How can I get my members at church to go canvassing?
The empty signup sheets asking members to participate in canvassing hang on clipboards at the back of the church. The thought of knocking on another person’s door is horrifying… even for pastors. Past experiences of going door-to-door prompt people to say, “It doesn’t work!” It is frustrating and disheartening when most unchurched people at the door don’t respond well when confronted with the questions, “Do you have a church home?” or “If you died tonight, will you go to heaven?” To avoid talking to people, many churches will use “door-hangers.”
There is nothing wrong with these approaches, but I believe there is something even more powerful a congregation can do that will increase the participation in going door-to-door.
Evangelism is not easy. Sharing the gospel is a terrifying prospect for many Christians. Busy schedules often get busier when members are asked to participate in outreach. Members will also readily admit, “I just can’t do that!” Though there are valid reasons for a person not to go door-to-door, fear is still the over-riding factor. This fear is typically based upon a lack of training on what to say or do, poor experiences from the past, or the concern of receiving negative responses at the door.
Successful door-to-door experiences require an investment of time and resources. Proper training and coordination are crucial.
By far, the most important component for door-to-door evangelism is when a Christian verbally proclaims the gospel. There is power in God’s Word. There is power in the proclamation of God’s Word. The experience is transforming.
The best way to get people to participate is when fellow members gush about their experience of proclaiming the gospel.
The question remains, “How can I provide a meaningful, transforming experience for members at my congregation?”
Here is a great example from a recent campaign we conducted in Redmond, Washington.
We were asked to help Living Hope Lutheran Church. Many people who lived in the surrounding neighborhoods worked at Microsoft and were largely unchurched. Members of the church went out “canvassing” and knocked on hundreds of doors on a rainy Saturday. They invited people to come and hear a message at church on how we can “Find Freedom” from guilt, worry or a broken past. The following Sunday morning, no visitors showed up. Was the campaign a complete disaster? Was the door-to-door event unsuccessful? Were the members depressed and vowed to never do that again?
No. Here are the reasons why:
- The people they met at the door responded very positively. The first fifteen seconds at the door are very important. Members at Living Hope were trained to joyfully and confidently share who they are, where they are from, and give a reason why they are at the door.
- The members learned how to seamlessly transition from the first fifteen seconds to providing a simple proclamation of the gospel.
- The members concluded their visit with an invitation.
The experience of going door-to-door turned out to be a very meaningful experience because it centered on the proclamation of the gospel. The approach at the door made it comfortable for the person at the door and the church member. Despite the fact that nobody from the community showed up on Sunday morning, the core group of trained members went out joyfully and confidently to proclaim the gospel two weeks later. They understood their biblical role of being God’s messengers. They appreciated the fact that most of the time, an unchurched family will require four to eight contacts before they make the scary decision of coming to a new, unfamiliar church. They reveled with the honor of being God’s messengers, trusting that the harvest was plentiful and the workers were few.
“When a congregation focuses on going door-to-door to proclaim the gospel, I don’t believe the word “canvassing” adequately describes the outreach event.”
A big part of setting members up for a meaningful experience is setting the right goals and expectations that focus on what they can control. Only the power of the Holy Spirit can bring a lost soul to faith. So, our goals focus on the number of times we deliver the gospel message. A successful outreach campaign celebrates the opportunities the Lord provides to deliver that saving message.
There is joy in being God’s messenger. There is a sense of privilege of being an ambassador for Christ. The experience of proclaiming the gospel is transforming when a Christian conquers the fears of evangelism and receive the promises Jesus gives that are attached to proclaiming His name.
A well-organized and well-trained outreach event that focuses on proclaiming the gospel is what builds outreach momentum and increases the participation for future campaigns.