How To Build A Community Outreach Program

Exegeting the Community

In order to understand the community where you serve there are several pieces of information you can seek to understand. 

  • History: what significant historical events inform your community’s identity?
  • Design: what are the zones and neighborhoods of your community?
  • Make up: what are the religious affiliations, occupational patterns, demographics of your community?
  • Leaders: who are the leaders and leadership groups with influence in politics, business, religioun, media, education, arts, and social services in your community?
  • Issues / Needs:  what are the current needs of your community and who is already attempting to meet those needs?  

Places to find information as you listen to your community.

  • Do research through government data  
  • Speak with community leaders such as politicians, social services workers, and business owners.
  • Walk the community in radius of 1, 2, 5 KM to see what people say about themselves through their homes and buildings.
  • Become familiar with libraries, community centers, malls, and other gathering places.
  • Take a course and find more resources at

Living Incarnationally

It is much easier to be effective in a community when you live in the community that you serve.  As you open your home to love and serve your neighbours what you do will spill over into the church you lead.  It will help your exegete your community, connect with leaders, build repour, and understand how to serve.  


Since the philosophy of ministry varies around community outreach, it is important to articulate the role that community outreach has in your context.  This is best done with a document that is part of an internal team ministry manual as it lays out the expectations and role that community outreach will serve in your context.  Here are some examples:

  • Awareness – We serve our community as a means of helping our community be aware of our church / the love of Jesus / etc. 
    • Bridge – We serve our community to build a bridge of relationship with people.
    • Discipleship – We serve in the community in order to disciple our people.
    • Evangelism – We serve our community as a means of first contact evangelism 
    • Funding – We choose to fund x programs.  We support y programs.  We celebrate z programs.
    • Solve – We serve our community to solve practical issues
    • Time & Involvement – While we value all community outreach ideas we choose to collectively focus on “signature ministry.”  X will choose what outreach ideas we focus on collectively as they are presented from time to time.


In most cases, finding a champion other than the senior leader, is important for longevity and effectiveness.  Your leader should have the ability to gather volunteers, organize events, and connect with leaders in the community. Those who have an aligned role outside the church such as a social worker, first responder, community organizer, or fundraiser can bring invaluable experience to your church.

Deciding What To Do

As you listen to your community you will begin to figure out ways to engage in community outreach.  

  • One-time events are a great way to get your church started in community outreach.  The options are endless.  Backpack giveaways, food packs, community BBQ’s, parenting seminars, grad dress giveaways, make-overs, free car repair, community clean-up days, etc.   
  • On-going programs take a little more time and energy and will take additional ongoing resources.  After-school programs, food banks, clothing depots, feeding programs, mental health clinics, sports programs, mentoring, etc.  These programs require commitments of time and finances over a few years in order to be effective.
  • Partnering can help bridge the gap in different ways.  Offer your space for use in community events and clubs such as AA, the Red Cross, etc.  Work with agencies and community centres looking for programs.  Volunteer at a community event with a team of church volunteers.  Some non-profits look for partners to fund who offer particular social services.

Setting up a Separate Not For Profit

In some cases, starting and managing a separate charitable organization that has a focused charitable purpose is useful for ongoing programs.  There are several things to consider if your church begins to pursue this.  Work with a good lawyer to determine pre-defined charitable purposes, leadership structure, and how the organization can be connected to the church.  Ensure that your church can handle additional operations and is prepared for complications of running connected but separate organizations.  Canadian Centre for Christian Charities is a good organization to help understand legal requirements.


Building a long term sustainable financial plan is important to being effective in community outreach.

Here are some sources of funds available.  

  • A percentage of the church budget set aside for local missions / community outreach or a separate outreach fund.
  • Corporate Funding / Personal Funding in the community.
    • Monetize what you do in a simple way to build ongoing support. 
    • Connect with business’ looking to do social good.  There are several that will donate, sell you products at lower cost, and accept donation receipts for extra inventory, 
    • Some financial institutions provide funding to a non-profit of an employee’s choice that they volunteer regularly with. 
    • Large corporations set aside a percentage of budget for fundraising and have foundations that screen and fund projects.  Many of their websites go over details how you can qualify for funds.
  • Grants can be applied for various ways.  Each grant has particular requirements for application and reporting.
    • Community Foundations often manage the process of funding for local philanthropists.  These funds relate to your particular program.
    • Governments set aside grants for various programs locally, provincially, and federally.  Your charitable purpose and program determine your ability to obtain these grants.
    • Private Foundations. There are over 6000 private foundations in Canada to fund various projects to qualifying organizations.
    • A grant specialist and grant directories like Grant Connect can help you understand and apply for grants for your particular area of focus. 
  • Fundraisers
    • Fundraising Galas are a good way to celebrate existing funders, help potential funders to see what you do, build community awareness, and raise part of your budget.  There are several contractors you can work with to help with event organization, ticketing, and silent auctions.
    • Private & Public fundraising events held by those who have a stake in your charitable cause can raise additional funds.  You can raise funds through marathons (walk, run, sing, etc), tournaments, challenges, contests, giveaways, sales, concerts, auctions, dinners, game nights, etc.
  • Endowments
    • Setup an endowment fund / planned giving program that names your charity as a beneficiary.  This can provide long term income for future projects.   

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