As you shift to offer worship online and in-person, how do you spread the word? With multiple ways to reach your church, your new job is making sure your congregation knows how, when, and where they can go. Balancing your outreach for live, in-person, and recorded messages requires planning.
As church leaders, understanding of your parish demographics will guide your efforts. Think about how age, location, and education play a role in how your parishioners will connect to your outreach efforts. The good news is there is a way to make sure every member of your congregation (and their neighbours) knows how to attend church on Sunday. And this includes from the comfort of their own homes. By tapping into marketing techniques that run from analog-to-digital, you can spread the word even on a small budget.
A quick note about the word “marketing.” While many churches shy away from the term because of its negative connotation, it is also a powerful tool. Consider that marketing is just another word for effective communication and outreach.
Create Plans for Your Ministry in Advance
Before you even start promoting your services, take a step back, and think about how to set yourself up for success. Putting an effort into this planning stage prepares you to lead your outreach efforts with sharable content. When you plan for things like titles and topics you can generate exciting new ideas.
With this kind of thoughtfulness built in to your sermons, you can even help build opportunities for a deeper connection. For instance, you can share extra reading for your congregation to help them come prepared for worship.
Use Topics and Themes
Once you have your themes and topics, you can use this to develop unique titles for your sermons. Titles are excellent for recorded messages, because it makes them easier to search. Weekly themes can help you plan your outreach efforts, like social media posts, newsletter content, and even what you discuss in small groups. This can build continuity and help you deliver on expectations for your parishioners. It can guide at home devotionals and help your congregation feel more empowered to speak up in your live stream chat or social media channels.
Use Your Website as an Active Tool
Your website is your church billboard. Use your homepage to effectively communicate how easy it is for members of your congregation—and new attendees alike to join you each Sunday.
With the relevant information upfront, you have the freedom to make it easy for people to join you. Users don’t like to hunt for information and can easily get discouraged by complicated web navigation.
One way to to do this is to create a space for your upcoming events and make sure it prominently features in this space near the top of your page. Faith Online has developed a booking tool that helps you to set up a unique calendar of events and also register your weekly in-person and online attendance. This is especially important for the NHS Track and Trace protocols.
Another tip for website engagement: rather than just text, use photos of your church leaders when possible to help humanise the experience.
Spread the Word with Social Media
The first and easiest way to get the word out is social media, especially if you already have an active account with members of your congregation among your followers. Social platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, make it easy to create events, develop communication with followers and send out notifications. You can also increase your engagement and encourage attendance by doing a call for prayer requests a few days before your service, giving people a personal reason to attend.
Using social media as an outreach tool is free (unless you want to pay for ads, which is a topic for another discussion). Facebook and YouTube have the best video sharing platforms. You can use any social channel to promote your events. Just make sure you are using the platforms that connect with your congregation. Don’t go for a presence on every platform. This exhausting and when it feels like work, it becomes ineffective.
Also, encourage your church leaders and clergy members to share your service information with their sphere of influence to help grow your reach in the community.
Use Traditional Advertising in Your Strategy
Not every member of your church will be active on social media, so traditional methods of communicating remain an important part of your outreach efforts. This is especially true among older and rural demographics. One technique is to use ad space in local newspapers and magazines that promote your church services by showing how easy it is to join. A small ad can go a long way, and keep contact information front and centre.
Flyers and posters are another way to use the physical world to reach a wider audience. Simple, eye-catching flyers can be affixed to local message boards and community spaces that are open to the public.
Keep Your Parish Updated with Newsletter
The advantage of a newsletter is you can use much of the same content for your email, website, and print. A newsletter can alert your congregation about upcoming events and deeper opportunities to engage. Build community by highlighting birthdays, important occasions, sharing a personal story, saying thanks, and listing upcoming services. This is a space for your planning efforts to shine! Keeping the content short can make for easy print distribution as well as using a simple email tool.
Free or Affordable Tools You Can Use
Marketing your services doesn’t have to be an expensive endeavour. In fact, many tools are free or affordable.
No Budget Marketing Tools
- Social media platforms remain free for business and nonprofit accounts
- Host your website on free platforms like WordPress or Wix
- Use free email marketing tools like Mailchimp which supports up to 2,000 contacts and 10,000 sends per month for HTML rich, customisable newsletters
- Create eye-catching designs for newsletters and social media with Canva
Low-Budget Marketing Tools
- Print and mail a physical newsletter
- Place local ads in print publications
- Purchase a business account for your website to customise your URL and make it easier for search engines to find your church