FIRST-PERSON: Church tours can become a unique outreach
INDIANAPOLIS (BP) -- Summertime's coming, and you might be surprised how many people in your community would enjoy a walking tour of your church building. Whether it's large or small, your church building is a beacon in your town.
Who would take a church tour? Schedule a special tour for parents as they drop their children off for Vacation Bible School or daycare. Invite people who live near the church to a neighborhood coffee and church building tour. Plan a history-focused tour, and send an invitation to the historical society, senior adult center or school history classes. Invite city leaders for a tour and lunch. I led our church's tour as part of the new members' orientation class. Consider a tour for guests after the worship service. A downtown church could offer building tours for festival-goers. In a tourist town, advertise building tours in "things to do" listings. Post an exterior sign to invite anyone in the community to an annual tour.
To plan a church tour as an outreach, carefully research interesting facts, historic information, architectural details and current statistics. When was the building built? Is the steeple the highest point in town? Was this the first church in the county? One church showed me a pew in their balcony that supposedly is the longest pew in America. Study your denominational websites. The majority of the tour, however, should focus on the story of a life-changing God and His impact on lives today, so the tour guide must be knowledgeable about your church's ministries.
Recruit enthusiastic, personable church members as tour guides, and provide a laminated card with key talking points and facts for reference. Prepare attractive handouts, such as a site map, church brochure and witnessing tract.
As the guide leads guests through the building, she could point out all the things that occur in that part of the building. She may pause in an attractive area, such as a prayer garden or foyer, to share interesting stats and stories. Tell tour group members how many volunteers it takes to staff the Bible classes and how many people attend Sunday worship. Share about how many missionaries the church supports. (In a Southern Baptist church, that would be more than 10,000!) Mention exciting, positive news, such as the new singles Bible class or upcoming mission trips. Tell about ministries, such as your food pantry, businessmen's luncheons or sports leagues. They'll enjoy hearing about church planting projects, staff members, church camps and annual events. If weather permits, the tour may include exterior points of interest.
The tour guide must know his audience. If the tour is for daycare parents, then emphasize children's programs, teacher training and safety plans. An older audience may like to be seated for a few minutes in the worship center, while the guide describes the worship service and architectural features. Make the tour interactive. Ask a volunteer to shoot a basketball as you explain how the gym is used in ministry. Touch the water in the baptistery as you explain its significance. Introduce staff members as you pass their office. Show NAMB and IMB magazines and church newsletters. Invite tour group members to use the library or prayer chapel.
The church building is the place where God's people gather to worship. The tour guide could conclude the tour by reading Psalm 122:1, praying for the guests, and welcoming them to worship God at your church on Sunday.
A church tour as outreach -- now that's a fresh idea.
Diana Davis (www.keeponshining.com) is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board's vice president for the Midwest region, Steve Davis. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).