"SPRING" into Community Outreach
Hip Hop is not just what bunnies do at Easter. St. Luke’s UMC in Houston will have Hip Hop music and the Youth Advocates Break Dancers at a contemporary outdoor Easter worship service this year.
“Yes, families heading to the park in the heart of downtown Houston this may be surprised to find a worship celebration taking place on the hillside and stage at Discovery Green Park,” says Faith Ayers, who will lead the musicians in the Encounter Band during this unique Easter outreach event. “We are hoping to attract hundreds of folks who would not normally darken the doorway of a church, but who might pull up a lawn chair or throw down a quilt and join in the glorious celebration of Christ’s resurrection.”
"I will share words of encouragement on the topic of redemption," says Reverend Justin Coleman, "and our celebration will continue with open circle break dancing and fun children's crafts and activities including, of course, an Easter egg hunt."
Creative ways to get the word out
In addition to posting a video on the event website, church website and a digital ad in the local movie theater, St. Luke’s UMC blitzed the city in several other ways:
1) Go ‘on location’ - St. Luke’s organized a staff picnic at Discovery Green Park during the very populated week of Spring break. They mingled with park guests, distributing Easter at the Park invitations reinforced by their Easter at the Park T-shirts. On the back of the shirts – another creative new communication tool: QRC codes that when scanned by a smart phone will automatically link to the event website.
2) Put magnetic signs on church vehicles – “We looked into advertising Easter at the Park on a taxi, but the price was outrageous,” says assistant communications director Sally Penning, “so we put magnetic signs on our church vans which pick up children daily from various schools for after school care – and the vans regularly are circulating out in the community on field trips as well!”
3) Hand out fliers at all pre-events – By hosting a Rummage Sale the month before Easter, the church was able to distribute invitation cards to community residents who visited the campus for the sale. Invitations have also been shared with residents coming to the church Food Pantry. The Easter banner reinforces this message to drivers along a busy street near the church.
4) Leverage church members with communication connections – Members were able to get Easter at the Park messages plugged into to available commercial spots on local cable stations and into the downtown association newsletter, an ideal audience for the downtown Park location.
How can your church invite those without a church home to visit your campus? Be sure to prep your church congregation about willingly giving up their favorite pew and parking place when an influx of visitors is heading your way!
- Egg the neighborhood. Fill plastic eggs with a small piece of paper inviting them to church and hide them in mailboxes throughout the streets in your area.
- INVOLVE the kids and THEY WILL COME. If your church has a preschool or Mother’s day out program, involve the children in a special song or participatory role and watch the parents, siblings, grandparents and friends flock to come watch them. IDEA: Hold a children’s Easter outreach event on Palm Sunday and reenact the Triumphal Entry—complete with palm branches. Include egg decorating, games, and an Easter video or story for a celebration children are sure to remember.
- Host a Movie night and show the “Easter Parade,” an Irving Berlin classic black and white romance or the powerful “Passion of the Christ,” and have other activities more appropriate for young children.
- Organize a free car wash and leave a card inviting them to the Easter service inside each car.
- Enlist the photography services of a church member and offer Easter portraits at the church.
Looking for last minute ways to digitally boost the buzz for your Easter event?
FREE Create an event on your Facebook page and ask church members and fans of your page to share it with their friends. Click here to learn more about creating events: http://www.facebook.com/help/events/create
FREE – Send out an email to your congregation that advertises your Easter event. At the bottom of your email newsletter you can add social sharing tools (http://www.addthis.com/) called “Add This “. It allows your members to share your event via email, Facebook, Twitter, or Google Plus. This is an easy tool that allows your church members to send and share a personal invitation to YOUR church via your email.
FREE – Have you heard of Pinterest? It is a very different approach to social networking and sharing that has become very popular in the last two years. On Pinterest, people share the things (pictures and videos) they are interested in by pinning them to virtual bulletin boards. Creatively post pictures about your Easter event and ask church members to re-pin it. More on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/landing/
FREE – Did you know that Christian radio stations websites have community calendars that you can post your event on? Better yet, post it on neighborhood websites and citywide calendars that most TV stations offer online.