If the majority of your community couldn’t care less about church (see above), then how can you attract those people in a compelling way? Here are some first steps.
1) Identify people groups in your community based on their passions.What do they want to pour their time into when they get home from work? Get a diverse group of people in your church to brainstorm and answer this question.
2) Who can your church most effectively reach? Let’s be realistic. You can’t reach all of these groups. The way you reach Harley-Davidson fans is typically different from the way you reach gardeners. Your church is uniquely equipped to reach some of these groups very effectively.
Note: Many churches have tried steps one and two, and then built outreach events accordingly. That’s why we often see church softball leagues, motorcycle rallies and Super Bowl parties. These activities are good, but they don’t usually speak to people at a deeply emotional level. That’s why step three is so important.
3) Learn what keeps these people up at night. What are those deeper emotions that drive people to obsess over their motorcycle, climbing a corporate ladder, or never-ending home improvement projects? What chronic problems do they deal with in their lives? These fears and problems will vary a bit from each group you identified in steps one and two. Sometimes, it relates to the passion, but usually the thing they pour their time and passion into is just a facade for what keeps them up at night.
Step three may make you uncomfortable. But advertisers are capturing consumers’ hearts by speaking to them at a deeply emotional level. They tell them that the thing they are selling will make them happy. Advertisers do it in a manipulative way, but you don’t have to. Don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re sharing the Good News.
4) Develop practical biblical teaching. In step three, you identified a chronic problem or fear these groups of people face. What does the Bible say about this topic? If you’ve listed a problem or fear in step three that you don’t think the Bible addresses in a practical way, then you’re probably still listing symptoms instead of root problems.
Pick one of these fears or problems. Prepare a multi-week teaching series and make sure each week offers its own practical action steps.
5) Don’t water it down. It’s tempting to dilute your teaching to make it more seeker-friendly. But if you hit on a problem that speaks to them at an emotional level, they want all the information they can get. People who think Scripture is irrelevant have probably never discovered practical answers to their problem.
Now that the teaching is developed, it’s time to re-engage your advertising campaign (with ads that no longer talk about your church).
6) Design advertising that speaks to these people at an emotional level. Focus on what keeps them up at night and the practical outcomes of your teaching. Make a promise about what practical benefits they’ll get for taking action. Your call to action probably shouldn’t start with visiting your church. We all know that’s a risky proposition for some.
7) Create a marketing funnel. Create “baby steps” people can take before they step foot in your church. Don’t require people to visit your church to start learning about solutions to their specific problem. Instead, earn their trust with some practical teaching on your website. Effective baby steps will get more people in the pews for your teaching series. But it will also get many more people interacting with you through your website.
8) Make your advertising more targeted. Billboards and direct mail are fine, but you should supplement them with more targeted forms of marketing. Did you know that you can use Facebook to advertise to these folks in a targeted way? You can run targeted, local Facebook ads that tie your message to their passions, and you only pay when someone clicks.
Thousands of ads are running at this very moment that suggest random products or activities will fill the void in consumers’ lives. The ads get results because they speak at a deeply emotional level. We can do the same—and offer real solutions!
Jeremy Harrison is the owner of Spire Advertising Inc, a Web design and Internet marketing firm in Ashland, Ohio.