When pastors and churches look to catalyze growth and community awareness, one of the tired and true methods of doing so is by doing more “outreach.” You may have looked at your congregation one day and thought, “Man, we need some more people.” Or you may have thought, “We need to have more impact in the city/community.” Most pastors do and it seems like “outreach” is the preferred method for the church (outside of referrals/inviting friends).
I put outreach in quotation marks because I’m not a fan of the traditional way outreach is done, presented, or championed by the church. Don’t get me wrong here, helping people and “serving” (sorry for the quotations) is good and it’s godly, but I’m inclined to believe that there’s something a little “off” about what we do as outreach and how we do it. I may explain it on another post.
Nevertheless, when done effectively and excellently, outreach can provide your ministry with the internal momentum, external awareness, and influx of spiritual conversions (salvation) and new members. And that’s why it’s pastors’ number #2 go-to plan when their members stop inviting people to church.
However, truth-be-told, the way most churches do “outreach” is ineffective and they lose much of the opportunity they are hoping to gain. Why? Because if the goal is to get people aware of your ministry so people can know about Jesus AND become members of your church, your act of kindness or the method you use (outside of supernatural means) won’t make the connect.
For instance, if you search for “outreach ideas” on the internet, you’ll find some of these great ideas:
- Hand out roses to ladies working in strip clubs (be sure to form an appropriate team)
- Host a free garage sale
- Bring free lunches to construction workers and servicemen in your area
- Hand out free gum at a city parade
- Clean up a widow’s yard
- Give out free chap-stick or sunscreen at a water park
- Give out free bottled water at a busy traffic intersection
- Plan a “Back to School Bash” for foster care children. Have free food, games, and a backpack/school supply giveaway
- Give out free donuts and hot chocolate at a city bus station
Now don’t get me wrong, these are great things to do in themselves, but for the church looking to get more “butts in seats” next Sunday, these will prove to be unsuccessful…UNLESS they are accompanied with several important things. Unfortunately, most churches don’t include these must-have elements to their outreaches and basically throw away the opportunity that SHOULD be gained from these “outreach” events.
And quite frankly, there are fewer worse feelings than after a huge outreach that you’ve invested tons of time, energy, and hundreds of dollars into, and not having any new people come back to church the next Sunday. It’s so deflating and makes you begin to think that “outreach” doesn’t work for you. Or you begin thinking that your demographic or target market is different, therefore it works other places but not where you are. Not true. There is hope.
The Missing Key- Contact Information Capturing
There are dozens of strategic factors and triggers that you should implement in your “outreach” efforts that will help you see fantastic results, but there is one that stands above them all. Unfortunately, it’s just that the church is somewhat disconnected from deep, strategic thinking and execution when it comes to marketing I mean “outreach” events. The good news is, you can reverse your results and start to reap an instant harvest from your initiatives.
As I’ll always repeat and believe, the greatest resource your church will ever have for strategic growth is its database of names. Undoubtedly, the larger your contact database, the larger your church will be. Why? Because if you have a database (also lovingly referred to as a “list”), you can continue to communicate and market to people. Studies have shown that it often takes 7-10 touches from a company before a sale is closed. In the case of churches, it often is no different.
Honestly, most people won’t come and visit your church just because you gave them water on a hot day with your church logo on the wrapper. They won’t visit just because you gave them a meal or clothes. They’ll come to your church when they perceive there is a value in going and when you ask you them to come. It’s naive to think that just doing kind things (outside of supernatural and extremely high-value initiatives) will equate to “butts in seats” and new members.
Of course, it may provide you with brand awareness and getting your name out there, but just for a few moments. Unless you’re going to be reaching out to those same people consistently over the next 6-10 months, it’s unlikely you’ll get the results that you’re hoping for. And that’s why it’s of the utmost importance that you integrate data capturing in your outreach events. There is no other key outside of the Holy Spirit’s divine influence that will guarantee results for your church.
So if you conduct your “outreach” without capturing contact information, you’re throwing hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars down the drain. If it cost you $500 to do your outreach and get new people to show up to your event, you can keep maximizing that same $500 when you continue to reach out to them in the days, weeks, months, and even years ahead. That $500 will stretch and be utilized much greater when you capture data.
Don’t Forget the Why!
Depending on the type of event conducted, it may be a bit challenging or awkward to capture data, but there are very creative ways to do it. Don’t get so caught up in the fact you’re requesting data, just make the ask. After all, scripture says “You have not because you ask not.”
When you make the ask, make sure you inform them that you want to stay in touch because you’ll be doing more, better, and newer events like this and they need to stay abreast. Also, if possible, tie some kind of benefit they’ll get when giving their contact information. Maybe you’ll send them an email with free resources, coupons, discounts, spiritual handouts, or etc.
Remember, you are more than an outreach event. You are more than a charitable service. You have greater value to give people than what the traditional approach dictates. You have to implement those resources and use them as a means to keep people connected to you.
As I’ve mentioned constantly, the greatest hindrance to your church’s growth is your ability to gather people and effectively, ethically, and righteously market to them. When you capture people’s data and use it strategically and effectively, your outreaches will have greater impact and most importantly more people will both know and grow in Jesus.
Bryson G. Baylor is an elite marketing strategist (and pastor) recognized around the country as a leader in church marketing and church growth. He consults and trains ministries across the country and speaks at various conferences, seminars, and workshops providing breakthrough secrets to help churches generate attendance and influence on-demand.