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Canvassing and COVID-19

Are you familiar with the term guerrilla marketing?

Coined in the 1980’s, it is a phrase that describes an advertisement strategy in which a company uses surprise or unconventional low-cost interactions to spread a message or promote a product or service.

The term “guerilla evangelism” has been utilized in a variety of different forms and can be applied in most scenarios. With the advent of the internet, the term has become even broader.

In the purest sense, a guerilla evangelism tactic can be most readily applied to stranger evangelism. Its usually unconventional and can mean creating opportunities to engage a person for the purpose of proclaiming the gospel.

Canvassing is guerilla evangelism and has been used by churches for a long time.

Controversial

Besides the selling of products or services, it is interesting that two groups that use canvassing in their practice and methodology are political campaigns and religious organizations.

Members of the Baby Boomers generation who have been active church members can tell stories about their canvassing experiences. They employed aggressive methodologies that lead to unpleasant confrontations. Combined with those experiences, it’s helpful to remember that they grew up with the understanding that it was impolite or a social taboo to bring up religion or politics in conversations. Most families had a church home or a strong affiliation. This is certainly not the case in today’s world.

The methods and approaches for going door-to-door have come and go like the tide. Whether soliciting on behalf of a candidate or talking about Jesus, canvassing has been and will continue to be controversial and uncomfortable. Jesus often warns his disciples that people are going to respond poorly and hate the messenger and the message because of him.

People have strong feelings about the effectiveness of canvassing. In my experience, how people respond can be dependent upon the geographical area and the demographics of a neighborhood. Either way, spreading the gospel with love and gentleness is always effective because God’s Word works.

Canvassing and COVID-19

A global pandemic has arrived at our doorstep. Widespread fear due to the highly contagious virus is prompted government officials to shut down businesses and telling people to stay home. Restrictions are slowly being lifted, but the fears and discomfort are still there.

COVID-19 has left its mark on our society and it will never be quite the same again. The social repercussions are already being felt and a deep economic crisis is looming.  And it will probably remain there for some time.

It’s true. Canvassing in a COVID-19 world is going to be more uncomfortable than before. But personal evangelism has always been uncomfortable.

This summer, churches need not be afraid to interact with their neighbors. With many churches already cancelling outreach programs, canvassing can be a way of connecting with people in a meaningful way. This means practicing social distancing and all conversations must be kept outside.

3 Thoughts

I would like to suggest the following modifications and strategies to help your church spread the Word while we begin to crawl out from the COVID-19 cave that we have been living in.

1 | Engaging people in a comfortable manner

We have already talked about maintaining a strong digital presence, but it’s time to bring the Word directly to your community.

Send postcards with a short gospel message to prospects and people who live close to the church. Let them know that you care. Make personal visits with people who are already friends of the church and ask them if they have seen the postcard or not. Immediately let them know that your church cares about them and would like to know how your church family can pray for their family. The postcard ought to include a notification of when you are planning to stop by their home. Include an email address if they prefer to connect with you and provide them with an opportunity to decline your visit.

Canvassing does not have to start by knocking on doors. Select a neighborhood close to your church and begin taking walks to tour the houses. Keep your eyes, ears, and hearts open. When you see people on the street or outside their homes, go up and introduce yourself. Let them know that you are their neighbor!! Get to know their names.

When you knock on people’s doors, take six steps back to leave more than six feet between you and the door. I would not use a mask or wear gloves because that is intimidating. Always keep your social distance and keep your conversations outdoors.

2 | Invite people to your website

An invitation becomes an important part of your visit. It would be more appropriate to invite them to your church website and view a message from the pastor rather than invite them to come to your church.

A handout can be prepared and offered but ask permission first. We can respect each person’s approach to remaining safe.

I would strongly suggest taking full advantage of signage outside the church. If you already have a signage board, then make full use of it. If not, strongly consider hanging a vinyl banner in the front yard of your church. Use the sign to invite people to your website and view a message series.

3 | Proclaiming the gospel

Provide a reason for the hope that you have in Christ that is simple and short. The jailer in Phillipi asked the disciples what he must do to be saved. They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved – you and your household.” (Acts 16:31) And that was enough. The jailer believed and was saved.

We can say, “I belong to the church down the street and we teach about God’s love. I have assurance and peace knowing that my sins are fully forgiven right now because of what Jesus Christ has already done for all of us.”

Opportunities abound to spread the gospel. We do not have shut down evangelism activity this summer. With a little creativity, courage, and respect, we can bring a message of true hope to hurting people lost in sin.

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