Liberty UMC: Quitman’s Small Church with Big Ideas
From mailers to meals and magic shows, Liberty UMC in Quitman is acting large and in charge by building relationships in the community.
Early in the year, a group of leaders at Liberty UMC in Quitman felt the need to do some kind of community outreach or event. Much to the evangelism team’s delight, church leaders budgeted $800-$1,000 and they got to work.
“We began devising a plan to host a fellowship dinner and invite the community,” John explains. “ Jerry Price and I scouted a local magician nearby and lo and behold, when we met him, we discovered he was even an ordained minister so we knew he could provide family-friendly entertainment,” says John. “We needed to promote it somehow so I went to the post office and investigated the process of sending it to five of the mail routes in our vicinity.”
In creating a simple postcard, the team then strategically decided to feature several events, beginning with the Easter Sunrise service and breakfast. They hoped the fellowship dinner, planned several weeks later would beckon Easter visitors to come back and inspire other residents out to enjoy a fun weeknight meal complete with a magician. After the plans were set, Liberty UMC had 4,000 postcards printed and dropped in the mail the week of Easter.
“While there are seven churches within a mile of my gated community,” John adds, “we just sensed that there were many unchurched folks in our immediate area.”
On a gorgeous Easter morning, the worship service featured a record-setting 252 people, and many stayed for breakfast. “The mailing even inspired more of our own people and former members to come to church,” notes John. “I saw at least one visitor with the postcard in his pocket.”
Meeting the Neighbors
Evangelism team leader Jerry Price and volunteers also created small gift bags that are given to church visitors at various events and to area residents when knocking on doors. The bags included a bag of popcorn with a label inviting them to “pop over to Liberty UMC” sometime, and ‘witness bracelets’ that provide a way to share the gospel through colored beads. Reports Jerry, “Individuals we met when knocking on doors were friendly as we invited them to come to our dinner and magic show. We prayed with and for a few households and over all had a very positive experience. We learned that only 25-30% of the people said they had a church home or were affiliated with some other religion. “
Adds Jerry, “There is a huge need for church members to get out and visit with people and invite them to an interesting event that is both non-threatening and facilitates more conversations.” Liberty had 14 guests attend the dinner --about half as a result of door knocking and half from the mailers. “We have one new couple now attending church regularly that we met while walking the streets,” he adds.
On the night of the meal and magic show the team put a witness bracelet at each place setting. The bracelets had a card explaining each colored bead and a Sinner’s Prayer on the back of the card. Shares Jerry, “I assumed everyone was a Christian and explained to them the bracelets provide an easy way to witness and share with a friend. I had the words on an easel and I read the meaning of each one. Then we read the Sinner’s Prayer in unison. I also told them we would provide extra bracelets for anyone wanting to share them with a waitress or another person they might encounter in the next short while.”
Dr. Dick White of Liberty UMC believes these initiatives were quite fruitful. “Direct mailers that create a 1% return are considered successful,” he says, “but more importantly we know that thousands more people in our community know about our church than perhaps did before the big mail out.” Adds John, “The kids that attended the fellowship dinner just loved it, as did the adults. I urge other churches to look at things that will attract people and start other conversations that lead to new relationships with the neighbors, and possibly even new visitors to the church. Our congregation might have been in a cocoon for awhile but we are now on alert for new faces at church and those we might share with in our daily lives.”
Postcard Front (PDF)
Postcard Back (PDF)