Ideas That Work

This is an article my brother Rob wrote for a site called “Hot Tips for Small Churches” found at Small Church Pastor.

Ideas that work in a smaller church

Rob & Jen Martin pastor the Vineyard Church in
Lawrence. Recently some volunteers from a
local bar helped their church in an outreach to
the community.
We stumbled onto a Servant Evangelism (SE)* idea a few years ago that has turned out to be highly
successful. We pastor in a college town, Lawrence, KS, home of the 2008 NCAA National Basketball
Champions. Our downtown is a thriving community for a city of this size. Intermixed are chain and
local retail stores with music venues and bars. An ongoing tradition is on Halloween night, the stores
have an open trick-or-treat evening. In our city of 100,000 people, as many as 25,000 show up for the

One of the difficulties we have experienced in doing SE is trying to collect a crowd. So, we have
targeted events that are coordinated by others and then participate in that event. The problem we had
was all of the stores wanted to use the available sidewalk space for their own crowd gathering.

A member of our church is a door man at one of the local bars. Since they do not get much kiddie
traffic into their tinted windows, they have allowed us to use their sidewalk space for our SE project.
We set up a table with a Cambro hot water server and distribute free cups of hot chocolate with a SE
card that reads, ‘This is our simple way…of saying God loves you.’ On the back is the church’s
contact information and service times.

The first time we did this, we were totally unprepared for the scope of operations. We showed up with
3 gallons of hot water and ran out in 10 minutes. Our bar bouncer member started to heat up water
inside the bar to bring out. Next came the bar tender providing us with their candy to give away
because kids and parents were not entering the bar. Then, bar patrons came out to assist us giving
away hot chocolate. We had totally pagan individuals helping us do Servant Evangelism! This was a
goal of mine even before church planting.

Since then, we have purchased a 10 gallon Cambro to go along with our 2.5 gallon. From the
moment we get there, the bar is heating water. Halloween 2008 we gave away 18 gallons, 310 cups
of hot chocolate in 90 minutes.

How can your church apply this idea? First, get yourself a local bar that loves Jesus. OK, seriously, be
aware of what functions your city is already doing and work with it. Do they have a Thanksgiving or
Christmas parade? How about high school, junior high, or community college football games?
Tailgating? If it’s cold, give away hot chocolate. Strap your hot water vessel (Cambros are awesome)
onto a four-wheel dolly or wagon and off you go.

A bit of practicality. For about seven years I have heard how Servant Evangelism has grown people’s
churches. Personally, I haven’t seen it. However, we selectively keeping doing it for two reasons.
First, it is important to tell people Jesus loves them. An act of kindness helps convey that message.
But for me personally, I do it for the second reason. It teaches people in the church to get out and
engage others. As they become comfortable with a short, brief encounter with someone they don’t
know, they will gain the courage to encounter a closer individual with a deeper conversation. It builds
the evangelistic heart in them.

*Servant Evangelism was popularized by Steve Sjogren and refers to simple acts of kindness done by
the church in their community with no strings attached.

To learn more go to:

Copyright, Dave Jacobs 2008


One Comment

  1. Lynn, this is wonderful. It reminds me of an event our church participated in this past Father's Day. It was an Antique Car Rally and we gave away free lunch to all who came by. It was interesting watchng the people. Some just marched right up, thrilled to receive roast beef on a bun. Others walked past the tables several times, almost hesitant, uncertain as to whether it really was FREE or they would have to make a donation.

    Opportunities like this – giving with no expectations – reach the hearts of others. Thanks for sharing this story.

    Have a great day!
    Love & prayers,

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