Fall and winter are two prime times for churches to plan outreach events for their communities. Large amounts of time and money are spent on these events and often the church gets a great community response to the free Harvest Festival or Family Thanksgiving Dinner or Community Caroling and Hot Chocolate Party. But seldom do these activities generate the kind of continuing church involvement a church hopes for. I'd like to offer some suggestions on how to CLARIFY and COORDINATE your message for greater lasting impact.
If you don't want to waste your time and money the following tips are essential!
To help you understand how important this is and to give you a sense of how futile it is to hold events without good communication to clarify and coordinate your message, primarily for the ladies reading this, think about when you buy cosmetics at the department store or online and you are given some free samples. (The gentleman reading this may or may not have some sort of similar situation, regardless the example will make sense.) The company that makes the cosmetics don't have the samples in the middle of the mall set up on a pretty display that says, "FREE FOR ALL." No, you go to the specific cosmetic counter and you know without a doubt who is giving them to you.
The samples might be very nice, but the free packet also contains additional printed material that tells you all about the benefits of the samples and why you want to come back and buy more. If you like the samples, you will probably go back for more. If you have no idea where the samples come from, you might enjoy them but the company gets no benefit from their hard work and money spent.
If you want to have the greatest impact on the lives of people, if you want to grow your church consistently instead of just have people come in for special events, please carefully read and consider the following advice, so you won't be like the company giving away goodies for free:
Clarify who you are and your message
To better understand what we need to do to make the events we host have continuing impact, ask yourself:
- Does a company sponsor a race car and be subtle about putting their name on it?
- Is a sporting event advertised without the name of corporate sponsor anywhere in the venue?
- Do companies try to sell their products by hiding the name of the company on all packaging?
Not likely. When secular companies sponsor events or sell products they make sure everybody knows who is paying for them. Not only will their name be on the program, but on advertising, banners, soft-drink cups, take-home materials, anything that can be imprinted. If you had a good time at the event, whenever you remember it or look at an item from it, you'll think about the sponsor.
Follow their lead as you plan your fall outreach and winter outreach events. This is not being evil or secular or worldly. It means using your resources most effectively to bring people into your church and to introduce them to Jesus.
To do that you need to CLARIFY:
- Who you are
- Why you are doing the event
- Why they should care and come back
- Who you are most interested in reaching, meaning that if you are a Single Adult Ministry, make that clear. If you are working to get people to attend a children's event, make that clear.
You don't need to hide the fact you are a church. You are doing a positive event for your community. You want them to know that if they come to your church, they can expect similar caring events.
Let them know who you are by:
- Be sure all helpers from the church are clearly identified as being from the church. A colorful t-shirt is great, a hat or scarf, or anything that clearly has the name of the church on it is vitally important.
- Be sure all explanatory materials from welcome info, program for the event, follow-up materials they get as they leave, prominently displays your church information: website, social media contacts, address, phone, person who is in charge of the sponsoring ministry. Invite them to contact you for more information, ask questions, interact in any way they want.
- Of course be sure someone responds to any social media, email, or phone responses from the event.
Why you are doing the event:
- Don't just assume that if you host an event, people will know why you are doing it.
- Make up some sort of information card, flyer or brochure for people that everyone receives during or after the event. For example, if you host an alternative Halloween event or Harvest Festival, make up a flyer that explains to people why you are doing what you are doing in a positive and upbeat way. Let them know that your church does not do this to celebrate ghosts and goblins, but that you are using this time of interest in the afterlife to share the truth about it. Let them know why "Jesus is the Reason for the Season."
- Be honest and let people know you are doing this event so that they can sample what your church is like, and that you hope they come back, which leads to letting them know. . . . .
Why they should care and come back:
- Don't assume that just because you've hosted a great community event at your church, that people will automatically come back the following week or why they should care about your church? Do you care about a company that sends you free samples in the mail? Or the goodies that you got at the mall? Unless you give people reasons, you are no different than an anonymous company.
- Along with the previous information, you need to be specific on what you can do for them and why they should come back. For example, so that in the publication that explained what you were doing at the event and in a follow-up email (you did capture all attendees email addresses didn't you?) you might say something like:
Did your kids have fun at the Harvest Festival? We hope so!
But in addition to having fun at one event, we want your kids to have a great life and at First Church we believe that part of a great life means growing up with the values and virtues that will serve them well all their lives. To help make that possible, First Church is excited to announce a new program called Kid's Stuff! We're starting a church service for kids and parents together that is value and virtues based. It's lively, upbeat and more fun than church ought to be. It's Old-Fashioned Values Want more info, check out our website at www.samplechurchswebsite.com.
If you have questions about the program, please call or email Miss Becky at 555-555-5555 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Back to the example of the cosmetic samples—the printed information that goes with them always explains in detail why you need continued use of this item. It might seem obvious, but they say it anyway and illustrate it with pictures and links for additional information. Why people should come back to church and the benefits of it are far less obvious in our secular world today.
When you take the time to invite and explain in a caring way you are doing far more than making someone's skin wrinkle-free—in reality you are helping to change lives for eternity.
Coordinate all of your communication for a consistent message
This has to do with the various ways you advertise your event before it takes place and follow up after the event. You want to coordinate your preliminary, at the event, and post-event publications by being sure they have a:
- Similar message
- Similar look
In the section above you've clarified what you are doing and why. Boil that down to one key message you want people to remember. For example maybe for the children's event, if you want people to come back to your new program, repeat your advertising slogan and key phrases about it. Don't go into how you also have wonderful men's and women's small groups at the church on the same handout. Stick with one message and repeat it again and again. Remember advertising theory tells us people need to see or hear a message at least 7 times before they remember it.
If you want to introduce people to your church as a whole, from the start, let people know that your church has a variety of events and ministries for the whole family.
We all respond to and remember colors. Similar colors are essential if you want people to recognize your message even before they read the specifics. Think about the impact of team colors and how important it is that they stay the same. If your team changed colors for every game, you'd wonder what they were doing. It's the same for recognition of a ministry or church event. Pick some theme colors for your event and be consistent in your use of them in all your materials from printed ones to how the event is advertised on your web site.
Think about how jarring it would be if the Golden Arches of McDonalds were pink one week, green the next, and purple every third month—you'd think the company had gone nutty or at least had no sense of who they were anymore. Constantly changing the look and color of your outreach materials doesn't make them "more interesting" (an excuse people often use), it makes them confusing. Consistency lets the audience focus on your message, not your color choices.
A few notes on choosing and using colors. If you decide to make your theme colors dark colors, say dark red or purple, only use these as accent colors. Don't print on dark-colored paper. Printing is too difficult to read on dark-colored paper. Fall and winter is a time when it is very tempting to print on dark orange, red, or green paper. Please don't do it. Print on white paper and use dark colors as an accent only.
It is especially important not to print something on red or green paper that has men as a primary audience. A significant percentage of the male population is color blind. For a color-blind person, red, or green paper appears medium to dark grey. Black ink on dark grey paper, needless to say is very hard to read. I have on my desk a flyer for a Pastor's Prayer Meeting printed on very dark red paper. I'm wondering how many pastors will show up for it.
Plan for maximum impact
You'll be working very hard on your ministry communications this fall and it is so easy to focus on the event itself without thinking about how to plan for continued interaction with the people who attend. Though challenging and requiring more work, remember to Clarify and Coordinate your communications for the greatest impact for the kingdom of God and trust God to do exciting things through the work you do!