Try Big, Bold Banners
Try a well designed extra large banner WITH a face on it and your visibility index goes way up. Large outdoor banners are not that expensive to print these days. You’ll probably have to pay for design and perhaps stock photographs if you don’t have a volunteer model. Don’t forget to use a face on your banner. Faces attract attention. Flowers, birds and the like, well … not as well as a single face prominently looking out your banner. Whatever you do, use an outside graphic designer if you can afford it (unless you have a graphic designer in house). Do-It-Yourself designs would hurt rather than help your outreach effort. That’s because design is a language and churches must learn to speak it well if we want to communicate effectively with modern society. Bad design simply says we speak another language … and worse. I will write more about design and outreach in a future article.
Below is an example of a banner in front of Custom House Baptist Church (a small church with a congregation of about 250 in the East End of London, UK). The banner was part of a community wide campaign to make the church more visible. The matching postcard shown below was delivered to about three thousand surrounding homes. It worked… like a song.
Two things you can do to make your church ‘visible’
1. Practice the presence of life
Most times the church is shut and your community hardly knows what goes on in there. Just because your church is on a major road does not mean people ‘see’ you. And if you’ve been there a long time it might be your building is so familiar, so much part of the landscape, nobody ‘sees’ it anymore. How to increase visibility? A few things that worked for us (at least we think so!)
- Try cleaning the church front on a week day, perhaps when there’s a lot of traffic – cars, pedestrians etc. Do this regularly enough and you’ll be surprised at how many people stop to have a chat with you. I’ve tried this and many people have stopped by to ask for service times, enquired about child dedications and yes, have become church members!
- Take pictures in front of the church after your worship service (especially during the summer months) You don’t need a wedding to take pictures. A crowd taking pictures in front of church will always turn heads. Bonus – you can project your pictures on the screen the following Sunday for the congregation to see (or include them in the printed programme if you have one) People love to see pictures of themselves.
- If the weather is good, serve your snacks outside. It’s sure way of letting passer by’s know you’re there and have a healthy and fun community going.
2. Lights on! this winter (and then some)
If there ever was a time to draw attention to your church its the Christmas period. Try using nativity rope lights. We’ve done this for years in our church and it gets noticed. I’ve even seen people take pictures! Google ‘Christian lights’, there are plenty online. Search by image to get some inspiration too! Outside of Christmas its a good idea to have lights on at some point when its dark – late evenings or so. Lights on for a couple of hours in the worship area (sanctuary, main hall etc.) tells people ‘hey, this is an active church, things go on here!’
Comfort is key
Nobody wants to come back to an uncomfortable church. Some of the uncomfortable things to look out for in church
- Church is too cold.
Not everyone feels comfortable sitting in their coats for the odd hour and a half service. They don’t do it at home or in the office, why church? A freezing church is an experience no one wants to repeat!
- Church is too crowded.
The only people who like crowded churches are preachers! Personal space is important to guests. If your church is 80% full, ITS FULL! All things being equal when churches become 80% full AND capacity is not increased by for example putting out extra chairs or increasing worship area space, numbers start DECLINING. Why? It’s that great intangible called personal space. Nobody likes being squashed between people they don’t know. This is why people unconsciously put items on the chair next to them to create some perSonal space.
- The audio system too loud or of bad quality.
When music becomes too loud it becomes oppressive (there seems to be a correlation between guests who don’t come back and how closely the were sitting to the loudspeakers! I encourage you to make your own observations and lets compare notes. Plus unless its some sort of revival meeting in a big space there’s no need to preach too loudly from the pulpit – it simply makes guests uncomfortable, talked down at etc. And you impress nobody but yourself and ‘church people’ who are used to such things. If that’s your audience then fine, but if you’re concerned about the unchurched first time guest you might need a rethink on loudness.
Also remember, a noisy church alienates its surrounding community!
Intentionally design ‘next steps’ for first time guests
Next steps are key in retaining first time visitors.
Though not a ‘next step’ in strict terms, an order of service is essential an order of service is essential in that it lets our guests know what happens next (an more importantly – are we near the end of the service yet?). Regular members know what will happen next but your guests don’t. Way too many churches neglect this simple courtesy to guests.Observations show that an order of service significantly reduces the level of uneasiness a first time guest experiences (and uneasy guests hardly return for more of the same)
Another ‘next step’ churches should consider would be to let guests know what happens after the service. A simple announcement from the pulpit will do. There’s nothing worse than a first time guest shifting uneasily after the service wondering whether to go for the door or wait to get to know the church better. The door option always wins out if a clear ‘next step’ hasn’t been communicated.
Finally it is important that those in charge of your ‘Guest Central’ suggest next steps to your guests e.g. signing up for a membership class, an invitation to join a home group, take part in the next men’s barbecue event etc. Whatever it may be its important to give your guests a few next steps they can go away with; usually a step that gives them the opportunity to get to meet other members of the church.
You need a well thought out Guest Centre
A guest centre that works puts your best foot forward as a church. An effective guest centre has a few essentials:
- First you need a clear why? Why does the church have a guest centre? Engage guests in conversation? Collect information from guests? Giving out more information on the church?
- It is good practice to have volunteers on hand to answer any questions guests may have. Many times a guest would hang around the guest area hoping someone would say hello. Observe, observe, observe.
- Guests have to know you have a guest centre (usually an attended and well laid out table in some churches) Too many churches have had a guest centre for so long, they take it for granted everyone knows its available.
- It needs to be accessible, a guest centre tucked in a corner somewhere is not very effective. Determine optimum location by studying your ‘traffic flow’
- Encourage a visit to the guest centre by providing incentives, for instance something in exchange for a filled out guest card