Speaking with church professionals every day has opened my eyes to some of your problems in common. Many have mentioned that the contributions they are receiving in 2010 have been less than in 2009. By building the size of your congregations in 2011, the size of your contributions will increase. I would like to help you do just that. For the past few weeks, I have sent info on ways to make your church bulletins more user-friendly to first time visitors. If anyone would like a reprint, let me know and I will forward that info to you.
As a marketing and sales professional now working with church professionals, I have been trying to bring some marketing ideas to you that you may not have been exposed to in the past. Today, I was thinking outside of the box, looking for some ideas to help you start off 2011 with some exciting ideas to build the size of your congregations. Some of these may not fit your particular church but don’t dismiss them prematurely. Remember, I am trying to get your creative juices flowing so adapt these to your style and congregation. By being open to new ideas, maybe it will spark a thought that sends you thinking in a new direction.
My first thought was to look for ways that would put more fun into church that gets your congregation and visitors more involved.
• Add a “Fun Box” inside your church bulletins. Everyone loves games and puzzles and word search games are fun!. Everyone can search for words like worship, cherish, respect, family inside a box of letters where the words are spelled out backwards, vertically, horizontally and diagonally. A crossword puzzle created by kids, teens and single adults for their own group will be fun for all involved and the words used may help build family values, a tolerance for others and a deeper love for Jesus. Putting Scrambled Words in your “fun box” (like repay for prayer, as an example) can get people involved and it can pass along a positive message at the same time. The point is, make it fun, get folks involved.
• Add a “Creative Box” inside your bulletins. Here is where you ask your congregation or visitors to bring up any issue they would like our church to address and we will answer them here in future issues. Maybe it is a question about God or an issue a teen is having with a friend or family member. They do not have to identify themselves. All they have to do is present something they are curious about or have an issue with and you have the proper church professional comment on a few each week. If they want a reply outside of this column, let them know that is ok and contact them personally in an email or on a phone call. The point is to make our church available to anyone. Make it easy for folks to become active.
• Add a “Share Box” inside your bulletins. This space is designed with you in mind. It is a place where you can share anything that you feel will help someone else or help someone get closer to God. Maybe you can share a story about yourself that will help others renew or strengthen their faith. Maybe they can share a memory of a loved one that has passed but there was something they wanted to tell them but they never had a chance to do so. Share yourself and it may just help the rest of us too. Everyone wins! When people but their words down on paper, it clarifies their thoughts and makes them more confident and whole plus it helps the recipients (us) that learn that we have more in common than we thought and we are not alone with this issue or feeling.
• Add a “Suggestion or Comment Box” inside your bulletins. Many times, people use a comment or suggestion box to complain but this box should be different. Tell everyone that they can suggest anything they want but they have to present a possible solution along with any suggestion they make. This is a spot that lets folks know that our church is listening and they can email their suggestion if they do not want to drop the suggestion off in the box that has been created for them in the lobby. As an example, My mom just broke her leg and does not have a placard to park in the handicap area but she is older now and could use a better parking spot during the church service. I would be willing to come early and mark off some parking spots that we can designate for the elderly or temporarily injured so they can have a shorter walk; would that be ok? Another example: after service, the line for the Women’s Restroom is so long. I would be willing to mark off an emergency spot outside of the restroom so anyone needing to cut the line but at the same time will not be made to feel uncomfortable, would that be ok? Sometimes folks can’t wait and the line is so long!
• It is time for our congregation to put ourselves in the shoes of a first time visitor or newer returning guest and start to look for ways to make our church more accessible to them. What would make them want to belong to our congregation? When you go someplace new for the first time, what is it that makes you feel welcome? Empathy is the key. It may be a warm smile, a gentle touch or a sincere, “you look a little lost, can I help you in some way?” that may mean everything to a newcomer looking to find a new home. Make it easy for them to choose your church.
Judy Williamson, Director of The Napoleon Hill World Learning Center at Purdue University Calumet states that all major tasks have a common denominator – inaction. Try some of these out and build a pathway to creating new ways for your congregation and new visitors to become more involved. Hands on involvement will bring more people to Jesus and more people back to your congregation for a second, third and future visits.
Take care and I welcome your comments.