SOJOURNER CAMPAIGN IN WADSWORTH, OHIO 2014
By David R. Kenney
David Kenney, Evangelist; Bob & Sue Hughes, Sojourner Team Leaders; Sidney & Gracie Williams, Sojourners; Mike & Jean Madden, Guest Speaker; Donald & Marilyn Hopkins, Sojourners
The size of the congregation at Wadsworth is very small, a fragment of an earlier period. However, the city is vibrant and an excellent missionary field. But how does a congregation under 30 reach out to a community of over 20,000? We have used special events, mass mailings, fair booths and other drives to reach out to our community. One thing the congregation decided to do was to partner with the Sojourners to knock doors to promote our gospel meeting. We did this in September for our Fall Gospel Meeting with Mike Madden who grew up in Wadsworth and preaches full time for the Spring Hill congregation in Florida. The idea of having a group come to conduct a multi-day campaign can seem rather daunting when the congregation is not able to support such an effort as they would have done in the past. So if you are a small and aging congregation that would like to reach out via knocking on someone’s door, this article may be of special interest to you.
The following are some points that we noted as we went along. Perhaps these may be of use to other congregations that would like to pursue a campaign with the Sojourners? There are two groups in the United States with the name Sojourners. One, based out of Washington D. C. is an organization that seeks to administer Social Justice and other causes. The organization in Washington D. C. is not affiliated with churches of Christ.
The Sojourners of Marshall, Texas (web site www. sojourning.org) are members of the church of Christ who are retired and travel to congregations with less than 150 members to provide various services to assist. The Sojourners are under the oversight of the elders at the Burleson church of Christ.
There are many items of interest that one can learn about the Sojourners; however, this article will focus on the Sojourner Campaign completed in Wadsworth, Ohio in September 2014. We had the Sojourners come the week prior to our Gospel Meeting and also work during the Gospel Meeting too. Phase I of the Sojourner Campaign was from September 15-18. Phase II of Campaign was during the Gospel Meeting which was September 21-25. Hopefully this article will provide some insights that will lead to additional campaigns to strengthen congregations and/or lead to others to join the Sojourners to go help other churches.
Seeking a Sojourner Campaign. If you are interested in having a campaign, then you need to submit an application prior to April to be considered. Before submitting the application, be sure to have the full support of the congregation. Also, be sure to know how you are going to measure success ahead of time. Our definition of success for the Sojourner Campaign was to distribute over 2,150 issues of House to House printed to invite others to the gospel meeting. As the application is being processed, you need to ensure you have the facilities to support RV parking. Ideally, you should do these things prior to submitting the application, but they will start the paperwork as you investigate these issues. The Sojourners travel by RV to various locations which requires hookup for electric, water, waste disposal and a 15 foot height clearance. If you cannot provide these services to the Sojourners, it is very unlikely they will be able to come. Keep in mind that these are volunteers who receive no compensation from the congregation they are working with but also come at their own expense. Also, do not assume that since the church owns the property that RV parking is not an issue with the municipality. We had to secure a special event parking permit with the city. The cost was $25.00; however, situations vary from municipality to municipality. Be sure to investigate with City Hall about the legalities of going door-to-door to distribute. While it may be a constitutional right for Christians to go door-to-door, it is wise to coordinate this effort with the municipality so they are aware of the campaign. The Sojourners come a long distance at their expense; it would be most unfortunate for them not to be able to park and go door-to-door. Be sure to consider the season when this campaign is to be done, being particularly mindful of the weather outdoors. We moved our campaign and gospel meeting up one month in large part because the climate in NE Ohio in November is so unpredictable. We have had snow in October and November more than one year.
Preparing Materials to Distribute. We utilized House to House issues, having a special run done with the gospel meeting information on the back page. We also had plastic door hanger bags to leave the literature at the door. Be sure to order this material in advance both from House to House and whoever you purchase plastic bags from. Be sure to consider various lead times for these materials, particularly the custom made materials! We ordered our bags from www.clearbags.com. The part number was DK5 and the product description: 6" x 12" + Hang Hole (6" x 15") 1.0 Mil LDPE Door Knob Bag (100 Pieces). Be sure to call the order in so you can be sure of the exact quantity you are ordering. How many pieces should you have to put in bags? How many bags should one have? It varies. From our campaign in the residential area of Wadsworth, assuming you have 8 people to distribute literature, you should plan on 300-500 pieces of literature per day to be distributed. This will vary based on the population density and design of the neighborhood. Wadsworth is a very residential area with houses fairly close together and readily accessible. Everything matters! The plastic bag, the materials inside the bag, your demeanor, your words--these all matter. People will use any excuse not to speak to you. While it is unavoidable to give a reason to someone who has predetermined not to speak with you, do not give people a reason to be turned off. Handing them outdated information about the church or material that is obviously old in appearance are sure turnoffs. This does not mean that material you have had for a long time is no good, just put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and ask yourself what you would think if you were handed this material.
Going Door-to-Door. It is important to have an up-to-date map of the city which one may obtain at City Hall. This will help plan and coordinate the walking as to avoid duplicated effort which is not only inefficient to the campaign but can be a serious offense to the contact being made. Here are some additional observations that you may find useful:
· Do not go alone. You may knock a door alone, but have a partner close by so you can look out for each other’s safety. There is no such thing as a “safe neighborhood”; “safer” maybe, but not “safe”.
· There was some discussion about “No Solicitation” signs at a door. Does one ignore the sign because nothing is being sold? Does one leave the literature without knocking at the door? For the most part, we did not knock on any doors that had “No Solicitation” signs posted, but we did leave literature at the door. Based on some additional research, it is probably best to ignore the house and move on. The prevailing attitude of people who post these types of signs will most likely not appreciate your goodwill; e.g., we did have one person call and complain that we had left literature on their door as she had a “No Solicitation” sign posted.
· Be sure to listen closely when ringing a door bell. If you do not hear the sound, then knock on the door too.
· Listen intently to what the person says to you as they respond to your knock at the door. People who are new to the area, looking for a church or upset by the things that are happening where they attend should be given special attention.
· “I am Catholic”, “I am atheist”, “I go to church at…”, “I have my own church” all mean the same thing—I am not interested. Do not lose heart. Just smile, thank them and move onto the next house.
· Be respectful of people’s property. Some do not like to have people walk through their yards. Go the extra mile!
· People may not come to the door when they are actually home. Some do this for safety reasons. Leave the literature and move on in a friendly manner. Just because they do not come to the door does not mean they are not watching you.
· Have your literature at the ready prior to ringing the bell. Know what you are going to say. Do NOT take a lot of time in speaking. You will be able to sense quickly if they are interesting in discussing matters with you further.
· Leaving a personal note complimenting them about their home is never a bad idea; however, conducting personal business while doing the Lord’s business is inappropriate.
Be sure to let other area congregations know of this effort. Perhaps they may be able to provide workers for the effort. There are those who actually enjoy door-to-door evangelism provided they are not going alone.
Have a Follow-up Plan. This is perhaps the most daunting of all the prior points mentioned. Once the Sojourners have provided you a list of doors where they have made contact, the congregation needs to have a plan to follow-up on these contacts. The follow-up needs to be as soon as possible because their interest may be fleeting or they may interpret the length of time it takes you as indicative of a lack of zeal on your part. This is particularly challenging if you do not have people to help share the workload. The local library may have what is called “The Haines Criss-Cross Directory” and may be a good tool to borrow. This directory organizes names and phone numbers by street name and house number. Also, www.whitepages.com provides a similar search tool where you can search by address. Phone numbers that are unlisted will not be in either database, though. Of course, going back and knocking the door is probably the best method, but this is a way to help gather important information that may be needed. Time is a critical element in the follow-up because a serious lag time may be misinterpreted as an indication of our interest in their soul.
Don’t Forget to Pray. Everyone can take part in such an effort. Possibly the most important part of any evangelistic effort is to pray for the effort—before, during and after the event has transpired. Do not lose heart because the results will not be instantaneous. Persistence and perseverance are two allies that will serve the effort well!
God Will Reward You Justly. Door knocking is very hard work, can be enjoyable, but also can be very discouraging when the response and follow-up does not match the effort put forth. There are no magic formulas for evangelism. If there were, then the Lord would have revealed it to us. When He sent the disciples out two-by-two, He told them “And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet” (Matthew 10:14, NKJV.) Keep in mind that our responsibility is to scatter seed and water as we have opportunity—“So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase. Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Corinthians 3:7-8, NKJV.) If we have tracts and such sitting in our buildings, then that is like a barn full of seed bags. Crops will not yield with barns full of seed bags. We must scatter the seed of God’s word! God is the one who rewards, and He is mindful of those who serve Him!