Category Archives: Outreach

3 Visionary Ways to Engage the Heart of the Prodigal Family

ProdigalFamFall is the time of year when the days grow shorter and the fireflies glow softer. The season when the amber aura of Friday night stadium lights illuminate the welcome relief of cooling dusk hours.

As sunburns fade and school assignments increase, many families make their annual migration back to church from weekends at the lake or ball field.

In these Fall Sundays, church leaders have an unnervingly short window to reintegrate these passive parents into active biblical community and reinvigorate in them blessing of body-life. Instead of finger wagging at their summer delinquency, the grace-full leader will leverage this opportunity to welcome families back home.

You do not have to affirm seasonal church attendance to reconnect with a seasonal church attender. If you hope to engage prodigal families this fall, keep these thoughts in mind:

Do not ask for more time… cast vision of great impact.

Paint a picture of the value to personal and family growth by connecting in a group or in a volunteer role. Remember, these families have demonstrated a willingness to prioritize their finances and calendar to the things they perceive will matter. Instead of giving them another event to put on their already-too-busy calendar, build deep wells of engagement by speaking of the impact missional involvement has on their family.

Do not ask for more money… give opportunity for investment.

Use vision language to speak to the real and immediate consequences of a mission activity, season of ministry impact, or facility need. The average family in our culture spends the fall paying down their “perfect summer” of credit card expenses, just in time to run them up again in the name of perfect Christmas memories. Remember, parents will invest resources where they sense a real and personal return. Today is the best time to help them see beyond the rusting, moth-ridden pleasures of now to the eternally stored treasures of heaven.

Do not ask for more guilt… share an abundance of grace.

It may be convicting to realize that our generic “life together” descriptors and ineffective development strategies are the reason families disconnect so easily. Many parents in your congregation see very little difference in spending time with travel ball parents criticizing coaching or referees, than they do circled around God’s Word with youth group parents. Many of these fathers and mothers have not been discipled or taught to see the value of Biblical community over sporting competition. Encourage parents to engage each week with meaningful bible studies or teaching points, supported by intentional next-step discussions beyond the Sunday morning pulpit.

When it comes to engaging families this fall, remember:

Giving Value > Getting Time

Helping Invest > Raising Money

Abundant Grace  > Heaping Guilt

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Filed under church growth, Church Life, Family, Outreach, pastoral leadership

23 Tips for an Engaging Church Website Welcome Video

EngagingWelcomesThis thought should consume every church communications point person:

 

Your Website is Your Church’s Digital Front Door.

A First Time Guest can feel welcomed, or unwelcome, before they ever set foot on your church campus to meet one of your oh-so-chipper welcome team volunteers. Every church with a website now possesses the opportunity create a great first impression with a simple, warm online welcome video.

I recently heard a popular film-maker unpack the growing “YouTube-ification” of digital content in a recent leadership podcast. This famous documentarian described the increasingly wide acceptance (and sharing and “Liking”) of video content made from iPhones and digital cameras. The cultural expectation-shift he outlined renders the absolute requirement for thousands of dollars worth of production equipment nearly obsolete for most web-delivered videos. The latest iPhone, model 6s, shoots video at a stunningly high “4K” resolution – which most home televisions cannot even fully reproduce.

With this growing cultural acceptance of less-produced content, the capacity on most smartphones to capture high resolution video, and the availability of online video editors (YouTube has an integrated “Creators Dashboard”), no viable reason exists to justify not having some kind of personable welcome video on your church website.

Here are 23 tips for creating an engaging church website welcome video. While no church website welcome video nails all 23, I have also included a few video links to good examples of some of these ideas in action.

  1. Avoid The Shakes – it is probably a good idea to find a less-caffeinated person than the Youth Minister or just employ a tripod.
  2. Use Good Lighting – shoot a test video and watch out for dark shadows or sun squints.
  3. Briefer Is Better – stay within the 2-3 minute timeframe if you want to keep the viewers attention and induce an action. Remember: your viewer’s time is a gift, not a given.

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    Newbreak Church in San Diego features short introductions from each of their Campus Pastors.

  4. Introduce Yourself Quickly – save your whole story for a membership class or special occasion, but clearly let them know who you are.
  5. Find Interesting Surroundings – unless there is a secret door behind them, do not shoot in front of your office bookcases. Shoot somewhere with visual interest, but not too distracting.
  6. Have A Point – ask yourself, what is the single most important thing you want a viewer to know or do? Make the video about that one thing.

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    Pastor Vern Streeter introduces viewers to Harvest Church in Billings, Montana.

  7. Fun Is Allowed – injecting some personality and levity may help ease a first time guest’s irrational and unfounded fears about attending a church.
  8. Don’t Be Funny – unless you actually are. One way to know for sure is to confirm that someone else other than your mom thinks so. Trying too hard to be funny makes a serious connection too hard for someone new.
  9. You Do You – self-confidence is attractive, so be yourself as much as possible. Use other staff and lay leaders to provide a personality balance if needed.
  10. Remember Who’s Watching – after your initial “reveal” the ongoing audience for your church website video will be 90% first time guests and friends of your parents. So, speak to the guest, not your church membership.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.47.03 PM

    The first four (funny) words from Pastor Steve Madsen of Cornerstone Fellowship in Livermore, California immediately connect with the viewer.

  11. Start from Zero – even if you are the biggest church in town, assume that your viewer knows nothing. Communicate the most critical information – especially if your building is confusing or the parking lot is crowded.

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    Brentwood Baptist Church outside of Nashville, Tennessee navigates potential guests with engaging graphics.

  12. Share the Moment – leverage the personality, giftedness and diversity of other staff and volunteers. Give the viewer more than one person to hear from.

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    Good Shepherd United Methodist in Charlotte, North Carolina shares their vision and story through church members.

  13. Use Strategic B-Roll – include background footage of worship and kids spaces to sustain interest under dialogue. Do not just talk about an engaging children’s ministry, show it off!

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    Kensington Church, outside of Detroit, Michigan leverages compelling background imagery to introduce the viewer to ministry environments.

  14. Tell A Story – relate the experience of an attender who’s life is different because of God through your church. Testimony is the currency of transformation.

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    The Brook Church in Madison, Alabama uses church members with transformational experiences to share their story.

  15. Don’t Wing It – decades in the pulpit are still light years away from talking into a camera. Script what you have to say to avoid rambling and, umm, a bunch of, umm, filler words.
  16. Remember to Smile – your belief in the church and sincerity of message are unconsciously related to facial expression. A genuine smile will say more than your words ever will.
  17. Employ A Pro – even though the bar of cultural expectation is much lower than it was even 2 years ago, there is no substitute for an experienced visual storyteller. Professional videographers and editors will exponentially increase your communication effectiveness and will be worth every penny. That said, not having the pennies for a pro is no longer a viable excuse for not having a website welcome video.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.51.31 PM

    Renewal Church in Chicago engages hearts through stunning imagery and visual storytelling.

  18. Set Experience Expectations – describe and show what a Guest’s worship experience could be, but don’t over sell it. The bait and switch technique only works for used car dealers.

    Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 6.57.06 PM

    The visual experience of a typical Sunday translates through video from Asbury United Methodist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina.

  19. Use Weekend Words – cute names of buildings, services and classes are fine for insider communication, but your video should speak to outsiders. Speak with words that a functioning, non-seminarian might use on a Saturday with their children.
  20. Conversationally Share Vision – you can state your values without reciting a list of values… just tell them why you do what you do as a church, and how it might make a difference in their life. If you have one, build communication around your Tag Line, not your mission statement (here’s why).

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    Dr. Richard Kannwischer relates the vision of St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church of Newport Beach, California.

  21. Give Audio Attention – be sensitive to background noise and make sure the audio is clear and crisp. Most people will check-out before they lean-in and strain to understand what you are saying. Good background music also sets an emotional undertone.
  22. Highlight Important Points – when you say something profound or a web address and twitter handle is stated, use a text “card” like the old silent movies used to. Words create worlds, say them and show them.
  23. Post To Facebook – which may be the easiest invitation tool you place in your peoples’ hands. Encourage sharing and liking but note if that is not happening. You may need to rethink your video approach.

 

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23 Ways Your Church Website May Be Driving Away First Time Guests

23WaysWebsite

Imagine if it was your first day on staff and you just discovered that your church’s front door was:

– hidden from view and hard to find

– still decorated from last Christmas

– covered in dirt and cobwebs

– cluttered with ministry flyers and notices.

Without hesitation, you would clean and repaint it immediately. You would then find a way to use people and signage, while leveraging every resource possible, to make the entrance beautiful, easy and obvious to find.

Your church website is more important than your front door. 

In fact, nine out of ten first time Guests visit online before visiting onsite, so your church website IS your front door. In 2015, the number of networked devices (phones, tablets, laptops) more than doubled the global population. Today, your church website is your digital front door for nearly everyone who will consider visiting your church, and then reconsider based upon what they find, or don’t find.

Here are 23 ways your website may be driving away first time Guests: 

  1. If it projects an “us vs.them” dynamic, using a term like Visitor instead of Guest.
  2. If it has your Christmas graphic on rotation… in February.
  3. When 80% of your web content is actually geared for members, making it little more than a very expensive calendar for a select group of people.
  4. If there are too many written words and the menu navigation becomes complex and confusing.
  5. When there are too many ministries and activities… because we all know today’s average family sits around looking to be busier.
  6. If your stock photography of diverse people projects an image far from your congregational reality.
  7. When you do not have a picture of the church building or of the front door.
  8. If your photos and videos are poor quality and improperly sized.
  9. If you have not given the Guest a clear next step to take in visiting.
  10. When you are missing a clear and obvious welcome of Guests with a link to critical information on visiting.
  11. If your service times are anything less than large and obvious, because that is really the main thing a Guest is looking for.
  12. When you have different service styles but they are unexplained… remember, one Guest’s idea of traditional worship might be another’s idea of contemporary.
  13. When your worship services or small groups have cute and creative names that are ultimately meaningless outside of those circles.
  14. When the pastor’s welcome letter is more about a Reformational Theology than a Great Commission Cardiology.
  15. When the pastor’s welcome video is too long and too creepy, and therefore not too inviting.
  16. If your photos are of lobbies and hallways instead of worship gatherings and people groups.
  17. When you are assuming that free coffee (which doesn’t taste all that great) is still attractional to lost people.
  18. If you have forgotten that social media is a great connector, because you still have a church directory and yellow page ads… it’s called Facebook.
  19. When you have made an obvious choice toward a low-cost and generic “church website” over a useful and attractive “digital front door.”
  20. If your content requires updating from multiple people, which never actually happens.
  21. When you post links for giving money when you have not linked giving to a vision beyond money.
  22. If the primary URL is a tagline or slogan instead of your church name.
  23. If there is no responsiveness to mobile device viewing, because smart phones are the new desktop computer.

At Auxano, we love serving as strategic outsiders to help churches realize breakthrough effectiveness on their website, through the lens of vision clarity. No service style or theological treatise will impact a true First Time Guest more than a clear sense of “who we are” and “what we are called to do” will.

Start a conversation with an Auxano Navigator today to learn more about our Vision and Communication services.

 

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Filed under church growth, Church Life, church marketing, Church Planting, Guest Perspective, Multi Site Church, MultiSite Church, Outreach, pastoral leadership

One Simple Reason Why Nike’s Mission is So Effective

Screen Shot 2015-07-17 at 6.49.03 AMNike just released yet another great video reminding everyone of why they are one of the top apparel companies globally. In it, Nike gives a clear example of why their mission is so effective, better than most churches’ missions.

Full disclosure, Nike has long been one of my favorite and most often used examples of the difference between a mission statement and a tagline. This blog on the subject a few years ago continues to be highly searched and read.

Nike’s tagline is one of the most well-known in the world: Just Do It. 

Nike’s mission [Bring Inspiration and Innovation to Every Athlete* In The World] is one of the most unknown in the world… with two huge exceptions.

Exception #1. Nike’s mission is well-lived by the team of executives, developers, designers, marketers and salesforce within the company.

Exception #2. Nike’s mission is well-seen by every person who wears a pair of their shoes.

Many pastors tend to be skeptical of investing time and resources into working on statements of identity like mission or values or taglines, especially when things around church “feel” like they are going well enough.

They wonder if the effort and discussions are worth it, and struggle to see the tangible practicality of clearly articulated vision. They question how important it really is to capture our Great Commission mandate in a contextual, concise and catalytic way for the church.

When any organization lives their mission, the results are seen – and life change becomes possible. The marketing piece below from Nike sums up why, for them, people living out their mission is more important than people knowing their tagline. And shows how good they actually are at living it, better than most churches.

Watch the video linked below and ask yourself, or start a conversation with your team:

How much more important, and eternal, is the mandate of the church than a shoe company?

How well defined and well lived, and resultantly effective, is the mission of our church?

Does your mission create movement and reflect the heart of God for the church or is it just words on a website or worship service bulletin? 

Check out this video from Nike and see why it matters.

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46 Ways to Use Periscope in Ministry

As the social media app Periscope continues to grow in popularity, an ever-increasing number of church leaders are leaning in to this emerging tool as an opportunity to connect and transfer vision.

Periscope videos are public broadcasts viewable by anyone, with notifications that are sent to your followers and to your Twitter feed when you “go live.” However, there is also a private broadcasting feature which allows the user to limit potential viewers to a select group of followers.

Given this functionality, the ability to interact with viewers, and the 24-hour lifespan of each video saved, here are 46 examples of how leaders might use Periscope in Church Ministry…

For the Vision-Dripping Senior Pastor: 

1.Deliver daily devotions during a season of campaigning

2.Share vision-soaked highlights of the day on Sunday evenings

3.Reveal a Thursday afternoon sermon preview with handles on how to invite to Sunday services

4.Broadcast business meetings during those hard-to-quorum summer months

5.Lead sermon-based small group leaders by reviewing main points and potential applications

6.Share weekly prayer moments – taking requests and praying

7.Poll member’s feelings about a topic while preparing a sermon

8.Host regular “Bible answer man” / tough questions sessions

9.Give live tours and updates during a building or renovation project

10.Moderate monthly roundtables with area pastors to discern community needs and promote unity

 

For the Mission-Multiplying MultiSite Campus Pastor:

11. Connect the core team to vision during pre-launch phase

12. Bring updates to the entire church before, during or after campus services

13.Host community round tables anchoring campus to geographic location

14.Moderate real-time chat with the teaching pastor, connecting them personally to the context

15.Broadcast set-up/tear-down as it happens, capturing the heart for vision behind the hard work of the volunteers

16.View the central campus live feed with onscreen notes for campus leaders as they happen

17.Engage live Q&A with teaching pastor, fed from stage at each campus

 

For the Deep-Connecting Christian Education Director:

18.Conduct weekly training for leaders highlighting vision-fueled application questions

19.Create regular input sessions with group leaders receiving feedback and sharing stories of discipleship

20.Highlight a small group each week and live stream from their meeting

21.Reinforce the vision of connection and community by sharing stories from groups

22.Invite invested leaders into real-time thinking and get input before decisions are made

 

For the Snapchatting-Before-It-Was-Cool Youth Leader:

23.Share nightly updates on what God is doing among the youth at camp or on a mission trip

24.Preview youth group worship topics for students with an inviting hook for students to use at school

25.Prep youth volunteers on their role in upcoming big events

26.Create fun, interactive video segments during youth group

27.Push real-time helps for parents in response to a community crisis or cultural event

28.Blow up a student’s big game, performance or life event, letting everyone celebrate with them

29.Host a live “ask me anything” night for the teenagers, if you dare

 

For the People-Empowering Children’s Minister:

30.Build VBS anticipation with a walkthrough of environments themeing

31.Deliver weekly volunteer preparation for the lesson or craft that will be used that week

32.Broadcast VBS rec/craft/worship with real-time look-ins

33.Host monthly parent forums with Q&A on a particular topic

34.Give a Sunday night recap of the morning with questions for parent/child interaction around the lesson

35.Settle once and for all how much more fun volunteering with kids really is

 

For the Always-Analyzing Executive Pastor:

36.Produce training updates on one of your boring policies or procedures

37.Live stream mandatory annual health insurance meetings- staff can fake interest by sending hearts

38.Realize, that – who are we kidding – you bristle at the thought of another social media channel to have to police

 

For the Cause-Mobilizing Missions Pastor:

39.Transmit updates from teams as they reflect on the work of God that day

40.Host “Missions Weekend” interviews with missionaries in the field

41.Give progress reports on construction projects or evangelistic initiatives

42.Live stream back home from worship environments around the world

43.Produce time-zone transcending monthly updates to partners in the field, with feedback and prayer request avenues built-in

44.Keep track of the “church has left the building” projects as they are happening

45.Connect groups meeting in prisons or missions centers to the larger church body

 

For the Hard-Working Church Custodian:

46.Show everyone how wrecked the church is after a youth meeting

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3 Ways to Reconnect with Distracted Families in Your Church

I saw them last Sunday morning. 

“Those” families that we like to grumble about, and get defensive over on Monday mornings… they were in my hotel dining area for breakfast last Sunday.

While we were standing on the stage, disappointed that parents will brave the cold temperatures and icy roads for a ball tournament but not church; they were sitting in the lobby engaging with other parents preparing physically for the day, but not spiritually.

While we were tempted to include them in the attendance counts (because they would have been there), they were not even thinking about what they missed at church (because they really didn’t miss much last time).

A lot has been shared and said about the trend of membership becoming less meaningful and core families attending less often, but what will we, as church leaders, actually do to move past complaining and commiserating in the church office? How heartbroken are we over their spiritual trajectory, and not just our attendance trending?

Here are three intentional steps to reconnect with the distracted families of your church:

Engage Them beyond Programming. 

You are not likely to offer a sports league or family event that will rise in importance above their travel ball schedule, but you can engage their heart and mind in a way sports or busyness does not. What if these families need every bit, if not more, care and attention from you that your “good” families do? How might you be unknowingly withholding pastoral affection from leaders who feel truly committed to the church, even while they are lowering your weekly attendance averages? What step can you take to engage the distracted family this week?

Equip Them as Influencers. 

What resources are you giving these parents to maintain a connection to Christ and the church – even in a hotel lobby? Imagine these core travel-team parents as if they were leading a missional small group every weekend. What resources do you already have, and what resources are yet to be developed, to equip them to live and lead your church’s mission over delicious Hampton Inn waffles? You have a better chance to reach new families when your existing families are confidently equipped around a compelling great commission call.

Encourage Them in Christ. 

Distracted parents truly feel trapped in a no-win situation, between their children’s spiritual and physical development. When they choose church over a game, that usually means their child will occupy a spot on the bench for the next game as well. While leaders see the potential for healthy conversations as parents model right priorities, let’s be honest and admit that most will not. In the guilted-to-attend family, the kid just feels left out with the team and resentment for the church. How might you, as their pastor, step down from the pulpit and into their world to draw them back? How would Jesus spend more effort in expanding their potential than explaining their offense?

This Sunday, when “those” families are in yet another hotel lobby, let us work hard to help them feel engaged in something bigger than sport, equipped to share their faith with other parents, and encouraged as a part of the body of Christ away from home for the weekend.

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How to Fail at Direct Mail: Seven Habits of Highly Ineffective Postcards

directmailfail2Last week, I opened our mailbox to find one of the worst church direct mail postcards that I have ever sent or received. First, you need to know that I have been a part of sending some real doozies, like an “F-Word” (forgiveness) pun on an Easter invite one year… not my idea, but I was definitely a willing participant. On some level, at least there was a point – horrible and offensive as it was.

My recent mailbox find is a direct mail piece following all of the current church-mailer trends, in that it is oversized, has a picture of the pastor and includes a group of smiling multicultural people. However, the messaging is a wreck, confusing and downright crazy-talk. This mailer was either designed by 4 different people who never bothered to coordinate their contribution, or one person with 4 different design personalities that stopped taking their meds. What’s worse is that it is from a large and influential church in the area, who would I assume possesses the means to do so much better.

When it comes to direct mail, statistics show the average piece will get three seconds of attention.

Three.

If you are considering a direct mail piece this Fall or Christmas, here are seven ways you too can send an ineffective direct mail postcard:

1. Don’t Have a Point – Ramble and demonstrate how out of touch with the reality of everyday life outside of your church walls you really are. Use meaningless quotes and vaguely imply that something is happening that they should be aware of. Lots of people are not busy and looking to spend time trying to figure out your church, so they will naturally be drawn to the possibility of a confusing and rambling worship experience.

2. Use the Shotgun Approach – Communicate as much as you can to as wide an audience as you can. If you are launching a series on the Family, make sure you speak to and include content for everyone. Relegate your children’s ministry presence to a tiny corner and use the words “great” and “fun” a bunch. Singles and couples without kids have no need to know how to be a better parent, and for sure an older, empty nest generation doesn’t want to have influence and share their wisdom, so try your best to have something for everyone and to not alienate anyone.

3. Employ the “Bait and Switch” – Make sure your stock photography is purely aspirational. You will want anyone visiting to feel immediately uncomfortable and be easily recognizable. When they walk in the door, it is best if they become racial diversity that you pictured, or the casually dressed worshipper that they saw on your mailer. Because if you truly want your culture to change, it is always easier to blame it on the new people showing up than to lead and cast vision in the congregation. Also, when guests are easier to spot, that awkwardly over-friendly greeter won’t bother your regulars.

4. Use Insider Language – People outside the church loved to be validated in their “we don’t belong here” thinking. Use as many obscure or made-up words as you can to either illustrate how much smarter your church is or how quirky and cool your church is. The best is to combine two words that might mean something like “God calendar” or “faith-energy.”  Typically, we are drawn to the unfamiliar and weird as humans, especially if we have a significant social or spiritual need.

5. Try Too Hard – Everybody loves to see a worn-out cultural phenomenon imitated by the church, especially if it is a few years behind the original. That means your Duck Dynasty teaching series this Fall is right on time! Anything #hashtag, selfie or instagram driven might just now be cresting in Christian culture, and presumably aging like fine wine in your community. No matter what, it is always best to act as cool, awesome and relevant as possible. So if you’re stuck, plan to go to the next hip Christian conference this year to see what you are missing.

6. Talk at the Community – Much like insider language, people really want to feel alienated and even bullied into a saving knowledge of Jesus. It is always best to assume that they don’t know anything, and you know everything. It is a good practice to check the Tea Party or Blaze posts on your Facebook feed to see how a good, pointedly pushy headline should read. Everyone will be SUPER excited to hear what the topic of your next message series is going to be, once they figure out what “message series” might actually mean.

7. Don’t Include a Map – If they want it bad enough, they can find you. Plus everyone in the community must know who you are, especially if you are consistent with “dusty Bibles lead to dirty hearts” pun-ny evangelistic techniques on the church sign.

All snarkiness aside, well crafted and thoughtful mailers can be an effective tool in reaching people and can receive more than the typical 3 seconds of attention. Here are three, more helpful, practices for an effective community mailer:

1. Invest beyond Printing and Postage. Time spent in defining the audience and design excellence is as valuable to the staying power of your direct mail piece as the printing and postage is to the arriving power. Don’t pander for lowest common denominator buzz, like “F-word” shock attention, but create a central message that has meaning to the actual person you are trying to reach. Then support that message with great design and a coherent brand connected to your actual personality and presence as a church.

2. Keep it Clean and Clear. In the design-investment phase of your next direct mail piece, answer 4 questions of clarity: who, what, when and why.
     Who are we targeting with this mailer and what matters most to that group? 
     What are we asking or inviting them to do, and does it make sense in the real world? 
     When do we want them to do it, and have we moved beyond just broadcasting general awareness and hopeful information with a time sensitive approach?
     Why should it matter to them, or why should they care about what we are saying or offering? 
If your next idea for a mailer cannot easily reflect this level of simplicity, and OBVIOUSLY answer these questions, go back to the drawing board or use your advertising dollars in a more effective way.

3. Define the Next Step. Nine out of ten first time guests will visit your church’s website before they set foot on your church’s property. Even more important than a map or list of service times, then, is a clear and compelling invitation to experience your online presence. Adding value to this invitation through current, community-directed content, a fresh welcome video or advertised event registration increases the likelihood that a recipient would do more than give your mailer a glance on the way to the wastebasket. Also, remember to check the age of your web content before the direct mail piece is sent. Nothing is worse the rotating Christmas Eve banners being seen in mid-January.

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Filed under Church Life, church marketing, Guest Perspective, Outreach, pastoral leadership