While conducting an evangelistic meeting in a large eastern city, we were given a list of names that were reportedly from a pastor's "current interest file." As the door opened at one home, I asked to see this "fresh interest," hot from the pastor's active list. "Oh, I'm sorry, she passed away three years ago," came the sad reply!
Building and maintaining an interest file is vital to achieving soul winning success. Having a fresh supply of names and addresses of those who have had contact or interest in the church is an important step in turning a dying congregation into a vibrant growing body. Yet, in many churches, such an interest file is years old or nonexistent.
Beginning, updating, and working a new interest file is a project that can actually be fun and bring health to a church. Members who supply names have a sense of ownership and are more likely to get involved in friendly relationships as they follow up the interests. When a congregation begins to think and work for others, inner tensions, infighting and friction is reduced.
The best way to involve a church in this project is through small groups that are encouraged to select a target ministry. If you can't get your church to organize into small groups, then your Sabbath School classes can serve in this capacity. Don't forget the children's and youth divisions. These entities can provide a wonderful list of names that are mainly from young families.
The following suggestions are tested "interest projects" that small groups can adopt as target ministries. All these will provide fresh contacts for follow up:
1. Adventist Welcome Wagon - Companies provide monthly list of families moving into the community. People in transition are open for change. A church can distribute an welcome packet to these new residents with information on: Pathfinders, children's Sabbath School, senior citizen's activities, youth and young adult events, and an invitation to worship services and friendship luncheons.
2. Victims of Disasters - In times of crisis people are more receptive. You may encourage one of your small groups to watch the newspaper or TV news for local tragedies. Provide this group with appropriate material to take on their visits to these hurting people.
3. Obituaries - One of the best times to show you care is when death strikes. One of your groups can make it their mission to visit select grieving families several days after the funeral, when they will really need support.
4. New Births - A young adult special is visiting the hospital and presenting new parents a small gift for their baby. Along with this you can provide printed material about the Cradle Roll and Kindergarten departments (include photos of children enjoying Sabbath School in the brochure.) When babies arrive, many secular parents begin thinking of some type of Christian training for them.
5. Hospital "Sunshine Boxes" - Senior citizens enjoy this activity. Cover a shoe box with wrapping paper and place in it seven small gift wrapped toys or items with a different day of the week written on each. These are popular with children on pediatric floors. Let the parents know you are from the local Adventist church and that you care about their family.
6. Visitors at Church - The best interests are those who come to church. Make your Sabbath School and worship service "visitor oriented" every week. Establish church services where the members are anxious to invite those they meet in their visitation.
Conventional ways of gathering names (Bible study enrollment cards, Media Center Ministries, former members, nonattending members, family and friends, etc.), in addition to the above groups, will make the interest file complete.
here are many other creative and fun ways to find people who are open to the Gospel. Through the Holy Spirit people are brought to an awareness of the truth, but we need to prayerfully use every avenue possible to reach those who live in our communities.
Dan and Gloria Bentzinger are full-time evangelists.