Effective Outreach by Rev. Daniel Ross
July 25, 2022, 11:00 AM

The biggest question that I have always received when it comes to outreach is how to do it? People and congregations want to do outreach, they want to reach people with the amazing and life saving news of Jesus Christ. They want to bring their friends, families, and neighbors to the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism. They want to kneel at the same altar railing and receive together the bread and wine, the body and blood of their Lord Jesus Christ given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. But, how do you even begin? What steps do you take? The hardest part seems to be getting out of the starting gate.

The first step is to define the terms. What is outreach? Outreach is a subset of evangelism. Evangelism is the proclamation of salvation in the name of Jesus Christ. In his book, Meaningful Outreach (available through CPH), Rev. Mark Wood breaks down evangelism into witness and outreach. “Evangelism that is related to the Church Scattered [the work we do when we are separated from one another] is called witness. Evangelism that is related to the Church Gathered [the things we do when we are together] is outreach.” (pg. 14). Both of these things are connected and work together.

Witnessing is what we do individually and primarily happens in our vocations (for more information on this read Rev. Wood’s book, Connected to Christ: Witnessing in Everyday Life available through CPH). As such, witnessing starts with a personal relationship. On the other hand, outreach is something done on the congregational level and starts where there is little to no relationship between the congregation and the lost people in the local community (pg. 14).

What is not outreach? Outreach is directed toward the lost. “Outreach is focused on engaging nonchurched people – people who do not have a connection to a Christian church. Outreach is not about building fellowship with members of other Lutheran congregations or convincing members of non-Lutheran Christian churches to become Lutherans.” (pg. 17). Outreach is done locally, within the community of the physical gathering congregation. A mission trip, whether to the next town over or to another country and anywhere in between, is not outreach. It might be supporting another church or church worker’s outreach, but it is not local to the congregation.

Finally, engaging outreach is active and intentional and not passive. “Effective outreach involves engaging people through our congregation’s ministries and activities rather than simply sharing information and expecting people to take action. In other words, outreach is not passive; we actively and intentionally conduct outreach through our ministries and activities.” (pg. 19). And, the word ministry here is used to “refer to all the things that [a] congregation does to serve people inside and outside of the Church.” (pg. 19).

That is some definitions, but where to go from there? I highly suggest contacting Jeffrey Maltzthe Oklahoma District’s LCEF representative, as LCEF offers free demographic reports. In these reports you can learn a lot about the community surrounding your congregation, even a community you have spent your whole life in and know like the back of your hand. And, you can start to formulate ways to reach those who are lost within your community.

Rev. Daniel Ross

Oklahoma District LCMS Evangelism Executive