The One Thing You Absolutely Must Do to Grow your Church

Vince WilliamsMarketing Practices

God wants your church to grow. As the Apostle Paul wrote about the Church in Colossians 2:19, “The whole body, supported and held together by its ligaments and sinews, grows as God causes it to grow” (NIV). Yet today, even churches that want to grow are in a challenging environment, where seeds are too often choked out by all the weeds in our society (Mark 4:18, 19).

If you want to see God’s church grow, there is one thing you absolutely must do. If you want to reach people where they are at, if you want to punch through the communication clutter all around us, you cannot speak softly.

You must be provocative.

A well-crafted message will reach you right where you are and provoke you to act. Provocative speech is a tool we as the Church use well at times. Unfortunately, we tend to filter the bold promises of God as soon as we leave the building.  Provocative speech is a tool we need to harness in our outreach efforts, too, in order to get heard.

Jesus clearly used this tool in His day. For example, read His words in Matthew 5:27-29: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell” (NIV).

The words of Jesus are bold, with the consequences so very real. It is that bold language that encourages movement. In fact, it demands it.

Are we willing to compete?

You will not hear a car commercial ever use the phrase “better than average” or “middle of the road”. Every car manufacturer offers multiple models at multiple price points, yet every ad would have you believe the car in front of you is the right one for you. It is the “best in class” or offers “Top line performance” This aggressive language hits us right where they want. They have practiced and polished this message to ensure that we will respond.

Or think about the insurance industry. They don’t paint a picture of minor inconveniences. They want you to know that the end is coming, and they’ll be there when it does. When your house caves in or your town is flooded, don’t you want to be in good hands?

But whose hands are better than God’s? Should someone buy a car or insurance before they make a decision about their eternal relationship with their Creator? We have the best answer—the only true answer—to the crying needs of a hurting world, so we need to be willing to paint the same picture and offer better results than the rest of the world.

Perhaps our confidence has been shaken by some who don’t know how to temper their words with love. In fact, most of what I’m saying is not in regard to Christ’s assault on the pride and sin of “religious” people, but His strength in knowing the answer to all things comes from the Father. Some who claim to speak for God have focused on messages that tear down, rather than build up, that discourage action rather than provoke a positive response. This has caused the rest of us to overreact by not wanting to push hard in our church marketing efforts. Yet this approach does not work—and it isn’t biblical.

We need to promote the problem as the world sees it, but provide a solution they didn’t see coming: a relationship with Jesus.

God’s way solves relational issues, protects marriages, keeps us from over-spending, and gives us hope in times of trouble. His Word speaks truth into the hearts of all who will listen.

So how do we do this? For starters, here are ways to improve any direct mail marketing piece:

5 keys to effective, provocative messages

1. Understand how people decide to attend. Understanding how people make a decision is an important step in leading them through that process. By knowing who reviews the mail (statistically it is women), who leads the conversation about attending (again women), and determining who could road block the decision (here is where the men fit in) we understand what to say and how to say it in language and visuals that make it through every step in the process.

2. State the offer, sell the benefits. The offer is a large matter-of-fact statement that reaches into people’s core like “Stop feeling tired”. The benefits build a case on how it gets done. “Learn exercises that will increase your energy,” or, “discover foods that build stamina” are both good examples that match the offer.

3. Develop rapport with your reader. People want answers, but whom should they listen to? Everybody today claims to be an expert. Focus on the ways that you can develop trust and tones of concern and relationship in your mailer. If the reader believes you want to help, and have the answers, then they are more likely to attend your event. Don’t waste marketing real estate without a reason. If you don’t have a great photo and aren’t known in your area, then your picture and bio will do little to add credibility. Instead, try adding faces of happy attendees similar to your target reader.

4. Understand and remove objections. Objections are simply reasons to say no. Take those away and you are more likely to get a yes. Childcare, food during mealtime hours, and easy directions on your mailer are all ways to overcome basic objections. One of the biggest challenges comes in presenting too many dates on your flyer. Keep in mind that if the reader is busy on just one of those dates, then they will have an easy out. Remember the purpose of the mailer is to get people to the opening night. You don’t want to trick them, but you do want to remove objections.

5. Call them to action. After you have taken every step and precaution to invite your neighbors through a mailing you must follow that up with a simple action step. Ask them to pre-register, call a phone number, visit a website or put it on their calendar. Any of these are good. You can offer multiple ways to accomplish a task—phone or website registration is a good example—but you should only focus on one specific act. Too many options will paralyze the reader, reducing action not increasing it. Be deliberate and ask for what you want them to do.


Each of these 5 keys is fundamental in the success of a campaign. If any one of them is overlooked then the entire promotion can crumble. Each one needs to be thought through and developed within the overview of the goals you have for your event.

In the end, we must find a new way to speak a classic message to this generation, and we must be willing to compete with the hyperbole of today’s marketing without compromising the truth of our claims. Thanks to Jesus, we have the ultimate offer, and talking it up should come pretty easy.