Did you know that 80% of churches have less than 200 members in attendance in their weekend services? Pastor Carey Nieuwhof says that churches are either stagnant or dying because they’re not connecting with people. In fact, this opinion is echoed by many other veteran church leaders. So, how can you connect with people and help your church grow? Keep reading to find out.
Ed Stetzer says, “[Digital] technology allows a greater sense of community that doesn’t demand proximity”. Well, we could not agree more with Ed Stetzer on that! It’s only practical to leverage digital media to help break church growth barriers. Here are six tips that will help you grow the attendance at your church and advance its mission. Take a look!
1. CREATE A MARKETING STRATEGY
Every endeavour needs to be based on a sound plan. You need to first chalk out a marketing strategy that will help you tailor your efforts to generate positive results. Here are a few pointers to help you build an effective marketing strategy:
A. DEFINE YOUR CHURCH’S VALUES AND MISSION:
A good way to define your church’s values and mission is by thinking about the core principles that guide your church and the direction that your church is headed in. Having this information will help you lay the foundation of all your marketing efforts. For example, if your church values generosity, you might position yourself as a group that commits itself to community service and development.
B. IDENTIFY YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE:
Next, it’s key to pin down your target audience. After all, how can you customise your messaging if you don’t know who you’re engaging with? So, think about whom your church is ministering to and whom it wants to reach out to. This will help you create audience personas so that you can personalise your church’s messaging and create an engaging campaign. Read more about creating audience personas here.
C. PIN DOWN THE RIGHT CHANNELS:
The platform(s) that you use to communicate with your audience is a crucial element(s) of your marketing campaign. So, ask yourself which medium(s) is the best for your church – would it be social media, e-mails, blog posts or a combination of all?
In fact, identifying your target audience will help you determine the ideal platform(s) to engage on. For example, statistics indicate that 90% of millennials use social media. So, if the majority of your audience comprises the younger generation, social media channels would be the ideal choice for your church.
D. SET MEASURABLE GOALS:
It’s a good idea to make a list of the goals that you want to achieve through your marketing campaign. While doing so, remember to keep your goals specific, realistic and measurable. As Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed”. In other words, you can only identify the areas of improvement if you monitor the performance of your campaign.
So, instead of having a generic goal – such as invite 1,000 newcomers – put down a specific goal – such as invite 500 young adults to our special service on Dec 25th, 2017.
E. FIX A BUDGET:
Finally, it’s important to set aside a budget for your marketing campaign. Consider your marketing strategy – whether it is using social media ads or Google ads – and make a note of your potential expenses.
2. MAXIMISE YOUR CHURCH WEBSITE
Remember that 80% of people who are looking to attend a church first visit its website. Your website is the first point of contact for those who are looking for churches online. Therefore, it’s key that your website caters for newcomers. Here are a few tips to help you make your website visitor friendly:
A. USE WELCOMING LANGUAGE:
Pastor Rick Warren mentions that many people avoid church because they feel that it is a “members-only” organisation. Since your website is the first stop for most people browsing for churches, it’s imperative that it welcomes, and not alienates, newcomers. So, remember to use inviting words or phrases instead of ‘churchy’ jargon on your website.
For instance, Cornerstone Community Church’s website uses this text – ‘For Real Life | Real life happens every day. Don’t face it alone.’ – to welcome different people irrespective of their struggles. By doing so, this text also breaks the stereotype of the church being a closed organisation.
B. HIGHLIGHT IMPORTANT INFORMATION:
52% of people who look at church websites on Sunday mornings are, in fact, looking to attend a service. Moreover, 43% of church website viewers look for a church’s location and service timings. And, 28% of visitors search for a map or directions.
In addition, almost all online visitors to church websites look for the ‘What to Expect’ or ‘I’m New’ section, making it the most viewed section on church websites.
For example, Piedmont Chapel’s website features its location and service timings in the first fold. It also offers a ‘Plan a Visit’ CTA button that leads visitors to another web page with all vital details that a newcomer will be looking for. Take a look:
Remember to highlight all these key details on your website prominently.
3. USE SOCIAL MEDIA TO PROMOTE YOUR CHURCH
“Social media is the 21st-century town square,” says Ed Stetzer. After all, nearly three-fourths of the online adult population is on a social networking platform! This makes social media one of the most potent outreach tools of the 21st-century. In fact, 46% of churches say that using social media has been their most effective method of outreach. Are you using social media to help your church grow? Here are three ideas to inspire you:
A. SHOWCASE THE CULTURE OF YOUR CHURCH:
Did you know that 30% of millennials believe that churches are boring? Well, one good way to break this perception is by showcasing your church community. Post images and videos to show snippets of your church services, special events and outreach activities. This will give visitors a taste of what your church is truly like.
B. JOIN THE CONVERSATION ONLINE:
One good way to connect and engage with new people on social media is by participating in existing conversations. For instance, you can look at the “trending” topics on Facebook and Twitter and write a post or tweet about your perspective on the topic. However, remember to stay clear of commenting on any political and controversial issues.
C. USE RELEVANT HASHTAGS:
Hashtags not only help you reach a wider audience, but also let you connect with new people. In fact, many church leaders are using hashtags to interact with and minister to people. For instance, Pastor Tom Pounder looks out for hashtags “as a way to reach out to those looking for answers”.
Check out these 5 Creative Ways to Use Social Media for Outreach for more ideas.
4. OPTIMISE YOUR BLOG
Did you know that online readers consider bloggers to be the third-most trustworthy source of information? So, it’s highly likely that Internet users will look to church blogs for helpful advice, spiritual answers and encouragement.
For example, James River Church decided to leverage its blog to reach out to those seeking answers in the city. The church’s digital team curates blog posts based on the need of the community. In fact, the blog writers also integrate keywords that correspond to popular searches made by Internet users within a 30-mile radius of the church. This process ensures that the church’s target audience stumbles upon the church’s blog posts while browsing online.
This paves the way for the church to connect with new viewers and invite them to its services. In fact, this strategy has contributed to the church becoming a 12,000-member strong organisation! How are you using your church blog to connect with new online visitors?
5. LEVERAGE VIDEO MARKETING
Video is the most captivating form of communication today. After all, 59% of online viewers prefer watching a video to reading text. Moreover, platforms such as YouTube have made video marketing easy and inexpensive. Therefore, it will be useful for your church to leverage this medium to reach a wider audience. You can upload your weekly sermons, make video announcements and film testimonials of your church members to attract new people to your fellowship.
In fact, vlogging (posting video journals online) is a great way to engage with the youth in your community. Research indicates that vlogs reach 50% of those between the ages of 16 to 34. Refuge Point Church in Georgia, US, started its vlogging channel – TheChurchVlog – in an attempt to reach out to the unchurched.
Every week, their staff posts candid videos of how the church makes a difference in the community in the hope that “those who view our vlog will see… real people on a mission to make Jesus famous”.
Take a look at this vlog entry from TheChurchVlog for inspiration:
6. CREATE A FOLLOW-UP PLAN
Finally, it’s important to create a follow-up strategy for the first-time visitors who attend your church services. After all, the goal is to encourage them to join your fellowship. Joel A’Bell, Lead Pastor of Hillsong Australia says, “In our experience, we have realized that follow-ups are one of the biggest determining factors in the continued attendance of someone who is new to church”.
You can either send an e-mail to follow up with visitors, write a private message on social media or simply call them. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to have a follow-up strategy in place to help first-time visitors return to your church.
Digital technology can help your church overcome barriers that could be stopping its growth. Is your church willing to embrace digital media to advance its mission?