Disaster Evangelism

Disaster Evangelism
Bob & Eileen Falkey

Every believer knows they need to evangelize, but finding a successful strategy to do so can be difficult. So, here’s a novel method that has real potential.  We’ll begin with large disasters, and later discuss local tragedies.

The United States has experienced two large natural disasters this year that have resulted in hundreds of deaths.  These have been televised nationally, and our whole nation sympathizes with those affected. Take for example the Joplin, Missouri tornado disaster where over 130 people died.  Our hearts go out to those whose lives have been devastated by this terrible disaster.  But, why not use this tragedy to raise money for relief efforts, and reach lost souls in our neighborhood to boot?

The Plan

When a large-scale disaster strikes that captures national attention, it generates great sympathy.  Many people would make a small donation, providing it is convenient to do so.
Thus, a small group can field several two or three person teams who go out into their neighborhoods and ask for contributions.  The Red Cross calls this Face-to-Face fundraising. But, DO NOT COLLECT ANY MONEY.  This is vitally important, because cash donations open the door to theft or accusations of impropriety.  That simply cannot happen when the group does not collect any money or merchandise. Instead, the group supplies a business envelope and fact sheet/donation letter that lists the name and address (and Internet address) of several national relief organizations.  But, we must move quickly because relief contributions tend to drop off once media coverage ends.

A Much Needed Public Service

A two person team going door-to-door might be responsible for generating hundreds of dollars of relief money that might otherwise not have been donated.  So, keep in mind that we are performing a valuable public service. The reason this works is because the fact sheet and envelop make it easy for people to donate money.  Everything they need is at their fingertips.  However, I suggest you only ask for a $10.00 donation on the information sheet.  Keep the amount low, and more people will donate.

A Legitimate Reason for Knocking on Someone’s Door

In order to win lost souls, we’ve got to meet people, and knocking on doors is one of the quickest ways to do that. But, you’ve got to have a LEGITIMATE reason for knocking on someone’s door, or they will quickly close their heart to you. For example:  I’ve seen saints go door-to-door asking for prayer requests. I’m all for prayer, but people know what they are up to. They know the goal is to get them to join their church. So, I don’t consider that a good reason for knocking on someone’s door.

Example 2:  A minister and a young man were going door to door with a survey that asks people why they don’t go to church.  (With the goal of getting them to visit their church)  At one house, the owner flatly told them he was not interested in filling out any survey. As they turned to leave, the minister remarked, “Sir, I see your flowers are just beautiful, while I have the hardest time getting anything to grow.  Can I ask how do you do it?”  Suddenly, the fellow’s face lit up, and he said, “Let me show you around back.”

The back yard was a gardener’s paradise, and after uttering many “wows,” the minister commented, “Boy, I wish my wife could see this!”  To which the fellow remarked, “Well, bring her around sometime.” If you want, you can stop by next Saturday. I don’t know if this fellow ever got saved, but I do know that asking the man about his flowers suddenly gave that minister a legitimate reason for being there.

Here’s a third example:  During the summer, it’s not uncommon to see a church group offering a “free” car wash.  But, again, people know what those folks are up to, and many will stay away—or close their spirit while their car is washed for free. Instead of doing a free car wash, I recommend that a group comes up with a number of different strategies to meet the people in their neighborhood.

One idea is to do a Scavenger Hunt.  Have a social with your small group and divide everyone up into two person teams (guys against gals?).  Supply the group with a Scavenger List of twenty gag items (oldest penny, sandwich bag of cold spaghetti, thinnest bar of soap, etc. )
Take a few minutes to pray that God would draw people to you, and send the teams out into the neighborhood with the admonition—we are here to meet people first, and win the scavenger hunt second.

On the scavenger hunt you’ll meet grouchy people who are in too big of a hurry to help, and you’ll meet kind folks who find the idea amusing and don’t mind helping.  When someone is friendly, introduce yourselves, and after you leave jot down the person’s name and address for future contact. A scavenger hunt is a legitimate reason to knock on someone’s door.  And, so is Disaster Evangelism.

The Real Benefit

Certainly, we want to raise money to help relieve the suffering of disaster victims.  But, a better reason is to meet people who are good candidates for salvation. Sad to say, some hard-hearted folks will show no interest in helping disaster victims.  But, you’ll also meet tender-hearted people who want to help.

When you meet kind-hearted people, invite them to join you in canvassing the neighborhood for disaster relief donations.  You might say: “I see you are touched by this terrible disaster.  If you’d like some information on how to get involved in raising money for disaster relief, please contact us.  Our information is on the bottom of the Fact Sheet.”

When someone calls, invite them to a brief (45 min) Disaster Relief meeting, where they can meet the group and be given some pointers on canvassing for donations. At the meeting, give some instructions, such as:

* Collect no money or merchandise. Our sole purpose is to ask people for a ten dollar donation that they send directly to a relief organization.
* No high pressure tactics.
* Beware of dogs and slippery places.
* Beware of dangerous situations.  Only go two-by-two and don’t become separated from your partner.

I also recommend that you ask for testimonies from those who have been out canvassing for donations.  What is their experience?  How receptive do they find the people?  Do they have any pointers to share? Afterwards, serve light refreshments and spend some time getting to know the visitors.  But, I don’t recommend praying or singing Christian songs at this stage.

Since time is vitally important, you should probably make plans to go out canvassing as soon as possible after the meeting. If the visitors don’t mind, I recommend you pair each of them up (their first time out) with an experienced canvasser—especially someone of their same gender that they may have something in common with.  This gives the person a chance to bond with someone from the group.

The Wrap Up:

Once all canvassing for this particular disaster is finished, have a party to celebrate your success.  Make every effort to get your visitors to attend this celebration.  But, again, I would not pray at this celebration or sing any Christian songs.

Invite the Visitors to Your Small Group

At the end of this celebration party, invite the visitors to your small group meeting. Here’s how this conversation may go: “Hey, Bill. We’ve really enjoyed getting to know you and Sue.  Besides being a big help with the canvassing, you both are really fine people. You know, we don’t advertise it, but most everyone here also belongs to another group—a group of Christian friends that meets once a week in one of our homes in the evening. Anyway, we’d be honored if you and Sue would join us some time. I think you’d enjoy it.  The meetings last about 90 minutes, and we often discuss some topic that everyone enjoys.  Let me know if you are interested.”

Pray for the Visitors

Needless to say, be sure and have the whole group pray in advance for the visitors.  Ask God to draw them, and keep in touch if they don’t accept the invitation to your small group meeting.  Also invite them whenever you have a social.

The Small Group Meeting

If the visitors accept your invitation, be sure to use a discussion topic that isn’t strongly spiritual.  A great subject is God’s Love.  Also, only use seeker sensitive language.  What I mean is, don’t call each other brother or sister and then call the visitors by their first name—because that will make them feel excluded.

I also recommend that you keep the prayers short, and only sing one or two contemporary Christian songs.  Personally, I would avoid hymns.  Hopefully, the visitors will enjoy the meeting and start attending regularly.  Use this time to make them feel welcome and build a bond of trust with them.

As time progresses, the meetings should go from lightly spiritual to normally spiritual—with the exception that you shouldn’t mention salvation doctrine yet. After 8 weeks or so, talk to your members about changing the small group meeting to a Bible Study.  Then, talk to your visitors about the change.  Here’s a sample of how that conversation might go: “Hello Bill & Sue. Once or twice a year, we like to change the small group format to Bible Study—because it’s important for us to learn God’s Word. If you don’t mind, we’d like to begin next week. I think you’d enjoy it.  What do you say?”

The Bible Study

If you do a 12 week Bible Study, then I suggest you take a break after every four lessons and switch back to the small group format for one meeting.  I say this because people like to talk and the Bible Study format doesn’t allow much room for discussion. After the Bible Study is finished, switch back to the small group format.  This is a big advantage over Bible Studies that split up after the last lesson.

Be Patient

Some visitors will quickly see their need for baptism, and others will take much longer to accept it. One convert of mine took 18 months from the time we began talking to her at her work until she was baptized and received the Holy Spirit. The last thing we want to do is drive someone away because we are too pushy in getting them saved.

Raise Money for Local Needs

With slight modification, this system can also be used for raising money for local needs. Suppose a police officer or fire fighter is seriously hurt or dies in the line of duty?  Or, suppose some small child from a poor family is diagnosed with a debilitating disease?

The group may decide to raise money to support these or other good causes.  Simply find out where people can send contributions, and put this information on the fact sheet. OR, sometimes, it is better to collect cash.  Many people will give a dollar to help a sick child, but won’t make a small donation with a check or charge card.

If you want to raise cash contributions, then do this: Contact the person in charge of their fundraising and ask for a letter authorizing your group to collect cash donations.  Every team should display a photo copy of the letter to show they are legitimate.  You may also want to check with the police to make sure your plans are legal in your area.

I looked on eBay for inexpensive collection containers, and could not find any. So, here is a low-cost suggestion:  Campbell’s makes Tomato Soup in larger sizes, and these cans make perfect donation containers. Use a clean awl or small chisel to punch a hole in the top of the soup can.  Drain the soup, rinse out the can, and let it dry.

Now, widen the hole into a slot that is big enough to put folded dollar bills or change through, but not so wide that money can be fished out.  This serves the same purpose as a locked container. When the can is full, simply open the bottom with a can opener.  I recommend dressing up the donation can with a picture of the person you are collecting for, along with their name printed in large size font. Make sure you have a good supply of information sheets that clearly show the person’s name, picture, and detailed description of their need.

No Raffles, Please

Some have used raffles to raise money for charity, but I don’t recommend it. In the first place, raffling is a mild form of gambling, which is morally wrong. Second, a raffle takes the spirit of giving out of any fundraising project. In a raffle, the main reason people give is in order to get. Also, a raffle won’t show you who the tender-hearted people are, and that is very important in finding good candidates for salvation.

* The American Red Cross Mail contributions to: P.O. Box 4002018   Des Moines, IA  50340-2018
* Phone contributions: English: 1-800 RED CROSS  (733-27677)  Spanish: 1-800-257-7575
* TDD Operator:   1-800 220 4095
* Donate online at: www.redcross.org

Caution:  You must specify where you want your donation to be used, or it may be sent outside the United States to be used in International Disaster Relief.

The Salvation Army

* Mail Donations to: P.O. Box 21787  St. Louis, MO.  63109-0787
* Please designate where you want your gift to go.
* Phone Donations: Call 1-800-SAL-ARMY (725-2769)
* Donate online at: www.SalvationArmyUSA.org
* Go to Online Donations: Click on the words “Donate Now”
* National Emergency Response Team
* Mail contributions to: 1058 Albion Road Unity, Maine  04988
* Phone contributions:  English: 1-888 NERT-USA  (637-8872)

This article “Disaster Evangelism” by Bob & Eileen Falkey was excerpted from: www.churchmentor.net website. February 2012. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

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.”