Modern Outreach Has Shifted: 5 Keys Your Church Needs to Know
With culture in such a rapid state of flux, with the dominant headline being the
increasingly post-Christian nature of our world, many churches are uncertain
how best to respond in terms of outreach. They know they aren’t reaching the
unchurched as effectively as they would like, but they don’t always feel
comfortable trying to emulate the fast-growing models they see and hear so
much about. More specifically, they don’t feel they can. You walk through a
megachurch children’s ministry and see a built-in climbing wall in a first-grade
room, and it’s hard to know what there is to feel except envy. So here are five
outreach shifts that almost every church should be able to make—regardless of
style or structure, tradition or denomination—that will help situate your church
toward greater effectiveness at reaching the unchurched. And each one can be
followed no matter your church size and no matter your budget.
Key 1. Change Your Outreach Focus From Easter to Christmas Eve.
Here’s something that isn’t often talked about, but I’m prepared to say is a new
principle: Christmas Eve is the Super Bowl of outreach, not Easter. There are
many reasons for this, and none of them have anything to do with the church.
Here are two: 1) an ever-increasing number of schools and colleges schedule
their spring breaks around Easter, making Easter weekend one of the biggest
“suitcase” weekends (travel/vacation weekends) of the year; 2) Easter has been
effectively secularized into little more than the bunnies and egg hunts. So why
is Christmas Eve better for outreach?
First, unlike Easter and the resurrection, it continues to be primarily related to
the birth of Jesus. Second, it is not a “suitcase” night—if people travel, it is to
gather with other family members, not vacation. Third, unlike the “weekend” or
Sunday-centric nature of Easter, Christmas Eve services can be scheduled for
multiple days leading up to and including Christmas Eve. Fourth—and most
important—there is a larger number of unchurched people present at Christmas
Eve, undoubtedly due to it being more of a family event than Easter (which is
viewed as more of a spiritual event).
Lesson One? Quit putting all of your eggs in the Easter basket and get serious about Christmas Eve.
Key 2. Drop Direct Mail and Move to Social Media.
In the previous century, nothing was better than direct mail. That was, of
course, 25 years ago. It’s not better anymore. In fact, it’s often a waste of
Kingdom money. It can still be effective if targeted toward new residents, or
specific demographics, but the more specific direct mail becomes, the more
expensive it becomes. (And please, don’t even think about an ad on the
“church” page of your newspaper. You are after the unchurched, right?)
A better use of your marketing efforts is online, such as ads on facebook or,
even better, through targeted pop-up ad responses to Google searches, or
banner ads on the websites of local subdivisions, or the vast opportunities that
exist on social media. Speaking of social media, prepare things that your
attenders can share on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. And the good news for
small churches? So much of this is not simply cheap, but free, with technology
almost everyone already owns.
Lesson Two ? No matter what style your church may be, there is no excuse to