Consider how these drive-by projects and Fourth of July events can help your church foster connections with unchurched people.
By Diana Davis
In a 2021 Lifeway Research study, 76% of pastors said fostering connections with unchurched people is one of their greatest needs. As your church makes plans to celebrate Independence Day together, consider how you might use some of these drive-by projects and July Fourth events to foster connections with unchurched people.
Make a drive-by impact
Use the exterior of your church facility to connect with unchurched people. Here are some ideas:
Red, white, and blue drive-through
Set up a drive-through lane at your church to serve free patriotic snow cones. Decorate with American flags and balloons and play patriotic and Christian music. Recruit volunteers who will practice making snow cones ahead of time to develop speed.
Use targeted social media ads, and hang a large outdoor banner ahead of time, reading: “FREE Red, white, and blue snow cones! Drive-through here 2-5 p.m. July Fourth.” Serve snow cones with a small American flag on top, along with a smile, a kind word, and an invitation to Sunday worship. If you don’t own a commercial snow cone machine, check with your local association or state convention office.
Sunday worship on the lawn
If your church has a suitable lawn, consider moving your Sunday worship service outdoors on Fourth of July weekend. Use a tent, if needed, and set up sound and seating efficiently. Invite the neighbors and community with a special mailout, online and local publicity, and large outdoor signs reading: “Please join us for ‘Worship on the Lawn’ Sunday, July 2 at 10 a.m.” Deliver invitations with a tiny flag attached to neighbors who live near the church building.
Wave a flag
- Consider investing in some American flags to line your church’s streetside lawn the week before July Fourth each year. Neighbors will notice.
- If your church would like an exterior flagpole, this is an excellent time to add one. Plan a flag-raising/dedication ceremony and prayer after the worship service on July Fourth weekend.
If your church is in a well-traveled walking location, ask your church’s kids or teens to create an entire sidewalk of patriotic art. Provide lots of red, white, and blue sidewalk chalk and homemade stencils for stars.
Host a fun patriotic event on July Fourth
These four events could provide wonderful fellowship for church members as well as a comfortable venue for newcomers. An outreach event must be well planned with unchurched people in mind.
Print large outdoor banners. Encourage all church members to personally invite friends, coworkers, and neighbors. Hand-deliver invites to neighbors near the church building. Utilize inexpensive, targeted social media ads. Create an online event or e-invite. When posting on social media, ask church members to repost.
- Over-decorate with lots of flags, streamers, balloons, buntings, and string lights.
- Create a patriotic photo booth with a red, white, and blue backdrop, the church name, and patriotic props.
- Use red, white, and blue construction marking paint and big cardboard stencils to paint temporary stars and art all over the church lawn.
- Invite military or ROTC to do a formal presentation of the flags, complete with drum cadence entry and the pledge led by a pastor or a local community leader.
- Recruit teens or volunteers to do patriotic face painting.
- Fly patriotic kites.
- Recruit musicians or teens for an entertaining kazoo band to march through and serenade the crowd with patriotic tunes every half hour
- Add a few bubble machines to the parameter of the event.
- Add background music. Play your favorite playlist of patriotic and Christian music. Alternatively, set a small stage to the side with a planned schedule of live music.
- Be certain each guest is warmly welcomed, meets several church members, and receives both a personal and printed invitation to Sunday worship.
- Make it fun. Every guest should feel included as they observe how church members love one another.
Community fireworks viewing
If your church lawn offers a good view of a local fireworks display, host a casual viewing party for church members and the whole community. Everyone can bring lawn chairs or blankets. A simple viewing party takes little prep. Serve drinks and popcorn or watermelon.
Red, white, and blue picnic
Church members, friends, and guests will love this burger bash. The church provides grilled burgers, hot dogs, and condiments. Church members bring a red, white, and blue dessert or side dish and their lawn chairs or picnic blankets.
Recruit an “expert” team of judges (e.g., a chef, bakery owner, military member, and a teen boy) to walk through the buffet of sides and desserts, confer privately together, and award prizes and blue ribbons for a variety of categories.
Fourth of July parade
A Fourth of July parade can be informal and plenty of fun. Kids can ride their decorated tricycles, bicycles, scooters, strollers, wagons, skates, skateboards, etc. (No motorized vehicles are permitted, of course.)
Walkers dressed in patriotic colors are welcome too. They can wear patriotic hats or carry American flags, balloons, streamers, or pinwheels. Some can dress up as Uncle Sam, Abraham Lincoln, Betsy Ross, or the Statue of Liberty. There may be a uniformed military representative, a grandma in her decorated wheelchair, costumed pets on leashes, or maybe even a patriotic juggler.
Plan the parade route with help and permission from the proper city authorities, considering location and safety issues. It may run a block or two long, ending at the church property, or it may simply go around the church parking lot. Designate a staging area where participants meet to line up. Advertise the exact route for parade viewers.
On parade day, the planning team helps line up participants in the staging area. A leader should oversee the gradual release of a few participants at a time, reminding them to stroll slowly, wave, and have fun. At the end of the parade, consider playing live patriotic and Christian music and distributing red, white, and blue popsicles.
Patriotic concert on the lawn
Everyone in the community is invited to bring lawn chairs or blankets. Beautiful Christian and patriotic music can feature your praise teams, choirs, orchestra, youth bands, instrumentals, etc. on the church lawn in a relaxed outdoor setting. Conclude the music as local fireworks begin.
This Independence Day, make “the most of the time” (Ephesians 5:16, CSB) to foster connections with unchurched people in your community.
For permission to republish this article, contact Marissa Postell Sullivan.
Diana is an author, columnist, and minister’s wife who lives in Pensacola FL. Reach her at FloriDiana333@gmail.com.