Some of our favorite clients are church plants (or church revitalizations). There’s something energetic and optimistic about a conversation with someone who is excited to launch their church and introduce unreached people to the love of Jesus.
We’ve heard about church-planting pastors and leaders from all sorts of backgrounds. Some are leaving the corporate world, some fresh out of seminary and others are retired and want to make a difference in their community.
Some church planters are launching in the town where they grew up and others are planting a church in a town they’ve only heard of or just moved to.
The diversity is exciting to see, and as churches grow, we get to continue to serve them and their community through print and signage.
We’ve heard it over and over that the best advertising is “word of mouth”. Here are 3 word-of-mouth ideas that have helped church plants impact their community. These are not the only successful strategies, and each community and culture will respond differently to these, so hopefully, this article will spark some ideas for your own church plant or church revitalization that you can adapt for your church and community.
Invite the community for a non-religious event
Relationship. That’s what this strategy is all about: How can we connect with people in a way that builds relationships – person to person with people in our church, and organization to organization with other organizations learning who we’re about and how we can partner together.
Pick a topic that is “around the water cooler” right now: A recent change in schooling in your city, race relations, homelessness, or mental health.
Invite people from all sides of the story to come for an open forum hosted by your church. Build an influential panel of 4-5 guests and each panel member gets 15 minutes to share their perspective and a proposed solution to the concern without interruption. These could be members of the government, organization leaders or family members who have been affected by the topic.
As a church, you’re building an understanding that you’re willing to be part of the discussion, not a one-sided force against something, and in order for each panel member to invite people to the event, they’ll need to talk about your church to say “this event is going to be held at X church”.
Broadcast the event on Facebook and, depending on the topic, you could allow people to ask questions of the panel members through the Facebook comments.
Take a pre-loaded visa to your grocery store and start paying for peoples groceries on behalf of the church – no strings attached. Pay for layaway at a Walmart or Target around Christmas, and ask the retailer to let the recipient know that your church paid. Take toys to the kids at a local hospital or shelter.
Or if you don’t have that size budget yet, take groceries to one family that just got laid off in your neighborhood or pay for a family who lost a loved one to go to a theme park.
Use video to tell the story. Social Media loves sharing videos of hope and generosity, and in turn, spreads awareness of your church in the community. Be really sure that the video focusses on the recipients of the generosity and your motivation to show love the way Jesus loved, not focussing on your church and “humble bragging” about what you did.
Make a big visual impact
Have you ever heard the “What’s that new building on 3rd and main?” conversation around the water cooler? It’s hard for our human brains to see something that we can’t ignore and then keep it to ourselves. This helps us explain why social media is filled with pictures and video of “The worlds oldest someone” or “The city’s largest something” or the “Blackest black paint on earth” (yes. that’s actually a thing. Check it out here, then come back.)
You may be thinking “We’re planting a church, not building the biggest building downtown” and the reality may be that you don’t even have a building, but you can still create visual impact.
First, think of the one major thing you want to be known for – maybe hope, or building strong families, or solving homelessness, or advocating for justice. Then show that off in everything that you create visually.
Have your team wear the same color t-shirts with your logo while you help stuff backpacks at a local school, wear the same t-shirts in the parking lot on Sunday mornings, buy a “coming soon” billboard in a prominent area of town with a picture of a family wearing your shirts and standing by the signage outside of your church, pay for Facebook advertising to specific ZIP codes where your church will be and have feather flags or outdoor banners with the same color and style outside your church every Sunday. The key here is all about consistency to get poeple talking about what they see!