Back to school season is my favorite time of the year. Everybody getting ready to return to their routines, getting your school supplies, the excitement of a new school year, new opportunities and…football of course! Back to school season is also the strongest growth season for our church plant. We have historically grown more in September and October than any other point in the year. The New Year season is quickly catching up, but the back to school season is still the strongest.
One of the reasons that this is such a strong growth season is that there are more opportunities for intentional outreach and invitation. Here are some of the places that our church focuses in order to take full advantage of the back to school season:
This should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway. If you want to reach people with the good news of Jesus Christ then prayer is the foundation. Jesus said that the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. He then instructed his disciples (and us) to pray to God asking for workers to be raised up and sent into the harvest fields (Matthew 9:37-38). We are praying not only praying for those God wants us to reach, but we are praying that God would raise up from within our church and others workers who will faithfully work in God’s harvest field. Before any of these outreach or evangelistic efforts can proceed we must pray to the God of the harvest to raise up the workers.
We do a big Sunday every year on the Sunday before school starts. We do a “Blessing of the Backpacks” and encourage our families to invite their friends and neighbors to come and bring their backpacks for a blessing. We also do a school teacher/administrator blessing during both of our services on this day. We have lots of teachers and administrators in our church and we ask them to invite their colleagues for a special blessing on this day. Finally, we launch a new sermon series on this Sunday that will hopefully have a wide appeal. The idea is that if they are there on the first Sunday of the series they are more likely to want to hear more. This year our series is called “Collide: When Truth Runs In To Experience.” A couple of the sermons are “I know God loves me…but” “I know God will provide…but” and others like this. By having all of this in place we have something to invite folks to when we are out in the community in the weeks leading up to this day.
Rather than a traditional school supply drive this year we partnered with a mobile home community in our area and asked our church members to actually “adopt a family” and buy school supplies for the children in that family specifically. After we collected all of the supplies that had been bought for folks we put on a big “Back to School Fair” in the clubhouse of the community and had games, snacks, passed out the new school supplies, and then invited everyone to come and join us at our Blessing of the Backpacks to have their new backpacks blessed. Our church ended up providing school supplies for every elementary aged child in that community!!
We have a great relationship with the elementary school that is just down the road from us; we have several of our folks mentor at the school and this has opened other doors for ministry. Each year we have a table at their “Meet The Teacher” night and we pass out goodies and invitations to our Blessing of the Backpacks. This year we are having some Wesley Nurses join us to do back to school health education as a service to the school and the community. This is a great place to simply connect with families and invite them to our back to school focused Sunday.
People in general seem to be a bit more receptive to an invitation to church during this season. We try to help our people to be invitational by giving them tools. We make sermon series cards for them to take and hand out to friends or neighbors. This works better than direct mail because there is a personal contact involved. We do backpack tags for our kids that say, “This backpack has been blessed!!” and has a scripture and the church name on it. We give out some extras to our kids so that they can give them to friends and invite their friends to church.
These are some of the things we do during this back to school season. I encourage you to find something that you and your congregation can do to be out in your community letting folks know that they are welcome at your church.