Though the use of newspaper ads for church advertising is declining, they are still one of the key pieces of advertising considered by church staffs. Though your church may want to run one on special occasions if you have the extra money, it is the position of Effective Church Communications that church ads are not the best use of your outreach budget, nor are they the most effective.
With the computing power available today to churches including the ability to create your own invitation cards, postcards, websites, email newsletters, social networking and a host of additional digital communications in every form from podcasts, mobile messaging, and videos, there are far more effective ways to market your church, especially if you want to reach unchurched people.
In the midst of all this technology, there remains a tiny, paper-based communication piece that can make a powerful impact if used properly.
For this alternative to newspaper ads for reaching people and growing your church, read on—
Take a realistic look at your unchurched audience
If you are a person who does not go to church, who has never had anything to do with church, but as St. Augustine said, you have a restless heart that you suspect only God can fill, where would you go for answers?
Sadly and honestly today, most people don’t immediately think, “Oh, I’ll look at the religion section of the Saturday paper and see what church looks like it would be a good place for me to attend to find answers to life.”
Unchurched people are usually not great fans of the Saturday religion section and even if they go to it, there is usually little that will appeal to an unchurched person. Most of the ads are full of church jargon and many of them today promise the same things, “A friendly church, upbeat music and a great children’s program!”
Not every seeker today wants friends, likes music, or has kids. What they want are answers.
In addition, some of the church ads even have embarrassingly similar sermon topics. Particularly around the holidays if a number of the same pastors in a town are downloading the same sermons from Sermon Central or pastors.com, it can be hard to distinguish one church from another.
Some churches with big ad budgets and catchy slogans will attract church shoppers/hopper who are looking for something “more” at church than their current church offers them or a different place to attend if the pastor in their current church wasn’t inspiring enough or if the music became a bit boring, but what appeals to a church shopper/hopper will seldom draw in an unchurched person.
A few final bits of advice about church ads, before moving on to a possibly more effective outreach tool:
Take the money that you would spend on a church newspaper ad and with the help of someone who is recently converted, come up with an offer that would appeal to someone who does not attend church and put it somewhere in the paper other than the religion page ghetto. Our local paper will give the religion rate to churches for placement any day of the week in any section. If your newspaper doesn’t offer that, ask, newspapers are desperate for ad dollars these days.
For example: put the ad on Friday in the Entertainment Section and maybe say something like:
Tired of your usual weekend? Come to the encounter, a coffee, music, and discussion time on Sat. night, 7-9pm at The Journey Church, at Main and Telegraph—thought-provoking answers to real life questions. For more about us, check out our website at: www.yourwebsitehere.com.
In the sports section what about:
Had enough of playing games with life and people? The men at OUR CHURCH are inviting the men of the community to hear local sports star talk about “How I decided to get real with God and people.” Join us for a BBQ and talk, details at (again give website and other contact details).
An alternative to ads: equip your people
It might be difficult to connect unchurched people with the religion section of the newspaper, but one thing they are certain to come in contact with are other people.
While it is sadly true that once someone becomes converted, they soon have few friends who are not believers, that doesn’t mean that they totally withdraw from the world. Most people still work at secular jobs and everyone has many contacts a week with people in the business community such as:
• the waitress or waiter at the coffee shop,
• the Starbucks employees,
• the clerks at various stores,
• the person standing next to them in lines at airports, or the driver’s license bureau,
• the person sitting next to them on the bus or subway.
These brief moments are often filled with casual chatter, but that casual chatter could redirect an eternity with a simple statement such as this….. “Yes, I agree our world is a mess today, but you know, this week we’ve having a Saturday night discussion (or a Sunday talk, or a Wednesday soup and classes or whatever) and our topic is ‘How to be at peace in an unpeaceful world— I’d like to invite you to come.”
What happens next is incredibly important, because what moves that encounter from a pleasant, momentary conversation to a potentially life-changing connection, is a an invitation card.
Invitation cards, a low tech connection tool with high impact
An invitation card is simply a business card you have created with your church’s information on it: location, meeting times, map if necessary AND most important of all these days, your website and email.
This in itself is simple to create, you’ve got the technology in your church to do it, but what is important is that this provides a very non-threatening link to more information about your church and Jesus.
It does this for two reasons:
First, because it provides essential connecting details:
It gives them the specifics of time, location, address, etc. to actually get the invited person to your church event. Without these connecting details a nice verbal invitation is easily forgotten no matter how appealing it seemed at first. It doesn’t matter how big, small, prominate or interesting your church is; it doesn’t matter if you could find it in your sleep, many people don’t know it exists or how to get there.
Second, because it links to your website.
In our culture today, when we want to check out anything from a national car company to the latest movies, to airline prices and restaurant reviews—we check out the website. Websites are great because they allow the viewer to not be pressured, to maintain their distance, and yet explore a product or service without commitment.
Of course to be useful to a curious, exploring, unchurched person, your website must have more on it than a list of service times, in addition, if you are actively giving your people invitation cards with the intention of driving lots of unchurched people to your website, this should be a great motivation for you to re-evaluate your website and make sure it has on it information that is complete, up-to-date and in language understandable to an unchurched person.
In addition to the basic information, your website should contain invitations to specific ongoing events of interest to an unchurched person, answers to their questions and an email connection for more information or answers to questions. On your website you can get as complex and innovative as you want with links to blogs, podcasts, on-line discussions, email newsletters, videos, music, whatever your church creates to share the good news about Jesus.
Your church might have the most engaging, exciting, seeker sensitive website imaginable, but how are people outside your church going to find your content-rich website or your sensitive, interactive blog?
The humble little business/invitation card can make that link.
How to connect people with your church using invitation cards
Here is a process that can make a significant difference in your church attendance and outreach at your next special event.
**Create a section or blog on your website about your event. If your website program makes it difficult to do this, you can create a free website/blog with WordPress. Go to https://www.effectivechurchcom.com/category/church-communications/church-websites/ for articles, videos and information on how to create a website with WordPress.
**In addition to the attendance information, on the site explain the importance of the event. For example, for Christmas why Jesus really is the reason for the season, for Easter, explain the importance of the resurrection, for Halloween, what really happens after we die. On this section have explanations from your church but in addition links to sites that explain in detail what it means to be a Christian. Some you might include are:
**Make invitation cards with an invitation to your event and prominately display your website link to the additional information about the holiday and the Christian faith.
**Make up enough cards for every person in your congregation to have 10 of them.
**Give them out at a service where you tell people to simply give them out in the coming week to anyone meet in the course of life or with friends and neighbors. No pressure or intimidation, just share.
**Have a challenging message on the card, something like: “Everybody feels like they will live forever…..the question is, in what neighborhood? Check out our website for some options and an upcoming event…….”
**In addition to informational links on your website also have a confidential email address with volunteers who will interact with seekers promptly.
**Monitor your web statistics to see what happens.
**Report the results to your congregation and challenge everyone to pray for the people who receive the cards.
Don’t stop with doing this for just one event
Make the creation of invitation cards for every special event an ongoing ministry so people expect them, pray about them, and look forward to seeing how God uses them in your church.