Jeff Van Beaver has a suggestion for outreach-focused congregations: Try a “random act of kindness” this summer. It will probably make people smile and will provide a witnessing opportunity to boot, he says.
And, it doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Offering free donuts, pastries, and a cup of coffee at the farmers market on Saturday morning will work. Perhaps a free car wash at a local service station on Saturday afternoon. Or feeding parking meters. Even providing umbrella escorts on a rainy day.
The key, says Van Beaver, is to create opportunities to share one’s faith in a friendly, non-threatening way — whether it’s summer, fall, winter, or spring.
“What we want to do is touch people’s lives year round,” he says. “Let’s think about our everyday lifestyle, of how we live for Christ. Let’s think about how we can share that with an individual.”
Van Beaver is the president of Acts 1:8 Ministry, a Green Bay, Wis.-based organization that grew out of his work as a member of the evangelism committee at Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Green Bay. The ministry provides outreach resources, consulting, and funding to help congregations “get out into the streets,” he explains.
The ministry focuses on its Planned Acts of Christian Kindness (PACK) programs, which offer suggestions for outreach activities that require minimal planning and encourage repeat involvement.
The program for congregations includes a CD-Rom, a DVD, a program guide with step-by-step instructions, and the book 101 Ways to Reach Out in Your Community.
Van Beaver describes the activities suggested by the PACK programs as a “care, share, and connect ministry.”
A typical response to a PACK activity is “Why are you doing this?” or “Who is doing this?,” he says, and that gives you an opportunity to share your faith and to connect people with your church.
Occasionally, an activity makes a really big splash, such as two years ago when Pilgrim volunteers organized a 99-cent-per-gallon activity at a local gas station.
“Gas was about $1.99 a gallon at the time, and we contributed $1 a gallon,” Van Beaver said. “People were very surprised.”
That activity cost about $1,000 and was certainly not typical of the events Pilgrim organizes, he added: “The key is to always work within your budget.”
Acts 1:8 Ministry currently serves more than 700 congregations, according to Van Beaver.
For more information about the ministry and its programs, some of which are free, visit its Web site or call (920) 494-2289.
Posted May 23, 2006