Far too often, the communications a church uses to get people to come to a seasonal outreach event are selected, purchased and mailed out by the church. Statistically a certain number ought to respond and though we rejoice if even one new person comes and ultimately comes to know Jesus as Savior, let me suggest another strategy that is more biblical, more successful, and that will probably save your church come money also.
A new strategy—Involve the whole church in seasonal communication
Everyone in the church needs to be involved for holiday and special events to be successful. Everyone needs to be part of and feel responsible for the outreach and growth of your church. When Jesus said:
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt. 28:18-20)
"But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)
He did not qualify these commands by saying:
"The command to be my witness and to reach your world is only for pastors and for the communication director of the church.”
No—outreach, witnessing, sharing your faith is every believer's task and seasonal celebrations and special events are a great way to be obedient to Jesus' command to be his witness and reach our world. The tools of technology available to us in ministry today make it possible for everyone in the church to have a significant part in the outreach of the entire church.
Unless the whole church is involved, the congregation can slip into the attitude that seasonal celebrations are something the church does primarily to entertain existing members. This will result in seasonal celebrations that focus on primarily church tradition and may not make sense or be appealing to unchurched people. This is a tremendous loss of outreach opportunities.
Though everyone should be involved in positive and pro-active seasonal outreach, various parts of your church need to be involved in different ways. Following is a suggested breakdown of each group's tasks:
The church leadership decides which events will be celebrated and when. With the communication team, they determine an overall theme and activities not only for the event itself, but how they are going to involve the congregation, and how they will follow-up with visitors.
The decisions on congregational involvement are critical and essential because seasonal celebrations can be used as a time to grow people as disciples. They can do this because we all know we are supposed to teach our people to reach out and share their faith, but that’s very hard for people to do today. However, to invite a neighbor to a great seasonal event, to pray they attend, to plan to meet them at the event, to introduce them to church members at the event, and to be sure they know what the church as to offer after the event and invite them to it—these actions are all very doable and are actually spiritual growth exercises.
But if leadership does not intentionally make casting the vision for these actions and then providing practical training for your church in each of these areas of seasonal celebrations, it won’t happen.
Once the commitment to do this training, leadership needs to continuously encourage, motivate, and constantly be talking about the importance of what you want the congregation to do. Continue to motivate in sermons, blogs, and social media. Share stories of how neighbors invite neighbors—for example, one group decided to “egg” the neighborhood before Easter by distributing invitation filled plastic eggs on people’s porches. Do more than just announce an event—challenge people to invite because the eternal destiny of their neighbor might change because of a persistent invitation by a caring neighbor. Your congregation’s actions are incredibly important from an eternal perspective and they need to be reminded of this.
Finally, leadership needs to decide on the goals for the event and assure accountability for measuring and evaluation to make each event and each year are more effective than the last one. Accountability makes everyone take their tasks more seriously.
Based on their guidance from the church leadership and their knowledge of the community, the communications team decides on the print and digital communications for before, during, and after the event (more on the specifics of this collection of communications next month) that both the church office and the congregation will use.
Please note the term “communications TEAM.” Even in the smallest church it takes more than one overworked person to make seasonal communications successful because of the variety of communications needed in both print and digital channels. Some communication pieces may be purchased, some created in the church office, some by volunteers in ministry areas like children’s ministry.
Though it might be a starting place and foundation of a seasonal campaign, go beyond a great looking invitation mailed out to the community to make a successful seasonal event. A church staff person may be in charge of print pieces including bulletin inserts, postcards, flyers, and posters, while a volunteer could do updates and “more information” sections on the website and another volunteer could do continuous reminders and updates in social media.
When doing this variety of tasks, the communications team tracks materials created, sent, frequency, and response to the type and number of communications for essential evaluation after the holidays to see what worked and what could be improved.
During the process, the team continuously prays for wisdom and insight as they create communications for their congregation and for audience receptivity and positive response.
The congregation should be involved in every step of the process: motivated by the leaders and equipped by the communication team to pray for the events, volunteer to make them happen, invite their unchurched friends, and follow-up with visitors. Realize that the congregation can be involved because the congregation has access to ministry technology through email and social media beyond anything possible in the past. They need to take responsibility to use these tools to make the most of their contacts to get them involved in the seasonal celebrations at the church.
The congregation has the primary responsibility for inviting and bringing unchurched friends to the event, interacting with them at the event, and following up with them afterwards. This process needs to be continuously taught and reinforced, until it becomes part of the DNA of the church. The congregation needs to understand that these inviting and involvement actions aren’t something to do just because they feel like it, but are what it means in practical ways to be Jesus’ disciples. When the congregation looks at seasonal and special event celebrations with anticipation as opportunities to share the joy of the Christian faith with their unchurched friends, you will experience natural church growth in numbers and in your people will grow in spiritual maturity.
We will soon be coming out with Successful Seasonal Strategy Training. Please look for it as it will go into detail on how to make the most of your holiday events.