One intentional form of community outreach is the evangelistic block party. Recently I was asked if block parties are effective or just something else to add to a long list of things that keep Christians busy, without bearing fruit. Here’s a few reasons why I think block parties are a great tool in the outreach strategy of a missional church:
Someone said there are three keys to church planting or church growth: 1) gathering people, 2) gathering people, 3) gathering people. The evangelistic block party is a great way to gather people or gather where people are and build relationships, share the gospel, cultivate community and have fun doing it.
“The word became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” John 1:14 (MSG). A block party is a great way to get the church building relationships where people are. Our church has conducted block parties in neighborhoods and subdivisions and at local parks. I also love to incarnate at the communities block party type of events. Why try to gather people when they’re already going to be gathered somewhere else? Just build the right relationships, show you care and add incarnated Christians to the party! Some good places to incarnate through block partying:
- Multi-housing complexes. Many times the manager already has a budget for community events. He/she just doesn’t have the time or know how to pull them off.
- Subdivisions and neighborhoods. Use your yard or the communities common space.
- Community festivals and events. Every community has a festival of some kind. Get involved, pay for space, or whatever you have to do to add your life to the party.
In the incarnation, Jesus got close to our needs. Be prepared when you get close to the needs of people to be changed and challenged. Incarnation can hurt if you have thin skin. That’s probably why we don’t do it that much. I can send a postcard mailer and 40-50% of the people will throw it away. No harm to me because I don’t see their reaction. When you’re there, you do see their reaction. You’ve got to know the season, which leads us to #3…
3. Spiritual Farming
There are really three reasons for any outreach event a congregation or small group conducts:
- Planting Seeds
A block party can be an environment for all three to take place. And it’s important to know ahead of time which one of these you are doing so that you can measure effectiveness.
Using block parties to cultivate. Cultivation is an important part of evangelistic ministry and it’s something that many churches are leaving out of their outreach strategy. Why? Probably because it doesn’t net immediate results. But it is necessary for healthy multiplication of disciples over the long haul. If I plant seeds without knowing and improving the conditions of the soil, my garden may have a short life.
Our church plants have used block parties to cultivate or initiate relationships in new communities and it’s helped us in several ways:
- To show apartment managers and community leaders that we care.
- To test the spiritual soil or readiness of an area or population segment for the Gospel.
- To find the persons of peace in a neighborhood.
- To train a team and work out the kinks in the “how to’s” of block partying
What does a cultivated block party look like? No real agenda. Loud music. Food. Opportunities to interact and engage in conversation. A lot of “this is what we’re about” talk. And a hardy “WE’LL BE BACK” when it’s over. Focus is on finding those few people that show interest and readiness to hear the gospel.
Here’s a list of goals that one churches’ block party teams recently wrote up for a cultivation event in their city:
- learn/memorize the name of one child you speak to (so you can call them by name next month when you see them)
- tell at least 10 people (total): who Bridge Church is, what we are about, and what we believe
- see at least one person/family we meet at the block part at another Bridge Church event – (“If you like what we do here at the block party, you would love coming to ______”)
Using block parties to PLANT SEEDS.
Cultivating and planting seeds are closely related. In gardening you’re often doing both at the same time. In evangelistic ministry like block parties it denotes another step of intentionality.
For us in some of our new communities where the soil has been hard, this has looked like…
- introducing New Testaments and giving them away to everyone who attends
- having a mic and having someone give a quick testimony as to why we’re there
- inviting people to a follow up event like a Bible study in the area
- or inviting them to church
Using block parties as a HARVEST tool.
It takes a season to grow a harvest. It also takes mature plants, the right conditions, the right tools for a harvest and a somewhat knowledgeable harvester. For an evangelistic block party to be a harvest event you should have the trust of the people that have given you permission, people who are ready to harvest – i.e. that can share the gospel and lead someone to put their faith in Christ and the right harvest tools.
Some ways to use block parties to harvest:
Have 12 or more people trained to actively share the gospel with the crowd.
Have a prayer or spiritual interest tent designated with trained counselors stationed there.
Share the gospel and give an opportunity to respond from a stage. Utilizing an evangelist, an entertainer of some kind, or a personal testimony of someone in the group.
Block parties can be an easy and fun tool to have in your outreach strategy. For best results apply gardening principles.
- Know what season you’re in – cultivating, planting, or harvesting.
- Plant generously. The more seeds you plant the more you’ll harvest.
- Prepare for a harvest.
- Have fun! Christians should bring life to every party!
If you’re interested in doing a block party yourself, start by calling your local association to see if they have a block party trailer and how to reserve it.