10 Lords A Leaping… And Other Seasonal Church Outreach Ideas


'Twas the night before Thanksgiving, 
And all through the church
The deacons and women’s club
Were left in a lurch.

“We didn’t plan well,” they cried.
“Oh, what a sight!

If only we had 10 ideas
To make this season bright!”

Seasonal outreach events are incredible opportunities for churches to minister to both their church body and the surrounding community. We polled the Vanderbloemen Search Group team members, who represent both large and small congregations across the United States, for some of their favorite seasonal church outreach activities.

As you brainstorm and plan for your church events during this upcoming holiday season, here are 10 ideas for seasonal outreach activities spanning from turkey day and beyond.

1. Show a holiday movie in the church parking lot.

Who doesn’t love a drive-in movie? This summer, one of our local churches showed A Princess Bride in their parking lot (complete with princess crown making stations, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya” name tags, and local food trucks). This is a great way to reach out to people who might not normally attend your church. Set up palettes and lawn chairs for your church body and the community to enjoy a classic holiday film.

2. Provide Thanksgiving meals for families in need.

Partner with your local elementary school to provide Thanksgiving dinners for families in need. Small groups or families can pick up baskets and shopping lists from the church and fill them up with all the fixings for the big day. This is a wonderful outreach activity to show Jesus’ love to those who otherwise would not be able to provide a Thanksgiving meal for their family.

3. Organize a coat & essentials drive for the homeless.

Whatever this looks like for your community, spend a month gathering essentials for those in your area who might not have access to necessary items. Try to think beyond coats and blankets! One of my colleagues suggested new undergarments and socks as an alternative.

If your church has the facilities, offer a place for the displaced in your community to come and shower. You could gather travel sized toiletries and towels to give to those who need them. A few churches we know have a gently-used clothing boutique attached to their shower facilities where people can “shop” after getting clean.

4. Sponsor a Christmas fun day for kids in foster care.

This is a great partnership opportunity for you and your church to team up with the local foster care system. This opens doors for healthy relationships with peers and adults in a safe environment. Note: there can be a bit of a process to go through in order to work with the kids so be sure to “foster” that relationship with your local agency. But if you make the effort, putting together a Christmas fun day with food, activities, and small gifts for these kids will show them Christ’s love and give them a Christmas they’ll never forget.

5. Coordinate home-hosted community dinners.

Our Chicago consultant, Tammy Kelley, partners with a nonprofit who offers holiday community dinners hosted in a homes around the city. It is an intentional mixture of people representing all economic statuses. Everyone sits down at the same table and enjoys good food and conversation together. She’s found it to be a great equalizer, fostering productive conversations and real relationships.

6. Host an art market.

Our Director of Candidate Relations Bob Sutton’s church offers an annual art market during the holiday season. Here local artists from both inside and outside the church can display and sell their merchandise. It is a great way to both support the local arts community and find great Christmas gifts for your family and friends.

7. Facilitate Operation Christmas Child at your church.

“A small shoebox can teach a child about the love of God, lead him or her to faith in Christ, inspire pastors, and plant new churches. What goes into the box is fun, but what comes out is eternal.” – Samaritan’s Purse

If you’re not familiar with Samaritan’s Purse, it’s a wonderful relief organization that brings shoeboxes filled with Christmas gifts to children in less fortunate situations. This is a great ministry for your small groups, families, and/or Children’s ministry to participate in.

8. Provide a free gift-wrapping station or hot cocoa station at the local mall.

Offering the free gift-wrapping or hot chocolate to those who are busy shopping for Christmas presents is a great way to touch strangers with kindess during a hectic season. Perhaps you could pass out small postcards inviting them to your church’s Christmas services as you make their day just a little less stressful and more full of holiday cheer.

9. Let’s not forget our college students.

The time leading up to winter break is an especially stressful time for college students as they finish papers and study for exams. Perhaps your small group could go caroling in the dorms or set up a “Re-fueling Station” in the student union with free coffee, donuts, and/or 5-hour energy drinks… You name it, they’ll probably eat it.

10. Adopt a family.

During the Christmas season, William Vanderbloemen and his family adopt a local family with kids the same age as his. As a family, they spend time in prayer for their adopted family and pick gifts for each child specifically. Not only was this a meaningful moment for that family in need, but it was also one for William’s family. Partner with your local family shelters for family connections. In Houston, for example, we suggest you explore Star of Hope.

So on deacons, on elders, on choir and preachers,
On youth, on seniors, and all those KidMin teachers!
Go forth and prosper in this holiday cheer,
Because now you’re equipped for a festive new year!

What other ideas do you have for seasonal outreach activities for churches?

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