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How Our Facebook Page Grew to 250K Likes

Min-Outside-Box FacebookI get asked a lot about the Online Church Facebook page and how it grew to more than 250,000 page likes in less than two years. People often expect one secret sauce solution. That simply does not exist. This page grew through experimentation, systematization and plain old hard work. Over the first two years of the Online Church page’s existence, we have failed at many experiments and succeeded in just a few. However, those few successful efforts have been tremendous for our growth. Here are our three success points:

1. Schedule posts.
We post approximately four to six times each day. Many people suggest this is too frequent, but the reality is that Facebook users rarely go to your actual page. They interact with your posts in their newsfeed, and they likely only see about 10 percent of the posts you make. This means that if we post four to six times each day, the average user will see just one of our posts every other day. Doesn’t seem like too much to me, and our Facebook community has yet to complain. By the way, we schedule out most of our posts through Facebook’s scheduling feature so that we don’t have to manually post with this regularity. We monitor the page closely and always strive to constantly engage with our audience.

2. Post variety. We have a posting formula, which helps create a balance of posts focused on inspiration, conversation and information. Most churches want to get straight to the information and let people know about their events and activities. We’ve found that the more we offer inspirational and conversational posts, the more effective our information becomes. We try to add even more variety by posting these three different styles using multiple formats, such as text, images and videos.

3. Consider paid ads. You don’t have to, but I think paid ads are a great tool to reach more people. For the Online Church Facebook page, we spend about $5 per day on ads, and the exponential growth these have fueled has been well worth the cost.

On our way to finding these success points, we’ve made dozens of mistakes. As we now look ahead to the milestone of 500,000 likes, I’m sure we’ll try dozens more experiments that will fail. At the same time, I believe that through those experiments we will find two or three more things to add to this list. We plan to keep experimenting, keep tweaking our systems and keep working hard as there are more than a billion active users on this network that need to hear about Jesus and engage in community.

Nils Smith is the author of Social Media Guide for Ministry and web pastor at Community Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he helped to launch He blogs regularly and is passionate about serving the local and global church using technology in ministry.

All articles excerpted and adapted with permission from the website


Chuck E. Church Mouse at a Church Near You!

Min-Outside-Box Chuck-EChuck E. Church Mouse at a Church Near You!

Recently I was part of a team that used a store mascot to do some local marketing. We visited a family carnival night at a local elementary school. The evening was a massive success. In fact, I even overheard a few kids talking about when the bear mascot had refereed their hockey game a few months ago.

It reinforced an idea I’ve been thinking about for a while. Why don’t children’s ministries in church use some kind of mascot to connect with kids? I know how much my own kids love going to Chuck E. Cheese and singing and dancing with Chuck E. the mouse. Most kids really enjoy interacting with an over-sized animal. I think churches need to get on board with this and use it as a way to get kids excited about church each week.

Now obviously, I’m not proposing that we eliminate Jesus as the hero, or that we replace Him with some critter costume. But couldn’t we at least use a mascot to get kids excited about Jesus? Why not use something larger than life to teach kids about the one who truly is larger than life? My instinct and experience tells me that our kids would go nuts over this kind of thing. Something about fantasy hooks the attention of kids.

I do have one fear, though: that churches might start creating really cheesy Bible mascots. Let’s meet kids where they’re at and connect a non-Bible character with Bible characters—and teach biblical truths that are eternally significant.

Brenton Balvin is a writer, blogger and speaker passionate about helping churches create great ideas and  first impressions. 

All articles excerpted and adapted with permission from the website


5 Minutes on Twitter

Min-Outside-Box 5-MinutesRecently, I got a question from a church leader asking if I thought he should get his church on Twitter even if he could only post once a week. My advice if you’re considering getting involved in social media: Start small and build up. If you have time for one tweet a week, great! Just make sure to build time in your schedule to make that tweet appointment.

Most people actually have much more time than they realize. If engaging in social media is a priority (which it should be), try to carve out just five minutes a day to build a strategy. You’ll be surprised at what you can do in those few moments.

Build small. Build simple. Be consistent. Scale as you’re able.


Justin Wise is a writer, blogger and executive director of the Center for Church Communication. 

All articles excerpted and adapted with permission from the website


True Stories Go Viral

Min-Out TrueWant to create something viral? Create something real.

My church recently held a creative worship night. It was filled with dancing, music, painting and other artsy things I usually don’t enjoy. But one particular piece got my attention.

As the Gungor song “Beautiful Things” played through the sound system, people emerged from backstage carrying handwritten stories written, typed out, painted, scrawled, etc., on poster boards:

“I was going to get life without parole, but God intervened.” 

“I struggled with feelings of inferiority, but God loves me so much.” 

They were well-crafted stories. I assumed the people carrying these poster boards had found the stories on the Internet and just “copied and pasted.”

But as more people emerged, I saw people I knew who were carrying stories that sounded remarkably familiar. Wait! These are actually their stories! The emotion was real. They were baring their souls. Tears welled up in my eyes.

After the program ended, something bubbled inside me. I had to tell people about this. I struck up conversations with everyone I passed about those amazing stories: Could you believe they were real? 

That night went viral for me.

Hollywood blockbusters can’t compete with that. Their special effects and perfectly crafted stories don’t go viral. Videos shot on webcams that reflect honesty and truth go viral.

We live in an increasingly phony world filled with Photoshopped images and special effects. People are cleverer at faking things. And we spend a lot of emotional energy trying to separate the fake from the real. Look at the comment stream below a viral video or incredible photo: “Photoshopped!” “This is so fake.” “Actors.”

People are trying to find truth.

So while we’re spending more money in churches, mimicking Hollywood blockbusters, let’s never forget that the greatest thing we can do is tell a true story. True stories go viral. Openness and honesty go viral. We have a viral message—the gospel. Let’s present it as honestly as possible.

Jonathan Malm writes and speaks about the creative process, especially for churches. He blogs about creativity at and

All articles excerpted and adapted with permission from the website  


8 Steps to Reaching People Indifferent to the Church

d-MinOutBox-8Steps Istockphoto-drbimagesIf 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. 


Does Your Church Advertising Work?

d-MinOutBox-DoesYour Istockphoto-Rafal PlechowskiThree reasons why it probably doesn’t

While driving home from a family vacation, we passed a billboard for a church that read: “The church for people who don’t like church.”

As I continued to drive, I started thinking about it. I’ve seen many variations on this campaign across the country. So why does it always bother me when I see ads like these? 

First, a disclaimer: I’m a marketing guy. I am not really a church marketing guy. But as a believer who happens to do advertising and marketing for a living, I often pay attention to church marketing.

Does your church advertising work?

Perhaps you think there’s room to improve it, or you’re on the verge of giving up on church advertising completely. Before you do anything drastic, consider these three reasons why I think most church advertising (like the campaign I saw on vacation) simply doesn’t work.

1. It doesn’t resonate with as many people as you might think.When churches run ads like this one, I think they assume it appeals to most of the people in their community—after all, the majority of the local community is not in church; therefore, the majority of the community must not like church. But this logic is flawed. It takes energy and effort to experience something and then decide you dislike it. Most people don’t dislike church. It’s worse than that: They couldn’t care less about church. They’re completely indifferent, and this advertising doesn’t speak to them at all.

2. It beats up on an already damaged brand—the church.If you think of the Church (with a capital C) as a brand, we can all agree that the brand is in bad shape. But the answer is not to run an ad campaign that distances your church from other churches. In fact, I believe this approach probably hurts your church more than it helps. Remember, the majority of your community is indifferent. As a result, they don’t care enough to take time to understand the nuances between your church and the church down the street. So any time we speak of the church—with or without a capital C—we should seek to build it up. There isn’t a megachurch on the planet with an advertising budget large enough to completely separate themselves from the larger brand of the Church in the eyes of a public that doesn’t care.

3. It doesn’t speak to many people on an emotional level. All effective advertising speaks to people on an emotional level. As a marketing professional, I know this can sometimes be difficult to do—especially when my client is selling something boring, like a technical thingamajig to a purchasing manager.

When I think about the church—the Great Commission, the power of the gospel, the stories of changed lives—that is a story just teeming with energy. It has the power to connect with people at an emotional level. So why on earth do we throw away advertising dollars with ads that compare our church to most other churches, when most people don’t care about church?

When pastors and church leaders see billboard concepts like my example above, it speaks to them at an emotional level. You love your church. You are passionate about what you want to accomplish in your community and are understandably excited to share how different you are. But remember, the majority of the people who drive past your billboard aren’t looking for a better church. They don’t think they need church.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re selling something most people don’t think they need (like church), then focus your marketing on why they need it!

Adapted with permission from


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