Despite reports indicating few Christians share their faith, a recent study revealed that 97 percent of all churches claim to have engaged in outreach efforts over the last year.
The most popular form of evangelism in the churches was the traditional Vacation Bible School outreach, which targets young children in the local community, according to a study conducted for LifeWay's Facts & Trends magazine by Ellison Research.
Other commonly utilized methods for evangelism include the use of literature such as tracts or magazines, which 59 percent of churches report doing in the last year.
Over half also hosted events such as block parties or a fall festival; 51 percent held musical events or concerts; 50 percent used mailings or fliers; and 49 percent visited nursing homes or retirement centers for the purpose of evangelism.
The "invite a friend to church" was also relatively popular with 42 percent claiming such efforts. Less popular methods include revivals or crusades, evangelism training classes, door-to-door visitation within the community, community service, and online efforts such as blogs or websites.
Methods of evangelism differ greatly by denominational group, according to the study.
Southern Baptist churches are big on using revivals or crusades, literature, evangelism training classes and door-to-door visitation but less likely to use online evangelism. Methodist churches are more likely to use events but less likely to use literature, door-to-door visitation and revivals or crusades. Lutherans rely mostly on VBS, online methods and mailings or fliers and less on revivals, musical events or audio/visual methods.
Pentecostal churches are more likely to use musical events, revivals, "invite a friend to church," and audio/visual products, but less likely to use VBS. Presbyterian churches are unlikely to use literature, revivals, door-to-door visitation or audio/visual products.
Evangelical churches are more varied in their evangelism efforts. They rely on literature, revivals, evangelism training classes, door-to-door visitation and audio/visual products. Mainline churches, however, have only a greater propensity for doing community service, the report stated.
While evangelism efforts in many Protestant churches remain in traditional forms, more ministry groups are engaging in creative outreaches, including street invasions, skateboarding events, crunk in the pulpit, and making faith-based films.
Skaters ministries draw up to tens of thousands of spectators, mainly young people, to events presenting Jesus as a revolutionary way of life. And Christian films attract audiences nationwide.
Sherwood Baptist Church's latest effort in producing "Facing the Giants" won praise from such prominent evangelicals as Chuck Colson for going beyond the soup kitchen. He called it a "terrific example of what Christians can do when we stop hiding in our sanctuaries and boldly engage the culture."
The Christian film has raked over $10 million to date since opening late September in over 400 theaters. The production budget was only $100,000 with cast entirely from the church and the local community.
The only types of outreach efforts that the majority of U.S. Protestant churches engaged in over the last year, however, are food pantry or food-oriented donations, VBS, and holiday food programs.
Fewer churches offered prison ministry, homeless outreach, Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts, blood drives and after-school programs.
Overall, 39 percent of churches are just not very interested in offering more programs to the community. Such churches would rather focus on spiritual needs and some say that other organizations do it better than they do.
"This lack of priority takes many forms - the congregation isn’t interested, the community doesn’t want our help, we want to focus on our own people - yet if churches are not consistently reaching outside their own walls, how are they to grow?" said Ron Sellers, president of Ellison Research.
The study was conducted on 811 Protestant senior pastors nationwide.