By Vince Williams
June 5, 2012
Many churches want to break through the noise of today’s busy culture to reach people for Christ. But even if they do break through, too often it is for just a moment, and the connection is lost before they can build a long-term relationship.
After eight years of helping thousands of churches improve their communication, I have seen one practice that is far and away the most effective approach to outreach communications. Yet it is consistently ignored by most churches. As a result, churches waste money and minimize the results of their community campaigns. By adopting this one approach to church communications, you will become more effective at getting noticed by your community and build a rapport with the families in your neighborhood.
So what is this practice?
Momentum through consistency. Communication momentum means that people have heard of you, and maybe even have an opinion of you. When you have momentum, you can put fewer resources and less energy into your outreach marketing while maintaining your results.
However, many church leaders seem to believe lies that impair momentum. These beliefs may not be spoken out loud, but are often embedded deep in the culture of the congregation. Some of these beliefs include:
- Reaching the same person more than once gets diminishing returns.
- Once people say no to an invitation, they won’t ever say yes.
- It is better to reach as many people as possible once (quantity) rather than reaching fewer people more often (quality).
Once these ideas invade your church outreach philosophy, you’ll find strong headwinds to ever getting heard.
Airplanes use considerably more fuel during takeoff than they do while cruising. Once they are at cruising altitude, they can travel using substantially less energy. Multi-stop flights have a higher average cost per mile because of the shorter cruising period and additional take offs required. Airlines account for this phenomenon when determining their flight costs.
Marketing efforts follow a similar pattern; allowing for you to conserve on resources once you have full air-speed. This proven model is used by today’s fastest growing companies and non-profit organizations, and you should follow it for your church outreach efforts, as well. With it your initial investment in a campaign will allow you to reach more people in your community over time for less money.
This is where too many churches get off course, when they opt to conserve their budget for one or two big draw items: Christmas, Easter, VBS, or a big evangelism campaign. They spend lots of resources and attention on getting seen and heard one time, and then miss the opportunity to maintain that channel of communication throughout the year.
This can have multiple adverse effects on your church outreach.
- You waste money. Gaining momentum is costly; maintaining it is cheaper and easier. You waste financial resources by taking off once or twice a year without doing something more with it.
- You expend energy. Not only do you waste money by not maintaining momentum, but you expend a lot of creative energy coming up with new concepts from scratch.
- You never gain credibility. When someone receives regular communication from your church, you can gain the credibility that comes from becoming recognized for your ongoing ministries.
- You miss ministry opportunities. When you don’t create an ongoing stream of communication, you miss the opportunity to touch a person during their specific time of need.
With such compelling evidence against inconsistent promotion, why do churches still engage in the practice? Because anything that involves momentum requires patience and discipline. And although we may be good at applying these traits to our spiritual journey, they often don’t make it into church administrative issues.
So how do you increase the long-term effect of your outreach without heavily impacting your budget? Here are a few questions to consider when addressing your upcoming outreach efforts:
- Do you have a follow-up method? Once you have spent the resources to engage someone in the community you should be able to do it again for less. But the key is to move closer into the person’s communication circle. This means email, Facebook, or even phone numbers can be your new form of communication with this person for other upcoming activities. If you don’t collect any contact information you’ll lose any momentum you have with that person.
- Do you have a follow-up activity? Do they know what to do next to stay engaged with your church?
- Do you have a follow-up person? Having the first two elements are great, but if no one is there to handle this aspect you may lose your opportunity to develop a relationship with your neighbor.
By committing to a consistent program of outreach you can develop a presence with your community that requires less fuel to maintain.
To conclude, here are three ways that SermonView can help your church build momentum through consistency:
- New Mover’s Cards: Our New Neighbors program offers a church the opportunity to reach people who have just relocated, whether across town or across the country. This card is more than an invitation. It may be a lifeline for a family in a world dominated by isolation. This program automatically mails a card to new movers based on your church’s budget and/or geographic reach. The best part? You receive the list of addresses so that you can follow up with a personal letter or house-warming gift.
- 2. Bible-study Cards: Sending out a monthly mailing to stay in front of your neighbors can be a good way to develop trust and build recognition. You can send out cards that tell people about upcoming sermon topics or offer people an opportunity to join a small group or one-on-one Bible study. We offer response methods such as website registration and toll-free numbers. By collecting information you have an opportunity to develop a connection with the recipients, and by sticking to a range closer to your church you can afford to send something out more consistently.
- 3. Rotating Banners: Many of the faster growing churches in our area change their signage regularly. By rotating out your outdoor signs every month you engage local traffic at a very low cost to your budget. Use this tool to communicate upcoming events, invite people to church, or keep them engaged with various seasonal signs. The important thing is to come up with a schedule and make sure to stick with it.
The key to developing momentum is consistency. This applies both to outreach marketing or your church’s volunteer efforts in the community. If we want to see real momentum in the growth of a local church we need to stop thinking in terms of trying to rocket our way to a big turnout and think in terms of developing a long-term flight plan.