It’s easy to observe that there are times of the year when people are more open to coming to church (January, especially after MLK, Easter, Back to School, and Christmas Eve), but capitalizing on those times of the year is a little bit harder. What many of our churches need is momentum, which is why it’s critically important to pour as much energy and as many resources as we can into these times of the year when we have a little bit of built in momentum. Don’t waste it; capitalize on it with a huge sermon series that reaches your community!
Every January and February we do this and the past three years we’ve increased our average attendance during this time by 400-500 people. Now, that attendance generally drops a little after this series (though it didn’t last year), but it doesn’t drop by that much and we add hundreds of people each year to the church and the Kingdom by doing these few things to make this our biggest and best series of the year:
- Make the series appealing to your community
The key to making this series work is to make it appealing and attractive to people in your community who don’t normally come to church, or who don’t attend regularly. Give them a reason to come by making the series something they would want to hear about to help with something in their life. Give them a “why.”
They are thinking about making changes in their life anyway, so plan a series, and a series title, that will make them at least have the thought: “Maybe the church has something relevant for my life.” To do this, go back in your memory to when you weren’t interested in the church, or at least imagine it, or better yet go into the community and ask people what they would be interested in hearing about from the church, then talk about that.
- Promote it like crazy
This may sound shallow, but again, people are going to go somewhere to look for answers to the changes they want to make in their life, and our culture spends billions in advertising to try and capitalize on that. Why shouldn’t we spend some to catch their attention for The Answer to their lives?!
The key to doing this is make your series title attractive, appealing, and relevant, and then hit them with different avenues of promotion. One of our big promotions is a giant postcard that hits every home in our region and looks super cool without having a ton of information on it. If your promotions look or sound too busy, they will get discarded. Make them simple, to the point, and attractive.
We also use Christmas Eve, another huge attendance day, as an opportunity to promote the January/February series. We stuff the postcards in every program (bulletin) that day, and we do a promotional video for the series in the service, which we also share on social media. We try to get our people to share the promotional material across their social networks as we get closer to the series. Again, the more relevant your series is to what’s happening in people’s lives in your community, the more willing your people will be to actually invite their friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
We have also utilized billboards to further create buzz and give our people a springboard to having conversations with others, though this can be more expensive.
If you’re operating on a very tight budget, some really easy and inexpensive ways to promote your series that we have also used are:
- Social media – this is a MUST! Facebook ads are super cheap, but even cheaper is putting the series logo out there and encouraging your people to share it and use it as an invitation.
- Guerilla marketing – it’s fairly inexpensive to buy pens, bracelets, cups, stickers, etc. with the logo and date on them to pass out to your people and others to promote the series.
- T-shirts – this is a little more expensive, but everyone sees them, and if you make them cool enough, people will wear them everywhere and everyone will want one.
- If you don’t have someone to design a cool series logo, there are plenty of places online that do it for cheaply and effectively.
Some promotion Don’ts:
- Don’t put too much information in your ad or written material. Less is more.
- Don’t forget to put the dates of the series, especially when it starts, where it is, what time your services are, and your website on the promotional material. The only exception to this is a billboard. On a billboard I might put the logo, the start date, and your website.
- Don’t make it cheesy. Get someone young to review it first.
- Plan big, creative elements for the first few weeks at least
The Church used to be known as the leader in creativity and art, but now it seems like we’re known for being boring and very un-creative. When people come, surprise them with creativity! Do something different in your service that gets people talking and wanting to come back to see what you might do next weekend.
- Do a special song with your best singer, or bring in a singer
- Look online at other churches and see what they have done. Some churches to check out that offer their resources for free, or cheap, are: Life.church (their Open website); Church on the Move (their Seeds website); Granger (search for their resource page); Elevation Church (search for their resource page); Newspring (search for their resource page).
- Do whatever you have the talent to do best, even if that’s just one person on a guitar singing a special who’s really good.
- Spoken Words or Dramas (if you can do them well)
- Create videos, or find good videos at Creative Swap, Sermon Spice, Worship House Media, other churches, or searching Vimeo (be sure to ask permission to use the video though).
- Follow up with your guests
This is just as important as anything else! When I’m following up with our guests (not visitors, but guests) via a home visit on Sunday afternoon or a phone call or email, a very frequent response is, “Out of all the churches I’ve visited, you are the only one to contact me back”. If someone gives you their information, follow up with them that week, as soon as possible! Whatever way you feel comfortable with or that works in your context (visit, call, text, email, letter, or all of the above), just get back in touch with them and let them know that you were glad they were there. Also, give them a way to get connected with what God is doing at your church.
In addition, when you do a series like this, make sure that your people are ready to create a welcoming environment for the new people that will be coming when they get there.
Christmas is a great time to invite people to attend your church the rest of the year. Give them a compelling reason to come!
Image attribution: Starcevic / Thinkstock