If you have spent any significant time in corporate America, you know that as the end of the fiscal year approaches, companies become increasingly obsessed with the “bottom line.”
The “bottom line” refers to the relative location of the corporation’s income statement after all expenses and revenue has been taken into account.
In other words, “how much money did we make?” At this point, there’s nothing left to do but subtract to determine if a corporation is profitable.
This number often doesn’t come as a surprise.
Over the course of the year, companies are able to determine profitability by assessing their performance in four consecutive three-month increments called quarters.
After compiling the quarterly data, they’re able to make fiscal comparisons and evaluate trends to determine the companies’ performance with a high degree of specificity.
Some Things Just Don’t Work!
In other words, companies compare data quarterly to determine what “works” and “doesn’t work” for their business.
There is much that the church can glean in this respect.
Like investors, analyst, and companies that compare data to find out if they’re reaching their targeted goal during a specific quarter, churches must be prayerfully strategic when planning outreaches in the inner city.
This is because different projects have more impact in the community in particular seasons than others. Just like companies, we want to maximize our impact; our Gospel impact.
Maybe you’ve been curious about leading effective outreaches in inner city areas or you’ve run into roadblocks within your own ministry.
If that’s you, here are 3 things (with more forthcoming) that you should consider when planning and leading effective outreach events.
1. Determine The Needs of The Targeted Area
The goal of urban outreaches is to engage the targeted community by building Gospel bridges that promote holistic, municipal flourishing (Jeremiah 29).
The first step towards accomplishing this goal is to assess the needs in the targeted location by evaluating the appropriate services needed to correct communal deficiencies.
You may think you know the needs, but talk to people in the community for a grassroots perspective.
This can be done a few different ways:
Town Hall Meeting:
Hosting town hall meetings promotes unity between the church and the community. Gathering to discuss issues of common concern affords us the opportunity to provide information and gather feedback from the public.
Invite city officials, establish key objectives, organize and publicize the event, determine a budget, identify key participants, have an agenda, ask & answer questions, and propose beneficial changes.
Collect City Data
City data does not provide the complete picture, but the statistics that have been collected and analyzed from various sources can create a detailed, informative “big picture” profile of your city. Examine the poverty rate, the quality of the school systems, crime, etc. to determine some of the biggest needs.
Talk To People of Influence:
Build relationships and set up meetings with the director of a community development corporation, public works, the office of the mayor, or other influential leaders within the city.
Public officials have unique insight into the city’s political and economic structure and their input is invaluable. With extensive networks, they will be able to connect you with other influential leaders.
2. Canvas the Neighborhood Area
To learn the targeted area, turn off the news and learn the city first hand by taking in the sites and sounds. Sometimes this will include getting outside of your comfort zone and walking the city blocks.
This can be a daunting task, but it’s one that definitely augments our faith. With questionnaires in hand, kindly approach residents and discover the city’s needs from a blue-collar level.
Ask probing questions about what the church can do to help this community? What is the neighborhood’s great need? Questions like these provide a fuller picture of what’s transpiring in the city. Listen intently and write down the responses as residents voice their concerns and frustrations.
3. Understanding Outreach Quarters
Like those analysts, investors, and companies that evaluate trends in a particular quarter, it’s important to understand what I call the Outreach Quarters (OQs).
OQs are consecutive three-month periods when we plan various outreaches based upon the season, holidays, the needs of the community, and other factors during that particular time of year.
Determining the OQs, which will vary in your specific context, will aid churches and other organizations in providing the most needed services to promote comprehensive, communal well-being.
Here’s a breakdown of the OQs:
OQ1: August – October:
This is the time of the year when families are starting to settle down after a long summer break. Parents are preparing to send they’re children back to school and they are typically buying school supplies, clothes or uniforms, shoes, etc.
This is a great time to do large/macro event (I’ll explain in the next post) like book bag drives, park clean-ups, cookouts at local basketball courts, or any other back-to-school type of outreaches that target the needs of your specific demographic.
It’s probably the richest, most impactful OQ of the year.
I typically reconnect with the public/charter schools for back to school programs during this time, but my primary focus is mobilizing street corner evangelism teams to connect with the people on the block.
So, go outside to serve water ice or give away cool bottles of water on hot days.
OQ2: November – January:
Unlike some regions that enjoy pristine weather year round, when the cold weather descends on the Northeast we have to become more strategic about engaging the city.
During OQ2, I’m still heavily engaged in street corner evangelism, but I’ve begun to nurture and cultivate the relationships we built during OQ1 within the school systems. This is a great time to partner with them to provide services for needy families.
I typically partner with food banks, provide credit coaching, speak at assemblies, and show up to after school programs all in an effort to win teachers and parents for Christ’s sake.
The holiday season is not an obstruction to outreaches; conversely, it provides a great outlet to engage the community. Partner with community development organizations and other churches to provide Thanksgiving or Christmas meals, and host winter coat drives, among other things.
Don’t miss an opportunity to invite friends over for basketball and football games. Since the snowfall is heavy in the Northeast, providing a snow removal service is another way to meet the needs of those in the community.
OQ3: February – April:
As the weather breaks during the end of OQ3, we host our annual community day to coincide the Easter weekend. The momentum from such an event usually carries us from the end of the quarter to the beginning of OQ1.
Our church tends to host larger events at the church like concerts and poetry jams, and I shift my attention from the students to the teachers by hosting appreciation events at the church. This typically provides them with encouragement and support for the duration of the school year.
I’d describe this OQ3 as a rejuvenation period. Low maintenance outreaches are optimal because they provide your staff a time of rejuvenation as the busy summer months approach.
If it’s summer year round, then be sure to give your team ample time for refreshment or have multiples teams that rotate on a quarterly basis.
OQ4: May – July:
From my experience as a pastor, inner city dwellers are relatively stationary in the summer months. Beyond visiting family, many do not travel during the hot summer months.
Canvas the neighbor, pass out invite cards, and hand out cold water. People from your church may be on vacation so compose a piece meal team with the people that that desire to serve.
Ultimately, by understanding the needs of your community and drawing clear lines of demarcation with OQs, it will aid you in having the most impact in your city.
This is not an add water and stir approach to urban outreach.
You will definitely have to make some tweaks and alterations, but my hope is that the information is helpful guidelines.
I have a ton more information to share. We’ll pick up where we left off next week.
Grace and peace.