The average church population has been in gradual decline since the late twentieth century. Therefore, the ability to draw in new membership and retain old membership is a rising concern amongst churches nationwide. This concern has led to increased research and analysis of the situation, and new methods of gaining membership are emerging day by day.
When considering which methods will be most effective for each individual church, that church must consider which specific segments it wants to target, meaning that there is no such thing as catch-all marketing strategies for churches. Instead, it is important that each entity develop a church marketing plan that appeals to different levels and ages of the population at which that church is aiming. Learning how to market a church is the first big step in transitioning into a successful religious organization.
Church Marketing Strategies
Where a church is located will impact how many people it draws to its congregation. New urban and suburban growth contributes greatly to the growth of church attendance as families or individuals moving into a new area often take it upon themselves to seek out a religious home to go along with their new home. Churches that establish new branches (or even those that are brand new) in these areas of new growth have a leg up on the “competition” that exists within a location.
Social media has become the wave of the future, and it is definitely not going to slow down any time soon. Thus it is in the best interest of religious organizations to start making themselves known on these platforms if they have not already.
Facebook is still a viable platform from which a church can establish an online community and keep its members updated on upcoming events or specialized sermons. Furthermore, with Facebook’s ability to market to a wider audience (as well as members who can spread the virtual word), this is one of the easiest ways to get heard and draw people in. From here, Twitter, Instagram, and other platforms are just a short step away to continue this virtual form of marketing.
3. Traditional Advertising
Despite the modern push towards the virtual world, traditional advertising and church marketing strategies can still prove beneficial. In a study done on the effectiveness of church marketing, researchers found that personal referrals and direct mail, such as a flyer advertisement, were more effective at drawing in new members as well as retaining old members than face-to-face home visits and telemarketing attempts. Most people respond better to these more “subtle” forms of communication in large part because they offer a greater deal of choice.
Consider this: with a flier or a recommendation given by a friend, the individual in question will have more time to consider attending without any undue pressure. Door-to-door and telemarketing are already negatively viewed in modern society by the majority of individuals, and that negativity transfers over into the religious realm as well. Understanding how to market a church positively is crucial in drawing in and retaining members.
Although a church is not a retail market, the benefits of branding in a church marketing plan cannot be understated. “Branding” is an easy way to establish a highly recognizable symbol that will help members and the public directly associate with the church in question. Branding is a claim to a highly recognizable identity and can help members associate good memories or ideas with that brand and thus with the church.
With the advent of Google and other virtual search engines, having a brand that is quickly and easily recognized (or appealing, if a potential new member is searching for a congregation to join) is essential in ensuring that any search a new or established member makes regarding churches will immediately show that church’s unique brand. Just like a business, the ideal church marketing strategies are those that focus on the growth of the church in all areas of that business.
5. Foster Discipleship
As with any religious organization, the key to a strong, healthy church is its ability to not only bring in new members but to help those members grow as religious individuals. The power of disciples cannot be understated: a true believer who has been nurtured with the ability and skill to go out and share a message of faith is one of the best marketing strategies for churches and a powerful recruitment tool that requires only the strength of its own faith to operate diligently.
This form of church marketing focuses more on the quality of one’s followers rather than the quantity. However, the quality will inspire others to seek out what makes those disciples so sturdy and self-assured. Disciples who are grown within the foundation of a church will walk out as moving beacons to draw in others who seek an answer to their own doubts.
6. Set Up a Detailed and Welcoming Website
Going back to the idea of virtual marketing, remember that most people will use online search engines to look for a new place of worship. That being the case, it is essential to make sure that you have an online presence and that that presence is both intriguing and welcoming to potential members.
Here are some key organizational items every website should have:
- What times services are held
- An address (A virtual map with the church’s location would also be a helpful step.)
- A description of the church, its mission, its values, and a general idea of what to expect when attending a sermon
- Contact information (phone, email, social media–list everything you have)
A helpful and intriguing website is crucial for any successful church marketing strategy to implement; it is, after all, the first impression potential members will have with the church, so it has to make a good showing.
7. Invite Feedback
A big mistake that many organizations make is not implementing a way to gauge interest and understand what areas they may need to improve. There are various ways to collect feedback from a congregation, from a simple “suggestion box” in a prime location to digital or print surveys that can be given directly to members.
Imagine after a sermon having a small slip or sheet of paper tucked into the back of every seat and within easy reach of members. Before announcing the end of the service, the pastor can reach out and ask that those who are in attendance kindly fill out the survey so that the church can work on ways to improve its overall tone, outreach, and message.
8. Practice Inclusiveness
With the current social upheavals taking place across the globe in terms of gender, race, sexuality, and cultural differences, it is important to stand as a bastion of inclusivity that can appeal to and accepts all followers of Christ. Communities and societies change with time, and to prevent being swept away, religious organizations must learn to adapt. In the United Methodist Book of Resolutions, Resolution 361 states: “God is the Creator of all people, and all are God’s children in one family…” Thus, in a Methodist congregation, it is unjust that any who desire to be a part of a congregation should be turned away so long as their faith is genuine.
9. Create Interest Outside of Service
A church is more than a Sunday meeting place; it is a leading force of community togetherness. It should be the goal of every church to implement activities that fall outside of the weekly sermon, both to attract new members, retain old members, and offer extended means of worship as a whole. Consider a weekly event that can draw attention from both those within the church as well as the wider public. Appeal to a greater variety of sensibilities (within reason) and maintain interest, and people will want to be a part of the celebration.
10. Managerial Focus
While a church will always be a house of God, it is important to remember that, in this world, a church is also a human organization. To ensure that the church is heading in the right direction and being handled properly, the managerial structure of the church should be carefully considered and kept strong. The onus of responsibility should not fall entirely on the pastor’s shoulders; every pastor or central leader of a church needs a strong organization behind him or her to help foster growth and keep the church running as smoothly as possible.
Email marketing is one of the most powerful methods of outreach for any organization, and even though the church isn’t necessarily a business per se, it still has a vital message that needs to get into the public. That’s why many churches are turning to email marketing to increase church newsletter subscribers not only to save costs but also to extend the reach as wide as possible.
The problem that many churches run into, however, is how to find those subscribers. Many churches have either small or non-existent marketing budgets, and the ministers on staff are trained in other areas besides digital marketing. Besides hiring an independent e-mail marketing service to do it for you, what methods can local congregations employ to increase their reach for their church email marketing?
1. Ask for It
One of the simplest ways to increase newsletter subscribers for your e-mail list is also one of the most overlooked: simply asking for it. Whether that’s through a pop-up on your website or an announcement at the beginning or end of services, simply asking folks to sign-up for your church newsletter can be a very effective tactic.
Because church websites don’t want to appear spammy, some people may struggle with where to actually put the option for people to sign-up. Some of the most effective locations are on a welcome page as you enter the website or in a header near the top of the page. You don’t want to bombard the visitor with requests to sign-up, but you don’t want to make it a secret either.
Some visitors may be under the impression that a church e-mail bulletin only has information that is relevant to actual members; therefore, visitors will benefit very little. Prove this is not the case by telling them (either verbally or on the page itself) what is included in each bulletin: articles, links to free resources, devotionals, etc.
Another method is to let them control the type of information they will receive. Have multiple options on the page for them to sign-up for, like content or timing of email newsletters (daily, monthly, etc.). Allowing the person to customize their own subscription is a powerful and effective tool.
3. Incentivize the Sign-Up for Your Church Email
As much as you would like to believe people will just magically sign-up for your church newsletter, in many cases, they’ll need an incentive. Something as simple as a free e-book or three-part devotional video series may be all the enticement they need to give you their e-mail address. One organization recorded a 25% increase in newsletter sign-ups just by offering an incentive to do so. Depending on the reach of the church, an extra 25% can add up to a lot to increase church newsletter subscribers.
When someone sees value in an e-mail, they are more likely to share it with friends or loved ones that they feel will also see the value. According to a Nielsen study, 84% of people trust the recommendations from people they know as their main form of advertising more than any other medium in existence.
The simplest way to do this is to encourage your users to forward the e-mail or add a social media link at the bottom of the page. The key is to make it easy as possible for others to share it, or else they’ll give up before it gets sent.
The good news is that nearly 85% of churches use Facebook as their primary online communications tool; the bad news is, most are vastly underutilizing their online presence. While most people are aware that you can use social media outlets (primarily Facebook) to share video sermons, inspirational status updates, and events, you should also use them to drive e-mail signups to your mailing list. Use paid advertising to launch a campaign on Facebook for lead generation, or change the button at the top of the page to link directly to your mailing list sign-up form.
6. Eliminate as Many Barriers as Possible
While you’ll want to know as much as possible about your potential guests, the last thing you want to do is overload your guests with too many sign-up forms. While most sign-up form software will let you have as many as you want, the best rule of thumb is to keep it to, at most, three: name, e-mail address, and maybe a telephone number, although the first two are the most important. This will ensure that your potential visitors don’t get sign-up fatigue trying to navigate through your various forms and give up.
7. Nail the Subject Line
One of the best ways to increase newsletter subscribers is to make sure the subject line on your e-mails is catchy, which not only improves open rates but shareability as well. Make sure they stay short, catchy, and to the point, or else all that time you’ve spent building your e-mail list will be for nothing.
While most churches would argue that the ultimate authority is the Bible, you can position yourself as an industry leader by demonstrating valuable knowledge and resources on a particular subject, such as theology, church history, devotionals, and various sub-sections within each of those categories. If your writer is featured on other websites with a backlink to the church website, you’ll notice an uptick in views from that separate source which should help to increase subscribers as well.
9. Get It in Writing
While churches are migrating away from the practice of collecting offerings in a plate that’s passed around, there are still several other ways for you to collect hard copies of people’s e-mails. Place a signup form in the foyer for people to sign, ask them to fill out a visitor information card, hand them a business card with a sign-up offer on the back, or have an usher ask for them in person to every visitor that walks through the doors. Part of e-mail marketing is displaying a personal touch, and nothing says personal like paper.
10. Test, Test, and Test Again
With church email marketing, everything is a numbers game. Church email average open rate is 26.34% and the average CTR falls at just 3.28%. In order to increase subscribers, you’ll have to be constantly running split tests, changing subject lines, reformatting within the newsletter itself all in an effort to increase church newsletter subscribers. Some of it may even be different according to what each group wants or doesn’t want, so make sure your list is segmented appropriately so you’ll be able to reach each group the right way.
How To Effectively Market A Church Event
Your church has worked hard to set up a community event, and now it is time to figure out how best to draw attention to and see your event play out successfully. Whether your event is church-specific or broader in theme, attendance is key to ensure success and to get the face of your church out and visible to the public eye.
Tip 1: Embrace Technology
If your church does not already have a website, it is time to create one. The internet–and your church’s ability to be found via a web search –is essential to staying relevant and active in the community as well as the world at large. When it comes to learning how to market a church event, this development becomes even more important.
With a solid website that is easy to find and navigate, you can set up a calendar of events for your church that virtual visitors can click on to learn more. Make sure you keep the calendar updated, and when an event is approaching, consider a homepage advertisement that will increase virtual (and then hopefully physical) foot traffic.
It is also a good idea to get set up on social media, which is another useful marketing tool. Create a church social media page where you can advertise events and create a virtual community with parishioners. Once you create the event, have your followers share it on their personal social media platforms, which will help spread the news far quicker than traditional word of mouth.
Blog about It
An online blog is another great way to attract attention when it comes to working out how to advertise a church event. Write a few SEO-targeted blog posts that you can publish on your website that can help garner interest for your upcoming event. Leave a comment section for visitors to offer suggestions or ask questions.
Tip 2: Highlight Event Benefits
When it comes to finding the best ways of how to advertise a church event, word order and phrasing can make a huge difference in who decides to attend.
Director of Marketing for Salem Church Products Angela Bainter highlights an exceptionally important point about the phrasing of your advertising material: don’t make it about the event, make it about the attendees!
Rather than a bunch of flyers or ads that state “Community Clean-Up,” try something with a bit more pep and appeal: “Teach Your Kids About Being a Good Samaritan!” In this way, you can directly target a possible side-effect of your event that directly benefits families or individuals. In this way, you appeal to what people want which will draw them in a lot faster than just advertising an event.
Tip 3: Invest in Local Marketing
Newspapers, radio, magazines, yellow pages, TV commercials – there are numerous local industries that can help you learn how to market a church event as well as your church as a whole. While internet searches are the definite powerhouse when it comes to direct marketing, there is still a lot of value to be found in more traditional advertising markets.
If your church has the funds to afford this type of marketing, it can prove itself an excellent benefit that will bring individuals from all walks of life pouring into your next event and, hopefully, your next service.
Tip 4: Plan Events around Holidays
Easter and Christmas are perfect opportunities to draw in attendance to both events and sermons. On average, nearly 47% of church-goers are more likely to attend during a holiday than at any other time. The simple answer to why this comes down to the increased presence that churches have around these types of holidays, which includes church events!
Capture the attention of those parishioners planning on attending Easter Sunday service by sending out flyers and advertising online about an Easter-themed event before the actual day: something that can draw in both adults and children and then hold their interest for as long as possible. This is also a great method to try and keep visitors coming back more regularly and boosting the attendance at your church overall.
Tip 5: Direct Marketing and Brand Building
If it does not already have one, your church should develop an easily recognizable brand that will trigger familiarity and trust amongst those who have attended services or events with your church. As a local religious powerhouse, your church should be readily recognizable to the majority of the people in your community; if it is not, then it is time to reconsider your branding efforts.
With a strong brand, you can consider creating paper pamphlets or invitations that can be sent directly to homes throughout the community. There is still much to be said for the power of this form of direct, physical marketing. Those individuals who appreciate the time and effort it takes to advertise in this way are more likely to be interested in attending your event. This is also a good method to ensure that the older population of the community who may not be on social media or tech-savvy is still kept in the loop about your church’s goings-on.
Flyers that can be posted in local community centers or even on telephone posts are another way to get the word out to a wider range of people.