Creating a Mission Mindset in your Congregation

Consider a Community Canvass

Have you considered a community canvass as part of your congregational plan for outreach? I have heard it said recently that canvassing just doesn’t work anymore. I have heard that it is far too much work for the limited results. I will not argue the fact that canvassing is a labor intensive way to reach people in your community with the gospel. I will not argue the fact that some will not respond well to someone knocking on their door and interrupting their day. I also realize that there are certain areas where a community canvass is not practical. If all the neighborhoods around my church are gated communities, I will not have much opportunity to reach out through a door to door canvass. But before we dismiss the possibility too quickly, let’s examime some possible benefits from a community canvass.

There is always the obvious. In a canvass we will have opportunity to find people who don’t have a church. Those who are without faith in Christ are not seeking him. They are not likely to pass through your church doors on a Sunday morning. We have an invitation from our Savior to participate in the gathering of his elect. He sends us to the ends of the earth with his gospel. It makes sense to start with the neighborhoods around our respective churches. Finding those without a church gives us an opportunity to reach out to our target audience with the gospel.

I understand that it is wise to evaluate our practices in ministry. It is a matter of good stewardship to focus our efforts in areas that God seems to be blessing. But I would encourage you to not be too quick to abandon the idea of a community canvass because you don’t see quick results. There might be results that you don’t see immediately.

I am not saying that there won’t be immediate blessings. Last year in our fall BIC we had 2 families that we met in our summer community canvass. The adults were confirmed and both families joined our church. We thank God for the opportunity to be his messengers. We thank God for the powerful gospel that is God’s power for salvation. Those immediate blessings are obvious and we thank God for them. But there might also be numerous blessings that are not so readily apparent.

I have been involved in canvassing long enough (22 years) to know that there can be delayed blessings. I have seen people show up in our church up to 15 years after they were canvassed. They were receiving our mailings and when they felt a need for pastoral assistance or a church family, they came to us. They came to us because canvassing put our name and information in their homes.

I have seen other blessings that are not so readily visible. Over the years our church has developed a reputation. There is an awareness in our community that we are out “on the streets.” I suppose that there are some in our community who view that negatively. They might feel that the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the members of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church infringe upon their privacy. But for the most part, I think that the image is a bit more positive. I pray that we are seen as a church that is committed to proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ. I count community awareness of our church and ministry as a blessing achieved through community canvass.

Over the years, another blessing has caught me by surprise. I cannot say that I really planned it but I do recognize it. Years of canvassing has helped contribute to a mission mindset in our congregation. Our canvasses are well publicized. We have 8-15 people participate most weeks. We ask people who are not able to be involved to pray for our efforts. We make mention of our efforts frequently in sermons and Bible classes. I cannot really measure the impact but I do sense that there is one. People realize that we are a church that loves the gospel and wants to share the gospel. They even realize that many of us are willing to step outside of our personal comfort zones to take the gospel to our community (It can be uncomfortable both because our sinful flesh can make it uncomfortable talking spiritual issues on someone’s doorstep and because it is 93 and humid on most summer nights in Middle Tennessee).

When I hear someone say that a canvass doesn’t “work” anymore, I react with some skepticism. I agree that it may be a labor intensive way to reach out into our communities. We may not always see the immediate results that we might like to see. But it does take attempt to take the gospel to those without a church in our community. In my estimation, it might also be a good way to contribute to a mission mindset in our congregations.

Read the second part of the article here

Rev. Charles Westra

Charles Westra serves as pastor of Christ Our Savior Lutheran Church in Columbia, TN. In addition to his congregational duties, Pastor Westra serves as the chairman for the WELS Board for Home Missions.

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