Before anyone can join your church they have to visit it.  Before anyone can visit your church, they have to know that it exists.  Pretty simple.  These days there are 5 basic ways people find out that your church exists.  The good news is that all 5 ways can be improved and maximized to dramatically raise the profile of your church and greatly increase your number of visitors.

1 – Word of Mouth

This is the most ancient way of growing a church, and in many ways it is still the best.  One study done showed that 78% of people would visit a church if they were invited by a friend.  If the friendship is close and trusted that number only goes up.  The challenge is that if you are a typical church only 2% of your people will ever invite someone to church.  When you consider that current social trend has us having fewer and fewer close friendships that 2% is unlikely to increase without intervention.

Fortunately, intervention is what leadership is all about.  There are a number of things you can do to increase member invitation rates.  The first is to improve the basic quality of your church.  The fact is that members will not embarrass themselves by inviting people to a low quality church.  Why would anyone invite someone to an ugly and dirty building, filled with cold and indifferent people, to listen to off-key music and boring preaching???  On the other hand, it’s much easier to invited someone to a church you’re excited about.  Especially if you know you’re bringing your friends to a nice building filled with friendly people, to listen to awesome music and a riveting message.  As leaders we can give our people a reason to take pride in their church.

Once we have given our people something worth inviting others to, then we need to encourage and equip them to be inviters.  Encouragement can come in the form of sermons and small group curriculum, while equipping often comes in the form of training programs.  Willow Creek’s Becoming a Contagious Christian, Campus Crusade’s Bursting Your Bubble , Doable Evangelism, and Beehive Evangelism are among the best that I’ve used.

2 – They See It

Another ancient method of letting people know that you exist is your church building.  Admittedly, we used to do a much better job here in generations past, but this can still be an effective method today.  If you have a small building hidden deep in some residential area on a dead-silent street this can be quite difficult as these are terrible locations.  As a general rule, if it is a good location for a McDonalds, it will be a good location for a church.  The more prominent the visibility, the higher the traffic density, and the easier the access – the better the location for your church.

You can partially compensate for a bad location with good portable signage.  This is particularly important if you meet in a school or any other temporary location.  Well placed and well designed sandwich-board signs can attract a decent amount of attention – just be sure the print is large enough to be easily read by a speeding car at a good distance.

Even a good location can be ruined without proper signage.  Make sure your Church name is easily seen and pleasantly displayed.  Believe it or not, many churches mess this up.  I’ve seen everything from signs hidden behind trees to shoddy beat-up signs that give the wrong service times.  Accurate service times and contact information is more than a little important.  Excellent signage says a lot about a church and will more than pay for itself in increased growth.

If your church has inadequate signage (interior and/or exterior) contact professional designers and sign makers and fix the problem.  Though you may be tempted to save some money and get Sally’s nephew Tim to do it for free this is important enough to do right the first time.  Just like you wouldn’t get unskilled amateurs to re-wire the church, you don’t get amateurs to design and install your signs.   To succeed this is something that must be done with excellence.

3 – Social Media 

Social media is the front door of your church.  90% of first-time visitors will encounter you online before they will ever show up at your physical location.  Unfortunately, most churches target their social media exclusively at themselves and never think of reaching outwards.  They simply use it as an online bulletin to remind their own people of upcoming events.

Several things need to be in play here.  Your social media posts need to be sharable, engaging, and responsive.  To be sharable they need to be attractive, inspiring, and targeted to the unchurched friends of your congregation.  Churchy language is to be avoided for your people to be comfortable enough to share.  To be engaging you actually need to be saying something that is relevant to your community.  What keeps people up at night in your neighborhood?  Make posts about that.  Lastly, a post is responsive when people are compelled to make a comment and you respond to them in a meaningful discussion.  This is the gold standard of social media – creating an actual dialog with someone.

4 – Web Pages

Much like yellow page advertising, a decent web page is not expensive, but speaks volumes about your church.  For the 21st century, most people will look for a church online first.  Not only is this the way most people look for things, it is the way to find the best of the best – to separate the sheep from the goats.  A church with an attractive, informative, and dynamic web page immediately makes a positive impression.  While a church without a web page comes across as nothing but a religious museum that cares only about its own insiders.  More often than not both of these impressions turn out to be correct.  Churches that have outreach as a real and authentic value will show it.

As with everything else, web page design is not a job for amateurs.  Far too many churches create laughable and embarrassing web pages simply because it can be done cheaply.  Considering the fact that a poorly made website will drive people away from your church – cheap actually becomes very expensive.  Pay a professional, you can’t afford not to.

5 – You Contact Them

People will notice you when you notice them.  Direct advertising is done by the most successful churches because it works.  Not only does it work, it more than pays for itself.  A well done direct mail campaign can bring hundreds of new people through your doors.  True, more than 98% of the pieces you send out will bring no visitors.  So in terms of raw effectiveness direct mail doesn’t hold a candle to good word-of-mouth.  But even a 1% or 2% response rate can produce some pretty decent results if you target 10,000 homes.

If you’ve never tried direct mail, consider speaking to the gang at Outreach Marketing.  They produce highly customizable and extremely high quality work that is sure to raise your church’s profile in your community.

John Albiston

Effectiveness Coach at ABNWT District of the PAOC
John works as an Effectiveness Coach with the ABNWT District of the PAOC. He is a strategic thinker who has pastored urban and rural churches, traditional and on the cutting edge. He is a passionate evangelist who is committed to rapid church growth by creating churches that unchurched people love to attend. With his church planting, multi-service, multi-site, and church merger experience, he regularly trains leaders, coaches church planters, and helps other pastors lead their churches into new growth.
John Albiston

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