Most people come to a church for one simple reason—SOMEBODY ASKED THEM! Here are some other simple ideas you can consider that can help your congregation to grow.
1. Make it appear to passer-bys that something new and interesting is always going on at your church. This means things like hanging kites and red streamers in your trees and around your property on Pentecost, using inexpensive temporary signs to advertise everything from church school start-up to your current mission projects, and changing the exterior appearance of your church to reflect whats going on inside. When the exterior appearance of your church always stays the same—especially when you already have an older church building in a smaller town—you tend to become invisible in your community.
2. Regularly involve community groups and key people in your liturgy and educational programs. Give these people tangible recognition, affirmation, and appreciation. Examples: Invite the mayor in to do an adult church school session around community issues and present he/she with a framed certificate of appreciation (generated on someones computer, with a modest frame purchased a discount store). The purpose of this is to create good word-of-mouth buzz about your parish among your key community stakeholders.
3. Become perpetually kid-involving. Ask kids and childrens groups inside (and outside) of your parish to do something during worship, coffee hour, or adult education—sing, dance, play an instrument, read something theyve written, or share their artwork. Where kids are showcased, parents and other relatives follow. For every kid involved in doing something special during your liturgy, chances are one or two parents, grandparents, siblings, and aunts/uncles will be part of the entourage.
4. Get people into your building in as many different ways as possible. Hold activities as a parish and get other groups to hold events there, too. Turn your spare space into something akin to a community center. Start with one big all-encompassing event such as a community-wide yard sale before back to school time.
5. Gather names, addresses, and phone numbers and follow up with everyone who has entered your building for the aforementioned events. We often do a fairly good job of hosting groups in our buildings but never talk to them afterward! Call or send them a note, thanking them for coming and inviting them to church on Sunday.
6. Decide during an adult church school session what the three most pressing problems are in your community.Organize and publicize evening public forums to discuss these issues, one by one. Commit to prayer about it and see where it goes.
7. Commit to the classifieds. Classified ads in small town newspaper are very low cost. You can get good frequency (an important aspect of using newspaper advertising) and communicate a lot of information about your church in the classifieds.
8. Be ready for total excellence when it comes to funerals and weddings. These are two occasions when many unchurched persons and prospective members are already in your church building and experiencing a bit of what it is like. Be at your best, provide information on your church in your pew racks, explain your liturgy in your worship bulletins, and have plenty of people from your congregation on hand to interact with guests.
9. Target newcomers to town. Make friends with your chamber of commerce office staff and ask them to alert you to new families or companies they hear about coming to your community. Put someone in your parish in charge of this so it doesnt fall through the cracks.
10. Remember divorced Roman Catholic friends. In situations where Roman Catholics are denied sacraments due to their divorce, they likely will be seeking a similar liturgical church but one that encourages their presence at the Lords table. In a smaller community, people often know who is divorcing. Be alert to these situations and be ready to extend a special welcome. In fact, in the case of ALL divorces, there is a high likelihood that one or the other spouse will be seeking a new church. Divorce records are public information and note, letter, or phone call contacts can easily be made.
11. Get a slogan, graphic look, and consistent way you present yourself. When all of your printed materials are placed on a table ten feet away, you should be able to tell at a glance that they belong to your parish. If you cant afford to do this now, do it gradually as things need to be re-printed.
12. Since marketing is an inside-out proposition, start with your own congregation and how people talk about themselves and their parish. Use an adult church school class or two to help people examine how they speak to others in the community about their church—positive talk versus negative talk—and what are helpful ways to speak and turn casual conversation into invitation.
13. Create positive visibility in your community with simple and inexpensive tools such as buttons, t-shirts, and fliers.
14. Offer it and publicize it, even when there arent enough people (i.e. build it and they will come!). If you wait for enough children to start a childrens church school, you will never have a childrens church school. The same philosophy applies to everything from singles groups to nurseries.
15. Form a team of people from your parish to review a months worth of local newspapers and hand-write letters and notes on behalf of your church acknowledging people mentioned in stories who have experienced achievements or losses. Establish this as a regular monthly ministry. Be sure to invite them to visit your church as a part of your note-writing!