As cultures all over the world celebrate Christ’s Resurrection, churches have an incredible opportunity to connect with their communities. To help you do that, we have gathered great outreach ideas from across the United Methodist connection to share with you. Here are four of the best:
1. Carry the cross on Good Friday
The people of Winstead United Methodist Church in Wilson, N.C., decided that they wanted a way to “do something tangible and memorable to witness to Jesus on Easter weekend,” explained the Rev. Paul Dunham. Every year, they place a cross display on their expansion property nearby. Over the past several years, carrying the crosses to the property and displaying them had grown into a meaningful tradition.
Last year, they decided to make it a community event by collaborating with 10 other churches in town. They began at the AME Zion building downtown and carried the crosses 10 miles through town to the display on the expansion property. Once everyone arrived and placed the crosses, members from the participating churches had a joint worship service.
Not only did people involved in the carrying participate in the service, but people who saw the crosses being carried pulled in and joined the moving service. Dunham said the event had a huge impact on the community.
2. Have an Easter basket food pantry giveaway
Over several months, the people at another local church collected traditional items for Easter baskets. They shopped at thrift stores for baskets and collected new stuffed animals from friends and neighbors. Sunday school classes donated candy, and the church chipped in to buy Easter grass and coloring books with the Easter story.
Instead of assembling the baskets and distributing them to those in need in their community, the congregation went the extra mile to enable recipient parents to be part of the process. They collaborated with a local food pantry and set up outside the location on a predetermined (and well-advertised) Saturday.
After families received what they needed from the food pantry, parents could shop for their basket. Instead of receiving what someone else picked out, they got to choose a stuffed animal, candy and grass. On the way out, they all received the coloring book to help them share the story of Easter with their children.
3. Offer a mountaintop Good Friday service
Youth at University United Methodist Church in San Antonio begin their Good Friday service on Maundy Thursday. After school, they meet at a state park and pitch their tents to stay up with Jesus in prayer. Good Friday is filled with fasting, prayer and reflection on the Passion of Jesus. When the sun begins to set, they start a short hike up a mountain so that they arrive around sunset.
At the top of the mountain, before a cross they help carry there, the youth and anyone who chooses to join them sing, read the story of the Crucifixion, pray and sit silently in awe of the incredible sacrifice Jesus made on their behalf.
4. Try a missional egg hunt
The annual egg hunt is a staple that draws crowds to churches everywhere. What if you turned it around this year? The people at Christ United Methodist Church in Mobile, Ala., made it a missional moment. Last year, the crowds collaborated with a homeless-outreach ministry to assemble hundreds of supply bags to help meet the needs of the homeless in their city.
5. Host micro events at different locations in your community
Travel may be an obstacle for some people, so go to them. Consider asking a few big apartment complexes if you can use their courtyards or picnic areas to host a hunt. Consider including inflatables, games, food, door prizes and music to grab attention. It will be hard for residents to resist the fun. Make sure to invite participants back for next week’s Easter service.
Between the ring toss and popcorn stand, families could grab bottled water, travel soaps and other items and place them in a bag as a moment of service in this spring festival. What would have taken hours for the ministry leaders to do on their own was done by all the extra hands that were on campus that morning.
This article was published at the UM News Service. Jeremy Steele is the Next Generation Minister at Christ UMC in Mobile, AL. He was recently in our conference leading workshops on reaching children and youth.