Every church should have a variety of mission opportunities throughout the year that engage the entire congregation — individuals of all ages — and range from simple to complex. A Sunday morning worship experience, or other time when everyone is gathered, is a perfect time for these demonstrations of our love of God and love of neighbor. Be sure each mission experience fits the best practices of missio Dei (God’s mission) and has a proper place in your larger plan of missional engagement. Such mission must be more than projects and activities. We should think of our engagement in mission as unleashing the focus, prayers, and energy of our congregations to engage and enhance our communities.
Look for opportunities that match your community needs, your context and scale, your existing partnerships, or are tied to worship or discipleship. It’s important to connect these mission experiences with meaningful next steps. For example, if you collect supplies for school backpacks, perhaps you plan a one-time event at the partner school and further next steps like tutoring. Combining simpler acts of charity or kindness with opportunities for relationship building and engagement with the community will strengthen a church’s mission portfolio. Look for ways to put a new spin on your tried and true activities that fit your context and the growing faith needs of your congregation.
You might also look for ways to share the story of your congregation’s mission outreach that will continue to encourage and mobilize this sort of missional mentality. Use social media to share mission activities with your congregation and the wider community. Be mindful and respect the people you work with, some of whom are facing difficult times in their lives. Focus on the relational and transformational elements of your mission service in all social media posts and communication about your work.
Asking members of the congregation to participate in these opportunities during Sunday worship can have a powerful impact, as everyone can see the results of their combined efforts. The mission activity can be an opportunity to partner locally or internationally. The activity could also fit in with a specific worship theme of a day or month. Here are 12 ideas for congregational mission projects and activities:
- Discovery Sunday
Often we think of mission as doing something. What if we focus on discovery instead? Some of the discovery could be of God, of ourselves, and of our community. You could focus on each of these aspects of discovery on three different Discovery Sundays (or Prayer Sundays). Set up a number of prayer/writing stations around the church where people can write on index cards and respond to questions like: “How is God getting your attention in our community?” or “What gifts and talents can you offer to our community?” No need to share your name, just write your thought. If you send out an email teaser the week before, you could prompt questions ahead of time, but often people’s gut responses are what you want.
2. School Supply Drive
Work with a guidance counselor and the administration at the nearest public elementary, middle, or high school to determine what supplies are needed. Supplies could include items for students as well as teachers. During worship, ask the congregation to bring donations to the front of the church as an offering.
- Winter Clothes Drive
Contact a nonprofit organization in your community that provides clothing as part of its mission, and collect new items as requested by the partner. Work with the partner organization to build a direct connection and relationship with the organization and recipients. Say a prayer of dedication over the items collected before you donate them and, if possible, gather the prayer requests of those receiving the donations. Talk with the partner organization about next steps and other ways for your congregation to be involved in their mission.
- Blanket Sunday
Create blankets to share with a local homeless shelter or other organization that works with the homeless. Provide (or ask people to bring to worship) two pieces of matching fleece fabric measuring 1 1/2 yards each. Also, provide scissors, rulers, and copies of this pattern (or a similar one). When the blankets are finished, say a prayer of dedication and remember those who will struggle to stay warm during winter.
- Relief-Supply Kits
Collect and pack relief-supply kits — cleaning buckets, health kits, or school kits. This could be done throughout the year or as an immediate response to a disaster. Before you pack your buckets and kits, make a plan for transporting them to a relief-supply depot/warehouse. You can recruit more helpers for this important part of the mission activity.
- Disaster Preparedness Sunday
Make sure both you and your neighbors are prepared for an unexpected emergency. Have families create disaster preparedness kits at church — one to keep for themselves and one to give away in the community. Plan a neighborhood outreach day, and invite neighbors to come to the church to pick up their kit.
- Community Garden
Creating a new community garden, or helping to sustain an existing one, is a great way to both care for creation and provide healthy food for your neighbors. Invite others from the neighborhood to help with planting, tending, and harvesting. Consider partnering with a local shelter or food bank to distribute the food to those who do not have access to healthy and affordable options.
- Gratitude Sunday
Plan a “thank you” meal for community servants. Think about the individuals in your community whose dedication and service are often overlooked or taken for granted (for example, police, firemen, EMTs, teachers, staff at a homeless shelter, etc.). A personal connection to those being honored will make this event more special. The event could be held near Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving, or anytime.
- Neighboring Sunday
Have a shortened worship service and send the congregation out to use the afternoon to do something special for a neighbor. Examples: Bake cookies or a cake, clean their yard, visit someone in the hospital or nursing home, or find some way to spend a couple of hours caring for someone.
- Feeding the Hungry
Reach out to a local community organization that provides food and/or meals to those in need. Volunteer to prepare food for one of their scheduled mealtimes. Examples include collecting specific food items, making sandwiches together during worship and delivering them, or volunteering at the organization to prepare or serve a meal. Be mindful of what the partner organization needs and work with them so that you are as helpful as you can be.
- Grand Sunday
Encourage children and teens to build relationships with their elders by conducting 15-minute interviews with a grandparent or another older person the child or teen knows. Send them out with a few guiding questions for the interview and ask them to report back to the church about their experience (or send an email or share on Facebook).
- Sister Church
Reach out to a sister church in a different part of town or with a different ethnic majority and partner in a mission activity. You might plan a community cleanup day together or volunteer together at a local soup kitchen or homeless shelter. The emphasis should be on your congregations developing cross-cultural sensitivity and relationships.
For more information about planning mission opportunities for your congregation check out “Guidelines Mission: Share God’s Transforming Love with the World,” a tool for planning a continuous, year-round program of mission education.