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7/22/97 Church’s strategy in place for reaching its community

HOUSTON (BP)–By looking at its own sphere of influence in Houston, Westbury Baptist Church has brought Texas Baptists’ goal of sharing Jesus with every person in the state by the year 2000 to the local level.
Westbury began by drawing one-mile and three-mile concentric circles around the church, then dividing the circles into four areas.
The area within three miles of Westbury currently has more than 160,000 residents, and it is expected to become home to 173,000 by the year 2001. The church plans to target newcomers in one quadrant of the three-mile circle per year for each of the next four years. Church leaders also plan to reach each of the 8,000-plus households within a one-mile radius of the church, focusing on one quadrant for each of four years.
“The more times you can touch a person, whether by phone, mail, a visit or whatever, the more likely they are to remember you,” said pastor Robert Campbell. “We’ll try every method that is Christian and that is morally and doctrinally sound to reach people.”
In August, Sunday school leaders will begin mobilizing their departments to pray for the church’s four-year outreach emphasis.
In the first year of the evangelistic thrust, the church is targeting the northwest quadrant of its identified field, the most ethnically and culturally diverse and the most transitional of the four areas near Westbury.
The next year, the church will seek to reach the southwest area — the most populous quadrant. Westbury will turn to the southeast quadrant in the third year and to the northeast in the final year of the “Reaching Our Community” effort.
In September, the church will devote three Sunday evening worship services to evangelism training. On the last Sunday of the month, Westbury hopes to send out at least 50 two-person witnessing teams for door-to-door visitation.
Then in October, the church will officially launch its four-year “Reaching Our Community” emphasis at its annual Fall Carnival. Last year, the alternative-to-Halloween carnival drew about 600 participants, and Westbury hopes to increase that number significantly this year.
“We chose the Fall Carnival because it’s a pretty secular event, in terms of who comes,” said David Huebner, Westbury’s minister to adults. “It’s a fun place where people can feel safe and comfortable bringing their kids. It’s also the single event we have done that generates the greatest response in our community, and in the past it’s only been marketed through word of mouth.”
This year, the church is advertising the event in the northwest quadrant through direct mail. Other mass mailings will include information about special events at Christmas and a family life conference next February.
“The last time we sponsored this kind of conference, we gained eight new families. There were more than 60 families who indicated they are not in church anywhere who went to the family life conference,” Campbell said. Developing Christian families is another priority of the state convention’s “Texas 2000” initiative.
Additionally, church members will deliver “Jesus” videos or copies of a modern-language translation of John’s Gospel to anyone who visits Vacation Bible School, day camp, the Fall Carnival or the family life conference. Westbury’s goal is to give away 60 copies of the Jesus video and 1,000 Scripture portions per year for each of the next four years.
At every event, participants will be asked if they want more information about Westbury’s ministries. And they will be invited to worship at their first opportunity.
Westbury particularly will focus on families whose names are provided through a newcomers listing service.
When the newcomers receive a “Getting To Know You” packet of coupons from neighborhood merchants, it will include coupons from the church offering a free Wednesday night meal for one family or free 12-week aerobics class in Westbury’s family life center. Other coupons offer free adult or children’s Bibles and “Jesus” videos. The newcomers packet also includes an address book listing information about the church.
People likely will be most receptive to contact from a church immediately after they move, Campbell said. When they are seeking a new doctor, dry cleaner, dentist and drugstore, they will likely be open to looking for a new place to worship — or be open to changing family habits and begin worshiping.
Following the “Getting to Know You” packet, newcomers will receive a personalized letter, a brochure about Westbury and a copy of the church’s newsletter. Westbury members working in a volunteer phone bank then will follow that mailing with a telephone call. The church also plans to develop a “welcome outreach” program, delivering a plate of cookies or some other small gift personally to new families.
Church members reluctant to talk with strangers will be able to take part in distributing doorhanger kits of materials about the church.
“Everybody can do some part of this,” Campbell said.
Throughout the next four years, Sunday school classes will study an evangelism lesson once or twice each year, and all teachers will be asked to share their personal testimonies with new class members on promotion Sunday.
The church will recruit outreach leaders in all Sunday school departments and classes. They, in turn, will work closely with the church outreach director, evangelism committee and deacons in prospect visitation.
Leaders at Westbury recognize their goals are ambitious, but they believe the Great Commission requires no less.
“We want to use the most effective ways to reach people. If we are faithful in doing that, whatever the results, it won’t be a failure,” Huebner said. “If we only reach one person and touch that life, we will have been obedient in trying to witness.”

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  • Ken Camp