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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Related Preaching Articles
By Greg Stier on Jul 2, 2011
Greg Stier offers insight into the effectiveness of hard-core street witnessing.