This article started quite the conversation on my Facebook Page. What are your thoughts?
Marketing is a necessary part of church planting in America. We would LOVE to think that the LORD will speak directly to every single person who needs to attend your church, placing a calling on their life. And He might…and He CAN. But LBR (let's be real), there are churches on every corner, and people have just as many choices on a Sunday morning as they do toothpaste at Walmart.
Marketing is important. People are impacted by your church, and God can use your marketing strategy to draw people to the work He is doing through you. But there are lots of marketing mistakes in church plants. Here are my top 5.
1. NOT INVESTING IN YOUR WEBSITE : Most church plants know that a website is necessary but are weary of investing too much money in one. A website is the new front door. As a church-planter and a new-church seeker, the website is the first thing I research. By the content and how “put together” the website is, I will make a decision on whether or not I will visit a church. Invest in your website, update your content, and make it easy to navigate. Use neutral lingo that church goers and non church goers can understand. Your website is your MOST powerful marketing tool!
2. SIGNS SIGNS SIGNS: Most churches do a great job advertising their church before Sunday, but once the BIG DAY comes…BLECH. MOST church plants are mobile, so no one is driving by your very own facility every day, noticing your building, remembering where you are. First time visitors (which is the GOAL here) need signs. They don't want to make U-Turns, or turn into the wrong parking lot. And you may think, “I have plenty of signs!” To which I ask, can anyone read them from the road? Size, color and font make a difference! Once there, visitors need to know where the bathroom is, and where to check in kids. Signs Signs Signs! It's better to OVER-educate than under!
3. ANNOUNCEMENTS: Announcements are the biggest pain for most churches. Where do you place them in the service?? What do you share? How do you communicate? Announcements share the heartbeat of your church. It shows what is important and it also sets the bar of expectation. Too many get lost, too few show a life-less church. Prioritize by deadlines, sign up requirement and volunteer need. (BTW: My personal thought is that each week, a different ministry should be asking for volunteers.) Refine your announcements. It is the tool that gets people taking the next step of involvement at your church.
4. SOCIAL MEDIA: People are on their phones/computers/ipads constantly. Social Media is the absolute best follow up with visitors and a great way to make announcements–especially the ones that didn't make the Sunday cut. I have followed tons of church plants on social media and the easiest and the marketing platform that's FREE is not used nearly enough or as effectively. The only thing Social Media costs is time. Programs like HOOTSUITE help you link your social media and time out posts so that you the bi-vocational pastor can post an encouragement from Sunday's message even though he's teaching Math. Use your SOCIAL MEDIA!!!!
5. STAY PUT: I've packed up and tore down and set up and moved and considered and UGH! the frustrations of church planting! The most frustrating is finding a space. But if at all possible, stay put! If you are investing in marketing financially, every move undoes the work and effort you've done in the last six months. Also, moving even just a block or two can change the entire dynamic of your church and you will find you might serve a totally different demographic than you were expecting (not that this is bad, but you must be prepared). Re-think your space if you can't make at least a one year commitment. When picking a place, remember that you are only as big as your smallest space. (finding an effective children's area is close to impossible). Think outside the box!
Invest in marketing your church! If someone shows up on Sunday and God touches their life, it will be worth it all! And if you need to hire a consultant, give me a shout out! email@example.com
What has effectively marketed your church plant? Comment and share with me, I'm always interested in new ideas.
Last week was our annual ice day in San Antonio. We brave nothing near as tragic or ridiculous as what’s happening in Georgia right now, but our town is definitely not prepared to handle snow, or even ice. On the eve of the winter blast, I was taking my strep-throat infected, finally hungry, nine year old to grab his favorite food. We approached the light and he immediately started digging for change. Every corner is occupied by beggars, and ice days are no exception. Zac spoke a blessing as he handed the man the money. In return, the homeless man offered encouragement to Zac to stay in school so that he doesn’t have his fingers frozen off. As we pulled away, one thought came to my head…
Gloves became our mission that day. We quite literally ran inside of Wal-Mart to find the warmest gloves in the store. We purchased them, quite literally ran back to our car and made our trek to find this man who had frozen fingers. But he was gone. We circled and saw him huddled with friends under a distant bridge. After picking up my daughter from school, we made another round to see if he emerged but now he was forever gone. But on the way back around, we spied a woman, pulling her baggage (don’t we all?) with an over-sized coat pulled over her hands. We pulled into the parking lot, rolled the window down and blessed her.
Ahhh her face. Her angelic, worry filled face was glowing with gratefulness.
As the winds blew stronger and the temperature dropped that night, I lay in bed heartbroken for those sleeping in the woods and under bridges. I wondered…
Why doesn’t the city step up and plan better?
Why aren’t we using our paid-for-by-taxes school gyms to offer a temporary sleeping place for the homeless?
Visions of local churches, large local churches, filled my head… Then a picture of a grieving God looking down from heaven whispering, “They just don’t get it.”
My wondering wandered…
Why aren’t churches being the hands and feet?
Why are closed-on-Thursday-waiting-waiting-for-Sunday buildings empty?
Why is God’s sanctuary locked up tight?
Whatever the reason, I’m almost certain they are all rooted in the need to not be inconvenienced. It’s not our mission, it’s not in our budget, it’s too close to the weekend.
Yesterday I read about Chik-Fil-A in Georgia who closed their profitable business and went out into the ice stricken streets and fed the abandoned. Then the doors swung open as they offered respite and warmth for wayward travelers. Again I ask…
Why does Chik-Fil-A ‘get it’ but the church doesn’t? I continue to wonder if the church is wrongly, and sinfully, building it’s self on the ideology of the American Kingdom and missing the opportunities to usher in the Kingdom of Heaven.
What do you think? Pastors, churches, what is your excuse?
One of the things that always surprises me is how fast my boys grow. From July to November, my nine year old’s foot grew from a men’s size 7 1/2 to 10 1/2. It was only when I bought him new running shoes that I realized that he was playing basketball in shoes two sizes too small for him. I asked him why he didn’t tell me his shoes were too small, to which he expectantly replied, “I dunno.”
My other son, who is 14, is now just at 6 foot tall and wears the same size pants as his dad. I have no idea when that happened. And no idea how my budget will be able to keep up with this kind of growth.
When I visit new churches, I notice lots of things–but this growth issue is one of the most prevalent. Too many churches are completely unaware of their size. Church plants often follow models set forth by other churches and don’t do well at properly assessing how their model fits into their area and their numbers. Or, a church grows at such a quick rate, that a larger church still operates as a small church, having an elite core group of people, and poor communication. Or a church is a satellite campus, and attempts to have BIG worship, BIG media BIG BIG BIG, just like the main campus and it just doesn’t translate well with the amount of people in the worship service.
One of the most detrimental and painful mistakes a growing church can make is not truly understanding it’s size. The new year is a good time to assess what size shoes your church is wearing and whether or not it’s time to buy a new pair. You should assess your church size if:
1. You haven’t reviewed your numbers and your systems in six months or longer.
2. You have three or more new families visiting every week.
3. Visitors attend but do not return.
4. You are losing families.
5. You have new goals for the new year.
I don’t want my kids playing ball in shoes that are too small, and you don’t want your church operating at a size it is not. Just like my nine year old, your church isn’t going to tell you. We can love people better, and honor God more if we are acutely aware of the growing pains of our church. And loving God and People are what the new year is all about!
How’s your church doing?
There is this new saying in the church makes me insane. The first time I noticed it I was driving down a road in Florida and it was in huge letters on flags flapping in the wind. I couldn't figure out right away why it bothered me so much.
I didn't think much more of it, until I saw it again at another church. The idea was catching on, and my insanity defense was growing stronger. I moved 1500 miles away from this slogan. Out of sight, out of mind….but no “BOOM” it followed me…and “BOOM” I can't hold it in any longer.
Churches, please stop telling people,
It's okay to not be okay.
There is the counselor side of me that says, “Yes, everyone has permission to admit their faults and not be perfect. Yes, if you are having a crummy day or a crummy few days, it will all be okay.”
But then there is this thing in me that says, “No, this trendy slogan is not the message of the Gospel.”
This saying “it's okay to not be okay” perpetuates the American, self-centered approach to Christianity: it's all about me.
As I dig through the Gospel, I don't see Jesus walking around during his ministry saying this to people just to get them to listen to him. Actually, quite the opposite. He said things like :
“Most assuredly I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” ( Jn3:3)
“Take these things away! Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise!” (Jn2:16)
“Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, but whoever drinks off that water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (Jn 4:13-14)
“Do you want to be made well? … Rise, take up your bed and walk.” (Jn 5:6,8)
Jesus never seemed to give permission to dwell in our sin, or to live a victimized life. Jesus never once told the woman at the well, it's okay that you're not okay. What he actually said was: I know you're not okay, and you need me to fix that.
After Jesus left the earth, Peter preached the first sermon. The Apostles words to everyone were not it's okay that you struggle, it's okay that you are filled with sin. Peters words were:
“Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38).
Jesus knows our struggles, and he knows them intimately and personally. But we are wrong to preach a message of dwelling in our suffering. Jesus himself is the message of Hope and offers Freedom from not being okay. “For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:39)
His Promise is that when you are not okay, call on Him, he will Free you.
“Where the Spirit off the Lord is, there is freedom.” (II Cor 3:17)