Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Market, To Market

Yesterday my daughter C. Beth posted a very interesting blog about the mailings she received inviting their family to various Easter services. I was fascinated by her thoughts and the comments she was receiving (including the one from her mother admitting that we recently had a sermon series by the same title as one in her post).

I actually shared the substance of Beth's thoughts with our Senior Leadership Team yesterday morning. You see, many of us in the church world are scratching our heads about how to reach those who don't go to church with the basic message of Easter -- that Christ died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. Easter is one of the few opportunities left when people in this culture seem to be thinking about going to church.

I was doubly fascinated because we did something different this year: we didn't advertise -- at least not in the traditional sense of the term. In previous years we have have bought ads in the local paper and on the most popular local radio station. We have sent out direct mail postcards to those in close neighborhoods and, while they weren't as "catchy" as Slumdog Savior, they were designed to be "inviting." While we have rotated different ones of these strategies, we have annually placed a very large banner on our campus with Easter service times. Didn't do that one this year either.

INSTEAD, we went to all our Small Groups and asked them to develop prayer lists of people we care about who don't go to church. We began to pray for God to give us opportunities to comfortably invite them to an Easter service with us. We then printed out simple invitation cards with the service theme, times, location and a map of how to find us.

I can be as doubtful as Thomas sometimes and wasn't sure this strategy would work. I showed up Easter morning with concerns that our attendance would drop considerably. I prayed, invited a friend (he didn't come -- at least I didn't see him) and prepared to tell the Easter good news to those who showed up. The result? Our Easter weekend attendance was up over 170 people from last year.

Everywhere I looked, I saw new people. Most of them were with friends who already attend Stone Ridge.

No postcards in the mail. No newspaper. No radio.

No brunch. No Easter Egg hunt with special prizes.

Just friends.


Sandra said...

I think your method for inviting new people is the best -- one on one. If a friend first realizes you truly care about them personally, they're bound to be more receptive when you invite them to share something else you care about deeply, your faith.

Liz said...

Sam, would you pray for my husband? I pray for him all the time, I put him on our prayer list all the time. He needs to feel God's love. He needs God in his life. He comes to church with me about once a month and comes to our Weds night dinners at church. He supports our kids being involved. He isn't opposed to church but he is very lost when it comes to faith, to relationship. He is hanging on to anger, feeling that God abandoned him when he was a child.

God put that on my heart as I read your post.

C. Beth said...

There's a reason the sales gurus these days focus on word-of-mouth marketing! It's more natural and genuine. Nothing wrong with postcards (I mean, as a concept), but it's nice when the growth of a church (or a business) can be more organic.

Liz, I'll pray for your husband too, and for you.

daniella said...

And this is exactly why I terribly miss Stoneridge. Your hearts always seek to be in the right place - where God wills it. If we get stationed in San Diego in a couple of years, you bet we'll be making frequent trips to Yuma...where we fell in love with 'yall.

Jailer said...

Excellent! I love it! So simple, and (frankly) so very obvious and biblical.

Don Vickers said...

I am studying Acts right now, looking at how the diciples responded to the ressurection and being challenged as to how I ought to live. In the second chapter the church begins to grow. I think the reason for the growth is because they were committed to the Lord and to each other as they lived out their faith.

I think that having those authentic relationships are more important than any "advertising" we could do!

The Abes said...

i miss stone ridge church! our preacher didn't even preach about the greatest feat in human history- Jesus overcoming death! we are still scratching our heads on that one... makes me miss SRC all the more...

Sam said...

Sandy, Beth, Jailer & Don: thank you all for the affirmation.

Liz, yes I will pray. I am amazed at the number of people who tell me similar stories. I wish and I could meet your husband and hear his. Maybe someday I will get that opportunity.

Dani and The Abes, one of the greatest joys for me is meeting and working with people like you guys who serve our nation AND serve God. One of the greatest sorrows is having to say, "So long!" Praise God for no "Goodbyes" in heaven.

p.s. Dani, how does a girl who was born in Moldova and moved to California as a kid end up saying, "Ya'll"? I think your husband must be a bad influence on you. (Snicker.)

Rachel Cotterill said...

Wow. 170 *extra* people??? The *big* church in our village can hold about 200 total.... Everything is bigger in America! (And yet I get a strong sense from your blog that you know & care about all your congregation.)

Jailer said...

Sam--look for your smiling face over on PJ:

Sometimes the simple ideas are the most brilliant.