Is attendance at your church down? You’re not alone. The most recent statistics show a 4-point drop in near-weekly attendance — from 42% to 38% between 2008 and 2017. But that doesn’t mean a smaller congregation is inevitable. Instead, look at why people choose to attend church and the reasons they skip services. Ask what your church can do to meet their needs and overcome their objections. Base your church marketing plan on this information. And apply the following proven strategies to reach the people who are receptive to finding a place of worship to call their own.
1. Develop Your Brand
Branding has evolved. It’s no longer just logos, graphics, jingles, and catch-phrases. Though it may incorporate all or some of those features. Your brand tells people who you are and creates a unique identity. This sets you apart from other churches. It also conveys your ideas, what you stand for, and how you interact with the world around you.
Turn to your church leaders to help determine your brand identity. Discuss the values your church represents and the audience you hope to reach and engage. Seek survey feedback from congregants to learn what they perceive to be your brand.
Once you’ve created a brand for your church, express it. Design a logo, use pictures, tell a story, and live it out every day. Add a slogan if it fits naturally with your brand.
Sample Brand: Your branding involves community outreach. So, your slogan is “Raising up our community through good deeds and God’s word.” A graphic of several people arm-in-arm in front of a townscape is your new logo. You display many photos of your community outreach projects on your website and in your marketing materials to reinforce brand meaning.
Authenticity is essential in your branding. Be sure it truly reflects what’s important to your church, your congregation, and your community.
2. Establish a Branding Presence
Spread your branding online and offline. Make it a part of your website. Place your logo prominently at the head of all your webpages. Add your slogan, too, if you have one. Explain your values and tell your branding story on your “About Us” page. Over time, you can add photos and videos that show how your church is fulfilling your branding efforts and goals.
Display your branding at your church through signage and banners. Branded outdoor canopies or awnings are smart marketing tools. They’re elegant and understated but are present year-round. When designed well, they give your church added curb appeal and draw the eye. Have them embossed with your logo and/or slogan to help establish brand memorability.
Carry the logo, slogan, and any other branding graphics and colors over to your printed materials, too. This includes:
- Church signs
- Service programs
- Business cards
- Church letterhead
- Pledge cards
- Door hangers
- Bible Study guides/questionnaires
Wherever your church is present, so too should be your branding.
3. Embrace Social Media
- Social media marketing is a cost-effective approach that can meet multiple objectives:
- Reinforce your branding efforts
- Strengthen your church relationship with current congregants
- Help you reach new parishioners
- Support SEO strategies
These platforms offer numerous ways to teach, reach out, and interact with a wider audience. Post uplifting messages, Bible verses, and links to your blog, vlog and community events. Even spark discussions on relevant topics. But don’t limit yourself to text. Consider images, video, audio, and live streaming. Many churches live stream their services. This is very helpful for congregants whose poor health prevents them from attending in person. Invite your followers and fans to get to know your church and the people behind it better. Spotlight different individuals each week. Link to bios, photos, and media for a more engaging experience.
Facebook is an excellent platform for these various strategies. Instagram gives people those all-important visuals. And Twitter is a great option for sparking conversation and sharing graphics, quotes, and church updates. You should also buy paid social media ads that target specific demographics. This helps you focus on potential congregants who may be most receptive to your church’s values and messaging.
4. Don’t Ignore Traditional Marketing Methods
Offline marketing may be old-school, but it still works. Some suggestions follow:
- Buy ad time from local radio and TV stations.
- Post ads in local newspapers and community magazines.
- Invest in promotional items printed with your church name and logo:
- Screen printed shirts and caps
- Pencils and pens
- Mugs and water bottles
- Distribute windshield flyers and door hangers.
- Mail out postcards.
- Hire billboard space.
Make an effort to identify your target audience before investing in print ads and media ad space. You shouldn’t market to everyone. Religion and spirituality are very personal experiences. People choose churches to attend based on very specific needs and desires. Do your research and tailor your traditional advertising efforts to the people who are most likely to respond to your church’s values, messages, and style.
5. Reach Out with Email Newsletters
A 2018 Pew Research survey questioned Americans on what motivated them to either attend church or skip it. The top reason for attendance, at 81%, was to become closer to God. This was following by teaching their children about faith, becoming better people, and finding comfort during difficult times. There are probably many people in your flock who attend your church sporadically. Give them reasons to return to your church more often.
A newsletter can reinforce the lessons, scripture, and sense of communal support church services offer. Include transcripts of your sermons. Add notes to better illustrate your meaning. Highlight Sunday School classes and other kids’ activities that may encourage parents to bring in their children. Include uplifting quotes and messages that remind them of God’s grace in times of strife. In this way, you help them strengthen the purpose they find in church. In turn, it will boost attendance rates and encourage word-of-mouth referrals.
6. Launch Community Outreach Efforts
Churches often play vital roles in their communities. Having a positive impact in your town represents God’s words and deeds. These actions reinforce the good word and deliver a powerful message to all. They also touch community members you may otherwise not reach. If your church isn’t very involved in your city, consider some of the following suggestions to fix that.
Advocacy for the Less Fortunate
- Help the homeless.
- Give clothing and supplies to women’s shelters.
- Visit with Assisted Living residents.
- Establish a food bank.
- Organize a neighborhood clean-up event.
- Donate time in a food kitchen.
- Help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.
- Host educational seminars.
- Support veterans’ issues.
- Ask members of your congregation to volunteer their professional services to the underprivileged. Examples include tax help, carpentry, plumbing, financial counseling, salon services, and auto work.
- Youth sports teams
- Local Humane Society or Pet Rescue organization
- Recreation centers
- Local Book Shops
- Kids’ events
- Free car washes
- Easter Egg Hunt
Show secular individuals and non-church members that God’s love is all-inclusive through action rather than scripture. Organize a bridge event demonstrating that your church welcomes and uplifts everyone.
- School supplies giveaway
- Block party
- Parenting classes
- Holiday events
- Recycling drive
- Wellness program
- Free community swim day
Hold these events at venues off church grounds and avoid religious themes.
7. Spotlight Your Events
Hosting church activities and holding community outreach events are great works. They’ll also help with your church marketing efforts. But only if you get the word out. Get your congregation involved. Hold contests or raffles as incentives for bringing friends, relatives, co-workers, and neighbors to an event. Use those traditional marketing methods to get the word out. Advertise your event in the community paper and on radio stations. Post banners and other signage. Don’t forget to highlight upcoming events in your newsletter and on your website. And be sure to post information and updates on your social media accounts with links to your site.
8. Apply the Personal Touch
Just getting people in the door is not enough to build a bigger congregation. You must give them a welcoming experience that encourages them to return. You need to engage your visitors and learn what they respond to. Start with a warm, personal greeting. Don’t forget to provide sign-in cards to gather contact information. This will give you the data you need to follow-up with some of your other marketing efforts.
Provide small gifts to new visitors, like the promotional items identified in the Traditional Marketing section. Books and gift cards for area businesses also make nice gifts. Include informational brochures about your church, events, and community outreach efforts. Offer snacks and beverages to encourage fellowship before and after your service.
Follow-up with your new visitors right away with a personalized thank you card. Then email them a few days later. Request feedback on the service and ask them if they have any suggestions to make them feel welcome. A week later, send an Evite to attend another service or upcoming event.
- Use welcome and directional signage to help visitors find your church and locate adequate parking.
- Don’t overwhelm your visitors by asking for too much information on the sign-in cards – just name, mailing address, phone number, and email.
- Be sure your follow-up correspondence includes your website address so they can look up more information about your church.
9. Take Advantage of Local SEO Strategies
In the 2018 Pew Research study, researchers asked what kept some respondents from attending church. Almost a quarter of those respondents said they haven’t found one they like. If people in your community are searching for a church home, will they find yours? Local SEO can increase the possibility that they will.
List your church on all the relevant online directories to help searchers find you. Some essential business listing services include Google, Facebook, Bing, and the Yellow Pages. Claim your Google My Business Listing online. Add pertinent details so searchers know where to find you, how to contact you, and when to visit. Include your branding with your logo and pictures. Once you’re up and running, invite congregants to leave reviews to make the most of this essential marketing tool.
10. Maximize the Use of Digital Tools
Digital bulletin boards, mobile apps, podcasts, and mobile-optimized websites are examples of some of the digital tools that can support your church marketing efforts. Smartphone use has been growing rapidly. In the U.S., it’s currently at 248.68 million users. And it’s expected to grow to 270.66 million smartphone users by 2022. With those numbers, you need to ensure that your website is optimized for mobile devices. And if you create a church app, you make it easier for more people to interact with your organization and participate in events.
Tithing in the Digital World
Declining church attendance isn’t the only downward trend in the church sphere. Among the people who do attend services regularly, tithing has been decreasing. About 17% of Americans claim they tithe. And only 3% to 5% of congregants who donate to their churches do so through tithing. That’s the same percentage of Americans who admit their tithing amounts have lessened. Your organization relies on these donations to perform all the essential function of a church. With increased charitable receipts, you can reach more people and do more good. This is another area where digital tools can be helpful. Software simplifies the process, enhances convenience, and gives congregants more donation options.
These church marketing tips will help you extend your reach and connect with new church members. With strategies that embrace both online and face-to-face methods, you have a better chance of interacting with different generations. And by establishing your brand, you effectively express the values and mission of your church to your community. Digital tools can support you in these efforts and allow you to focus more on spreading the gospel, helping your community, and maintaining a successful ministry. Our digital donation software is an excellent resource to help you meet these goals. Learn all about NewFire Giving – the giving software that pays for itself.