the shape of leadership

Big Outreach on a Small Budget

How to stretch your resources for maximum impact

Chris Colvin on June 13, 2019

Who doesn’t want to see something big happen in their neighborhood, city and world? Every church dreams of making a major impact. But not every church has the budget power to pull off a citywide campaign or an extensive evangelistic outreach.

The pastors I talk with all agree on this one thing: They want to make as big of an impact as possible. They also understand the limitations of their current finances. That’s when frustration sets in. They feel like God wants them to go big, but their budget tells them to keep it small.

This doesn’t mean you should stop dreaming. Big dreams have led to major moves of God throughout history. And when the Holy Spirit is your resource, budget should never be a roadblock.

If you’re the pastor of a small- or medium-sized church and don’t think you can afford large-scale outreach, think again. You can make a major impact on your community without making a major dent in your budget.

Get Real

First, look at the idea God has birthed in your heart. What do you hope to pull off? What vision for citywide transformation do you have? How big do you want to go? Get it all down on paper or a whiteboard, and let the creativity start flowing.

Are you considering a huge musical festival? A large holiday outreach? A major gift-giving campaign at Christmas? Write it down and see where it goes.

Now, be realistic about it. Estimate a dollar amount per person for the outreach. This will depend on the type of outreach you are doing, of course. For example, if you want to hand out toys at Christmas, you can expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $50 per person. If you’re only hoping to provide entertainment, the cost may be much lower.

Let’s say you can budget an expense of $10 per person and you hope to reach 10,000 people. That means you’ll be spending $100,000 total for the outreach. For many churches that’s just not doable. It represents a large percentage of their total annual budgets. A realist will stop at this point and throw in the towel. Or perhaps settle for something well short of the vision.

Get Creative

Instead of stopping short, take another look. Below are some creative ways to make that major impact even on a smaller budget.

Leverage your membership. Your members will want to help you achieve that vision. They may not be able to fund it by themselves, but they will likely be more than willing to invest hours of their time volunteering.

You can make a major impact on your community without making a major dent in your budget.

Look for people in your church who have access to resources or organizations that can help you achieve your vision. Maybe you have a CEO or president of a large business in your congregation who can help you share the budget burden in exchange for advertising at the event. Or maybe someone owns a gym or other facility where you can host the event, someone else manages a hair salon and can give out free haircuts, and another person can help with finding food and supplies at wholesale cost.

Partner with other churches. The kingdom of God is bigger than your own church. You may be surprised to find that God has placed this vision not only in your heart, but in the hearts of several pastors in your city. Reach out and see whether there are other pastors who are willing to go in with you to do something bigger than themselves.

It’s sometimes difficult to share a vision outside of your own church body. For one, you become vulnerable. For another, you might feel territorial about that dream. However, those who share their visions often are more likely to see them come to pass. So don’t ever be afraid to tell others what God is stirring in your heart.

Find a nonprofit. Partnering with other churches is a good idea. But don’t overlook the non-church network in your local community. There may be nonprofits, some of them faith-based, that would be willing to help out. If you’re wanting to make the event evangelistic in nature, be up-front about that. And, of course, pray about every conversation and decision. Many nonprofits are willing to partner with churches and even allow them to share the gospel.

The best way to choose a nonprofit is to pair your vision with that of another group in the community. For instance, if your plan involves handing out backpacks, see whether there are organizations in town that already do something similar. Or maybe there is some emphasis to your outreach event, like racial reconciliation, that might interest another nonprofit. Find the right fit, and get together to do good.

Look for a parade. It’s an old leadership adage that all you need to do is find a parade and get in front of it. In other words, see what large-scale outreaches are already happening, and find a way to come alongside them. Is there an annual toy drive in your town? Offer your building and team for the event. Or just join up and get involved.

Become part of the leadership and planning of the event. You might not be able to present the gospel as overtly as you want right away, but as you gain goodwill, your involvement could open the door to future opportunities.

Big dreams can be scary and difficult. You want to go all in, but you also want to be realistic and financially responsible. Sometimes big dreams and small budgets don’t work so well together. But God is a God of the impossible.

If you are confident this dream is from God, go for it! Put your “yes” on the table, and let Him show up big in your life and in your church.

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