these kids will show them Christ’s love and give them a Christmas they’ll never forget.
5. Coordinate home-hosted community dinners.
Our Chicago consultant, Tammy Kelley, partners with a nonprofit that offers holiday community dinners hosted in homes around the city. It is an intentional mixture of people representing all economic statuses. Everyone sits down at the same table and enjoys good food and conversation together. She’s found it to be a great equalizer, fostering productive conversations and real relationships.