In an article by James Emery White, whose church grows primarily through reaching unchurched people, he points out that in time, “methods and strategies must change. Here are three big changes, among many that have taken place in outreach in the past 20 years, that many churches still don’t get.
Big-day outreach still works, but the big days have changed.
A big-day approach to outreach is simple: Seize the naturally big days in terms of cultural attendance, do all you can to reach out and invite people to attend, and do all you can to hook them so they will keep attending afterward. Traditionally, the two big days were Easter and Mother’s Day…
A big-day approach is still effective. The problem is that many churches haven’t updated their cultural calendar. How so? The biggest days don’t tend to be Easter or Mother’s Day anymore.
In regard to Easter, there just isn’t the cultural impetus to attend that once existed. Further, Easter is now tied to spring break on almost every public school and college calendar, making it one of the biggest vacation weekends of the year. There are actually healthy churches starting to dip in attendance on Easter!
As for Mother’s Day, again, moms these days are as unchurched as any other demographic. Furthermore, families are so spread out geographically that this just isn’t the big day it used to be.
What days are? Services surrounding Christmas Eve, the fall time-change weekend, and then the first weekend following the start of school (either in August or September)…
Don’t waste money on direct mail.
If you wanted to start a church, grow a church, or market a church in the 1980s and 1990s, direct mail was your way. It was relatively cheap—and most of all—effective. It was often said that if you sent 20,000 mailers, you could anticipate a 1 to 2.5 percent return. That’s between 200 and 500 people. That was worth the postage.
Not anymore, and that’s true on both fronts: It’s not cheap, and it’s not as effective. The best mailers are targeted to previous attenders, new households, specific areas surrounding your church, and all to a personalized name. Translation: expensive. The results of mass, shotgun types of mailings that fall out of such categories is almost non-existent.
So what does work? Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat…the list goes on and on. If you are going to use mass marketing, be savvy and use online formats such as Pandora radio or other such platforms.
The assumptions behind all things seeker are outdated.
For the past few decades, the key word in most conversations about evangelism and church growth has been seeker, as in seeker churches, being seeker-targeted in strategy, talking about reaching seekers, or what a seeker might think about our service. Let’s not forget the widespread embrace of being seeker-driven and seeker-sensitive.
All things seeker came on to the scene during the late 1970s and was vibrant until the mid-’90s. It is now irrelevant at best and terribly misleading at worst. The term seeker was used to refer in a general way to the unchurched who were turned off to church but open to spirituality and religion…These were people who were truly seeking—open to exploring the Christian faith for their lives and often in active search-mode for a religious faith (and church home) in order to plant themselves. They had rejected the religion of their upbringing (often Catholicism), not religion itself.
Yet the current challenge to Christianity does not come from other religions but from a rejection of all forms of organized religion. These people are not thinking about religion and rejecting it; rather, they’re not thinking about it at all. So much for seeking.
According to a Baylor University Religion Survey, 44 percent of respondents said they spend no time seeking eternal wisdom, and 46 percent told LifeWay Research they never wonder whether they will go to heaven. So, when it comes to matters related to God, religion—or atheism—millions simply shrug their shoulders and ask, “So what?”
Many are now using the term explorers to define their target. Yes, this is better than seeker, but the point is that people are starting in a different place than they were even 15 years ago.
The value is to be oriented toward the unchurched. So, yes, explorer-sensitive—but the method for doing that is in constant flux. The point is that assuming they are seeking, and creating services for active search-mode, is not the most culturally targeted approach to outreach. Services should be more sensitive to those who are illiterate and skeptical, possibly exploring and open, than those in active search-mode. (Read the full article.)