A Calling in the Community
By Roben L. Bast
Many of us can remember when a church’s evangelism program, in those rare cases in which there was one, involved persuading some church members to do door-to-door calling in the community. Invariably, this method produced very poor results and very discouraged callers. For the most part, churches have abandoned this method. While that is understandable, it may be time to take a second look at community calling.
First, two disclaimers. Door-to-door evangelism calling ought not to be the primary aspect of a congregation’s outreach ministry. I believe passionately that by far the most effective evangelism is that which arises out of the personal relationships of church members. The congregation serious about evangelism will give its primary energy to encouraging and equipping church members for relational evangelism. No other approach is of comparable value.
A second point is that door-to-door calling probably needs to be done somewhat differently than was the case in the past. The most common strategy in earlier days was to do a door-to-door survey, in which the focus was on identifying people who did not claim church membership. One then sought an invitation to sit down with them and present the gospel. While this method may still have some advocates, in all probability it will have even fewer positive results today than it had in the past.
The approach to community calling being advocated here is one I call “contact calling.” It differs in several important ways. First, it makes no attempt to discover whether a person belongs to a church. One reason is that we cannot rely on the answer a person gives when asked about church membership. There may be only the slightest link to a church. It is sadly true that we cannot consider people to be loyal believers simply because they have told us they are Methodists (or whatever). Also, if people are actively involved in a church we presume they will tell us about it.
A second way in which contact calling is different is that callers do not plan to go into anyone’s home. In fact, if invited to do so they decline. (Where a more extended visit is desired, an appointment may be made for a return call.) A third difference is that contact calling presumes return visits. The payoff is often in the third or fourth contact.
Contact calling is a friendly contact made by a church with people in its community. While there may be many different ways to carry out this kind of ministry effort, here are some suggestions.
The evangelism committee plans a year of contact calls, in which perhaps four calls to each prospect will be planned. A target area is identified, and callers are recruited. They arc chosen for their warmth and relational skills.
An evening training session is held, during which four Saturday mornings in the coming year are designated for the calls. At that training session, streets in the target area will be assigned. Perhaps two square blocks will be assigned to each caller (or roughly the equivalent of sixty to seventy homes). When possible, the assigned area will be near the caller’s own home.
On the chosen Saturday mornings, callers meet at the church at 8:00 a.m., for a continental breakfast, prayer, instructions, and to pick up material. The callers are dismissed by 9:00 a.m., and they go to the same area each time. The typical call involves about two minutes at someone’s door. In each contact, there is a brief introduction (name and church), a few words of explanation, a specific invitation, and the handing out of material.
The literature can include one brief piece containing an invitation (to a seminar on caring for aging parents or to the Christmas Eve service) and the church’s promotional brochure. If no one answers the door, callers may choose to leave the literature in the door, although the committee should probably explore this and make a corporate decision.
Three or four months later, the visits are repeated.
Some people will tell you about their church affiliation. My suggestion is that the caller say something like this, “That’s great. Perhaps you would like to read this to see what our church is doing,” simply would not worry about “sheep stealing.” After all, you can’t steal a well-fed sheep. On the other hand, if someone asks the caller not to come again, of course one respects that.
Contact calling assumes that God will be at work through the winsome invitations of church members, and some people will respond by coming to church. What happens then is another story.
“Calling In the Community”. By Roben L. Bast.
“This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”