When most of us think of prospects, we limit our thoughts to new families moving in our area, or those found in a church census, etc. There are, however, thousands of people who go practically unnoticed, uncared for, and, sad to say, unloved by the average church. Now to notice a few of these:
1. The Retarded and Educable Slow
Recently, at First Baptist Church, we became aware of the many children who are retarded, and, therefore, unable to sit in the average Sunday school class and be helped. This led us to start a class for children twelve and under who are mentally behind their age. It wasn’t long until twelve to fifteen were attending every Sunday.
How did this help increase our converts? In two ways: First, the fact that we had such a class made it possible for the entire families to come to Sunday school who were previously unable to do so. We have had mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters saved because there was a class for the educable slow in our church.
In the second place, it is surprising how many children who are twelve years of age and are somewhat retarded still can comprehend the plan of salvation. We have a little fellow who is about eleven and has the mind of a child about six or seven who understood clearly what it means to be a sinner and that Jesus died on the cross for sinners, and gladly received Him as his Saviour. It was my joy recently to baptize him and share with his family this happy occasion.
This class grew so rapidly that God burdened us for a class for older retarded people. Now we have about fifteen older ones attending this class. Think of this! Approximately thirty retarded people are attending our Sunday school. The average family has four members. That means there are three others in each family who now can attend Sunday school also. This could be an increase of one hundred twenty in Sunday school attendance and many more conversions and baptisms.
2. A Class Taught in a Foreign Language
We found that in our area there are many people who speak only Spanish. Hundreds of them attend no Sunday school whatsoever. God gave us a fine soul-winning lady who speaks Spanish fluently. She now teaches the Sunday school lesson in Spanish each Sunday. Scores of Spanish-speaking people have been saved from this new class.
While in Ottawa, Canada, one pastor said, “This would apply to us. We have many French-speaking people in Ottawa. A Sunday school class taught in French would, no doubt, enable us to reach many people that we have not been reaching.”
3. A Work With the Deaf
It is unbelievable how many deaf people there are in the average city. The Sunday before this writing we had forty-three deaf people in our Sunday school. The lesson is taught in sign language and then the deaf come to the regular preaching service and have the message interpreted to them, during the service, by the deaf interpreter. We have many saved and baptized from this ministry.
Think for a minute what we have already done in reaching just the retarded, the Spanish-speaking and the deaf. If we could reach one hundred twenty people in the families of the retarded children, forty-three in deaf class and fifteen or twenty in the Spanish-speaking class, we have increased our Sunday school by nearly two hundred and have found avenues of reaching many more for Christ.
4. Work With the Shut-ins
One lady of our church goes into the homes of each shut-in once a month. She takes a tape recorder and plays one of the pastor’s messages and a personal greeting from the pastor. She will take some little gift from the church, and spend a few minutes meeting the spiritual needs of the shut-in. When the shut-in is won to Christ, we provide an ambulance, if needed, or a wheel chair, a hospital bed and any other need that will enable them to come to the services. We carry them bodily to the dressing room and baptize them. Shouldn’t the shut-ins have the privilege or being baptized after they are saved? Certainly they should.
It is often necessary to have a private service for them. It is not too unusual for us to have a shut-in baptized in the presence of the family and few friends on a week day or a Sunday afternoon.
5. New Buses
Probably nothing would help to increase one’s Sunday attendance and the number of conversions and baptisms more than starting bus routes. At the First Baptist Church of Hammond, we now operate thirty-seven routes bringing between one thousand and thirteen hundred people to Sunday school and church every Sunday. Though we will not go into the organizational part of the bus ministry, and it takes organization and hard work, let me stress the importance of adding new buses and new routes. People who come on a new bus route are net gain. Many churches could baptize hundreds more a year by adding buses and bus routes.
6. Poor Children
We have found in our area scores of little children from poor homes who actually never eat a real good hot meal. We have started a Sunday school class for them, and at noon on Sunday feed them a hot meal. Of course, this is limited just to the poor. We are now having between fifty and a hundred in this class. Many of these boys and girls only get one good meal a week. And while they do, they get the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are many avenues of reaching prospects. Such things as rescue mission work, work in the rest homes, canvassing trailer courts, work with the blind, etc., will bring eternal rewards and increase the churches’ number of conversions and baptisms.