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Home » All Resources » Articles on Evangelism How To » Steve Sjogren, 94 Servant Evangelism Ideas for Your Church
Servant evangelism wins the heart before it confronts the mind. A small act of kindness nudges a person closer to God, often in a profound way, as it bypasses one's mental defenses.

Servant Evangelism (SE) connects people to people in a natural, easy, low-risk, high grace way.

Who doesn't like to be given a cold soda on a hot day? Especially by someone who is smiling, happy, and having fun. SE wins the heart before it confronts the mind. A small act of kindness nudges a person closer to God, often in a profound way, as it bypasses one's mental defenses. The average Christ-follower is willing to hand a stranger a can of soda (low-risk). The high grace is seen in the typical reaction. “Oh, thank you!” “This is so nice!” “I can’t believe this is for free!” And, “Why are you doing this?”

Kindness builds the bridge for the person to receive a touch of love from God. Add an invitation to church or other method of connection—even a simple card with your church's name, phone number, and times of services—and you’ve reached someone with the love of Christ! It’s simple, practical, effective, inexpensive, and fun! We get reports from pastors, lay leaders, and ordinary Christ-followers all over the world who have discovered the power and impact of “showing God’s love in practical ways,” and again and again we’ve seen relationships with God borne from these simple acts of kindness in Christ’s name.

Here are some great ideas to get your church started in servant evangelism.

EASY, LOW-COST GIVEAWAYS

Coffee Giveaways

Use either Igloo containers or air pump thermoses. Offer three options: regular, decaf and hot chocolate. On a cool day, you will have folks swarming for a cup of something hot. You will need three or four people to help give away coffee for each big canister. With each drink, we give out a connection card. Consider having paper cups with your church’s name and logo printed on them.

Newspapers

Some convenience stores will allow you to purchase an entire stack of newspapers. Place a sign on the top of the stack that reads, "Free Newspapers—Courtesy of (Church Name)" and attach a connection card to each paper with removable adhesive.

Donut Giveaway during Morning Traffic Times

This giveaway is especially effective when performed by senior citizens—who can say no to a sweet grandma-type? These gals set up on a traffic island at a stoplight (make sure they’re safe out there). When the light turns red, they step up to cars and ask, "Would you like chocolate, maple, or glazed?" They then give them a connection card with the snack.

Soft Drink Giveaways

"Hi, would you like regular or diet?" This is our standard opening to bless folks with a small act of kindness on a hot day. And it works! We set up at grocery store entrances with large coolers filled with ice and drinks. Buy name-brand drinks instead of the cheaper stuff, and place a connection card under the opener. A courtesy note: Sometimes a location will conflict with vendors selling what you are giving away. Some of the most irate critics we've run into have been vendors who conclude we are trying to put them out of business. The answer: Set up in a location away from vendors. In extreme cases, consider asking the vendor how much money he/she anticipates losing by your presence, then give them that amount in cash.

Bottled Water Giveaway

Many people prefer water to soft drinks. Ice down bottles of water in large coolers for an alternative to a soft drink giveaway. Use the same connection cards. We don't recommend combining this with a soda giveaway, because it offers too many options and gets complicated.

Life Savers

If you are looking for an affordable entry point for a large number of people, consider this one. 

We purchase the candy at a warehouse store for about five cents per roll. We attach a connection card and give out hundreds of these candies to passersby. Everyone will take a roll of these candies. Consider printing the message of the connection card onto mailing labels and sticking them over the top of the Life Savers wrapper.

Lollipops/Blow Pops

These are great giveaway items for parks, festivals, and college campuses. Purchase at a warehouse store for around six cents apiece, and fold a mailing label with connection information around the stick.

Popcorn

You can either make bags of popcorn before you arrive at your outreach site, or consider renting/purchasing your own carnival style popping machine and do it on the spot. You will draw more of a crowd with the machine on hand.

Sunglasses (cheap ones!)

Have you ever left home for a sporting event only to forget your sunglasses? Many sporting event attendees experience this every weekend. We have purchased large quantities of sunglasses for as little as a quarter a pair.

Ice Cream Coupons

Approach a local ice cream store and explain your desire to give away thousands of ice cream coupons. Chances are the owner/manager will be willing to give you a good deal on ice cream coupons. Attach a connection card to each coupon, and you'll have a project that will elicit a response from just about everyone in town.

SERVICES

Umbrella Escorts

The elderly and moms with kids find it tough to make it from stores to their cars in the rain. We use huge golf umbrellas to help get them and their purchases to their cars with as little wetness as possible.

Grocery Bag Loading Assistance

Moms with lots of kids hanging onto them like koalas often need assistance getting their bags loaded into the car from the shopping cart. The elderly need the same sort of help. Volunteers on this project need to appear particularly safe and friendly; name tags or coordinating T-shirts identifying connection to your organization makes the servants look more “official.” Note: On this project, almost everyone will try to give a tip, but as with all kindness projects, to receive money would taint what you are trying to communicate: "God’s love in a practical package with no strings attached." This project may require permission from the store manager on the day of the event.

Bag-Packing at Self-Service Grocers

Increasing numbers of grocery stores are cutting out services such as bag-packing. Place volunteers at these stores to pack bags for customers. Again, name tags or coordinating T-shirts or aprons help the baggers look more official and identifies the connection with your organization. The first time we volunteered to do this, the manager was skeptical, but the feeling quickly melted. We've received reports from all over the U.S. that this project is very effective.

Trash Pick-Up

There is lots of trash to pick up at festivals and sports events. Buy garbage bags, wear matching T-shirts and plastic gloves, and bring a sign to put up that says, “Kindness in Progress” while you pick up trash. People will notice.

Shoe Shines

Small investment + some elbow grease = big return. Set up in front of a grocery store on a Saturday, or perhaps in front of a barbershop. This is a great project to get talking with people; you have a captive audience while you serve!

Restroom Cleaning at Public Places

This is Steve Sjogren's favorite project. There's nothing like walking into a gas station, restaurant, or retail store and saying to the manager, "We'd like to clean your toilet for free!" Put a little cleaning kit together containing a toilet brush, air freshener, window cleaner, paper towels, toilet bowl cleaner, rubber gloves, and a doorstop. There's nothing magical about the technique here. Steve has cleaned commodes all over the world, and says they are all pretty much the same as the ones in your home. Note: This is probably one of the most frequently rejected projects we do, probably because the offer to clean a toilet is a bit overwhelming. No matter—give them your connection card, smile, and say, “OK! We'll come back some other time and clean when you need it. We're just trying to show you God’s love in a practical way.”

Business Blasts

Surprise employees of local businesses with a small gift such as a basket of candy. Bring in one package to be shared by store employees and leave a connection card that reads something like, “We appreciate how you serve the community with your business, and we wanted to share God's love in a practical way.” Be sure you give items only to employees, so they don't think you are "soliciting" their customers.

Soft Drink Giveaway to Employees

What can you do when denied permission to give away soft drinks in front of a prime retail location? Offer to give soft drinks to the employees. As usual, place the connection card on top.

Stamps in Front of the Post Office

One church holds a major stamp outreach on April 15th for late tax-filers. Not only do they give out stamps, but they also offer coffee and donuts—stress recovery food. Volunteers stand by the mail drop-off boxes with a card table filled with food and stamps.

Gatorade at Biking Trails

Some health-conscious folks like runners, bikers, and other people don't drink soda at all. Set up along a bike trail, athletic field, or hiking trail and offer Gatorade or bottled water to exercisers.

Pay Library Fines

Leave $20.00 at the front desk in the local library, and instruct the clerk to use it for the next person who has fines. Leave a connection card in an envelope for the person, so they can see why the fine was paid.

Surf Wax

Who says non-surfers can't relate to surfers? Buy the current popular brand of wax and hit the beach, dude! It's a definite door-, or rather board-, opener.

Pictionary in the Park

This was a popular game in the late 1980s similar to Charades. Set up in a local park and play the game using a white board to draw hints. Complete strangers will start to join in, especially if your group is friendly and animated. When onlookers correctly guess the answer, allow them to play the next round. After 15–20 minutes, take a break, serve soft drinks and talk with the visitors one-to-one.

Golf Balls

The average golfer loses three or four balls per outing, so give away imprinted golf balls on the local golf course. Imprinting your church’s name and message on golf balls is surprisingly affordable, and if it's lost on the course, another golfer will pick it up later and get your message.

Golf Tees

Golfers can never get enough of these. Imprinted golf tees cost just a couple of cents apiece. Some golf courses will even give them away for you at their counter.

Golf Ball Cleaning

Sure, there are ball-cleaning machines spread throughout most golf courses, but most players don't take the time. With permission of the course, set up a simple clean-up station and clean golf balls before golfers begin a round. Most golfers carry dozens of balls in their bag.

Cleaning Up at Food Courts

If you can get your foot in the door at your local mall, ask if you can do clean-up in the food court area. Along with a connection card, consider distributing handy-wipes with your logo imprinted on them.

Upsizing Food Orders in Fast Food Drive-Thru Lanes

Set up near the drive-thru order station. As customers drive up, offer to pay the difference between their order and the bigger size—which is usually about 39 cents. Your offer will get the entire restaurant talking.

Get all 94 ideas to share with your team - Download full list now


Steve Sjogren launched the Vineyard Community Church in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1985 with 37 people. Under his leadership, the dynamic congregation grew to more than 6000 in average attendance. From the onset VCC had a strong emphasis on servant evangelism, small groups, church planting and caring for the needy. Following a medical accident in 1997 and during his recovery, Steve became the Launching Pastor. Through the years the church planting internship program and Steve’s coaching efforts have produced several dozen successful church plants. Steve is currently focused on writing, speaking and mentoring church planters. Steve’s passion for evangelism, church planting and leadership development is reflected in his writing.

Shawn Barr
August 3, 2013
The negative comments regarding this article are interesting. I believe it comes down to an inaccurate understanding of several things: 1) What the Bible says and does not say regarding reaching the lost. I don't see where God addresses "specifics" in the Word regarding this topic. Instead he gives us broad boundaries in which to operate (use the Word, pray, share the Gospel) and then gives us liberty regarding methods. 2) A misunderstanding of Steve's "intentions". He doesn't say these ideas are to replace preaching, in-depth discipleship studies, edifying the church, etc. These are ways to make a positive, initial contact with the lost on which to build future evangelistic efforts. 3) And sadly, some of the comments just seem traditionalistic and judgmental. No where is Steve saying to compromise the truth, violate Scripture, or leave out the Gospel. Instead his passion for Christ and people leads him to be creative in how to reach out to the lost.omments [delete comment]
Zelebrate Life
July 2, 2012
pericles, you dont have to look far to show acts of kindness in the philippines. right outside the church, there are squatters that you can do feeding projects for the kids and their families; give slippers to street children, invite househelpers for a"sunday off party-fellowship" in the park; bring food to elderly homes, offer to clean yard, wash cars, inthe neighborhood, , bring gallons of potable water to families who have no source of clean drinking water, provide school supplies to schoolchikdren who cant afford to buy even a pencil... the list is endless. really, the need in our communities are open doors of opportunities to show the love of Christ. when they feel the love and grace of God through our actions, winning them only becomes a result of our deep love for them. [delete comment]
Fernando Villegas
August 28, 2011
Charles Peterson, read your Bible again--it says so much more than just simply that people are saved by the Preaching of the Word. If it were that easy, then everyone who listened to us preach would be saved. Has that been your experience? But by reducing evangelism to simply preaching the Word, you're leaving a lot of stuff out. Where's faith? Where's discipleship? Where's taking up your cross and following Jesus? And as you follow him, you will find how often he demonstrated the love of God in practical ways with no strings attached. That wasn't the entirety of his ministry, of course. But you can't just dismiss it completely, either. Read the Gospels again and you will find that his ministry consisted of three activities: preaching, teaching and healing. If you limit yourself only to the first activity, then you are not really following Jesus completely. I think that people like you and Myron and Christian are missing the point of this article. These are IDEAS, not commandments. They are ideas meant to make concrete the principle of showing God's love in a practical way. Yes, these ideas can be sneaky and underhanded IF they are done outside of a context of following Jesus, IF they are done simply for our own agenda. But you have to admit, there is also preaching that is sneaky and underhanded because it is done outside of a context of following Jesus, it is done for someone else's agenda. I've heard such preaching. So like I said earlier, don't get hung up on these particular ideas. If they don't work for you, don't do them. BUT...do remember that biblical love is NOT abstract. It is concrete. It is tangible, physical, it can be shown. So get together with your church and think of ways that you can concretely show the love of God, and do THAT! That is the point of the article. [delete comment]
Charles Peterson
August 27, 2011
I am not a fan of this type of evangelism at all. It is a bit sneaky and underhanded. Why not just talk to folks about God, Sin, their condition and the solution! And also live a life full of Godly principles like generosity, kindness, charity and self-sacrifice, not to win others with your life style, but to please God above all things. People are saved by the Preaching of the Word that is what my bible says...... [delete comment]
Bishop C. Randy Minor
July 5, 2014
What is suggested by the author's writings is a cordial way to invite people to come hear the gospel without being aggressive and brash. That is the purpose of leaving them a calling card which shows your church's name and address. In order to preach to them, get them to come and enjoy the fellowship which will strengthen them as well. In addition, the new comer may have something of value to offer. [delete comment]
Luis Alvarez
August 21, 2011
It all sounds good for the most part - what about the claim of "Sheep Stealing" - proselytism. Catholic pastors would not like it at all - and Protestant pastors would not either. One needs to be careful with the techniques employed. This has happened before - in the midwest a radical Protestant group came to town with the explicit purpose of proselytism and it didn't matter from whom - Protestant or Catholic. If I recall - the local Catholic Church lost no one to them - the result was not as good for the local Protestant church. [delete comment]
James Heckman of Cade Lake Community Chapel
August 19, 2011
These are great ideas...Jesus did tell us to go to Jerusalem first and many of us have inverted the order and start out by going to the world first. I would enourage all my brothers and sisters to consider reaching out to their community...especially those who meet the criteria of Matthew 25. [delete comment]
Fernando Villegas
August 19, 2011
Myron and Christian, I'm sure different areas of the country and different cultural backgrounds will probably interpret the actions suggested in this article as "gimmicky" or with suspicion. But don't get too hung up on the specific act. Instead, focus on the principle: demonstrating the love of God in a practical way with no strings attached. So perhaps you minister in a context where these ideas won't fly. That's fine. Get together with your church and come up with ideas that WILL work in your context! Find a way together that will demonstrate to your community that Biblical love is not abstract, but active and visible! [delete comment]
Byron Martin
August 19, 2011
We have been going downtown in Washington, DC to feed 250 meals weekly to the homeless since 2004. We do bagged lunches, water, coffee and soup. We always place salvation tracts in the bags. Some homeless get mean and beligerant but the majority are thankful and we always say "God bless you." no matter what they do. I really like some of these other ideas of kindness. We have to show them Jesus before we can tell them Jesus. [delete comment]
Jason Craig of Mt Oak Fellowship
August 19, 2011
It is interesting how many people from the church community think these ideas are gimmicky. I wonder if that is why we see so few churches out serving their communities. I think that to reach the people in your town/city that you need to feel the pulse of the need in your city and then figure out how as a church you can meet that need. In our city the population is getting older and we found out that a lot of our residents were unable to keep up with simple yard work - especially during the Fall. Solution? Buy some rakes and trash bags, get a bunch of volunteers together and walk the neighborhood raking yards. This expanded into a week-long summer mission week to our own city - no one else was coming to our city to reach people, so we decided we should. At the end of the day, to reach your city you need to be within arms distance of the people of your city. You wont reach them from the pew, get out and touch a life. Come on church, lets reach our Jerusalems - www.bowiestreetreach.org [delete comment]
Olayinka Olasode
August 19, 2011
Those are wonderful ideas and are captured as friendship evangelism and love outreaches. Love covers all and acts of kindness can break boundaries. The one that winneth a soul is wise for this is Gods heart throb. [delete comment]
Christian Beasley
August 19, 2011
I'm not convinced by all these ideas. Clearly we 'earn the right' to proclaim the good news of Jesus by demonstrating this in our lives. But the early church demonstrated the love of Christ in a highly targeted way - to those in need, to widdows, to beggers etc. To those who could not support themselves. Random 'acts of kindness' can easily look like we're trying 'too hard'. When I see this I ask myself "what do they want from me?" I'm a Brit, so perhaps our ways are different! But our time and resources are limited - surely we should follow the early church model and direct them to those who are in real need. [delete comment]
Pastor Mickey Willard of Eureka Baptist
October 7, 2009
Some great ideas. Our church is in a NC rural community with an average attendance of 120. We recently started a community day for our area that included: free food(hot dogs, chips, cake and drinks), local community businesses and service organization informational(20+) booths (no selling just display), music all day(an Army jazz band, gospel, praise & worship, country, blue grass - all clean), 40+ door prizes provided by businesses within a 30 mile radius. Of course people had to register for door prizes - a card was sent out thanking them for attending & saying if our fellowship can be of help to them let us know - nothing else. We had between 400 - 500 attend and people asking if we were going to do it again next year and how many times! We did have information brochures of the church available but nothing was pushed on people. Just a good clean time for families. Our next Sunday worship attendance increased over 10%! We spent less than $600.00 but the acutal cost - priceless. [delete comment]
Pericles Villalon
September 26, 2009
In the Philippines, acts of kindness are sometimes looked upon as "sinister," or sometimes naughty. What can we do to really connect to people through "random acts of kindness?" [delete comment]
Myron Heckman
September 21, 2009
I'm hesitant about some of these approaches. Our New England church's youth group tried a similar give-away event and was surprised by the indifference, suspicion, and in a few cases hostility mixed in with the warm receptions. In this article I only saw one negative reaction noted (other than businesses feeling the competition), by service station managers declining to have their rest rooms cleaned by a group of volunteer strangers. The author sees the reason being that the offer was overwhelming - I'm wondering if it wasn't seen as weird. And that could be the downside - how many will see this approach as strange or gimmicky? I'm sure there are positive testimonials but it's harder to gauge the impact of the negative reactions. [delete comment]
Rev. Leanna Hamilton
September 21, 2009
This is great stuff! As pastor of a small church in a depressed area of central California, outreach to our community is who we are. Thank you for added ideas in which to serve our community. [delete comment]
Keith Gibbons of First Christian
September 21, 2009
Really good stuff!! Thanks! [delete comment]
Sinka Csaba
September 19, 2009
Good ideas! [delete comment]

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