The Church: Abundant Life Church, Damascus, Ore.
The Challenge: Help people connect with the mission of the church
One Key Idea: Provide a children’s ministry experience that kids enjoy and that emphasizes having them discuss what they are learning with their parents.
Outreach spoke to Senior Pastor George Powell, who says a powerful presence in the community and a great children’s ministry bring new people to the church.
What is Abundant Life’s intentional strategy for connecting with people in Oregon, one of the most unchurched states in the country?
When we talk about reaching people, we’re talking about truly unchurched, unconvinced people—there are a bunch of them around Portland and Vancouver. We just keep constantly communicating with our members to develop relationships with people in their spheres of influence, and when God opens the opportunity, to share their story and invite people to church. A lot of our strategy has to do with motivating our own people to reach out on a daily basis.
How do you establish credibility in your community?
We encourage our “lifegroups” to serve together, and churchwide, we do community outreach projects. For example, this past summer  we had 700 people involved in a citywide emphasis called Serve the City. Our people were serving in the schools, helping with clothing centers, feeding the homeless in downtown Portland. Our community also has a big Fourth of July celebration, and we have a ton of people go over to help. About three weeks ago, I was talking to this woman in the lobby; she was new to our church, and I asked how she heard about us. She said we’d had such a presence serving at the Fourth of July event that she just had to come check us out.
Once people learn about Abundant Life, what is your most effective connection point?
We have a lot of young families in our community—our church runs about 3,000 on a weekend, and 600 to 700 are elementary-aged children—so we developed a great children’s ministry. Children experience some real simple truths: that God loves them and He accepts them for who they are.
One thing we’re being very intentional about right now is trying to get parents talking and interacting with their kids. We use a strategy called Fusion, where kids take home what they learn on the weekend. We encourage the parents to spend time with their kids discussing what they’ve been learning.
Many times when I talk to people in our community—I hang out in the coffee shops a lot—people will say, “My kids love your church so much that they are dragging us there. They can’t wait to go back to church.” That’s a big entry point for people. What we’re seeing in the Northwest, and maybe it’s true across the nation, is that lots of younger couples who have walked away from church for some reason are having kids and recognizing the importance of getting back into church for their kids. And at our church, they’re finding a program that really helps them connect and develops them as parents.
MORE ABOUT ABUNDANT LIFE CHURCH
Weekend attendance: 3,000
Key connection points: Three campuses, six worship experiences, Lifegroups, children’s ministry, serving the community
Abundant Life Church was a 2009 Outreach 100 church (No. 66 Fastest-Growing).
This article originally appeared in the May/June 2010 issue of Outreach.