Is canvassing an effective way to do outreach?
Most Christians express a strong hesitancy over the prospect of canvassing in their community. They ask, “Does it really work? How will people going to respond? How will it impact my church?” The underlying factor behind all of these questions is that Christians are fearful – even horrified — about sharing their faith with strangers.
This post begins a five-part series that addresses commonly-asked questions and misconceptions about canvassing as an effective tool for outreach.
Praise and Proclaim Ministries conducts outreach campaigns throughout the U.S. Our ministry trains Christians on how to boldly and confidently share the gospel of Jesus Christ by teaching a simple methodology. We provide a well-organized and immediate opportunity for Christians to put their training into action by going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel. This experience enables a Christian to conquer their fears and realize that the emphasis of evangelism is not on ourselves, but trusting in the power of the gospel and the promises from Christ.
FAQ #1: Is canvassing an effective way to do outreach?”
Many Christians have told me, “Our church has already tried going door-to-door and it doesn’t work!” One pastor confided to me, “Canvassing is scary and takes a lot of work. But after you are done, you are always glad that you did it.” Another pastor shared, “I understand that going door-to-door is one way of sharing the gospel, but I just don’t like to do that.” The effectiveness of canvassing is mostly judged by poor experiences, low participation, great efforts with little fruit, or the ongoing battle with the fear of evangelism. It is my experience that methodology, training, organization, and the amount of preparation for the campaign are huge factors in having a successful outreach campaign that includes door-to-door canvassing.
Congregations will more than likely receive a poor experience or unfruitful responses if one of the following occurs:
- The pastor is primarily responsible for organizing the campaign.
- The pastor is solely responsible for carrying out all of the follow-up visits and contacts.
- The people are not well-trained and do not know what to say or do at the door.
- There is an inadequate follow-up system.
An outreach campaign that involves canvassing requires an extensive amount of energy. The pastor cannot do it all himself, nor should he. Too often, when all of the energy is placed on the actual event, a congregation will forget that the most important activity for a successful door-to-door campaign is what happens afterwards. Consistent and meaningful follow-up is a critical component for any door-to-door campaign to be effective and most congregations have not prepared themselves for this ongoing work. Potential fruit is left hanging on the branch when congregations either exhaust themselves or too disorganized to follow through.
Therefore, judging the success or the effectiveness of a door-to-door campaign really depends upon setting the right goals and expectations. When congregations focus their attention on activities that they can control, namely, providing structure for a positive experience, the Lord will take care of the rest.
Advertise or Evangelize?
The methodology of canvassing can also include hanging plastic bags of information on people’s door. This is an effective way to advertise or invite people to a church-sponsored event. It can also be a way for a person to read a short gospel message.
I believe there is power in the verbal proclamation of the gospel that provides a transforming experience for the Christian. In the strictest sense, whenever the New Testaments utilizes the word “evangelism” it means a verbal proclamation of the Good News. When a believer steps out in faith to verbally share their faith, they are exercising spiritual muscles by “working out their salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil. 2:12) In doing so, they are experiencing the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit through the proclamation of his Word. It is the proclamation of the gospel that makes canvassing a meaningful experience and completely changes the dynamic of an outreach campaign. This transforming experience is what inspires a Spirit-filled zeal to continue to do outreach, to make follow-up visits, and to actively assist the pastor in organizing future efforts to confidently and boldly share the gospel. Witnessing no longer becomes a scary prospect that all Christians feel prone to do, but a joyful event to look forward to.
When an outreach campaign is focused on proclaiming the gospel, the goals and expectations change. They centered on the number of times the Lord opens doors to proclaim the gospel and trust that the Lord of the Harvest will bring lost souls to faith as a result of the gospel seeds being planted. These are goals and expectations that Christians can control instead of the number of people who come to church. This change in perspective not only provides a meaningful experience, but also prompts congregation members to actively continue their efforts to reach the lost.
In today’s culture, churches must build bridges with the community and introduce themselves as a living, caring, active, and growing family of believers. The best way to connect and engage with people is by providing a face for your church. A Christian is not only representing their church, but they are also serving as an ambassador for Christ to deliver an all-important message with eternal consequences. Congregations need to find ways to step outside of their comfort zones to engage and connect with people who are struggling, hurting, and looking for answers.
A well-organized effort with solid training and focus on proclaiming the message of what Christ has already done for us on the cross Christ with strangers can be an effective way to build confidence and receive the joy of being God’s messengers.
FAQs about Canvassing:
FAQ #1: “Is canvassing an effective way to do outreach?”
FAQ #2 “What benefits will our church receive from canvassing?”
FAQ #3 “How will I get members from my church to participate?”
FAQ #4 “Why is canvassing so terrifying?”
FAQ #5 “What if most of my community already belong to a church?”