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ALEXANDRIA, La. (BP)--Spring has sprung, or it's about to. In the South, the dogwoods are in bloom. There is warmth in the air.
That means it's time for a block party.
Churches are consistently finding that block parties are a great way to meet neighbors and start new friendships. Even secular publications like Good Housekeeping are willing to share tips for neighbors to hold block parties.
Why hold a block party? Because people will come.
I've never been to a church that wasn't looking for new faces. If you want to attract guests and have a great ministry to a neighborhood, hold a block party.
There are two approaches to block parties. One way is to hold the block party at the church. This approach provides members an opportunity to invite friends and family to come with them to an event that is not "churchy." When unbelievers interact with church folks, the unbeliever can find a place of love and acceptance in a non-threatening environment.
The second approach is to target a neighborhood and take the block party to them. Generally, it is going to be in the neighborhood of church members, but that is not necessarily the case. It may be in a brand-new area the church wants to impact with the Gospel.
Last spring, I tracked 24 block parties in our state, from which churches discovered more than 2,000 prospects, presented the Gospel more than 600 times and had 200-plus professions of faith.
I've spoken to several churches preparing to make an impact through block parties. One of our small towns, Ponchatoula, La., holds an annual Strawberry Festival, one of the largest festivals in our state. First Baptist Church planned a block party immediately after the Strawberry Festival parade. Since their campus is on the parade route, it makes perfect sense to hold the block party on site. They are anticipating more than 1,000 people to attend.
Another church, DeQuincy First Baptist, planned a block party to coincide with the opening day of baseball tryouts in their community. Hundreds of families will be across the street from the church, getting ready for a new baseball season. It's a great opportunity to reach out.
Other churches I've talked with are planning block parties as their registration event for Vacation Bible School. Since VBS is still the number one evangelistic outreach of Southern Baptists, it makes sense to combine these tools.
There are two keys to a successful block party. One is adequate planning and preparation. Everyone needs to be on the same team and understand how to make the block party a success.
The second key is to be intentionally evangelistic. Some churches hand out Bibles. Others have trained witnesses circulating among the crowds. Neither of these is wrong, but what if there is a more effective way?
The approach that we've found to be most successful is to announce during the block party, "We have a free gift for everyone. See the people in the red hats (or however you identify your evangelism team) to receive your gift."
When the people approach you for their gift or you approach them, it now becomes very non-threatening. You ask, "Have you received your free gift yet?" If the person answers, "No," then you say, "Here it is. We have a Bible for you. Do you mind if I take a moment and show you how to use it?" It is very rare for someone to respond negatively. The number of professions of faith increases when this simple method is used.
We've found The Gift New Testament to be an inexpensive tool for this approach. Besides, the name already fits the approach. You can purchase these paperback Bibles in bulk through Holman Bible Outreach (www.holmanbibleoutreach.org). Other benefits of this Bible are its 30-day devotional guide and its list of Top 10 Truths of the Bible.
With a little planning, an evangelistic block party can be a huge success, as your church family reaches out, connects and invites people to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Contact your local Baptist association, state convention, LifeWay Christian Resources or the North American Mission Board for resources to help you with an evangelistic block party.
Spring is just around the corner, and so are you neighbors.
Keith Manuel is an evangelism associate on the Louisiana Baptist Convention's evangelism & church growth team.