Render Unto Caesar What is Caesars

I was talking with an Aunt a little earlier, and she was asking about how to get people back into her church who had left. She said to email her if I had any ideas. Below is the email that I just finished to her...

Hi Aunt Joan,
 Church growth and getting people back is a hard thing, but a doable thing. Here are some things to suggest. I don't know if they will work back there.
1) All Member Canvas - Break out the membership role and get to calling and/or visiting. Nothing in the world like 1-on-1 contact. With this, you should do a "Church Survey" and find out what brings people there and keeps them. With the ones who have stopped coming, find out why they stopped and get ideas and suggestions on things that the church can do to help bring them back if possible. The thing with this also is that you will find your membership numbers drop, as people will have died, moved out of the area, changed church denominations, changed religions, etc.
2) Activities - People will come for activities.
 a) Movie Night - Depending on what the church buildings look like and can hold, show a movie. The Movie Night would be advertised in the church bulletin and newsletter, during service, in coffee houses, Laundromats, put into the doors of the neighbors, etc. Make sure that the movie is not something that is blatantly religious, and is one that parents can bring there kids. This is a Free event. Someone will host and bring snacks, or it can be Pot Luck. Start off with some cartoons, then the main feature. Have a "Sign Up" board where people can put there name up to host one. We do ours on a Saturday Night, starting at 7pm, and last until around 9:30/10.
 b) YPF/Youth Group - This would be for High School youth. Keep the adults over 30 out of it, and those 19 to 29 are just Advisers. The youth pick the activities that they want to do, set up a schedule on when to do it, and keep Religion out of it as best as possible. The main role of the Advisers is to make sure that no illegal things are going on, and to advise the youth. The Youth must have "ownership" for it to succeed. When a youth group is doing the things that the adults want for them to do, the youth group will die.
 c) A Day At The Races - I don't recall what horse race tracks are in that area, but many have group discounts that include seats in the VIP area. At the track out here, when there are groups, they will have some of the people from the group (the organizers) come down after a race to have their picture taken with the winning horse & jockey. Now let's say that they are selling the tickets at $20, you all can sell them at $30, with the $10 going to the church. Maybe divide the $10 up equally to 4 different thing, like the YPF, General Fund, Building & Grounds, and Youth Scholarships.
 d) Men's/Women's Group - This is something to talk to my father about. With the congregations out here, many of them will have special speakers come in on different topics, several times a year have a day where they will do some work around the church. With the race track out here, they permit different groups to sell hot dogs & beer. The track sets it all up and the groups man a booth where they sell what the track has made, with a small profit going to the group.
 e) Nightwatch - This is a youth activity. Youth are involved in planning it, where they design an "educational program" around a topic. We do one every year at the Cathedral over MLK weekend, so say the topic is racism. One or two special guest come in and give talks to the kids, with say one of them being someone who was involved with SNIC and/or Marched with MLK. The kids will watch the Dream Speech or the Mountain Top Speech and talk about it. Have them talk about the issues around race, and design activities that let them deal with race. The one thing that has to be done is to invite other youth groups in the area. The event would start that Sunday evening and end Monday afternoon. That night they sleep inside the church. A great documentary for them to watch would be "Traces Of The Trade" which deal with a family in New England and their history. A few years ago, the woman who did the documentary came to our Nightwatch, showed some of the film and talked with the kids.
 f) The Stations Of The Cross - I do the Stations all year round. For me, every Sunday at service I feel that we go through Christ life from Birth through Death. But this would be a different kind of Stations Of the Cross. These Stations would revolve around a topic. Attached are two Stations that I put together that deal with racism. one of my websites is www.thestationsofthecross.info, where you can find different kinds of stations to do. With each station, someone different would read the Station, and many times afterwards a conversation would occur about the subject matter.
 g) Soup & Conversation Series - Pick a subject. "A Christ Centered life", "Prayer Life", "The Meaning Of Baptism", etc. These would all be church/God/Christ/Religious related stuff or something like the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) someones home.
 h) Hold a "Town Hall Meeting" - Contact city officials and have them talk with the community about what is going on. Invite the neighborhood. Let it be known that this isn't a "Beat Up the City Official" time, but time to have a conversation. Try to come up with ways to work together to improve things. Let them know the concerns and the good things that are going on. If they know that people are happy with Park & Rec and the libraries, it makes it harder to make cuts in those areas.
 There are many other activities that can take place, and when you do the All Member Canvass, these are things that can be brought up as to new things that are happening in the congregation. Also be sure to do stuff that those who have left have mentioned that they would be interested in, as it kills excuses for not coming.
 Those pamphlets that are in hotel lobbies... Make some and find hotels that will let you put them in the rack. Put them into the mail boxes of the people in the neighborhood.
 Make lunches for some of the senior centers close by, and serve it. 
 One of the activities that I am involved with his making bag lunches for the Day Laborers on a monthly basis. we make around 100 lunches (sandwich, fruit, snack, hand sanitizer, a pair of socks, water/drink/soda) and go to where we know they congregate and pass them out. Put a note in each bag saying that this is a gift from your congregation. Some of those guys don't eat from several days, and they will be grateful. If you don't know where the day Laborers are, there is always the homeless.
 How to get people involved on the planning stages? Personally ask them. Have things going on where they rotate off, as if it is the same people doing the bake sale every time, the food becomes a little boring after a bit. 
 Have a Welcoming Group, who great every new comer and makes sure that they feel welcome. Most churches are Cliquish, and I think drives some people from joining a congregation. The Welcoming group would basically take care of the person, introduce them to others in the congregation and the clergy, lets them know about the activities of the church, and finds out about the person. Is the person here on vacation, and if so, what are things that they do and the activities that go on at there church if they attend one, as this would be a good way of figuring out new things to do at your congregation.
 When you all have activities, go and invite people from other congregations. The purpose of this isn't to get them to join yours, but if they know or have people who aren't involved with their congregation, you all may be doing something where they would refer the person to your congregation. Likewise, your congregation may have people who would be a great fit at another congregation.
 Put together a church membership directory that also includes a section on skills and businesses that people are willing to offer to other people. People may not know that Joe is a handyman. Now if Joe attends regularly, Joe may charge a little more than someone else, but Joe is going to try and do a great job because Joe doesn't want to have to face the people of the congregation if he rips someone off. Sally has her own law firm. Sally may be interested in doing more Wills & Probate, and Sally may put a little extra in the plate for each one that she does that comes from the church. Wilma is a Wedding Planner... Lucy is a Photographer, Larry is a retired math teach who would be willing to tutor kids in math... There are also people with skills that nobody knows about. Who know that Bobby, the guy who flips burgers at the fast food place, is skilled at writing grants...
 One thing that I learned from my parents and grandparents is that Stewardship is more than just giving money to the church every week, but getting involved in more... When the people of the church realize that there is more that they can give also beyond money to the church, the better off a church is. "Render Unto Caesar what is Caesar's. and unto God what is God's". I believe that God not only wants us to give money so that his word came continue to be spread, but God wants for us to give of our skills also. 
Forever In Christ,
Clinton