Attracting People in Your Community (Part 3)
This is part 3 of a 3 part series excerpted from the program Catch: A Church-wide Program for Invitational Evangelism, order information is at the bottom of this article.
Work the Steps
Step 1. Evaluate the Current Marketing Effort and Message
Gather the marketing team and review your current marketing efforts. What mail pieces do you currently send out? Are these for members or people outside your walls? What is your social media presence? As you review your printed marketing materials, where do you think you’re doing “pretty well”? What will it take to do everything with excellence? Do you need to eliminate something?
Make a list of everything you do in terms of marketing: Web site, mailings, newspaper ads, radio spots, and so on. Get everything on the table and take a good look at how your church presents itself to the community. Evaluate your marketing messages and efforts based on these questions:
• Does the message speak to people who don’t go to church here or people outside our walls?
• Does the message tell people what we want them to know about our church?
• Do the message and design of the piece feel inviting and welcoming?
As you work through the rest of the marketing techniques in this section, decide which of the practices you will start doing and which you will stop doing. Commit to a clear, committed focus on communicating exactly what you want people in your area to know about your church and how it will meet the deepest need they have—to know God’s love in Jesus Christ.
• Review all marketing efforts.
• Evaluate your mailings, posters, Web site, and so on with the eyes of a potential visitor.
• Make necessary adjustments to remove old content and replace with new messaging.
• Create or update the Web site with homepage information that is helpful for first-time visitors.
• Evaluate the user-friendliness of your Web site. Is first-time visitor information prominent? (This includes such items as worship service times and locations, event calendar, contact names and information, and links to additional information.) What does your Web site communicate that you value? Invite one to two volunteers who have experience in Web development to evaluate your site and help implement recommended changes.
• Work with the pastor and worship team to identify a “take-away” item for each personin worship during the Catch sermon series—bookmarks, key tags, weekly Scripture reading tool, or other items.
• Assign a team member to create a church Facebook page and Twitter account. Keep the Facebook page updated with current worship and program information. Work with the pastor to create two to three tweets a week, announcing events or sending encouragement to followers.
Step 2. Plan Your Direct Mail
Adam Hamilton writes, “Direct mail works on the law of large numbers. Your response rate for a well-designed direct mail piece might be only one-tenth of one percent; if you send out three thousand pieces that might indicate that as few as three to as many as ten households would visit. Often the response rate is much higher, but be prepared for a rate within this range.” (Leading Beyond the Walls, pp. 36-37)
Begin with Christmas or Easter. A month before the holiday worship services, buy a mailing list of your area and send out postcards inviting people to church and communicating what your pastor will be preaching about.
Beyond Christmas and Easter, create a plan for sending direct mail pieces about new programs, events, and ministries. Plan to send at least four pieces out every year, including the two holiday pieces.
• Brainstorm four to five times a year when you might use a direct mail piece, beginning with Christmas and Easter.
• Determine your target radius.
• Determine how to get a database of household mailing addresses.
• Determine how many direct mail pieces you will print.
• Print additional direct mail pieces in your weekend bulletin as a tool for your members to use when inviting their friends.
• Secure a professional quality designer and copywriter.
• Make sure the design of each piece communicates exactly what you want it to. Ask yourself: Does this message speak to non-religious and nominally religious people, or does it connect only with our own church members? Does the image and feel of the piece make our church appear welcoming and inviting? Don’t forget to put the name, address, phone number, and worship times of your church in the direct mail pieces.
Step 3. Create Information Packets and Materials for the Connection Center
When the Catch approach to invitational evangelism is in full swing in your church, you will have a connection center in your main lobby where all information about the church can be found, as well as volunteers to staff it. In addition, the pastor or a team of volunteers will deliver mugs or another small gift to first-time visitors each week along with materials about the church and its ministries. Your marketing team is tasked with providing the current materials for the connection center as well as visitor information for the mugging team.
Your team will need to go to every program ministry leader (youth, children, adult, music, women’s, men’s, and so on) to get updated information about the mission of that ministry, their meeting times, how visitors can find them, and a contact person’s name and phone number. Work with the respective ministry leaders to create a brochure, postcard, or flyer that reflects the vision and communicates the excitement of that ministry. Once you have all the ministry brochures, use them to stock the connection center, and work with the mugging team to make sure they have all the materials they need.
• Assign marketing team members to meet with each ministry leader in the church to plan an updated brochure, postcard, or flyer communicating the purpose of that ministry and how new members can get involved.
• Create the brochures, postcards, or flyers.
• Stock the connection center with new materials.
• Stock the mugging or first-time visitor gift area with new materials.
Step 4. Plan Phone Campaigns
Whether you are planting a church or reviving an existing congregation, phone campaigns can bring awareness to your church and also encourage people to come who might have been thinking about finding a church. In order to be most effective in your effort, purchase a crisscross directory of your community. The crisscross directory is sorted by street, so you will know you are speaking to people right there in your area. Determine a radius of people you want to reach, and order the crisscross directory accordingly. Once you have your phone numbers, set up a phone bank and organize a team of callers. Adapt the scripts in this guide to meet your needs. Train and prepare your callers to be warm, inviting, and positive at all times. Print the follow-up form in this guide as well, so that callers can note who requested further information.
• Determine the radius of your phone campaign.
• Buy a crisscross directory.
• Set up a phone bank.
• Organize and train callers.
• Print scripts for as many phone numbers as you call, so callers can write the information onto each script and store for follow up.
• After the phone campaign, gather scripts from callers and sort in order of desire for follow up.
• Follow up with callers who wanted more information about the church. Send them packets of information as well as a personal invitation to worship.
• Record in the church database for future mailings all addresses of callers who wanted more information.
Step 5. Prepare Newspaper and Radio Ads
Newspaper and radio spots can be incredible opportunities for making people aware of your church and its ministries. However, they can also be expensive. So you will want to be strategic about getting the most advertising for the least cost. An ad in the faith section of your local newspaper is generally targeted for Christians who might have just moved to town and are looking for a church home. This is a perfectly noble advertising effort. However, if you want to communicate to non-religious or nominally religious Christians, you will have to advertise outside the faith section. Fortunately, listings in the community calendar are usually provided free or at minimal cost. What ministries, programs, or events might you put in the community calendar? Make sure your wording about the event or program is welcoming and inviting to people who have never been to your church or may never even have heard of it.
Another way to get newspaper coverage without the expense of an advertisement is to be in touch with the religion or community editor. When you have events that are newsworthy, be sure to check in with these editors to see if they would like to cover it. For instance, are your youth raising money for a mission project? Do you have an all-community event such as a churchwide yard sale, concert, race, or gathering? Get these events covered in the newspaper as a way to bring awareness to your church and its ministries. Radio spots can be even more expensive than newspaper ads because of the recording costs. If you have the technology and funds, maximize your reach by advertising on a secular radio station instead of the local Christian station. Time your spot to promote a Christmas worship service, since many non-churchgoers make a point to attend a Christmas service.
Most radio stations broadcast a community calendar or post one on their Web site. Make a point to list your events and community ministries on the community calendars of as many radio stations as possible—secular, Christian, even news stations.
• Research the costs of advertising in the local newspaper, free newspapers, and radio stations.
• Decide if you have the funds and the technology to create excellent ads.
• If you decide to place an ad, have a professional designer and copywriter help you create the ad or a professional producer help with a radio spot.
• Make a list of all of the events, programs, or ministries that are appropriate for the community calendar.
• Assign a team member to research community calendars and to post events.
• Determine what ministries or events might be newsworthy, and assign someone to be in touch with the religion or community editor at the newspaper.
Step 6. Equip Members to Invite Visitors
The best way to attract new people is to have members who are excited and then equip them to invite visitors to church. Evaluate how often you see your members bringing visitors. What can you do to communicate the importance of invitation and then equip your members to invite people? Consider making pocket New Testaments available to your members to carry in hopes that they may have an opportunity to give one away with a personal invitation to church.
In addition, create business cards with the church’s name, address, Web site, and worship times, and make them readily available for members to hand out. You might even ask each member family to purchase one box of business cards so they always have some and are always thinking about inviting visitors.
• Secure a stock of pocket New Testaments for members to give away to potential visitors.
• Create business cards with the church’s name, address, Web site, and worship times that members can easily hand out with their personal invitation to church.