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Episode Shownotes

Fall is here, and the holidays are around the corner! This is a busy season, but it’s also a great time for churches and church leaders to connect with your community. Host Heather Jallad is joined by fellow pastor and Fresh Expressions practitioner Brett DeHart to discuss how these Fall and Winter seasons can help you expand the reach of your congregation and bless your community. They discuss ways to help your congregation get excited about Fresh Expressions, reengaging after a busy summer and how to build off of the excitement and energy of Advent, Christmas and New Years.

Rev. Brett DeHart is an active United Methodist Pastor in Augusta, Georgia. With a passion for reaching new people, churches he has pastored have launched Messy Church, Recovery Church, Dinner Church, and other Fresh Expressions. Before entering ministry, Brett spent six years as a sportscaster and ten years in business.He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Communications from Florida State University and a Master of Divinity degree from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology. Brett and his wife, Candy, were high school sweethearts and have been married for more than 30 years and have two children in their 20s.

Fresh Expressions is a worldwide movement of everyday missionaries who want to see churches thrive in the places we live, eat, work and play by leveraging the creativity and endurance of the inherited church. To learn a simple five-phase process for starting a new expression of church go to freshexpressions.com/howtostart.

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Interview Summary

The fall and winter holiday season offers a prime opportunity for churches to reinvigorate their relationship with their local community. In this insightful interview, Rev. Brett DeHart shares creative ideas for leveraging holiday events and traditions to build bridges and introduce more people to your church.

Rev. DeHart serves as a United Methodist pastor in North Georgia. With over 20 years of ministry experience, he is passionate about finding innovative ways for the church to engage people outside its walls. His diverse professional background, including work as a sportscaster and small business owner, gives him a unique perspective on connecting with communities.

Use Existing Events to Increase Visibility

Rev. DeHart suggests Christmas parades as an easy way to gain more visibility. “Hand out logo bags for kids to collect candy. Include your church details inside so families learn about you when they get home.” Also consider participating in seasonal celebrations hosted by schools or town governments. While they may not occur on your grounds, it’s a chance to serve the community.

Meet Needs to Build Relationships

After a damaging flood one year, Rev. DeHart’s church provided a festive dinner and gifts for local school families struggling to celebrate Christmas. “Meeting this physical and emotional need opened the door to building relationships.” Think about underserved groups you can bless in a time of need.

Offer New Traditions to Stand Out

Rev. DeHart started an open community Christmas event at a farm when he realized his town lacked one. The novelty of “Christmas at the Farm” drew in many unchurched families.

“Consider what’s missing in your community that you could creatively provide.”

Brett DeHart

And don’t be afraid to move events to more convenient days/times based on who you want to reach.

Rev. DeHart offers this key advice for infusing the holidays with fresh missional energy: “Have passion. Be relentless. Keep trying new stuff. Shock the system to refocus on why you’re doing this.” May his wisdom stir our creativity and commitment to sharing God’s love beyond church walls this season and always.

Reflection Questions:

  1. What local holiday events could you participate in to increase our visibility in the community?
  2. What practical needs or gaps in holiday celebrations exist in your area? How could you fill them?
  3. What underserved groups could we bless with a special holiday event or service?
  4. Do your current holiday events align with your missional objectives? If not, what needs reimagined?
  5. Beyond the holidays, how can you sustain creative efforts to engage your community year-round?
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