The Digital Transformation of Ministry

Lori BallBasic Marketing Principles, Case-studies, Evangelism Practices, From the Field, Marketing Practices, Marketing Tools

The digital transformation is already here.

Learn how to adapt and unleash it to reach even more people in your community.

We are in the midst of a rapid, radical reordering of society, driven by big data, cloud computing, the internet of things, and artificial intelligence. Some churches have dabbled on the edges, with things like livestreaming the church service or communicating via social media, but few have truly embraced the digital transformation.

It requires a fundamental rethinking of church communication tactics and even the core metrics of ministry, but in return, it offers a wider opportunity for reaching younger generations and fueling church growth.

In this webinar, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel lays out a vision for what the digital transformation might look like in a local church. He’ll share a digital communication framework that can be adopted by churches of all sizes. He’ll also talk about some specific digital tactics to use in this framework, like using your church’s website, email list, SMS messaging, search engine marketing, YouTube video ads, and social media.

You’ll leave with practical suggestions for adopting a digital communication strategy at your own church, reaching more people of all generations with the everlasting gospel.

Welcome to today’s webinar! We’ll be talking about The Digital Transformation of Ministry, and how to adapt to these changes and reach more people in your community. I really believe that a church who embraces this digital transformation can be incredibly effective at reaching more people for Christ, especially emerging generations. My goal for today is to give you a framework for understanding the digital transformation, along with some specific steps you can take to begin the process in your church.

For some of you who maybe aren’t tech savvy, this might sound overwhelming. But I’m going to break it down for you as simply as possible, and once you get it, I think you’ll see how much potential it brings to ministry in your community.

To understand what’s going on with the digital transformation we’re currently in, let’s look backward for a minute.

History: Stability with Bursts of Change

When you take a high level look at history, you’ll notice that there are long stretches of relative stability in how society operated, interrupted by periods of rapid change brought on by some technological innovation.

So, for example, think of how church ministry was done prior to the Gutenberg press. Imagine being a pastor with NO BOOKS on your shelf. Each copy of the Bible took years to write by hand, and that was it. Without books, even reading was a skill few people had. Then, in the 1450s, Gutenberg developed a method for mass-producing books. Now, it was still slow, and in the first decade Gutenberg only produced a few hundred Bibles. But it launched a radical reordering of society. Because of the printing press, knowledge became more widely available. Schooling became more important. And the Gutenberg press led directly to the Protestant Reformation within just one generation after its introduction. Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenburg door in 1517, about 60 years after Gutenberg first invented the press. It led to a radical reordering of society that took a couple of generations to work out.

Fast forward to 1837, when Samuel Morse first demonstrated a working telegraph between Baltimore and Washington DC. Prior to the telegraph, news could only travel as fast as a human, so news would take days to get between the South and the North of the United States, and it would take weeks to get news from Europe. With the telegraph, that time was reduced to minutes. By 1857, there were 33,000 miles of telegraph lines crisscrossing the United States, and the first transatlantic cable was laid. This radically accelerated the speed of society. It also contributed directly to the Civil War. Before there was naturally time for reflection, since it would take hours or days to travel between cities. But the telegraph made news instantaneous, leading to knee-jerk reactions. The telegraph led to a radical reordering of society, one based on speed.

One more example. Let’s talk about television. In 1948, the first commercial television station was broadcasting to almost no one. A couple of years later, in 1950, just 1% of households in the United States had a TV set. But just 10 years later, in 1960, over 90% of households had a television, and they were watching almost 5 hours per day. The television changed how homes were built, and the furniture in the living room. It changed how we used our leisure time. It led to a homogenization of the news, with just 3 broadcast networks broadcasting essentially the same news stories. Television programming reduced the attention span of Americans, as the brain came to expect a break every 7 or 8 minutes. The visual imagery of television directly led to passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, when people saw with their own eyes the police dogs viciously attacking protesters in Birmingham, and children being sprayed with high-pressure hoses. This reordering of society once again caused unrest throughout the 1960s and into the 1970s.

The Digital Transformation in Society

This brings us to today, and the digital transformation we’re currently experiencing. Think about how much has changed in the last 25 years. When you wanted to find an auto mechanic then, you went to the Yellow Pages. You paid your bills with written checks sent through the mail. If you wanted to visit someone, you had to call using a landline and get the address, which you looked up on a paper map. Of course today, you use Google or Yelp to find an auto mechanic, you pay your bills electronically, you text your friends, and use Google Maps to get turn-by-turn directions to get to their house. Television viewing has been declining since 2010, and last year Americans spent more time watching online streaming programs than broadcast television and cable combined. The computer in your pocket is more powerful than the fastest supercomputers 25 years ago, and we have instant access to whatever information we want.

Companies who have not embraced the digital transformation are gone. I’m talking about major Fortune 500 companies, like Blockbuster, Borders Books, Kodak, Radio Shack, and Sears. They missed the digital transformation and went bankrupt.

The digital transformation has changed how we are entertained, how we learn, how we interact with each other, how we communicate, even how we experience community. I’ve watched my teenage children and their friends, all looking down at their devices, texting each other as they sit together in the same room.

Analog Islands in a Digital Sea

In the midst of all this, I’ve been asking myself this question: What does the digital transformation look like in a local church? If organizations that missed the digital transformation have disappeared, how do we keep that from happening to us? What does this digital transformation look like in a local church?

Now, I want to be clear: I’m not talking about creating an online-only church. This is not a cyber church, or an all digital church. People today crave in-person experiences and community more than ever before, and what the church offers is a face-to-face, present community of faith. I’m not talking about online church. I’m talking about church online. Those are very different things.

The digital transformation has not made society completely online. We still eat food, though today you can buy your groceries online and get them delivered. We still go to restaurants, but often we’ll order ahead and have it waiting to pick up. We still go see a doctor in person, though you can schedule the appointment online, and even do a videoconference visit for certain ailments. We still live in a physical world, and ministry still happens in this physical world.

However, technology has changed how we interact with this physical world. And today, churches are analog islands in a digital society. We expect people to get in their car, drive to the church, and when they walk in we hand them a bulletin printed on paper, ask them to sit in a pew, where they hear announcements about other activities, then they listen to a sermon that someone speaks to them, and then they leave. There is nothing digital about this experience.

And I’ll be honest, everything I just described is completely foreign to young adults. As I was reflecting on this, I realized something: We haven’t lost the young adult generation. We never had them. Our analog expression of the community of faith is totally foreign to the digital natives.

So again, what does the digital transformation look like in a local church?

Parasocial Relationships

To begin to answer that question, let’s talk about the rise of social media influencers. There is a phenomenon today, particularly among Millennials and Gen Z, where people build relationships with popular personalities through social media. The 6 influencers shown here combined have over 250 million followers just on Instagram, and literally billions of views on YouTube. My son is into Minecraft, and follows a bunch of Minecraft players, including this one, Technoblade. My son would watch YouTube videos of Technoblade playing Minecraft for hours, while playing Minecraft himself. Well, last year word got out that Technoblade had cancer. Here is a picture of him on hospice, showing off a plaque from YouTube that he got when we hit 10 million subscribers. A year ago last June, he passed away, and when my 13-year-old son found out he came into my room crying: “Dad, Technoblade died!” I spent the afternoon consoling him, and he joined millions of Minecraft players around the world who changed their skin to the pig king for a few days to honor Technoblade.

What in the world is going on here? My son never met Technoblade. Technoblade had no idea who my son is. But here he is crying over this person who died. What’s going on here?

Well, it turns out there’s a ton of research on this. My son had built what researchers call a parasocial relationship with Technoblade. A parasocial relationship is the illusion of a relationship with someone in the media. It’s a social connection that is one-sided. My son had a relationship with Technoblade, but Technoblade did not have a relationship with my son. Here’s the thing: parasocial experiences lead to reactions that are surprisingly similar to in-person social experiences.

One researcher put it this way: “Human brains are still unable to differentiate between interactions in real life and online virtual environments or with real friends and simulated or artificial friends, such as television actors, people encountered on social media, and even virtual influencers” (Munnukka & Reinikainen, 2023, p. 359).

Parasocial experiences were first identified in the early days of television, back in the 1950s, but over the last 15 years there’s been a ton of scholarly attention paid to this. A lot of research has looked at the rise of social media influencers and the parasocial relationships that are formed, especially in emerging generations. Social anxiety, loneliness, and depression are particularly prevalent among Gen Z, and one way they deal with this is by forming parasocial relationships with influencers online. In fact, I wonder if the social anxiety isn’t pushing Gen Z toward parasocial relationships, because they are safe. There’s no risk. They can sit back and watch their favorite YouTube personalities or TikTokers without fear of being judged. But the emotional reaction to parasocial relationships is almost the same as the emotions connected to in-person social experiences. It may be an illusion, it may be one-sided, but it is very real.

If you’re beginning to understand this idea of parasocial relationships, say something in the comments. Give me another thumbs up there.

Digital Transformation of Ministry

Okay, some of you already see where I’m headed, but let me make the connection explicit. Let’s go back to our question: What does the digital transformation look like in a local church? I believe the core shift is using digital media to foster parasocial relationships, then leveraging those parasocial relationships as a bridge to in-person community.

Stop and think about it. What does church offer people? A spiritual community, relationships with other believers. God created humans with the innate need to belong to community, and church exists to fulfill this fundamental need to belong. We are social creatures, and although church of course has a theological component, and a vertical relationship with God, church is fundamentally a social experience, with horizontal relationships between humans.

So our goal is in-person community. People today crave in-person experiences and real, life-giving community. But the digital transformation allows us to accelerate this relationship-building through digital media. It allows us to break through the social anxiety to connect with people right where they’re at. It allows us to get out of the church building and begin developing relationships with people in the community. When the time is right, we can then invite these people to an in-person experience where that relationship can be deepened.

A couple of months ago we did a webinar with Dr. Hiram Rester, a pastor evangelist in Columbia, Missouri. In that conversation, he talked about how he uses YouTube advertising to share concise spiritual messages in the community around his church. His goal was to get more Millennials and Gen Zers out to an evangelistic series, and he found great success at that. But one side effect he found was that people began to recognize him when he was out and about. People will stop him at the grocery store or mini mart. He told me about going into a smoothie shop, and the 18-year-old kid behind the counter recognized him. “Are you that YouTube Bible guy?” he asked. Hiram didn’t have to persuade this young person to have a spiritual conversation. He was ready! He had built a parasocial relationship with Hiram, and it accelerated the in-person interaction, because he felt like he already knew Hiram. And it became an opening for ministry, as Hiram got to know him. It went from a one-sided parasocial relationships to a true, two-way, interactive, in-person, social experience.

Hirem is using technology to build these parasocial relationships. He can go visit his daughter at college, knowing that the message of the Kingdom of God is being preached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, reaching people where they are and building parasocial relationships with them. Then when the time is right, he can invite them to an experience where that relationship can continue in person.

One last thing about parasocial relationships before I move on to talking about tools for the digital transformation. When you think of “social media influencer,” what comes to mind? I know I think of a young, stylish person. But just this week, the Wall Street Journal had an article about a new trend, older influencers now called “granfluencers.” These are people in their 60s, 70s, and 80s who have built large followings on social media. The top 10 granfluencers on social media today have over 100 million followers combined, of which 74% are aged 18-34. So you don’t have to be young to build parasocial relationships with young adults. Anyone can do it!

Communication Channels: Control versus Reach

Let’s go back to the digital communication channels we talked about at the very beginning. When we look at digital communication channels, one of the factors to consider is control versus reach. Some channels give you tight control over how you present the message, but may not give you a lot of reach. Reach is how many new people does this channel allow you to access? Control versus reach.

So for example, your website gives you a high degree of control over how you present your message, but without any way to drive traffic to your website, it has very low reach. An Instagram post, on the other hand, has the potential to reach a large audience, but you have no control of who it actually reaches. Meta controls the algorithm that decides who will see that post. You can select the photo and maybe add a color filter to it, and you can write the caption, but that’s it. So high reach potential, but low control.

So we end up with two clear clusters on this graph, the ones with higher control and the ones with higher reach. Email, text messaging, a podcast, Discord server, Slack, these are higher control with lower reach. Facebook posts, TikTok, YouTube, these are higher reach with lower control.

Social media influencers spend a tremendous amount of energy creating content to build an audience through the social media algorithms. They create content that people will like and share, which the algorithm recognizes as good content that it then pushes out to more people. But they are relying on the algorithm, which is controlled by a big corporation and constantly changing. Facebook’s algorithm for deciding what to show in somebody’s feed uses AI to process 10 thousand different variables. It’s so complicated, even Facebook engineers don’t really know how it works.

I don’t want you to try to use the algorithm to grow an audience. First of all, it’s really hard. Second, it’s going to be a global audience, and most of your followers will be outside your geographic area of ministry. If our goal is in-person engagement, then you really want to focus on reaching people in your specific geographic area.

That’s where paid advertising comes in. If you run search engine ads, you don’t have complete control over the messaging in the ads, but you do have a fair amount of control, and it does give you a broader reach. So a website using Google Ads to drive traffic would be here. Facebook and Instagram Ads give you a high reach and a fairly high degree of control over the message. Same with YouTube ads.

So control versus reach is an important distinction, and different communication channels will have different value to you, depending on what you want to accomplish.

What’s the point here? I want to see you become an influencer, by building parasocial relationships with people in your community. But instead of using the algorithm to build a global audience through your social posts, you’ll be using advertising to grow an audience in the community around your church. Your church will be an influencer, but instead of using the algorithm, you’ll use advertising to reach people geographically near you.

Marketing Funnel

When we talk about the digital transformation in society, one of the key marketing concepts is the idea of a marketing funnel. There are a lot of nuances to marketing funnels, and I’m not going to get into the details today. I’m planning that our next webinar will be specifically about digital marketing funnels and how they can be used for evangelism. But I did want to mention it because it is a crucial concept in the digital transformation.

Essentially, you use organic posts on social media as well as advertising to offer something of value to people. You direct them to your website, where you collect their information and invite them to subscribe to your email newsletter or opt in to text messages. You’ve now moved them from a high reach medium to a high control medium, and you can continue to communicate with them in the future. That’s the gist of the digital marketing funnel. High reach channels lead to the website, which leads to high control channels. Again, there are a ton of nuances, but I wanted to mention it because it’s such a crucial concept in the digital transformation. I’ll be doing a webinar on the digital marketing funnel in the next few months.

Spiritual Communication

Okay, I want to talk about spiritual communication. I said I want you to become an influencer in your town. What is it you’re trying to influence? You want to inspire and influence people to take a step closer to Jesus. Isn’t that what preaching is at its core? It’s influence. You want to motivate change in belief or behavior. You want to help people be more obedient to the call of Christ. And this shouldn’t be limited to 30 minutes on Sabbath morning. It shouldn’t be limited to your evangelistic series. The digital transformation gives you tools to blow out the walls of the church and share your spiritual message to a wider audience.

Let’s take all this work you put into your sermon and do more than just preach it. You spend 10, 15 hours doing exegesis and assembling stories and key points and your call to action. Don’t limit the result all that work to just Sabbath morning. Let’s repurpose that for the digital world.

So I want to propose a new sermon workflow. First, work on your sermon. Follow your normal sermon prep process. If you write out a manuscript, keep doing that. If you write out bullet points with key transitions and a call to action, keep doing that. Prepare your sermon the way you’ve been doing that.

Then, when you’re done with your preparation, take an extra 90 minutes to repurpose that content for the digital environment. Pull out your key points, your quotes, your scripture, your call to action. Then record short videos, each with just one of these things. Make 6 videos, which you will then post every day in your social channels. Videos are important, because they help to build those parasocial relationships. You could also create 6 graphics with these points, which you can also post on your social media accounts.

Also make a 90-second summary, with your key points and your call to action, and record that to use in your YouTube advertising. Put that video on your website, along with the written summary. Put that video at the top of your weekly email, along with the written summary, as a spiritual thought for the week. Send out a text message with a link to that video summary. Push that short, concise content out through every one of your channels.

With practice, you can get this all done in about an hour, after you’ve completed the rest of your sermon prep. Then post these each day during the the week after you’ve preached your sermon. You’re leveraging all that preparation you did to create digital content that can be used to influence a broader audience to take a step forward in faith.

Habituated vs Inspired Volunteers

I want to quickly mention something about change in a church. We’re talking about a digital transformation of your church, but I don’t believe this needs to be a core cultural shift, and I also don’t think it will impact your church volunteers.

Let me explain. The Sabbath morning activities at your church are powered by habit. The deacon knows how to unlock the church and turn on the furnace, and can literally do it half asleep, because it’s all habit. The sound team knows where the mics and cords are and how to set it all up, because they’ve done it repetitively for so long it’s habit. The Sabbath School teachers know where to pick up the Little Friend or the Guide magazine to distribute, the musicians know what to do. Church runs on habit, and once a habit is established changing it is hard work. That’s one of the reasons why the first few weeks of pandemic closures were so exhausting for churches who shut down, because there was no muscle memory for how to do church. Everything was different. People had to think, and it was painful.

So these habituated volunteers are running on habit. Then how do you make any changes? How do you innovate? Changing habits requires inspiration. Innovation in a church requires unleashing inspired volunteers to pursue their vision.

However, there is nothing so annoying to a habituated volunteer than an inspired volunteer changing how things are done at the church. So innovation requires creating some sort of firewall between your habituated volunteers and the inspired volunteers who are innovating. It requires careful management. Once the innovation has been developed, then there is a process for deploying it through your habituated volunteers to minimize the stress. It’s a whole process.

So when you hear about this digital transformation of ministry, you might be concerned about how this is going to impact your habituated volunteers. Well, here’s the good news. It doesn’t impact them. The only person who needs to make a change is the preacher, because you’re taking your sermon content and prepping it for distribution through your other communication channels, and your team who are actually handling the mechanics of those posts and ads. The core ministries of the church are actually untouched.

The digital transformation is an overlay that goes over your weekly activities. You’re not changing what happens at your in-person gatherings. You’re taking what happens there and pushing it out into the digital space. That means you can move forward with the digital transformation without impacting your week-to-week volunteers.

It also means that while there are things you need to do as the pastor, as you’re taking an extra step after your sermon preparation, you can literally outsource the mechanics of this digital transformation. If you have volunteers who can help you, that’s great. But it’s not required. You can work with an organization like SermonView to begin the digital transformation process, then move this work to your church community as God brings inspired volunteers to you.

While the digital transformation is a fundamental shift in how you think of ministry, we can help you with that execution. SermonView can help power the digital transformation in your church.

Tools for the Digital Transformation

CRM Software

Okay, let’s talk about some tools you’ll need for the digital transformation. First, as you can imagine, you’re going to have to manage a higher volume of relationships. In addition, parasocial relationships more tenuous. Because of this, you’re going to need some way to manage all this information, some way to keep track of everyone. That’s what a CRM is for. A CRM stands for Customer Relationship Software, like SalesForce, HubSpot, and Zoho CRM. One could argue that eAdventist is actually a CRM, though that is missing a much of features. To be really helpful, you’ll need a way to capture information about each person, and make notes each time you interact with them. Ideally you’ll have the ability to text and email directly from the CRM and set reminders to follow up with someone later on. These are all core functions of a CRM program. You need a CRM to be remain effective, particularly as you grow and develop new relationships.

SermonView has developed a CRM specifically for Adventist evangelism, called InterestTracker. It’s a robust CRM that allows you to segment your list, add notes, & track activity. It’s cloud-based so you can access it anywhere you have internet access, and it centralized so all your users always have the latest information. It offers multiple user roles for your whole team. The user-friendly design and customizable notification settings mean you never miss a new lead or reminder to connect.

It also seamless integrates with all of SermonView’s marketing solutions, like our event pre-registration system and our Bible study lead generation program. The basic features are free and always will be for every church in the North American Division. There are additional paid features, like text messaging and attendance tracking, that are also available. You can learn more about InterestTracker at

Your Church Website

I already mentioned the key role your church website will play in the marketing funnel, but I want to take it a step further. Your church website should be the central, authoritative hub for all your communication, including the spiritual influence messages you’re trying to get out there. Your website should not be about your church, though that information does need to be available. Rather, it should primarily be a venue for evangelistic and discipleship content. If you’re preaching it, put it on the website.

Now this is harder to do if you have an Adventist Church Connect website provided by the NAD. So SermonView offers a website service, Evangelism Websites. It’s focused on reaching new people, but it also has features specifically for your members and leaders, too. It’s built on the most popular platform, WordPress. The service has multiple options, including content management as well as managed digital marketing.

Related to this, you don’t just want a website, but you also want to be visible out in the search engines. We do search engine optimization as part of the website setup. But we also offer Google search engine advertising to keep you visible as an add-on to our website product. The campaign is managed by one of our digital marketing coordinators, and we will run ads for general keywords like “church near me” or “church in vancouver,” those types of things. We also have a list of keywords we recommend specifically related to Seventh-day Adventist doctrine. So, for example, we’ll run ads when someone in your community searches for “Sabbath,” and we’ll direct them to a page on the website with an article about the Sabbath. Ideally, you’ll have a short video about the Sabbath, in addition to a short article, with a form inviting people to request a Bible study on the topic. We’ll do the same thing for other keywords, like “Second Coming” and “what happens when you die.” Each will send the user to a page on that topic, with a call to action to capture their information so you can continue communicating with them.

Google ads are available at discounted rates when bundled with your church website build.

YouTube advertising

Our newest service that we just launched is YouTube advertising. We can run YouTube ads leading up to an event, or run them systematically throughout the year to raise awareness for your church and help you build parasocial relationships with people in your town. We train you on how to record selfie videos, and we’ll provide coaching and feedback to help you grow in your skills. Once you record it, we’ll handle everything else: video editing, lower third graphics, audio sweetening, call to action slate, rending, uploading to YouTube, and running the ads. It’s all managed by a digital marketing coordinator, to help you get maximum results.

We have a year-long service that we call a pastor branding program. Again, you record the videos, we provide coaching and feedback with every video, and we handle the editing, rendering and uploading to YouTube. Then we’ll set up the campaign. We’ll also give you content ideas, based on what we’ve seen work best in other campaigns.

This program is not cheap. It ranges from $5,000 for the year, to record one video per month, up to $15,000 to record 4 videos per month. A portion of that service fee is allocated to the ad spend, so that includes the cost of running the ads on YouTube. We coach and give you feedback, so you’re improving throughout the year, and we handle all the mechanics of the videos.

Digital Transformation Bundle

We wanted to make it easy for you to get started with the digital transformation in your church, so we’ve created the digital transformation bundle. This is a collection of everything you’ll need to move your church into the digital realm.

First, we’ll build you a new outreach-oriented website, focused on your spiritual messages, like we talked about earlier. Then we’ll set up all the Google search engine ads for the keywords appropriate for your ministry. We’ll also include content management, so we’ll update the website each week for you to keep the content fresh and up to date.

We’ll also get you set up with InterestTracker, so you’ll have a CRM specifically designed for Adventist evangelism. We’ll include subscriptions to every module, including text messaging with 2,000 credits each month and AttendanceTracker. You’ll be able to send bulk text messages to specific segments of your list, or to everyone, and you can use AttendanceTracker to keep track of your weekly worship attendance, in addition to your evangelistic events.

You’ll also get our YouTube pastor branding program, so we’ll handle all the mechanics of editing, posting, and running ads for your 90-second sermon summary every week. You’ll be able send us 4 videos each month, and we’ll provide coaching and feedback on every video so you’ll improve your own skills as the year progresses.

We’ll also include Facebook and Instagram advertising using the same videos as YouTube, helping you reach a wider audience. All these ads on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram will lead back to your website, where you’ll be able to capture information about people who want what you’re offering, whether a Bible study or book or something else. When someone submits a request, it flows automatically into InterestTracker, where you’re alerted to that request so you can begin communicating directly with that interest.

We’ll even include an Unlimited Plus subscription to our biblical graphics library at, giving you access to art that you can use in your sermons and videos. This license also allows you to use these graphics in videos you post online, so you’re covered there.

This digital transformation bundle gives you access to 5 different skillsets at SermonView, including video editing, social media advertising, YouTube advertising, and search engine marketing. If you were to hire someone with all these skills to do this for you, that’s a full-time job with valuable skills that would cost you $30-$40,000 minimum. If you were to buy these products individually from SermonView, the cost would be about $25,000.

With this digital transformation bundle, we’ll do all of this for you for $19,900 for the year.

A large portion of this cost is the actual ad spend, which is included with this program. Every month we’ll be running about $700 worth of ads across Google search, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

This is a brand new program, which we’ve never offered before. We’re very excited to support you by offering this bundle to power your church’s digital transformation of ministry.

Embracing the Digital Transformation

Look, the digital transformation is happening all around us, whether we like it or not. And churches who don’t embrace this change are going to die, as the digital natives turn their back on our analog way of doing church. SermonView is at the cutting edge of powering the digital transformation, and we’d love to support you as your church makes this transition.

We are in the midst of a rapid, radical reordering of society, a digital transformation. Most churches remain an analog island in a digital sea, and if we don’t embrace this digital transformation, we are going to die. We haven’t lost the young adult generation. We never had them, because the way we do church in these analog ways are completely foreign to the digital natives.

When we embrace this digital transformation, however, it blows our ministry out beyond the walls of the church. We can become significant influencers encouraging people from all walks of life to take the next step closer to Jesus. We’ll go where the people actually are, and make a real difference in the community. I believe the digital transformation can truly change the world, as God works through us to reach new generations for Christ.

At SermonView we are excited to see how God can use the digital transformation to help you reach your community. Click below to learn more about your available options or call us at 800.525.5791.

You can watch our recent interview with Dr. Hiram Rester about how to create engaging video ads for YouTube here:

Case Study Results: How does direct mail hold up against digital advertising?

Lori BallCase-studies, Evangelism Practices, Fall Evangelism, From the Field, Marketing Tools

Digital advertising including video advertising has a proven record of being more effective than just written word ads. Last year, online video made up 82% of all consumer traffic, a 15-fold increase in just 5 years.

At SermonView, when we see stats like the one above, it gets our wheels spinning.  We wondered, how video ads would do for evangelistic meetings and how would it all compare to direct mail.

We decided to put it to the test.

We worked with a church to test direct mail vs. digital advertising using Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube for the same evangelistic event. We needed to know which method was going to be more effective at not just getting attention, but generating actual event pre-registrations.

The results speak for themselves. 

Before we could do a full comparison, we needed to define which types of video ads were more effective. On one hand, there are ads that look professional and show highly-edited, “movie-trailer style” videos, and there are ads that feel more natural, “selfie-style” videos with the pastor talking into their phone, sharing a personal invitation. We honestly had no idea which one would do better, but we were shocked that the answer was so clear.

Here’s what we found from the first test:

YouTube split testing ran 10-0 in favor of Selfie-Style videos.

We had a clear “winner” as far as the type of video that did best, but how would it compare to printed mailers? Now we were ready to run multiple forms of advertising. There was a 15,000-piece bi-fold mailing, and the rest of the budget was split between Facebook/Instagram and YouTube.

The results were as follows:


While mailings received the highest price-per-lead, there will always be a place for them in event marketing. (Multi-touch marketing is recommended for all campaigns.) This test showed that by utilizing a combination of digital marketing efforts across Facebook and YouTube, you’ll get a better cost-per-lead for your event marketing budget.

By adding YouTube ads to your marketing campaign you can now incorporate visuals, sounds, and even storytelling elements. This immersive experience not only leaves a lasting impression on your viewers, but also helps them establish trust and builds an emotional connection with your church.

Next-generation digital advertising to reach this generation.

At SermonView, we have helped churches with over 6,000 outreach events. We’ve sent over 30 million mailers into communities and reached over 8 million social media users. So we know how to help you plan an effective campaign.

Benefit from a proven multi-touch marketing approach with your event marketing plan that utilizes multiple forms of print, mail, and digital marketing resources to promote your next campaign.
Click the button below or call us at 800.525.5791 to learn more.

How to Create Engaging Video Ads

Lori BallBasic Marketing Principles, Case-studies, Fall Evangelism, From the Field, Marketing Tools

Reach more people online with YouTube and social media advertising.

In this webinar, we were joined by Dr. Hiram Rester to discuss what he learned from his own research on video advertising. He broke apart key elements and practical tips so that you can start creating your own video content today. You’ll learn how to record better videos and understand the main principles you need to follow to ensure your content is effective and engaging.

And for those of you who don’t have time to edit your own videos or manage ads, SermonView’s new YouTube advertising program is designed to increase your exposure in your own community. We’ll edit your videos, add text in the lower third, and upload your content to YouTube. We’ll also set up your campaign and carefully manage it to make sure you’re effectively reaching people online.

This is next-generation digital evangelism that builds credibility for you and your church through valuable content and resources. Above you’ll find the recording and here is the transcript of our conversation with Dr. Hiram Rester.

Larry: Welcome everybody, to today’s Webinar, “How to Create Engaging Video Ads”. To begin, I just want to say something about innovation.

At SermonView Evangelism Marketing, we used to be all about innovation. That’s what we cared about. But it didn’t take us long after we started the company 18 years ago, we realized that the goal was not innovation. The goal is effectiveness. If innovation does not actually help us be more effective, then that innovation is actually hindering, not helping. Today we’re focused on effectiveness over innovation. And over the last 18 years, we’ve written hundreds of newsletters and blog posts. We’ve done webinars and podcasts, and we’ve always focused on effectiveness, and today is actually the first time that we’re going to be talking with someone about something that’s really cutting edge. But the reason we’re doing it is because there’s data that is demonstrating effectiveness here. I really believe today that YouTube advertising is going to have a significant role in the future of evangelism marketing. So that’s why we’re kind of breaking one of our rules, and we’re talking about something truly innovative, but we’re doing it because I think that there are opportunities to be even more effective in our evangelism marketing using YouTube.

Today I’m talking with Dr. Hiram Rester. He’s the pastor of the Columbia Adventist Church in Columbia, Missouri, and is also an evangelist who’s conducted over 100 series over the course of his career. He recently earned his Doctor of Ministry degree from Andrews University. And some of what we’re going to be talking about, he learned while working on his dissertation. He’s also the author of the cover story in the June 2023 issue of Ministry Magazine entitled, “Social Media Ad Base Video Outreach”. Hiram, welcome.

Hiram: I’m glad to be with you.

Larry: I don’t want to oversell this, but I do believe that Dr. Rester’s dissertation is one of those generational ideas that has the potential to shift how we do evangelism marketing. In fact, Hiram, as I’ve been working on my own PhD in strategic media, your dissertation has already had a big influence on the direction of my own research. I’ve already written two papers just in the last few months that cite your dissertation, and this semester, I’m working on my third and fourth research projects that are actually driven by your work. So this has been really impactful for me personally and for us here at Sermonview.

First of all, Hiram, tell us the problem that you were trying to solve here.

Hiram: Well, the problem is simple: Over the last couple of decades, especially the last number of years, we’ve faced diminishing returns when it comes to getting a crowd at our evangelistic meetings. Direct mail has not worked as well as it once did. We’ve gone from maybe preaching to crowds of 100 or more visitors, sometimes 200 or more visitors, to preaching to a couple of dozen people, if even that. This is particularly an issue when it comes to reaching the younger crowd. And so what do we do to get people out to meetings? What do we do to connect with folks? And what do we do especially to connect with the younger audience?

Larry: Okay, so in a nutshell, kind of give us the big picture of what you did with YouTube advertising.

Hiram: Well, what we wanted to do is take some concise videos because research shows that Millennials and Gen Z (our young adults today) prefer to receive their content, the information they gain as they interact with the world, via concise videos. So, we began to develop some concise videos that would be general gospel presentations and some teasers for Bible prophecy, and we wanted to put them on YouTube. We actually tried various forms of social media: YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook. We ended up landing on YouTube as by far being the most effective in our research. And what we did is we boosted those videos as paid ads in our geographical location. And that was really what made the difference for us: the paid ads in our local area.

Larry: So I want to clarify something here. A lot of YouTube experts talk about things that you need to do to build your subscriber base, but that’s not what you’re talking about here.

Hiram: No, I am not really concerned with a subscriber base at all. With a subscriber base—let’s say you get, I don’t know, maybe 100,000 or 500,000 subscribers on YouTube, which we’ve got Adventist personalities that have that much and more—the challenge that you then find is they’re scattered around the planet. And when you get ready to do a live and local event, you may be lucky to find one or two in your local area. And so this bypasses that entirely where we used paid ads to put our content in front of folks within 20 miles of our church.

Larry: So instead of trying to build an audience, you’re just buying the audience that’s geographically located right near your church in your community.

Hiram: Yes, precisely.

Larry: Okay, so you did some testing, you did this testing as part of your dissertation. What were the results of this test?

Hiram: We started out primarily on Facebook and Instagram, and also put some stuff on TikTok and YouTube. Initially, we discovered that the views on Facebook were doing the best for us. And so we invested tons of money into Facebook “through plays”. It was about $30,800 we put into videos on Facebook. (We spent the kind of money on this that would be spent on a major evangelistic meeting to experiment and try to find what’s going to work.) Well, we initially eliminated Instagram as well as TikTok. And so we also eliminated YouTube because the videos that we were using were the “suggested next video feature” for them to click and watch, and it was costing more than twice as much as a view on Facebook. So we abandoned that. But then when we got near the end of our project, just a couple of months before the opening night of our live series that we were going to invite folks to, we came across some extra funding and as we looked at what to do, we decided to go back and experiment with YouTube again. And this time we used what’s termed as “skippable ads” the ones that play at the beginning of a YouTube video that you could skip after 5 seconds or they sometimes play in the middle of your video that you can skip after 5 seconds, or you can let play and that’s choosing to watch that ad.

When we experimented with those that’s when it really took off. We began to see views for half the rate on YouTube as what it was costing us on Facebook. In addition to that, the views were twice as long. A view on Facebook is called a “through play” (a Facebook term) and that’s 15 seconds. But a view on YouTube isn’t even counted as a view unless it hits 30 seconds or more (unless it’s the entirety of the video and let’s say it’s a 23-second video and they watch the whole thing, they’ll count it). And so as we did this advertising, we ended up with over 800,000 views in our area between Facebook and YouTube and that exceeds our local population by about five times, so we were definitely getting some views and by many folks, lots of views. And so then we did our evangelistic series. When we started our meetings we ended up with about 111 people, guests that came to the series. We did survey cards, (registration cards with a survey on them to find out what had brought people out to the meetings) and about a third of the folks that filled out cards didn’t do the survey portion which that’s pretty normal I think. Of the ones that did, we had about 40 folks out from the handbills and about 25 folks out from the videos. And so interestingly enough, most of the ones that came out from the videos were from YouTube and so that was our crowd base. It was the first time we had ever done anything, in our cultural setting, for advertising that had brought out a crowd that was not direct mail and so that was quite encouraging.

Larry: Talk to me about the demographics, what type of people came from this advertising?

Hiram: That’s what’s interesting. Out of the 25 folks, 13 were Millennials or Gen Z. In other words, the majority of folk that came out from the videos were younger than me, the speaker. It’s the only advertising we’ve ever done in our Adventist evangelistic advertising, in our personal 100 or so full message meetings we’ve done, where a substantial group was young adults. The majority in this case were young adults that came out.

Larry: Tell me about the demographics of the viewers that you saw on YouTube.

Hiram: So on Facebook, unless we set it specifically to show it to a younger audience, it automatically showed it to senior citizens because they’re cheaper to reach. However, on YouTube, without having to set any parameters, roughly 74% of the audience was between the ages of 18 and 44. Now I’m 46, so about 74% of the audience on YouTube, with no specific parameters, just automatically fell younger than me. And then we also found that it’s about 65% male, at least in our video viewing, and about 35% female. In religious information, that’s very interesting because you show up at church and the church is full of who? The ladies, right? It was very interesting to us that with YouTube we’re reaching a majority male audience, at least with our videos.

Larry: You did Facebook, you did direct mail, and you also did YouTube. And the result of this was a younger audience that was primarily coming from YouTube.

Hiram: Yes. In fact, the direct mail brought mostly an older audience, and the videos brought mostly a younger audience.

And then when we got down to the end of the series, we had 13 decisions for baptism. I inadvertently entered an extra experiment into this meeting that I kicked myself over and over for. We decided to live-stream the series at the last minute. I know Livestream does a lot of good and it’s great for the shut-ins, but we ended up with, instead of people continuing to be part of our live audience, staying home and watching, and it affected our meetings. In fact, we suspect that that was even more the case with the people we had reached with video advertising because they’re already used to staying home and watching YouTube, apparently. And so we normally would have had a larger group of decisions in a meeting of this size. But anyway, when we got down to the end, we had 13 decisions the last weekend for baptism and to join the church. Of those 13 decisions, four were from the handbills, four were from previous church contact, pre-work, et cetera, and four were from YouTube, and one was from Facebook.

Larry: Okay, so you had four decisions for baptism from people that came from the direct mail campaign, and you had four decisions for baptism that came from YouTube. How much did you spend on each of those?

Hiram: We spent $21,000 on our handbills and we spent $17,000 on YouTube. Interestingly enough, the four that came from the handbills, three were from the same family. So if that one handbill hadn’t been delivered, if the post office had messed up on that one address, it would have been a tough series on that side of the advertising!

Larry: So that ultimate metric of decisions for baptism, you had a lower cost per decision from the YouTube advertising than you did from the direct mail.

Hiram: Yes. Now, one thing I will add is if you put the Facebook advertising and the YouTube advertising together, that would not be the case because Facebook just ended up being a total bomb for us. But when you factor in YouTube head-to-head with the handbills, the end result in decisions for baptism, YouTube outperformed it based on a cost-benefit analysis.

Larry: I want to kind of go down a side road and talk about our experience briefly. I want to talk about direct mail specifically, and as Hiram and I were talking before, he’s like, “I don’t want to really disrespect direct mail because it has a place and because SermonView does direct mail”… but here’s the bottom line: first of all, direct mail still had an impact, but it’s expensive. It’s the only way to guarantee that someone in every home has an opportunity to respond to your message. But it’s expensive. And ultimately, we’re a marketing company. We don’t care about direct mail. We don’t care about social media. We don’t care about YouTube. We care about effectiveness. And if YouTube is more effective than direct mail, and in the end, we end up shifting a lot of the dollars over to online marketing, we’re okay with that. We want to do what’s most effective. Here’s the thing with direct mail: There was a study done in 2004 that found that 96% of postal customers checked their mail every single day. We just did our own study earlier this year that found 40% of postal customers no longer check their mail more than once a week.

We went from 4% not checking the mail every day to 40% now checking it once a week or less. And that’s a huge impact! And when you look at the younger demographics, that number is even higher. So the post office has also made a change in some of their delivery commitments. So now instead of a three-day window at the local post office, it’s a four-day window. And the sectional facility used to have a two-day window that now has a four-day window. So you add three days there, and we’re seeing delays with the logistics of getting the mail shipped out to that sectional facility. And then people don’t check their mail every day. Suddenly you need to be getting that mailpiece out at least a week earlier than before and maybe even a week and a half earlier. And now you’ve diluted some of the effectiveness because it’s not this hit all at once in mailboxes. It gets spread out as people are checking it. Those are things that are just societal changes and cultural changes that explain why direct mail doesn’t have the same level of effectiveness as it used to.

You told me about something through this experiment. It raised your profile in the local community and has given you opportunities for divine appointments that have been really unexpected. Tell me more about that.

Hiram: Oh, my! I’ve never seen anything like this as a pastor before. We do evangelistic meetings (though I did travel in Evangelism for a number of years, I’ve actually been a settled pastor longer than I was on the road in Evangelism). And so you’d send out the flyers in the mail, and once the flyers have gone out, once the dates for the seminar have passed or the series has passed, I didn’t really see much benefit. Sometimes people would attend and they say, “Oh, I saw your flyer last time and wanted to come”. So there was that. But I never got recognized in town from the handbill ever. Well, from the videos, it happens all the time! The bus boy at Olive Garden, someone random at the grocery store, a guy at the gas station, at my daughter’s soccer game. A guy’s like, “Hey, are you the fellow on YouTube sharing the Bible prophecy videos?” I go into Chipotle to grab some lunch and a guy comes up: “Man, I was going to attend that series you were doing, the one you were on YouTube about. Are those recorded anywhere or are you going to do it again? I want to be there.”

Then, you know, I’m at a smoothie place, and the young man that’s bringing out the smoothie, he’s like, “Are you on YouTube doing the Bible videos? I accepted Christ. I gave my heart to the Lord. Because of your Bible videos on YouTube.” I’ve never had an impact like this as an Adventist pastor in the community, like from these videos! And so our church leadership now sees this as more of an investment for the future as we’re running these videos, as compared with other forms of advertising, which seems to lose most of their effectiveness, if not all of their effectiveness the moment the dates are passed.

Larry: I want to talk about the early days of It Is Written, when George Vanderman, before he even started the It Is Written television program, was an evangelist working for the GC Ministerial Department. And this was the early 1950s. TV had just come on the scene. Bill Fagel was starting Faith for Today with some dramatic vignettes. There were others, The Quiet Hour was just getting started on television. But he was an evangelist, and he decided to try something. He created 30-minute films. There were actually a total of 30 half-an-hour films that he created. Before he would go into a city, he would buy airtime on the local TV stations and play these evangelistic films for several months prior to actually showing up. And the results were astonishing, the number of people that were coming out. One of the first tests was in Bakersfield. I ran across a Recorder article from 1956 that talked about this in Bakersfield. They ran these films on TV for about three months prior to the evangelistic series. And they had like 200 baptisms, which even back then was an astonishingly high number. I’m not sure that the brethren at the GC got the right idea from it because they decided, “Hey, you know what? It’s planting the seeds of Bible prophecy, the three angels’ message is getting planted. We need to do this national TV program so that way all the evangelists can take advantage of it.”

But I think part of the power of this was it was George Vanderman on the screen, and then George Vanderman shows up in town. And that was a really expensive proposition in the 1950s. Today, you’re able to do that in your own community for just a few thousand dollars. For the amount that you spend on a direct mail campaign doing this, getting on YouTube, you’re reaching a younger demographic. People are actually seeing you. They feel like they’re getting to know you a little bit. And when they get invited to come out to the meetings, it just reduces the friction for them to go, “Yeah, I want to go out there”. So this is taking a very old thing that was proven with It Is Written and George Vanerman in the very early days, and now applying it in 2023 in a really effective way. And this is why I’m so excited, Hiram, about what you’ve done: it’s taking something that we know has worked, but finding a new way and new media to be able to do it today. I’m so excited about the potential here.

Hiram: Oh, I can tell that you are. And I have a couple of thoughts. I remember when you told me about that, I was unaware that George Vanderman had done that. And that’s awesome. And yet back then, there would have been, what, three TV stations probably, but society has changed. Where are you going to get everyone? I guarantee you that you’re getting more people on YouTube right now than you are the 100 and something channels available spread across cable television, satellite TV, et cetera, these days. And so you’ve got a place where they’re funneling in, and then using concise videos. Now technology, all the wonders of technology, and our interaction with it have caused young adults these days, the “digital natives”, you could say, to be to the point that they have a fairly short attention span for non-entertainment. I want to emphasize non-entertainment. They’ll still watch a three-hour-long entertaining movie. But with non-entertainment, they have a very short attention span in most cases (unless they’re already really interested in something). And so that’s why we focus our videos now instead of 30-minute programs, we do 30 to 90-second videos. That tends to be what’s working best according to the research for young adults today.

Larry: Let’s talk about some mechanics. Let’s do some training to help the pastors be able to do this. When you and I have talked about this, there are basically three areas that need to be considered for doing this. And it actually falls into the categories of traditional video or television production. You’ve got pre-production, production, and post-production. Pre-production is writing your script, and planning for your actual shoot. Then production is the actual recording of it. And then post-production is all the editing and everything like that. So in this context we’re talking about, the first category is defining your video content, deciding what the content is going to be how you’re going to approach it, and that type of thing. Then how to record your videos (we’re going to talk about that in a little bit more detail). Then the post-production is where the editing, adding the lower thirds, the audio mixing, rendering, and uploading it to YouTube and all that. We’re going to talk about a service that SermonView offers to handle all that technical post-production stuff.

So let’s take this in this order: Let’s talk about content first. When you did content, what did you say? You said 30 to 90-second videos. Were you recording your Sabbath morning sermons or taking a snip from the sermon or what was this content? Where did it come from?

Hiram: We wanted to do targeted special content for the YouTube audience. And so we wanted good general gospel-focused material as well as, since we were doing a Bible prophecy series, things that would hopefully build an interest in Bible prophecy because we wanted to advertise and do the meetings in a way that was congruent between the two. And so we did gospel presentations. One we stole from, I believe HMS Richards years ago. It’s been around a while called, “The Four Things God Doesn’t Know”.

Larry: Can you give us an example of what that would sound like?

Hiram: So on a skippable ad for YouTube, you have 5 seconds and then they can skip. So you have 5 seconds they have to watch. And then if you can hook them in that time, they’re going to watch most of your video. And this one is one that has a view rate where folks watch the entire video about 60% of the time. So about 60% of the people chose not to skip it. And so here’s how it would start:

“Did you know there are four things even God doesn’t know?” Well, there you go. What do you mean by what God doesn’t know? And for those of you that you’re wondering what that is, it’s really simple:

1. He doesn’t know a sin He doesn’t hate.
2. He doesn’t know a sinner He doesn’t love.
3. He doesn’t know anything else He could do to save you.
4. He doesn’t know a better time than right now.

And so that ended up being about a 23-second video with a 60% view rate and just a great little nugget that has worked in the community and put us forward as people who are focused on Jesus and the Gospel and that was powerful.

For another one that we did, we got a SermonView picture (we purchased it properly through your graphics program) and we put it up and we were going to talk about Bible prophecy. Just curious how it would go. Some of them we did, we didn’t think they would work, but they did. And some of them we didn’t think work, didn’t. But some of them we thought would do really good. Well, they didn’t pan out. So here’s one that did really great: put up an image of that antichrist beast, that ugly beast, and it simply said, “Check out this picture of this artist’s depiction of the antichrist beast of Revelation 13 in Bible prophecy.” Well, I don’t know, I guess a lot of folks haven’t seen it. There was a lot of interest in that. That one also had about a 60% view rate and it ended up being about a 90-second video that explained and talked about beasts and prophecy just a little bit, and it just kind of planted some seeds and got some attention. And then we did things on “The Daily Walk”, how to have victory in our life as Christians. I did one on “Signs of the Times: Why is the world going crazy?” That kind of stuff.

Larry: Okay, so these are evangelistic or personal growth types of topics that are going to catch people’s attention and actually provide some value to their lives.

Hiram: Yeah, certainly that’s what we’re looking for ultimately, when it comes to things like YouTube and the online world, the social media world, people are interested in seeing more of what adds value. The whole idea was we didn’t want to just start a week before the evangelistic series, just advertising, “Come to this meeting, come to this meeting, come to this meeting!” We wanted to spend several weeks adding valuable content for people so that when a meeting came, they would go, “Okay, I got to go see this!” And so that was kind of what was behind our approach.

Larry: Okay, so that’s the content. Let’s talk about how to record these videos. So let’s start with preparation. Did you actually write out this script and then use, like, a teleprompter? How did you do this?

Hiram: I experimented with teleprompters and written scripts, and it was pitiful. It was absolutely pitiful. The people who read the news on teleprompters go to school for years to get good at that. When I say pitiful, you can tell most of the time when people are reading that they’re reading. And so I learned a method that is actually taught by some Hollywood actors that do a training program. I bought it and I went through it. It was put together for entrepreneurs who want to do video stuff to promote their businesses. So I said, it’s going to overlap. I got that, went through it, and learned to basically—talk about all the high-tech stuff we have—get a sticky note. That’s right, a yellow sticky note, and write bullet points on the sticky note. And we’re only talking about a 30 to 90-second video anyway, right? I mean, I’m talking right now without notes, you talk to people on the phone without notes, you don’t need a lot of notes if you can relax and talk about your content. But you do kind of need prompts for where you’re going. And so that’s what the bullet points were for. I would basically think, and put bullet points down for what I wanted to cover on my video and then I’d go on a walk and I would just preach to the woods, preach to the houses. I say “preach” but I’m just actually, in a conversational tone, working through that material until the point that I can sit down in front of the camera, and within three takes, I can hit a good one. It’s called the three-take method. If you can’t nail it in three takes, you didn’t prepare enough. It’s better to go back and spend more time preparing than to have these frustrating recording situations and then have a bunch of video that has to be overly edited to piece things together. And then when we got ready to film the video, we took that sticky note and put it right under the lens of the camera and it became the teleprompter.

Larry: All right, tell me about the camera that you used.

Hiram: I used an iPhone 7 because my iPhone 14 had too much stuff on it. An iPhone Seven. I mean, it was in the drawer and hadn’t been used in like three years and it was still better than (unless you wanted to spend really good money) a lot of cameras that you’d go buy at Best Buy these days. And by the way, a lot of the stuff you’re seeing on Facebook, on YouTube, on Instagram, it’s smartphones these days. You can certainly spend all the money you want on recording equipment, but you can do phenomenally good videos on almost any smartphone these days.

Larry: I just saw a thing in one of my classes. There have been a number of Hollywood feature films that have been shot 100% on an iPhone using the iPhone camera.

Hiram: Wow. I believe it.

Larry: And what you’re talking about is using the back-facing lens, not the front-facing one. This is a better-quality camera. And so you would set it on a tripod or whatever and just put the sticky note right underneath it and record?

Hiram: Yeah, because if you didn’t, I’m on my phone right now, so I can see you and I can see me. Well, the problem is the lens is over there, but I keep looking here at the screen because that’s where I see you and me. And so it’s going to constantly show you not really looking right into the camera if you have the picture where you can see it. It’s better to frame it up and then look right into the lens of the camera. Put your sticky note right under it and it’s not just a sheet of paper, it’s a sticky note – it’ll stick right to it (talk about high tech, huh?). Then what you want to do is, as you’re doing the video, imagine you’re talking to a friend. You don’t have to have notes and you don’t have to start and stop 100 times when you’re talking to a friend on the phone. Imagine as you look directly into the lens, through the lens, that lens is a window and your good friend is on the other side there and you’re just talking to a good friend. So go over your material, do three takes, take the best one, use that one, and you’ll be set. That works really good.

Larry: I actually have a degree in video production, and mass media from Walla Walla University. (Shout out to my friends in the communication field!) There are four things when it comes to recording that you need to be paying attention to: one is the camera. Two is how are you going to keep that camera steady? (So how are you going to mount that? Is there going to be any camera movement or things like that, but sticking it on a tripod or some way of fixing it so that it’s solid.) The third thing is your lighting. (How are you lighting the subject?) And then the fourth is the audio.

So we’ve talked about the camera. Tell me about how you mount the camera when you record.

Hiram: I picked up a little tripod, you can get them for about $30. And it’s spring-loaded. You just hold it open, put the phone in there and it holds it. You kind of frame up the shot and you’re good to go. And so that’s what we did for that. It’s worked very effectively. You really don’t need camera movement for something like this. A 30 to 90-second video, a still image with you talking, that’s all you need.

Larry: And as we’ve been experimenting since your dissertation came out, we worked with one pastor who did his video walking, and he was literally just holding it out. The difficulty was there was a lot of shaking that was going on. I’ve tried using a selfie stick walking around and even then it shakes. The best that I’ve seen is just stick it on a tripod, no movement. Record into that and call it good.

Hiram: Yeah, and that works great. You can get a gimbal thing that takes some of the motion out for the selfie sticks and all. I’ve seen those used with good success. One thing you got, if the camera is shaking all around while you’re holding it like this, you’re certainly coming across as authentic. That at least counts for something, but your sound is probably your other big issue. We did several of our videos just like I’m doing now, without a microphone. However, if dogs start barking or a vehicle drives by and you’re by the road, you get this background noise. You want good video, but studies have shown people are more tolerant of imperfections in your video than they are in your audio. Your audio needs to be good. And so we ended up looking on Amazon, looking at lots of reviews, and got a mic that we could use, and that helped with the quality of our videos. I think you may share some options on that.

Larry: Yeah, I’ve got two mics that we’ve been using. [Links to products at the end.] One is just in a little case and it clips on the end of the iPhone. It’s got a windscreen on it, but you would just clip it on the end and you’re good to go. And the quality there is pretty good, certainly better than the internal mic. But the issue there is it’s kind of a shotgun, so it’s picking up all the noise behind you as well as your voice. Did you try something like that?

Hiram: Yeah, we used one like that. And if you just want to make sure you’re picked up better and there’s no background noise, that’s great. If you are out near a road and an 18-wheeler truck drives by, a mic like that can just kill you. But there are settings where it’s very good inside mostly, I would say.

Larry: And that mic that I just mentioned is about $60, highly reviewed. The other mic that I’ve been using more recently for videos is a wireless mic and this plugs into the bottom of my phone and then I’ve got a lapel mic that I can just clip on. The quality of this is really good. I think this cost me about $120 and it actually includes two different mic packs. So you could do an interview with somebody or that type of thing.

Hiram: Excellent!

Larry: Let’s talk about lighting. What did you do for lighting?

Hiram: I mostly use natural lighting. Mornings and evenings are really good. When you can get good shade throughout the day it can often be lit pretty well. Even inside a lot of times you can open up windows and such and get some pretty good lighting. I will say that most of the cameras in this day and age are so good that they’re very forgiving on lighting. Is lighting still important? Yes. Is it as critical an issue as maybe back when you were at Walla Walla? I don’t think that it is, because the cameras are so much more forgiving. But you don’t want to get silhouetted. You don’t want to have a bunch of bright light behind you and it silhouettes you and that kind of thing. But you don’t want harsh lighting either, so you don’t want to be out in direct sunlight. Typically that’s in the middle of the day that’s not going to do good for you. If you set up your phone and you start doing a video, typically I’ll just do like a few seconds of whatever, and then look at it to see how it looks. If it looks good, then you’re good, and if it doesn’t, then keep experimenting, you’ll get it.

Larry: I had to shoot a video for one of my classes a couple of weeks ago and I planned to do it outside, so I was going to wait until evening when you have that golden hour, it looks really good. And then it got overcast and I could see that it was clearing up. So I had like about a half-an-hour window here where it was overcast. And so I ran outside and did it. The great thing about overcast light is that it’s really diffused, so you don’t have those harsh shadows. It ended up looking good.

Something else I heard somebody say once, if you take a car phone mount that you stick to your windshield, you can stick it at eye level on your sliding glass doors out back if you’ve got those. Or if you have a big window, bay window, or something like that, stick it at eye level. And now all that natural light that’s washing in is going to light you really well. And if you’re using the camera on the back of the phone, there are ways that you can actually reduce the depth of field. So the background behind you is more out of focus. On the newer cameras you can do that then it doesn’t matter what’s behind you, you’re well-lit. This is a really simple method, it costs $15 or $20 or something less.

Hiram: I love it. That’s a great one.

Larry: Now talk to me about energy. You said something interesting to me in a previous conversation. When you talk, can you just talk as if you’re talking to a friend? How’s that?

Hiram: You need to amp it up just a little bit. We tend not to be as vibrant on camera as we think we are. One of the things that is good to do, especially when you’re practicing, is push yourself out of your comfort zone (which by definition means you’re doing it in a way in which you’re uncomfortable). And then as you kind of settle back, hopefully, you’ve raised your energy a little bit. Some of us, especially on camera, need to up the energy a little bit. Sometimes rehearsing might feel a little unnatural, but come on, when you learned how to drive a vehicle, which you do so naturally now, did you not feel totally out of control the first time you started down a hill at about 35 miles an hour? I mean, practice makes things develop. Have you ever played golf? I’m not a good golfer. I don’t have the patience for golf. I go about three holes real serious, and I just start knocking the fire out of them. That’s my personality, right? But learning how to hold a golf club, I mean, talk about something that, when you first learn, feels totally unnatural. But then as you continue to do it, it becomes natural. You may need to add a little bit of energy to catch an online audience, especially a younger audience at first. And it may push you out of your comfort zone to do so, but it’s well worth the effort. And what doesn’t maybe feel natural at first will come along in time.

Larry: I found that if I don’t have the biggest smile possible while I’m recording a video, (if it doesn’t feel like a fake big smile) then it doesn’t look like a natural smile. It just looks like a little bit of a smirk. And it’s really interesting how, yeah, the camera zaps some of that energy. What you think is projecting a nice natural energy, comes across without as much energy as you think.

Hiram: And you’re not going to hold the young audience on YouTube today with that. You don’t have to be standing on your head shouting, over the top. In fact, that doesn’t come across as genuine. You’re looking for authenticity, that is what they’re looking for. And you, having a little more energy than you might normally have, that’s not going to come across as inauthentic. You’ve got to be somewhere between too much energy and too little energy. You need to have a “Goldilocks” video: not too hot, not too cold, just right.

Larry: And that takes practice. In order to find that line, you have to cross it. And this is something that you can experiment with while you’re recording. Go over the top and you may find that that’s the sweet spot where you feel like you’re over the top, but just try it and see how it looks.

Hiram: Yeah, but don’t be afraid to get started. Don’t let this intimidate you. Get some videos done. Put them out there, and see how they do. One of the things about YouTube is it will show you how well people are viewing. You can see when you run the ads where people are dropping off and how quickly. Another thing we did was we put together a committee in the church where we would review videos that didn’t do well to try to understand why we call them “Autopsy of a Dead Video”. And so in the Autopsy of a Dead video, we’re looking and go, “Oh, around 12 seconds, almost everybody left what was happening right before that?” And then we took some of the videos, some of them we didn’t even rerecord, we just edited and they went from duds to studs in the way that they performed. So experiment. Learn to be catchy at the beginning. Sometimes we would do what we thought was a catchy introduction, and before we got to the meat and potatoes, everyone was gone. And if we just trimmed off what we thought was a great introduction and went right into the meat and potatoes, we held them. And so just start doing it, experiment with it, and you’ll find some stuff that works really well. I know you will because we have.

Larry: I want to actually show a couple of these videos. We’ve talked now about the content and we’ve talked about the recording. I want to show two of your videos. And these are available at if you want to go take a look at them. Here’s one:

[One of Hiram’s videos:]

“I’ve heard people say they don’t go to church because there are too many hypocrites there. Well, where else do you want the hypocrites to be? We go to the grocery store and guess what? There are hypocrites. We go out to eat. There are hypocrites at restaurants and sporting events. Yeah, the hypocrites are there, too. You don’t let the hypocrites keep you away from anywhere else. Don’t let them keep you away from church.”

Larry: That’s one, and I love this one as well:

[Another one of Hiram’s videos]

“I invite you to consider four ways to fix your spouse. Number one, quit trying to fix your spouse. The only person you can fix is you, and you can’t even do that on your own. The Bible says, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me’. Number two, don’t fixate on your own needs: focus on the needs of your spouse. ‘It’s more blessed to give than to receive’. Number three, communicate with kindness. Proverbs says ‘a soft answer turns away anger’. And number four, the best way to fix your spouse is to fix your spouse’s spouse.”

Larry: All right, so you got a hook at the beginning, you have interesting content that adds value to people’s lives. The lighting is good. The audio is good. Yeah, this is what we’re talking about!

Hiram: Well, we put a lot of thought into them. Again, they don’t all have to be prophetic. A lot of it has to do with what you’re building toward. But I will add this: Whether you’re building toward a Bible prophecy seminar or a community event: the general Christian ones, like the “Four Things God Doesn’t Know”, “Hypocrites at Church”, “Four Ways to Fix Your Spouse”, this is still good for any audience because it shows that you’re adding value to people’s lives. It shows that you’re gospel-centered, that you believe in the Bible, and that you believe in Jesus. The importance of those things can’t be overemphasized.

Larry: All right, so we’ve talked about pre-production, we’ve talked about the type of content that you want, we’ve also talked about production: the recording, and some of the things related to that. I want to talk about a new service that Sermonview is offering where we will work with you to put your videos online.

So you write the content, you record it, and then we take care of all the technical details after that. You send us your three raw takes and we’ll edit it. We’ll add the lower third, we’ll add other graphics, we’ll render the video, we’ll take care of the audio, we’ll create the thumbnail, we upload it to YouTube, we set up all the advertising, we do all that stuff. And part of the cost of this annual program includes an advertising spend. And we have three different levels that I want to share with you, depending on how active you want to be. And there are a couple of reasons why we want to do it for a year. One is that it takes time to practice and get good at this. And we don’t want to be working with someone and a month or two in have them just go, “I can’t do this anymore.” Pushing through that discomfort is going to be an important piece of it. But the second thing is having these ads running year-round is actually building that foundation for ministry and increasing your visibility. And it gives you these opportunities through divine appointments to do ministry in your community.

So we’ve got three levels: if you do one video per month, that’s the small package, the cost is $5,000 for the year, and that will get you between 30,000 and 50,000 views over the course of the year. (Based on the cost per view that Hiram has seen.) You can do two videos per month for $9,000 for the year. That will get you somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 views during the year. Or we can work with you to do four videos a month, basically one per week, the cost for that is $15,000 for the year. This will get you about 80,000 to 120,000 views over the course of the year.

We provide feedback for each video that you send us so you can improve your own skills over the course of the year. With each video, we actually give you one thing to work on for the next one. Maybe it is something like “You need to get a better mic so that the audio is better.” or “Let’s work on the lighting this time around to see if we can get light your face a little bit better”. So we give you that feedback, we edit the video, we add the lower thirds and the other graphics, we render the video, we handle balancing the audio, we create the thumbnail, upload it to YouTube—we set up all the advertising.

We’re also compiling content ideas from Hiram and others who want to participate to help you jumpstart developing your own content. If you’re willing to contribute your own work to this collection, then we’ll give you access to all these ideas as part of SermonView’s YouTube service. You can learn more at

Let’s go over some questions. The first question is, “Do I need to create my own YouTube channel?”

Hiram: For the purpose of the advertising, I recommend that you do. I also recommend as a pastor that you have your own. The question then comes, should my church have a YouTube channel or should I? Well, maybe both should. My church has one and I have one. But what’s going to happen is, as pastors, we tend to move in a few years. The next pastor usually does not do the same outreach as the previous pastor or use the same stuff. And if as a pastor, you’re only on the church’s account, you may have to just start fresh again. And so I recommend you have your own channel for this.

Larry: Let’s talk about the “skippable” ads, why those are preferred, and could you do “non-skippable” ads?

Hiram: The first thing we did on YouTube is we use the ads where it recommends “the next one to view”, it’s up at the top right there on YouTube. And it’s suggesting that you click on it to watch it. It does label it that it’s an ad. And we’re doing some of those right now, but we have found that those cost two to three times more than the skippable ad. It just wasn’t cost-effective.

Another thing is the volume. You’re stuck with only the number of people who would choose to click on that video in a day. Well, you might show it to everybody in town, and only a few click on it. In fact, the view rate is very low on those, whereas with the five-second skippable ad, you’ve got 5 seconds whether they want to watch it or not, that you’ve got to get their attention and to make a connection and to hook them to watch the whole thing. And look, I was skeptical of a skippable ad. So much so that when we first experimented, we went with the other format and we eliminated YouTube entirely from our research based on the cost of the other method.

It was only, and I believe it was a God thing, that we had that windfall of some extra evangelistic advertising money come through with a couple of months left, that we circled back and even tried skippable ads and it turned out to be the bread and butter that worked for us. So try the others, it’s certainly a good thing to try. But for the number of views you get, the impact that it’s going to have, right now the five-second skippable ads, I don’t believe can be beaten.

Larry: Yeah, and there’s another reason, an economic reason to do these five-second skippable ads, and that is as an advertiser, you don’t get charged for a view until they watch 30 seconds. So if they skip after 5 seconds, you don’t get charged for that ad. If they watch 25 seconds, you don’t get charged for that ad. It’s not until they actually watch 30 seconds. So your audience is self-selecting whether they’re interested in this content or not. So if you hook them and get them to the 30 seconds, well now that’s a valuable view to you and that’s when you get charged for it. And I don’t think either one of us knew before, part of the reason why YouTube is so powerful: Google is the number one search engine in the world. The number two search engine is actually YouTube. There are tons of people who just go straight to YouTube and search for content. Then when they look at it, if you bought that ad in front of that content, then boom, you’re right in front of them.

Next question: “Can we use the content that Hiram used in his videos, such as ‘The Four Ways to Fix Your Spouse’, et cetera?”

Hiram: Yes, you can copy anything that I’ve done, just don’t copy it verbatim. Put together your little sticky note, walk up and down your own driveway, get your own way to say it, and then do it. The thing is, I’ve learned in ministry, that my creativity increases when I give away the ideas God gives me. And I believe my creativity diminishes when I try to keep it to myself. You are welcome to it if it’s something that blesses you, that you think is worth building upon, by all means, take and use it. And by the way, with this approach, I might not be so ready to say “yes” to that if I were focusing like some YouTubers are. I’m glad to have subscribers all over the place, but that isn’t my focus. My focus is within 20 miles of the Columbia Seventh-day Adventist Church in Columbia, Missouri. You doing one that’s almost identical to mine, 500 miles from here, that’s not going to affect my audience. If I was trying to develop a channel with 2 million followers around the world, I might not want folks using stuff similar to mine.

But one of the things about Adventist evangelism is we’ve always borrowed heavily from each other. And that’s the tradition I come from. You’re certainly welcome to use anything that I have and go and make it better. What needs to happen is you need to steal it from me, and then when you make it better, I’m going to steal it back.

Larry: If you want to see the 30 scripts, they’re actually in an appendix to the dissertation, which, if you go to Andrews University, search for Hiram Rester, his dissertation will come up. It’s a very long and complicated academic-sounding title, but it’s the only dissertation by Hiram Rester.

Someone is asking, “How often are you posting to YouTube?” Or how often let’s rephrase this. “How often are you changing the content on the ads?”

Hiram: Boy, I don’t have a set amount. Right now I’ve got several ads running at the same time. I just have the frequency settings, which this gets more advanced than most of you are going to want to fool with, but I have mine set so the frequency won’t give them an impression more than three times on a video in a day, and then it won’t let them view that same video more than once a week. And so if they’ve watched it all the way through, it’s not going to show it to them again for seven days, but it will show them one of my other ones. So they might watch seven or eight of my videos right now in a week, but they’re not going to watch the same video more than once a week. But this is so new, we’re experimenting with it. We don’t know for sure what works best. That’s one of the reasons I’m excited that SermonView is getting this out there and getting pastors to do it, because we need more experimentation to know what is working best.

Larry: We have the low package, the $5,000, where it’s like one new piece of content per month, but I think really the sweet spot is the twice-a-month option, where you’re putting new content out every other week. If you wanted to do more that’s why we also have the larger package.

We have a question specifically about that service, “What are the lengths of the videos that SermonView will help with?” We want to limit these to 90 seconds. Did you tell me that you saw a precipitous drop-off between 75 and 90 seconds, so you ended up keeping it below 75 seconds? (Maybe that was somebody else who told me that.)

Hiram: It’s according to the video and the content, and if they believe that, the last thing you tell them is going to be the most important, they’re more likely to stick around. And several factors like that. Mine are typically 30 to 90 seconds, even as short as 23 seconds. But the shorter the better. I mean, 45 seconds to a minute really seems to be a better sweet spot. Here’s a philosophical thing, at least in my mind. If I can get them to watch the whole video and not click to leave it, I want them to do that because I don’t want them mentally clicking to leave what I’m doing if I can help it. I want to quit before they start wishing and I had quit. So it seems like it should be around 30 to 45 seconds a minute. I do intentionally do some longer videos because I have content that I want to get out, and I’m willing to take that risk that more of them are going to leave for the ones that do stay by and watch the longer content.

One thing I wanted to circle back to is when you talked about how many videos to run. See the thing is also let’s say you do one every two weeks or do one a month, well, by the time you get nine months into this, you’ve got several videos you could bring back. Several of the videos I’m running now are ones that I recorded in my doctoral dissertation and I’m just using them again. Have you ever noticed on TV a major corporation will have an advertisement and they run it to the point it just about drives you nuts and then it disappears and then nine months later it starts again? So you can bring them back. And so then when you first start, you’re only going to have one video, so you’re only going to run one. But when you get further down the road and now you have a library of videos, then it starts to get fun at that point.

Larry: So the service that I described from SermonView is a year-long program. There are 2 reasons why we do a year-long program. Again, the two things are it takes time for you to get better at doing the videos yourself, and the second thing is it becomes like a foundation for ministry in your community.

We have been doing some experiments with specific event marketing. We’re going to be working with an evangelist to do a sequence of videos that will run like eight to twelve weeks before he shows up in a town. So this is basically the “George Vandeman model” and we don’t have data on that yet, but that is one thing that we’re going to do. So we have someone here asking, “Do you have video advertising packages that fit and draw people into a specific event or to a specific evangelist?” If you have a speaker coming, you want that speaker to be getting to airtime. If it’s you as the pastor, you need to be the one being on camera because it’s about increasing your visibility and just people being comfortable with you. They recognize you, they see you. The social characteristics of “celebrity”, there’s some really interesting research on that. You have no idea who Tom Hanks actually is as a person, but you know who he is and you think you know who he is because of all of his visibility, as an example. It’s using the way that God wired our brains to be a foundation for ministry in your community.

Hiram: It wasn’t something that was on my radar or something I’d ever really put any thought into whatsoever before I did this, but there are worldwide celebrities, there are national celebrities and there are local celebrities like your newscasters and stuff locally. Well, all of a sudden I’m getting, I mean, I’ve had people act totally weird toward me now because they act like they’re around a celebrity and I’m like, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m just a guy, let’s just calm down here.” But there is that aspect. Do you want that? Well, when you’re advertising for a meeting, if folks already know who you are and you have that little bit of “local celebrity”, it remains to be seen, but I believe over the next few years as we continue to do this locally, that we’re going to see our meetings grow.

Hiram: One of the things I saw was throughout the year one of the things we plan to do is like when we do different things, anything that I’m going to be assisting with, even if it’s like a health class, I can be like the host of it and introduce the doctor that’s going to speak. And that kind of thing is we’re going to use it to invite folks out to those things. Another thing that we have done is we’ve done stuff around Thanksgiving and Christmas on the theme. There are people who will watch a concise video, especially if you have something kind of catchy that’ll watch it around Christmas time or watch it around Thanksgiving so you can hop onto those seasonal things. So even if you’re promoting a live event, this is great if you’re wanting to get community awareness of your church and you as a pastor for future ministry context. This is phenomenal. At least it has been for us.

Larry: That’s awesome. I have a question about the SermonView service. “Are the prices for these videos just for the video or is there an extra charge for how large of an audience it reaches?” These three packages include ad spend, so it includes carving out part of what you’re paying us is money specifically to spend on advertising. Now, if you wanted to do like the small package and you wanted to boost your ad spend, we could certainly do that. But the larger the package, the more money is carved out for the ad spend as well. And that’s why we think you should be able to be able to get 30,000 to 50,000 views. That’s based on the cost-per-view that we’re seeing that we think the amount of budget that we’re talking about, we can get you about that many views.

Larry: Another question: “You mentioned TikTok. What’s been your experience with TikTok?”

Hiram: You know, with my Doctor of Ministry program being completed now, it goes back several years. TikTok was more in its infancy and as we experimented with it, we did put videos on TikTok, but we were not able to access their advertising features at that point for local geographic. I believe they’ve got that going now, but it’s the new kid on the block. I mean, it’s dominant now, it’s come along, but here’s what I’ll say: I think it would probably do about the same as Facebook. Here’s why: Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram are platforms where people go solely for entertainment. For the most part, YouTube has entertainment value, but people aren’t just scrolling every 15 seconds to something new, they’re actually settling down and spending time with some content. You have the same users on these different platforms, people that use YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok – but the viewers on YouTube, the same viewers that are on the others, just when they’re on YouTube, they’re in a mindset to spend some time with what they’re watching. And I think that’s made all the difference.

Larry: I was talking to one pastor who’s built a fairly substantial Instagram following and he said he’s experimented with TikTok. Of course, you need to experiment, you need to try things out, but you want the experimentation based on a reasonable theory, a reasonable hypothesis. Just don’t go out and try stuff willy-nilly. The thing that I don’t like about TikTok for this purpose is that there is research on TikTok that there’s kind of a trance-like zone out where you’re watching a 15-second video and you’re not really paying attention, you’re just kind of in this zone. And I don’t think that an ad appearing in that environment is actually going to break through that trance as well as, like you say when someone’s on YouTube, they’re expecting something more educational. And the data show that certainly, YouTube is doing better than Facebook and Instagram. We’re not planning any time in the near future to experiment with TikTok for that reason.

Okay, the last question is, “What are your thoughts on the background of the videos?” So when I looked at the various videos on your page, it looked like they were in different locations. What’s your thinking there?

Hiram: I love a good outdoor setting. It’s easy, you don’t have to put time into building a studio. You don’t have to think of exactly what you’re going to have behind you. I like a good outdoor setting. It’s not conducive all the time. It’s not conducive in the dead of winter, at least in some locations, to be able to do that. But if you can get an outdoor setting, otherwise, a simple setting. If you’ve got a setting where you can just blur your background, it doesn’t really matter too much what your background is. You do need to make sure you stand out from it though. Like, I’ll show you something you don’t want. Look how close my jacket is to the tan wall behind me. That’s not good. But if I scrunch down a little bit, and I’ve got this dark couch that outlines me. So you want to look at what you’re wearing and how that fits with your background so you don’t blend into your background too much. I wouldn’t let this work for one of those videos. But anyway, yeah, nature can be great if you can get in nature without too many background sounds.

Larry: Okay, as we wrap up Hiram, give us some words of encouragement. What are some words of encouragement you can offer us?

Hiram: Do it. Just do it! Get started. How do you do a video? Well, do a video. Don’t spend all this time analyzing. As Adventists, we tend to be over-educated and under-experienced in actually doing things. Do it! Record a video, and then record another one. Get up in the morning, record a video, and don’t sit around and think about it to the point that you become absolutely, totally paralyzed. Do it! You’re going to reach people in your community that you’re not going to reach any other way. There is nothing else I can do where I’m preaching while I’m sleeping right now. I take a day off, and I’m preaching to people on YouTube. I go to Union College 5 hours away to move my daughter into her new house for senior year, and I’m still back in Columbia, Missouri, preaching to people on YouTube. It’s reaching people I wouldn’t otherwise get in front of, and it works when I’m not. Boy, I feel so much better about taking time off now since I’m still working when I’m off. It’s great!

Larry: Awesome. Well, that’s our webinar today. I want to thank Dr. Harm Rester for joining us and sharing what he’s learned about YouTube advertising. We are seeing some very positive results from this platform and I truly believe that YouTube is going to be a cornerstone to effective evangelism marketing in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about how Sermonview can help you with YouTube, you can visit If you are planning to work with us for an upcoming Bridge event or Reaping series, this is a great way to build your online presence leading up to the event dates. You can also talk to one of our campaign managers by calling us at 800-525-5791.

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Hiram’s videos can be viewed at
At SermonView we are excited to see how God can use YouTube to help you reach your community. Click below to learn more about our YouTube service options or call us at 800.525.5791.

Are Mailings Still Effective?

Lori BallFall Evangelism, Marketing Tools

For over 75 years, when churches have been hosting evangelistic series, they have utilized handbill mailings to promote them. Why? The reason is simple: because it works. 
Even though direct mail still stands as one of the leading methods in event advertising today, things have changed dramatically over the last decade. Things like how often people check the mail and when your mailing should land in mailboxes are major factors worth re-evaluating when utilizing direct mail as an effective tool for promoting your evangelistic efforts in the current age.

In 2005, 98% of the US population checked their mail daily. Today, that number has dropped below 60%.

The new, ideal mailbox landing window

For years the standard ideal landing window was to have your mailing to arrive in the mailbox just a few days before your event. It created a sense of urgency or FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and it limited people from taking the mailer to their spiritual leader who might persuade them not to attend opening night.

We are starting to see a shift in a campaign’s overall effectiveness when people are given more time, not less, to respond to a mailing.

It makes sense that people are busier today than ever before and they don’t check the mail as often as they used to. People are only checking their mail a few times a week, if not once a week. If we ignore this and stick to the old mentality of trying to land just a few days before the event, we actually increase the risk of people not learning about your event until after opening night!
By sending your mailer a little earlier rather than later, you decrease that risk and significantly increase the likelihood of your mailer getting seen before your event date, which always outweighs it getting seen after your event has already begun.

The lasting value of the mailbox

40 years ago, the main way people could hear about an evangelistic series would be through direct mail. While now we have more options thanks to digital media, direct mail is still the only way to ensure everyone in your area can see your event details (whether or not they are ever online).
Not only can direct mail reach every home in a carrier route, bifold mailers and jumbo postcards dominate the mailbox and perform best when paired with stirring visuals and a strong, clear, call to action (such as event pre-registration). But most importantly, they work best when used in a multi-touch marketing campaign.

Multi-touch marketing offers a full-scale solution to your event marketing strategy.

Multi-touch marketing means more visibility which creates more credibility and awareness for your event. Multi-touch marketing for event marketing gives your church top-of-mind awareness in your community anytime someone sees a banner, road sign, social media ad,  mailer, or personal invitations for your upcoming event.

Plan your event marketing sooner rather than later.

We are still seeing an impact on the print production supply chain and with freight transit times. With this in mind, we are encouraging everyone to contact us early to get started sooner rather than later to help reduce the risk of delays for your event marketing campaigns.
At SermonView, we have helped churches with over 6,000 outreach events. We’ve sent over 30 million mailers into communities and reached over 8 million social media users. So we know how to help you plan an effective campaign.
Benefit from a proven multi-touch marketing approach with your event marketing plan that utilizes multiple forms of print, mail, and digital marketing resources to promote your next campaign.
Click the button below or call us at 800.525.5791 to learn more.

5 Ways to Connect with Your Leads Using SMS and Merge Tags in InterestTracker

Lori BallFrom the Field, Marketing Practices

We are all busy and the last thing we want is to be on our phones more. While we want to connect with our interest list, the idea of sitting down to text several interests can feel like a lot of work. Who needs contact today? What do I say to help encourage engagement? Has it been too long since I last texted them or is it too late to text them right now?

Rather than being glued to your phone toggling through numbers, consider creating a strategic communication plan.

You’ll save yourself time, create a consistent cadence, and develop your church voice for your team to use when connecting with leads—all while intentionally connecting with your full interest list (not just the ones at the top).
Below you’ll find 3 key steps to consider when you create a strategic communication plan plus 5 easy ways to start connecting with your leads using the scheduled text message feature in InterestTracker.

3 key steps to getting started.

Plan on setting time aside to schedule several of your text messages within InterestTracker ahead of time. This is going to be a major element for your strategic communication plan because it allows you to dedicate focused, extra effort ahead of time when you’re most ready to prepare messages that are more likely to encourage engagement.

1. Identify all of your various audiences.

Your interest list probably has a mix of leads from a variety of sources. Decide who your audience for each message should be, then you can write a more thoughtful message for each audience. You can reach “warm” and “cold” leads by filtering from past events or other customized tags to create groups you can bulk text to. (If you aren’t using tags yet, it is a lifesaver for staying organized!)

2. Take time to write a thoughtful message.

How does my tone sound? Am I staying within the character count for my SMS credits to use those wisely? What exactly am I asking my interests to do, is it clear? If you take the time to craft your message with these things in mind you can write a more engaging message that can help you get the response you hope for.

3. Review a calendar before you schedule. 

Identify key days of the week and times for when to send your messages. While Monday evenings might be better suited for invitations, Friday mornings might be a better option for a bit of inspiration heading into the weekend. Then you’ll want to be sure to avoid major holidays plus other days that might impact how your message is received or skipped.

5 SMS Connection Ideas:

1. Ask for Prayer Requests

If you have leads that are cold (maybe you haven’t heard from them in a while or have never gotten a response) then prayer request appeals are a great way to encourage engagement. Starting your communication by offering to personally pray for someone is an easy way to soften hearts and can immediately begin breaking down barriers.

2. Send Weekly Inspirational Verses

No matter where someone is at on their spiritual journey, this is another great way to engage or stay connected. You never know what someone is going through, so bringing some Good News to their phone might be the way God speaks to them this week. (Keep these short, hopeful, and limited to just once a week so it doesn’t feel like you are spamming them.)

3. Invitations for Upcoming Events

If you have an event coming up this is another way to connect with your leads. If someone pre-registered and attended an event with a similar theme, then send them an invitation. Those who pre-registered but missed the original event can get an invite too but as a different message—something that feels more personal to them. You can let them know you understand they missed the first event, but thought they might be interested in this one.

4. Prepare Hearts for Decisions

If you plan on making an appeal for decisions during one of your meetings you’ll want to use AttendanceTracker to build a custom report so you can communicate with those who have been regularly attending and anyone who missed a night to help encourage attendance at this particular meeting. (You’ll also want to follow up personally after someone has made a decision!)

5. Offer Free Giveaways

Whether you are running a Bible study lead generation campaign or you’ve purchased resources to give away at your evangelistic meetings, chances are you have some extra materials laying around. Why not send out a message to your interests offering a free book or DVD? If they say yes, then put it in a gift bag with a card letting them know you’re praying for them and drop it off at their door. This small act of kindness will speak volumes to your leads (and it can help you work through some extra resources).

Technology Designed to Foster Connections

Use Merge Tags to show your leads just how much your church cares about them specifically!

Merge tags allow you to add a personal touch to your bulk text messages—getting your heart across the text while saving your team time creating personal messages to each of your leads. Any field in the interest record (including custom fields) can be used as a merge tag, in the format %mergetag%.
To address your interests by name, you can simply type “Hello, %firstname%!” and the message sent to the interest will come through with their name.

95% of text messages are opened and read, making them one of the most effective communication methods available.

With the Text Messaging Module from InterestTracker, you can easily send SMS messages to one, some, or all of your guests with one button in the software. You can also have messages forwarded to your own cell phone for a more natural conversation experience for your users.

Merge tags are an easy way to personalize your texts, and increase your response rates.

Want to learn more?

With the Text Messaging Module from InterestTracker, you can easily send SMS messages to one, some, or all of your guests with one button in the software. You can also have messages forwarded to your own cell phone for a more natural conversation experience for your users.
Click the button below or call us at 800.525.5791 to learn more.

The Ins and Outs of Bulk Mailing for Adventist Churches

Lori BallMarketing Tools, Uncategorized

Before we dive in, know that SermonView has you covered. 

US Postal service systems and regulations have been changing at a faster pace in the last 5 years than ever before. We work hard to keep up with everything, so you don’t have to worry about it. As policies and postage rates change, we’ll let you know about what impacts you, and we’ll find the solutions for the rest.

For most of the people reading this, you can stop here knowing that we’ve got you covered. However, if you are thinking about doing a mailing yourself, continue reading for some things to keep in mind as you plan your next mailing.

The unique way Adventist churches do mailings

We know the Adventist church is already different in our message to the world, so it’s no surprise that the way we do bulk mailings is just as unique. In 2022 SermonView sent out event invitation mailers on behalf of churches to over 3 million homes. Those are the kinds of numbers you would see mostly from businesses, not churches, who would need to hire a professional mailhouse to handle that kind of volume. And while secular mailhouses handle business and non-profit mail all the time, most don’t handle Adventist mailings very often, which they don’t realize needs additional effort and care, especially when they are time-sensitive for reaping or bridge events.

What exactly is specific about how our church does mass mailings? We don’t stop at “non-profit” or “saturation” like many other churches do, we utilize all of the USPS systems established to reach more targeted areas of our communities. It takes a bit more work and understanding of the postal systems, but you can optimize mailings even more to get the best postal rates available, and increase the likelihood of timely delivery that many commercial printers don’t take the time to utilize for their church customers.

What to ask if hiring a secular bulk mailing company not familiar with Adventist needs.

If you decide to hire a secular bulk mailing service provider in your area, here is a list of specifics we recommend you check on up front to make sure they are going to be able to provide your church’s unique mailing needs:

  • Can you use the Adventist denomination’s non-profit church status? As part of the denomination, I have access to get non-profit saturation mailing rates without requesting my own permit. (Be sure to have paperwork ready for them if needed.)
  • Can you create my targeted list of direct mailing names and addresses that is: saturated, presorted by zip code, carrier route and uses walk sequence, or is that something I need to provide?
  • Confirm they can ship your mailers to the local SCF(s) and that they can get delivered there within a short, specific window before your event.
  • Confirm your postage rates are the best you can get.
  • (If they are printing the mailers) Can you design my marketing mailers or do you have templates that include mailing area so I can have it designed according to USPS mailing regulations for non-profit flats? 
  • (If they are not printing your mailers) Find a professional local printer who can design the shape and size of your mail piece to still guarantee your mailers are setup according to USPS regulations and that they can deliver the product on time to your bulk mailing company for processing the addresses.
  • Give your mailing list a final review to ensure the recipient addresses are set up correctly.
  • Confirm the mailhouse transported your mailing to the post office, and that they are tracking it to confirm its delivery.

How to do it yourself

If you are not going to use a bulk mailing service, you won’t be able to get the same lowest non-profit bulk postage rates, but you can still get a discount from standard first-class mail through something called Every Door Direct Mail, or EDDM for short. While this is a great option, it does come with limitations and requirements that may not work for your church’s needs. 

The Biggest advantage to EDDM is you won’t need to get your permit cleared ahead of time. Mailing permits can be pricey and add another level of complexity to the standard mailing process. EDDM mail can be taken to your local post office and with the right setup, can be given to a standard postal worker at the front counter.

Here’s some basic information about what you need to know about this service:
  • EDDM allows you to send targeted mail to specified areas with flats at a discounted postage rate. As of February 2023, according to the USPS website, the cost per EDDM mailpiece is 18.9¢. The current USPS postage rate that you get from SermonView for non-profit, saturation mailing is 10.2¢ for jumbo cards or 11.5¢ per piece for bi-folds. (For reference, standard-sized, rectangular postcard stamps start at 48¢. Oversized postcards need letter stamps, which start at 63¢.)
  • EDDM is for “small” mailings. It only works if you are mailing less than 5,000 pieces. You can do more, but only if you are willing to break it up and go in over multiple days for larger quantities.
  • Since EDDM is for small mailings, it can go fast. They typically go out within a day of being turned in to a local facility, making them a better option for churches with little time before a meeting.

EDDM mailings have specific requirements:
  • They have to be a flat (min. 11 ½ inches long and 6 1/8 inches wide) 
  • You have to have this special information in the mailing area:

We’re here to help

Church mailings can be confusing, both for the local church as well as many of today’s print and mail shops. (We’ve even seen USPS employees struggling to keep up with all the changes.) SermonView has spent years exclusively working with local churches and building relationships with USPS professionals to better understand and define the ins and outs of mailing for Adventist churches.

SermonView stays on top of the rapidly changing USPS policies so we can continue to provide the service you know and love. 

Bags or trays? Shipping to the SCF, DDU, or BMEU? Form 3624 or 8125? That’s not your problem, that’s ours. And we don’t mind doing the research needed to stay on top of the rapidly changing USPS mailing policies because that is our ministry gift to you. No matter what changes, SermonView is committed to providing you with the quality marketing, design, printing, and service you’ve come to know and love. As policies and postage rates change, we’ll keep it simple and only let you know about what actually impacts you, we’ll find the solutions for the rest.

If you are considering running a mailing in your area soon, give us a call. We would love to connect with you and see how we can help you share the message of hope and wholeness through Jesus Christ in your community.

The perfect window for Evangelism

Lori BallBasic Marketing Principles, COVID-19 Response, Evangelism Practices, From the Field

When are people most open to coming to church?

You have an idea for a bridge event or evangelistic series, but when should you run it to maximize attendance? While there is no perfect formula, history and current trends indicate that shortly after Easter is an ideal launch window for spring evangelism.

Pew Research indicates there are dramatic spikes when Americans search online for churches near them.

One such time of year has historically been Easter when the term “church” spikes even more than it does leading up to Christmas. Many Sunday churches are packed for Easter—65% of Americans identify themselves as Christian, but 79% of Americans celebrate Easter.

Of course, the pandemic has dramatically impacted church attendance, but what does this mean for Easter now?

People are more open to authentic spirituality in the wake of the pandemic. 

This falls in line with the findings of many studies on how traumatic experiences affect one’s spirituality. So even while church attendance is down, people continue to search for the term “church.” But now we are seeing a rise in more terms such as “Is God real?” or “How do I know God loves me?”

In fact, at SermonView we’ve seen huge success with our LeadGenerator campaigns that use terms like “God Cares” to encourage Bible study requests.

Right after Easter—specifically, the following two weekends—is a prime window to start your evangelism efforts.

Given the cultural climate and fear around the future, many people will be searching for hope during a time of year that draws attention to the love of God, Jesus’s ultimate sacrifice, and a desire to reconnect to their faith.

In their searching, will they find your church?

SermonView would love to help you promote your next event!

Spring has been a popular season for evangelism, however, we are still seeing some delays in the print product supply chain. We are encouraging everyone to consider contacting us early to get started sooner rather than later to help reduce the risk of delays for your event marketing.

Our team can look up populations and demographics in your community to help you decide how much budget should go to direct mail, online advertising, event signs, and more. ​

We’re here to help. Get a FREE quote today to get started!

Guaranteed Monthly Bible Study Leads – A Texas Conference training event for pilot host churches.

Lori BallEvangelism Practices, From the Field, Leadership

This training material is part of the Texas Conference’s innovative evangelistic efforts in 2023.

The Promise Prophecies is a yearlong evangelistic cycle that starts off with a Bible study lead generation campaign that starts a few months before the public evangelistic series. As part of this cohort, you will get 12 months of a LeadGenerator social media ad campaign to get new leads in your community. LeadGenerator is designed to meet people right where they are in their spiritual journey, and connect them with your church.

In this webinar, Texas English Evangelist Byron Corbett, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel, and SermonView Campaign Manager Sarah Grant walk through this unique program and how it will benefit your church. You’ll see firsthand how LeadGenerator gets you Monthly Bible study requests and you’ll also walk away with a better understanding of how the InterestTracker software works with this program, so your team can keep track of offer requests and engage with your leads.

Here are excerpts from this conversation:

Byron: I’m here with the founder and president of SermonView, and Larry and I go back a long, long way. We kind of knew of each other before we knew each other. I won’t get into that story. We did early teen ministry at the Washington conference camp, meeting together for a number of years, had a great time, and I’m just excited that Larry is in this evangelism marketing space and that we have the opportunity to work together. So, Larry, just talk to everybody here from your heart and from your passion and how you see SermonView being a part of this.

Larry: Yeah, well, yeah. Thank you, Byron. SermonevangelisticView is a ministry that’s dedicated to helping introduce people from your community to your church. So we do that in a number of different ways. When you do an evangelistic event, for example, whether it’s a reaping series, a full message prophecy series, or if you’re doing a parenting seminar or an archeology seminar, if you’re doing an event, we can do marketing using direct maile, w use online advertising, and we can use outdoor banners and road signs to let people in your community know about the event. And then we have a registration platform for people to be able to sign up, reserve seats, and then we also have attendance tracking software to help you through the process of that event. So event marketing is a big piece of what we do when a church is doing an evangelistic event, we can help introduce people to you.

Larry: The other major thing that we do is what we call Bible study lead generation. So we have found that we can go into almost any community in North America and find people in that community that are interested in studying the Bible with you. We have a program called Lead Generator, which is a year long program that we use online advertising methods to invite people to request Bible studies. We then pass those names on to you. You make the introduction and you reach out. You say that you’re the person that’s been asked to make contact and provide the Bible study information, and then you’re off to the races. From there, you’re handling the Bible study as if it was any other Bible study.

Larry: Those are the two main things that we do. Lately, we’ve been getting into church websites as well, but that’s less relevant to what we’re talking about today. I’ll tell you, my passion is the local church. I believe that the local church is the heartbeat of ministry for the Seventh-day Adventist Church. And everything that we do at SermonView is focused on the local church. And when we partner with an organization like the Texas Conference, we’re doing this in order to support the local churches that are participating in the program. We’re focused on you. We’re not focused on the conference. (Obviously, the conference has its needs, and we want to meet those needs as well. But ultimately, we’re working together to support you in your ministry and your outreach in your local community.)

Larry: I am an entrepreneur and I have a degree, an MBA from one of the top entrepreneurship schools on the West Coast. Actually just got Entrepreneurship magazine today. I saw that it was listed as the number one entrepreneurship school on the West Coast, University of Washington. And I’ve done a number of startups. I was involved in tech marketing for several years after I got my MBA. Innovation is really my passion and over 20 years ago, God brought me into this space where I’m helping churches with their evangelism. And this is a confluence of things that I’m interested in. I want to help churches be more effective. And I love Innovation. And when you marry those two things together, innovation is not about innovation in and of itself. I find it fun, but ultimately it’s not about the innovation, it’s about improving effectiveness. You want to innovate in order to improve effectiveness. I just read an article today that talked about creativity and ideas and where those come from and how to have great ideas.

Larry: Basically, the bottom line of this article was you need to try a lot of things and iterate rapidly. And when something’s not working, stop and do something else. This article is saying the best way to write great symphonies is to write a lot of symphonies. The best way to write a great article is to write a lot of articles. And so at SermonView, we’re committed to the innovation process and we try lots and lots and lots of different things. I’ve made almost every mistake that you can imagine when it comes to evangelism and when it comes to marketing, especially when it comes to evangelism marketing. But that’s not failure, that’s learning.

Larry: When we’re going through this innovation process, this entrepreneurial journey together on this project with the Texas Conference, with you guys, as local church leaders understand that our goal is improving the effectiveness of evangelism. We want to reach more people. We want to make more and better disciples of Jesus through what you guys are doing. It’s no secret that the effectiveness of traditional Adventist evangelistic methods have been declining as cultural shifts have taken place, as changes in society have happened. Our methodologies are not as effective as they once were. But what’s really important to understand is just because they’re not as effective doesn’t mean that they are not the most effective method possible.

Larry: But the only way to know that is to try lots and lots of different things. Over the last decade and a half, SermonView has handled over 6000 marketing campaigns on behalf of churches. And we’ve done some really creative stuff that didn’t work. We’ve done some really creative stuff that worked okay. And through all of this, we’ve really dialed in our ability to help you be as effective as possible.

Larry: So in this project with the Texas Conference, there are two specific points of innovation that we’re going to be looking at. And you guys, as our pilot churches are going to be crucial in helping us to test some of these things. And as we learn, then we’ll be able to deploy them to more churches and scale this program more widely in the Texas Conference and beyond, outside of Texas as well. There’s two specific points of innovation. And when I say points of innovation, these are questions that we have. And we’re going to try some things and see how they work. We’re going to define clearly what success looks like, what we call the success metrics, and we’re going to measure those. And if something works, we’re going to keep it. And if it doesn’t work, we’re not going to keep it.

Larry: The two points of innovation, the two things that we’ve seen as issues:

The first is when it comes to online evangelism, the difficulty has been translating an online engagement into a face-to-face relationship. Church is a social experience, and there’s a vertical component to it between you and God. And there’s theology and there’s biblical belief, and that’s important. But church is fundamentally a social experience. If you just have that vertical component that’s called discipleship, that’s you and God, that’s a personal retreat. Jesus said, where two or three are gathered together, there I am with you. And when two or three are gathered, that’s when you have church. And when two or three are gathered, you have a social component to that. So there’s this horizontal social component to church. And evangelism needs to account for this. It’s not just spreading Bible truth. It’s not just helping people understand the biblical perspective on different topics, like the end of the earth, the state of death, the Sabbath, or health. It’s not just about helping people understand this mentally or even emotionally. Until your evangelistic process accounts for how to integrate those people into the social dynamics of a local church, you’re not done. And what we found through the COVID experience, we did a lot of experimentation with online evangelism, and some of it was quite effective. But we still had a difficulty in connecting people into a local church, because from my perspective, until someone is actively engaged in the life of a local church, our job in terms of evangelism is not done. It’s not just teaching people Bible truth. So it’s not just doing online Bible studies and then saying, “Great, God bless you.” We need to find a way to bridge the gap from that online experience into a local church. We want to move from an online interaction to a face-to-face engagement in a local Seventh-day Adventist church.

Larry: So one of the things that we’re going to be looking at, we’re going to be experimenting with some methods. We’re going to be equipping you with some tools and a framework, a mindset for when you’re interacting with someone in this online space, what can you do to help move that relationship forward into an in-person interaction.

Larry: So that’s the first thing. The second point of innovation that we’re looking at, some of you may have participated in some of the bridge events that The Voice Prophecy has done over the years. Shadow Empire, A Pale Horse Rides, Final Empire, The Appearing. These are projects that we worked with them on, and the delivery methodology of a video, about half an hour (30 to 40 minutes video) followed by a guided discussion was a really effective way of building relationships. So you offer something of value, high production value, with this video. You invite people to come see it, and then you have this guided discussion where you’re actually building relationship through this conversation. And then afterwards, you’re having conversations with your guests. This methodology, this delivery modality, has never been used in a full-message evangelistic series. So Byron is working on developing content and there are going to be three aspects to the delivery of the evangelistic message: the first is going to be a video that Byron is going to be putting together, but it’s going to be followed by a guided discussion that someone in your local church will be leading.

Larry: So the professionalism, the production value of these videos adds credibility to Byron, but he’s going to be transferring that credibility over to somebody in the local church. Because you don’t want people to be building a relationship with Byron, they need to be building a relationship with you. So this guided discussion has been proven as a method to transfer that credibility into that local church. And so we’re going to be trying this out in a full-message series to see how that works. And then the third thing is that we’re going to be putting together a podcast on each topic that people can then connect with after they leave the experience of the church environment. So they got the video, they got the guided discussion, where there’s the social support that people are talking together about, answering questions and filling in their study guides, and then the ability for people to be able to then follow up and listen to a podcast on that same topic that Byron and I will be putting together.

Larry: So those are the two points of innovation. How to bridge the gap between online engagement and an in-person face-to-face encounter, and then trying out these, these delivery methods with the video, the guided discussion, and the podcast for sharing the Bible truth through these methods. So those are the two main points of innovation that we’re going to be working on. All right, I think I’ve used up enough time. Did I say everything that I needed to Byron? Did I hit the key points?

Byron: Yeah, I think you did a great job, Larry. I know there’ll be questions at the end and we can probably on things that we might not have got, but I think that’s a great overview. Thank you so much.

Larry: Great. So I want to pass this over to Sarah and she’s going to be telling you more about this LeadGenerator program and the way that it interacts with the interest tracker software. And she’s going to go into some detail about how that’s all going to work. Every one of your churches is a pilot church in this program. The Texas Conference is paying for Lead Generator for a year for you to be able to use this. They’re also paying for some add-on modules for InterestTracker. Sarah is going to be telling you more details about this. But I wanted to give you that background that the Texas Conference is giving this to you because you’re participating in this pilot program. So Sarah, take it away.

Sarah: Yeah. Thank you, Larry. So what is LeadGenerator? Larry kind of touched on it a little bit, but what it is is it’s an online advertising campaign that introduces you to people in your community who are expressing an interest in learning more about God, the Bible, or both. So the campaign is run on an annual basis and it guarantees a set number of Bible study requests every month through these online ads. So what happens is somebody is going to be on their social media platform. (These are primarily going to be run on Facebook and Instagram. Some of the larger campaigns are going to be run on Google as well. But we see the majority of the leads coming in from Facebook and Instagram, so that’s where a lot of them are going to come from.) When somebody is online and they see an ad pop up and click on it, they are then going to click through about four pages to confirm their request before that ever gets submitted to you. As you get them and you have these interactions, you can know that these are not submitted by accident. Somebody had to hand type in their address, their phone number, their email address, all of those things before it got sent over to you.

Sarah: And then once they submit that request, they get a confirmation email letting them know that their request has been received and that somebody is going to be reaching out to them. Then you’re going to get notified as well, we’ll come back to that here in a second. Now, the ads are going to be run under the account of “My Free Bible Study”, which is an account that we have. It’s not run under your church name, it’s not run under the Conference name, and it’s not identified as an Adventist account at all. And we do that intentionally. We want there to be a little bit of separation from any denomination or anything like that to prevent any kind of bias or any previous experience that somebody may have had. Although it’s unfortunate, we know that not everybody’s experience with church or with somebody from a church has always been positive, and we don’t want that to be reflected on you. We want to let you make your introduction and show them who you are without any other interference. With that being said, when you reach out to meet this person who’s requested the Bible study, we recommend that you introduce yourself as a local representative or a local Bible coach from “My Free Bible Study” since up to that point, that’s the only name that they’ve seen. We don’t want to create any confusion or anything by throwing in a different name. So we just suggest that you introduce yourself from that and avoid any confusion.

Sarah: Once somebody responds to the ad, we mentioned that they get their confirmation email, that serves as an introduction and confirmation for them, their information then gets sent to the church. And that’s going to happen one of two ways: somebody is going to get a confirmation email letting them know that they have a new Bible Study request, and then that person’s information all gets imported into InterestTracker, where you’re going to see the theme of the ad that they responded to and be able to assign it to somebody on your team. We’ll come back to that here shortly.

Sarah: One other thing I just want to mention is that no specific Bible study is advertised, so there’s no specific study that they’re going to be expecting to receive. But each ad has a theme. So you might have a theme of God Cares, you might have a theme of Bible prophecy, and so you’re going to probably have best results when you choose a Bible study that matches the theme of the ad that they responded to. You can also use that to get a sense of what drew them to respond in the first place. Typically we find ourselves seeking God or turning to the Bible when we have circumstances going on in our life or see them happening in the world that just feel like they’re out of our control and leave us at the end of ourselves. So getting a sense of what the theme of the ad was will kind of help give you a little bit of insight into where they are at when they responded.

Sarah: I know Byron is going to talk a little bit about Bible studies as well.

Byron: Great. Thank you, Sarah. That’s really exciting to have these things come real-time to your local church. What I want to do, is just walk through how you connect with the people once you receive that email with the lead information, and if they fill out everything in the sign-up for the Bible study, there’s a lot of good information there for you. (See attachement.)

Byron: One of the first things that we want to be aware of is considering that person who’s behind that email, it’s not just an email, it’s not just an electronic document or a piece of paper. There’s an actual person there that we need to be thinking about, and obviously, probably from the name, you’ll be able to figure out whether it’s a male or a female. And again, right away this begins shaping how we relate to the people. We have to remember that they’re coming from all walks of life, they’re coming from all religious comfort levels. Some of them might be super dedicated Christians and totally into Bible study and just want to add to that. Others may not really have any exposure to that at all and are just kind of launching in and experimenting with us for the first time. And so in our first interactions with the people, it’s very important that we’re sensitive to them and that we kind of gauge them and listen to them and respond to them as we read body language, as we try to listen well and ask the sorts of open ended questions that can help us get to know them better.

Byron: When you begin to follow up leads, I just want to mention that we want to do this in teams of two people. Jesus sent His disciples out two by two, and that’s really the best method for doing that. It’s important that the teams are either male-only two guys, female-only, two gals. Or to me, the kind of best team, is a husband and wife. If you can get a husband and wife together, following up and making contact, that’s just beautiful. Because it doesn’t matter if it’s a male or a female, there’s that dual connection point, and it really provides a great lead in for that contact.

Byron: Now, when they register their Bible study request, it gives them the option to give their age, their church’s name, the denomination, and other kinds of information. You do want to make sure that when you open the email, you read all the way down through it to gather as much information as you can. You want to mentally prepare yourself as best you can by looking at what’s there, because if they give some of that age and church denomination information, it can be really helpful. For example, you’re going to prepare yourself mentally a lot differently to visit a 60-year-old Baptist guy versus a 35-year-old nondenominational Christian woman. It’s going to be a whole different dynamic. And you can actually prepare yourself mentally for that by looking at that information. If a person indicates no affiliation, that may also give you cues. So you want to be sensitive and pay attention to that and take note if it’s there and how you can use that.

Byron: When I follow up Bible study leads, I like to do my best to match the gender of the team with the gender of the Bible study lead. If that’s not possible, it’s okay. Two guys can visit a gal at the door, two gals can visit a guy at the door. That’s not a hard and fast rule, but it does help to match genders as best we can as we go along. If you have a husband and wife team, no problem at all either way.

Byron: What I want to just touch on is how do we then make the first contact? Your lead generator packet is going to come with instructions on how to make contact with your Bible study interest. It gives you options of doing that by phone, by text message, and by email. I just want to give you my experience in this and probably save you a lot of time and effort. When we began this project in Richardson, when I was still pastoring there, I used all three of those methods to try to make initial contact. Phone, text message, and email. I did not meet, and we did not in general as we followed this up, beyond just myself, we did not meet with much success in making the initial contact via those methods. There was a low response rate. The phone call would always go to voicemail. I’d leave a voice message, they would never return the call. Didn’t respond to emails or text messages. So my best success immediately after I saw that, after several attempts, I pivoted to making this an in-person visit right from the get-go. I began bypassing skipping all the emails, phone messages and everything. I just went right in person with a partner to follow up the leads in person at the home and found way better success. There’s no comparison between and so I want to encourage you, since the whole point of this is establishing a personal relationship, face-to-face relationship with someone, don’t think that you can just do your work electronically in cyberspace. It’s got to be that in-person contact.

Byron: And so just some quick thoughts here that you might want to take note of. The sooner you follow up with the lead, the less explaining about who you are and what you’re doing you’ll have to do when you get to the door. Because people will remember that they signed up for this Bible study yesterday or two or three days ago or whatever the case. And so the sooner that you do that, it’s fresher in their minds and they’ll make the connection much more rapidly. The longer the time that goes by. You might just have to be prepared to explain who they are, remind them who you are more. Remind them that they signed up for these Bible studies via Instagram or whatever it was that they used to do that. So the sooner the less explaining makes it easier for you.

Byron: I always dress in business casual. I don’t wear a tie, but I wear a collared shirt of some sort and some sort of dress slacks. Just business casual. Because when a stranger comes to the dooe’ve, we’ve got big questions about that, and what we want to do is be able to communicate credibility and comfort right at the outset. And that even happens just by the way we’re dressed and people first see us before we say anything. So that’s what I would recommend, business casual that gives you a professional appearance and lets folks know you’re not some scammer or something like that. For the most part.

Byron: I also always wear the Lanyard. The LeadGenerator kit will come with a couple of lanyards with cards on them that say “My Free Bible Study” as an Identifier. I always wear that lanyard and I have it there around my neck. And I also always print out the email that I received with that interest name and request and information and I bring it with me to the door along with the first two Bible studies. So I always take the first two Bible studies that we’re going to be offering them in fulfillment of their request, and I take the email so that if they’re confused about something I can always show them the email and say, “here’s the information that you signed up for.” And they can actually look and see that physically. So those are the things I do to prepare for following up the leads.

Byron: Then once you’re at the door and you ring the doorbell, what I want to encourage you to do is make it a point, after you ring the doorbell, step back from the door so that there’s some space that’s more non-threatening to people. Also, don’t talk to your partner. Both of you need to stand there silently smiling and just wait for the door to be answered. Particularly since people nowadays have the cameras and video recorders right there at the door. And when you ring their doorbell, it’s recording you, and they’ll hear everything you say. So it’s very important that you don’t talk and that you just smile and wait for them to answer the door. Or if they do talk to you through their camera at the door, then you’ll want to respond to them through that as well. So what I do is I step back from the door, I wait for the door to get answered, and then when they answer the door, here’s what I say.

Byron: So then I go on to say “I stopped by to deliver the first two Bible studies in the series that you requested online. Here they are.” And I hold out the Bible studies and show them to them. And I say, “Let me show you how they work.” And so for different Bible study guides, if it’s amazing Facts lessons or Voice of Prophecy lessons, you’ll show them the pictures, explain the question answer format, and then show them the quiz section or the response section at the back. If they are It Is Written lessons that you’re using, you again show them the format, how it asks a question, but then they need to look up a Bible verse and fill in the blanks for the answer. So I like to take a few minutes to show them the lesson right there at the door, walk them through how it works, and how they can respond to it.

Byron: And then once I’m done with that, I’ll say to them, “Do you have any questions about this?” And I wait, obviously, for their response. Then I go on to say, “What I’d like to do is leave these lessons with you for you to look through them over this week. And then I’d like to come back in about a week with the next two lessons in the series to drop off for you. Is this a good time for me to do that, or would you prefer a different time?” And so again, I wait for their response in terms of if this is an okay time, we’ll just set it to drop by again that week. If they prefer a different evening we work that out with them.

Byron: Then after that, you’re about ready to wrap up the visit. And so then I say this. “When a request comes to me, I like to be sure to pray for you as you start to explore these Bible studies. I was praying for you earlier, and I felt like I should find out if there’s something specific that you could use prayer for. Is there something that I can pray about with you before I leave?” And then I just wait and listen empathize with them, give them a chance to share, and then after they share and if they don’t share, then say, “Great, no problem, I’ll be back next week with your lessons.” If they do share something, then I like to say, “Would it be okay to pray with you right now about that?” And most of the time, 99% of the time people say, “yeah, I’d really appreciate that.” So then I have a very short prayer with them, and it’s very important that you make sure that you pray specifically about the thing they brought up. Don’t pray for them and not mention the thing they ask you to pray for, that just shows that you didn’t listen and pay attention to them. So it’s very important that you listen well and pray specifically about what they brought up.

Byron: Then as soon as you’re done praying, go ahead and say “Goodbye! I’ll stop by next week and see how you enjoyed the studies, and I’ll bring the next two. God bless!” Then I wave and I leave promptly. Don’t hang around. So this really is quite a short visit at the door. It’s probably not more than about five minutes on this first initial contact. Now some of you might say, well, what if they say, “I thought this was an online Bible study.” And I’ve had some people, not many, but I’ve had a few, ask that question, and I simply have responded them by saying, “We found that what really works best for people is to just deliver them like this and that way we can help with any questions or anything like that. And so that’s what we’d like to do.”

Byron: Okay, so that’s the initial contact. You’ve left the studies, they’ve accepted them, and they know that you’re going to drop by in a week with the next two studies. So the long-term follow up or communication strategy with them: go faithfully every week with the next two lessons. For the second visit, here’s what I would suggest that you say, and this is what I’ve done. “Hi, Bob, this is Byron from My Free Bible Study again with your next two lessons. How is this past week for you?” I’m just trying to begin building rapport and showing interest in that person. I wait, I listen, I empathize with them, and respond appropriately to what they say. Then I follow up with, “Did you get a chance to go through the lessons I left last week?” I wait for them to respond. Then I ask them, “How did you find the lessons? Did they make sense to you? Did you enjoy them?” And I wait for them to respond to that and then I’ll follow up with, “Do you have any questions about what you studied?”

Byron: Now you’re going to get a couple of responses here. One of the responses is, “Yeah, we studied the lessons.” Then I like to say, “That’s great, here are the next two lessons for you. I hope you enjoy them too. By the way, next time could we share we could share maybe a little bit more about what really speaks to each of us in these lessons. Is that okay?” So I’m beginning to set them up to move from just a few brief minutes at the door to a little bit longer of a conversation and hopefully eventually being able to get into their home to sit down and spend a longer time with them talking about the lessons. So I like to say, “Hey, by the way, next time maybe we can share a little bit more about what really spoke to us, each of these lessons as we went through them.” And then after that, I simply say, just before I leave, “I’d like to pray with you again. Is there anything in particular you’d like me to pray about?” And again, follow that same process, listen to what they have to say, say short prayer, praying about the specific thing. And then I simply say, “Have a great evening and I’ll see you next week at the same time.” And then I leave promptly.

Byron: That’s what I do if they’ve studied the lessons, if they did not study the lessons, what I like to say is, “Hey, I know life is busy and I also know that you really wanted to do this too. Would it help if we studied the lessons together? Or do you want to give it another try on your own this week?” And I’ll wait for them to respond. If they say to me, “let me try this again on my own this week” then I say, “Hey, that’s great. And just so it doesn’t get overwhelming for you, why don’t I hang on to these next two lessons until next week so that you can finish the first two, and I’ll bring them back with me when we touch bases next time.” And then after their response there, then I just wrap up the visit with the same process, asking if there’s anything I can pray about with them having prayer and then leaving.

Byron: If they say to me “It would help if we study them together.” Then I like to say “That’s great, do you have a few minutes that you’d like to do that right now, or shall we plan for another time?” And if they say to me, “Yeah, now is fine.” Then what I’ll do is I’ll step into the home with them and I’ll only spend about 15 to 20 minutes. I don’t go through the whole lesson, I go through several questions with them and then after 15 or 20 minutes I say, “See? Do you see how this works now? I don’t want to keep you any longer this evening, so why don’t I have prayer with you and be on my way and you can finish up the rest of the lessons before next week when I get back to you, okay?” And so then I wrap up the visit for them. If they say “Let’s plan for another time.” Then I say “No problem about that. Would tomorrow evening work for you or is there another evening?” So I right away follow up with them to set up the time and if they say, “Well, tomorrow evening is no good.” Then I say, “Well, what would be a good time for you?” And I just keep working with them to get to the place where we can make that appointment set that time to go back and look at the lesson together. And then of course, after we get that time set, I wrap up in the same way by asking them for prayer, telling them I’ll hang on to the next two lessons until we see each other next time and have prayer and go.

Byron: Since our goal, like I said, is to get a weekly in-home Bible study going with these interests, by the third visit, we want to try to be moving in the direction of getting to that in-home connection. And so if they’ve been doing them on their own, and I’ve just been dropping them off at the door, what I say is, “Hey Bob, I’m back again with your next two Bible studies.” I don’t have them to them right at that moment, but I say, “I’m back again with your next two Bible studies. How are things going for you with the studies so far?” And then I listen for their response and then if they say, they are really enjoying them and learning stuff, I say “That’s great. I’d really love to hear more about some of the things you’ve learned. Could I sit down with you for just a few minutes and hear a little bit more and maybe talk about some questions if you have any?” So I’m just asking, I’m just beginning to open that door up gently to them. If they respond to that and invite me in, then again, I take that time to talk with them a little bit, but I don’t stay more than 15 to 20 minutes. Just make it short. Wrap up the visit by praying for them their specific prayer request. And then I just keep going back each week to build on that personal connection. And then, hopefully, as it has in many cases, turns into a weekly sit down Bible study where you’re spending more time going through the lesson, reviewing what they’ve studied on their own and answering questions.

Byron: If a person never does the lessons that you are trying to drop off for them, and you’re never able to get into their home, after seven visits or after you’ve dropped off a total of 14 lessons, you can stop going to their home. However, don’t just drop them altogether. This is a person who showed a lot of interest, enough interest to sign up for personal Bible studies. And so if they’re not following through somehow when you’re stopping by to visit, or maybe you’re never catching people home, and so after a while you’re starting to leave lessons at the door for them with a note. What I want to encourage you to do is add those names, their contact information to your interest file. And then whenever you do an event at your church, a social event, a bridge event, any kind of a community sort of event, send them an email or a text message inviting them to come out. Give them a personal invitation via email or via text message to come out because you never know when they’re going to be ready to respond and when they’re going to be activated and take that next step.

Byron: If a person tells you they’re not interested in continuing the studies, then you need to respect that and stop going to their home. However, once again, go ahead and add them to your interest file. And whenever you do an event at your church like I just talked about, send them an email or a text message, invite in them to come out because once again, we never know what the Holy Spirit is doing in people’s lives and how they’re going to respond.

Byron: All right, thank you. I’ve tried to cover a lot of ground really quickly. I’m going to send it back to Sarah here to give you an Interest Tracker demo real quick.

Sarah: Byron, I just want to thank you for what you shared. As somebody who came into the church as a young adult, I appreciate your approach that works to establish trust and moves towards relationship in a way that’s very aware of the person and caring of the person. I know that that was really important to me as a young adult. Anyways, I appreciate your approach and think that that’s great.

The live demonstration might show more than what is listed below. Some steps have been removed or paraphrased to make the feature assets read clearly.

Sarah: All right. So I’m going to go ahead and share my screen and we are going to view my InterestTracker screen and we’re going to do a quick demo. I’m going to run through it really quick. This is not going to be comprehensive. What I’m going to do here is show you how you can use InterestTracker to further those relationships. This is a tool to move interests towards membership. So we’re going to run through it really quick and we’ll send out some more comprehensive training afterwards.

Sarah: When you initially log in, you’re going to see your dashboard. It’s going to give you a very quick glance at SMS messages, tasks, offer requests, your number of interests, if there are any new ones. As Byron had mentioned, this is really going to be successful as a team effort. So I’m going to jump first to user management and show you how to add your team members onto your InterestTracker account.

Sarah: So first you have your left navigation panel. The ones that have a little arrow are going to have a drop-down menu to expand. To set up your team is going to be very simple. You click on the users and you’re just going to click “Add New User” button. Once you click that, it’s just going to ask you for a few pieces of information. You’re going to need somebody’s name, their email, and then you’re going to need to assign their role.

There are three user roles that you can select from:  Church Admin, a Coordinator, and a Basic User.

  • Church Admin is going to have access to everything in Interest Tracker.
  • The Coordinator is going to have access to everything except being able to add, edit or delete other users.
  • And then your basic user is only going to have access to the interests that are assigned to them.

Sarah: So you’re going to enter those three things, click Save. The system is going to send them an email that lets them know they’ve been invited to Interest Tracker. They’re going to click a link to establish their password and then they’ll be in the system and see whatever access their user level allows them to. So that’s setting up your new users. Once somebody is set up, you’re going to want to have them, or a Church admin, go in and set up their User notification settings.

Sarah: And the ones I want to specifically focus on right now are “alert settings”. You’ll see there’s alerts for when a new interest is assigned to them, a new task or to do is assigned to them, or new offer delivery. Those are all turned on by default. Somebody can turn them off, but we recommend they stay on. Those are not things you want to miss. “New unassigned Interest added” is for somebody is a church Admin or a Coordinator. This is going to be helpful to you in this how Interest Tracker is going to notify you when you have a new interest that is imported into the system that is not assigned to somebody. So those new Bible study requests when they come in, this here is what will notify anybody that has that turned on our system will notify somebody through a different email. But this will allow you to set up whoever on your team needs to get those notifications. Once you’re done setting those up, you just click Save and it will be set.

Sarah: The Interest List is where you’re going to see all of your interests in your church account. Now you can change the number of entries that are shown. As you are starting out the default at 50 will probably cover them all, but as you continue to grow your Interest List, or maybe if you import a list in there, then you’ll quickly exceed that and we’ll need to set that. You’ll see you can change your column visibility so you can change what columns are available on your list view. So you can add when they were added, when their last interaction was their birthday, or an alternate phone number, zip code, etc. You select them, click outside the box and it will add those columns. And then to remove them, you just do the same thing. You’re going to remove any that you don’t want to view and then just click outside the box.

Sarah: You can also export your list by a number of different ways so you can just copy it to a clipboard. That’s helpful. When you want to do a bulk email, export it to an Excel sheet, labels, etc.

Sarah: Once somebody is imported into the system because they’ve responded to your Bible study ads, they will be imported into the system and it’s going to assign tags to them automatically. Which real quick, tags are used to sort your list. You can use those to put people into groups. If you have members that you import, you can tag them as members. Each of your leads that come in are going to be imported with “LeadGenerator” and “Bible study interest” tags. So you can always search by those as well.

Sarah: Anytime you click on a tag, it’s going to sort your list (you’ll see in the search) by that tag. So you can search by a tag just simply by clicking on it. You can also search by name, by who it’s assigned to, etc.

Sarah: Looking at a profile, you’ll see the information that came in, their phone number, email address, address, their age. And again, the tags here. You’re going to see the Offer request which shows the theme of the ad. Now, again, I’m just going to mention what I did earlier. “God Cares” is not a specific Bible study. This is a theme of an ad. So again, if it says that here, we can use this to understand that they were drawn to this ad as somebody who is likely looking for more information on the character and the love of God. So using that to inform us as we go and visit them is helpful.

Sarah: Now, the difference between notes and interactions, a note is like more of an FYI. An interaction is something that is exactly what it was. It was some kind of interaction between you and the lead.

Sarah: Once you have delivered their Bible study request or once you’ve made contact with them you use the Deliver button. And once you click it, I just want to let you know this does not deliver them anything. This is for your information to let you know that somebody has made contact with them. So mark that action as delivered, list who it was delivered by, an dput any delivery notes. Example: “Sherry accepted two studies we’ll plan to revisit in one week.” Then you can add a follow-up as well. So this is going to make sure that nobody falls through the cracks. Again, this is a tool to help establish relationships, move towards a deeper relationship. We want to make sure that nobody is slipping through the cracks. To-do items can get assigned to anyone on your team, and they would get a notification of that task.

Sarah: Use this to communicate with your team. Make sure that any notes, if a lead mentions some struggles that they are having or some things that are going on in their life, feel free to put those in there. And then somebody else, if they need to make contact with them, or if they shows up to church some Sabbath, somebody on your team is going to have some more information there to be informed when they communicate with them. Once tasks are finished it will move it to an interaction and then you can set a new one.

Sarah: Again, if you have an existing interest list, import them in here and start using that to track your interactions, assign them to team members, set follow ups, all of that good stuff.

Sarah: In the to do list you can see if there was a delivery, any notifications and SMS messages. Now church admins are going to be able to see everybody’s tasks because they have access to other users. You can see completed follow ups as well for a quick glance of upcoming and completed tasks.

Sarah: I want to quickly touch on SMS messaging. Now, as Byron mentioned, we highly recommend going to the door, and trying to make a personal connection. When you do need to communicate, most of us know this from our own personal experience in how we interact with technology, text messages have a higher open rate. They have a higher response rate, of like 90% compared to email, which is much lower. You guys as part of your plan are going to have SMS messaging. This is something that you can do through the system here. One of the things that you can do with the SMS messaging through the system is you can do bulk messages, which is a great way if you send out like a Friday encouragement, something that you can send out inspirational messages from scripture. When you do, we always recommend having an opportunity to respond. So you might reference a Bible verse that lets them know that God is with them through the storm or God hears us when we pray. And then you can add something like “need prayer?” or “would you like to learn more?” to the end of your message and give an opportunity to respond. So you can either go through and click a couple of names, all of the names, or filter by tag. And then when you scroll down to the bottom, you’re going to see interest list management which is going to allow you to do a lot of different bulk tasks.

Sarah: You can send texts immediately or you can also check a box to send it for a future date and time. So if you want to sit down on a Monday morning and schedule out the next three Fridays inspirational text messages, or maybe you’re going to schedule it for Friday to invite everybody to a special service that you have on Sabbath or a special event that you have going on, you can do that in the sytem. One last thing, you’re going to be able to see the text message phone number that is assigned to your church, so you can hand that out. There will be one that’s unique to your church, and we’ll get that set up for you, but you’ll be able to hand that out as well. It’s a text messaging only, not a phone number. So if you do hand it out to somebody, make sure that they know is that they can’t call it.

Sarah: You can set up custom fields through interaction types. Under the interactions, we can select whether it’s a home visit, a phone call, email, whatever. There’s a whole list there. You can add custom interaction types, custom fields, all of those things. And then custom tags as well, if there’s any that aren’t covered.

Sarah: There are a whole lot of help articles to help you if you are not sure how to navigate something in InterestTracker. If you happen to run into anything that’s not working, our developers are always adding new features, you can send in a bug report, or if there’s a feature you’d like to see, or if there’s something that you love, you can send that in with Kudos. And then our team will know that that is a feature that’s getting some good use.

(Please watch the webinar recording to hear the Q&A with host churches.)

Byron: I’m excited about what God is going to do with the partnership that the churches, SermonView, and Texas Conference are embarking on with The Promise Prophecies. If you have questions, please feel free to reach out to SermonView and they will pass any questions on to me. God bless you. I’m excited to be on this journey with you. We’ll communicate and help with whatever we can do to support your local churches in this program.

There will be more training opportunities and host resources available for your team.

As more host resources and training opportunities become available, they will be posted on online at Host resources will include downloadable files such as moderator and event coordinator guides, team checklists, sample scripts, bulletin inserts, training videos, and more.

At SermonView, we have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing.

We believe that church exists for those who are not yet part of it, so our passion is helping churches like yours reach people in your community who are ready to connect with you. We do that by helping you market your evangelistic events, and by finding people in your community ready to study the Bible with you. And we can also help you turn your church website into an evangelism engine.

The SermonView crew would love to help you reach more people for Christ. Let us know if you have any questions about LeadGenerator or the upcoming evangelistic series by calling 800-525-5791.

A Christmas Letter from Our Founder

Larry WitzelLife Lessons

Larry Witzel, Founder & President

It’s been an amazing year here at SermonView.

We’ve been able to introduce thousands of people across North America to churches ready to welcome them, and some of these congregations are seeing amazing harvests. For example, here are results from three campaigns we handled this year:

“The meetings have gone well!” said one pastor in Georgia this fall. “Over the opening four days of the seminar, we had 39 non-Adventists come from SermonView’s advertising. Thank you for your help.”

Another church in Colorado reported 8 baptisms from evangelistic meetings last February. “The evangelism marketing you did was fabulous,” the pastor said. “It brought out people to the meetings we never would have otherwise met.”

“We baptized 14 last month,” another pastor in Washington wrote in January, “and more are preparing for baptism and life with Jesus! The brochures and banners were beautifully designed. We had 90 non-members attend at least once, most of whom came from the mailing.”

We believe church is for those who aren’t yet a part of it. 

We love coming alongside church leaders who have a growth mentality, working together to grow the Kingdom of God. You are the reason we do this, and we appreciate your support.

Ministry Report

I’d like to share an annual report, if you will, on the state of the ministry at SermonView Evangelism Marketing. Covid-19 obviously had an impact on us—when you do event marketing, and events get shut down, it  can’t help but impact your business. But we are on our way to fully recovering from the Covid-related disruptions, and this year we had our biggest fall evangelism season in four years.

Our efforts are focused on four lines of ministry:
1. Event Marketing

When a church holds an outreach event, SermonView can help get more people there. Whether it’s a parenting workshop, a cooking class, an archaeology seminar, or a full-message reaping series, we use direct mail, banners and road signs, and digital marketing to let people in your community know about the event.

In 2022 we handled nearly 350 campaigns for in-person outreach events, more than double the previous year. We sent event invitations to over 3 million homes, triple last year’s count, and 1.3 million people saw digital ads for one of our events. This led to an average of 46 event pre-registrations per event, the highest average we’ve ever seen.

2. Bible Study Lead Generation

With our yearlong LeadGenerator program, we find people in your community ready to study the Bible with you. With traditional Bible study card mailings, respondents have to find a stamp and return the card, while the church gets deluged with responses in a short amount of time. LeadGenerator takes your budget and spreads it across the whole year, using digital advertising to guarantee a flow of new Bible study interests every month.

We ran 176 LeadGenerator campaigns this year, reaching 1.2 million people with digital ads. This generated an average of 68 Bible study requests per campaign over the course of the year.

3. Interest Tracking Software

In 2019 we launched InterestTracker, the complete cloud-based CRM for helping Adventist churches manage their interests on the way to membership and beyond. We’ve seen nearly 30% growth in InterestTracker usage in the last year. 

Today, over 4,000 users at 1,500 Adventist churches employ this tool to manage 117,562 interests. Of these churches, 353 also used AttendanceTracker to record the attendance of 22,454 people at 1,892 different meetings and 69 churches used the Text Messaging module to send 44,920 texts to 6,345 interests.

4. Church Websites

Last year, we began offering websites to churches in partnership with Adventist Church Connect. As of today, we’ve set up 42 outreach-oriented websites for churches, along with several email systems. We just launched a new high-powered service based on the popular WordPress content management system, which offers far more flexibility to create the website perfect for your ministry environment.

With this new system, response forms on our WordPress-based church websites integrate with InterestTracker, so each response automatically flows in and alerts users there.

Preaching Graphics

And what about our preaching graphics? That is, after all, where our name “SermonView” comes from. Well, we do continue to offer and support these products, at both and However, preaching graphics represent just 2% of our revenue today, and continues to decline. So we are putting our best efforts into growing the other areas of ministry.

Financial Pressures

Inflation has taken a huge toll on us. In the first 11 months of the year, revenue was 7% over budget, which we praise God for. However, our cost of goods was 27% over budget. As a result, we’re on track to have negative cash flow for the first time in over a decade. This followed two Covid years which ate up reserves.

Because of this, we’re forced to increase prices for our products in 2023. We’re doing this to solely to maintain a sustainable ministry for the long term. Please know we are fully committed to maximizing the value provided to each of our churches, and committed to remaining faithful stewards of God’s resources. We recognize that every dollar spent on church marketing comes from the sacrificial giving of church members, and we’re committed to helping you use these funds as effectively as possible.

I am more optimistic than ever about the future of SermonView Evangelism Marketing. After two rough years during Covid, we’ve got good momentum, and we’re back on a growth trajectory. We are very close to running at breakeven, offering a path to long-term sustainability. Our future is bright, and I’m grateful.

A New Church Growth Training Event
Coming May 7-10, 2023

For several years, now, I’ve had a growing burden to see an annual evangelism-specific training event for Adventist pastors and church leaders on the West Coast. This is what WestPoint of Evangelism used to be, but even its successor event, Adventist WestPoint, has now been discontinued. Roger Walter’s EvangeLead events in 2018 and 2019 were a great step in the right direction, but I’d like to see something bigger and more consistent.

So we’ve joined with some like-minded ministries to offer the first Propel Church Growth Conference here in Vancouver, WA, May 7-10, 2023. We’ve got some of the top thinkers and evangelism practitioners in the denomination coming, like Richie Halversen, John Boston II, and Bill McClendon. We’ll have training tracks in church revitalization, evangelistic innovation, reaping meetings, and member discipleship. There will also be two Spanish-language training tracks, in evangelism and discipleship. It’s being backed by the North Pacific Union, AdventSource, Pacific Press, Seminars Unlimited, and EvangeLead. It’s all about inspiration and training to grow your church, and I’m thrilled to see it coming together.

Bringing a team of local church leaders to an in-person event builds relationships and helps reignite the fire for ministry. The Propel Conference’s multiple training tracks are perfect for team members to each grow in their skills, then come together to dream and make plans to drive the mission forward in their local church.

So mark your calendar for May 7-10, 2023, and plan to join us for inspiration and training to grow your church. I hope to see you and your leadership team there.

A personal note

After 16 years working side by side with a business partner, I just finished my first full year as the sole leader of SermonView. I don’t claim to be the owner—this is God’s company (though the government holds me responsible to pay the taxes). The financial weight is heavy, but I don’t carry it alone. The SermonView crew is absolutely amazing, and I truly enjoy coming to work here every day. I love what we do, I love serving pastors, and I love my team. My heart is filled with gratitude.

Last year, I sent out a personal letter sharing some of the challenges I faced personally in 2021. I’m still broken, but God has promised to give me “the desire and power to do what pleases Him” (Phil. 2:13 NLT). Every day I know God is present, and some days I even sense His light in my soul. Thank you for the words of encouragement so many of you have sent me. It means more than you know.

Thank you for your support!

We love serving pastors and church leaders, and we’re grateful for the opportunity to work with you. Thank you for letting us partner with you to reach people for Christ in your community. I’m excited to see God positioning so many churches for an incredible harvest in 2023, and I can’t wait to see how God will move in your church.

Merry Christmas!

Larry Witzel
Founder & President

P.S. What are your big dreams for 2023? I’d love to hear what God is doing in your church!

Engaging Your Bible Study Leads – An Interview with Special Guest, Lavinia Collins

Lori BallEvangelism Practices, Fall Evangelism, From the Field, Marketing Practices

“Congratulations! You have a new Bible study lead.”

These can be exciting words to read, but if you aren’t sure how to approach a new lead (or if you’ve had a rough experience in the past with a “bad lead”) you might feel a little uneasy when getting this message.

In this webinar, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel dives head first into how to start the relationship-building process with your Bible study leads with special guest, Lavinia Collins.

Lavinia is the Bible Instructor & Leads Program Coordinator at Georgia-Cumberland Conference. She has trained volunteers from hundreds of churches all over the south, and over the years she has learned what works (and what doesn’t) when it comes to building and maintaining momentum with Bible study leads. Now she will share with you key principles for connecting with leads that your team can start implementing today.

Here are excerpts from this conversation:

Larry: Alright Lavinia, let’s dive in. The first question: tell us about yourself and what you do there at the Georgia Cumberland Conference.

Lavinia: Sure, I’m a Bible instructor. I have been in ministry for about 20 years, primarily as a Bible worker or Bible instructor coordinator basically. So at the Georgia Cumberland Conference, I’m the Bible Instructor Coordinator and as of a couple of years ago, we also developed the Conference’s “Reach Your Neighbor Leads Program”, so I am the program coordinator for that as well. We have a team of ten regional Bible instructors that we try our best to cover as many churches in the conference and equip members to be doing the Bible studies.

Larry: Tell me more about the Bible work program and how your Lead program works.

Lavinia:  The Bible instructors primarily train people how to give Bible studies, how to do personal evangelism, and how to do friendship evangelism. Basically, how to minister to the people that God has placed in their life. And as people have been getting trained naturally they’re wondering “Who do I give Bible studies to, where do I start?” So the natural thing obviously is to reach out to their friends and their family members, which works out beautifully. All you have to do sometimes is just ask somebody, “Would you let me practice on you?” But outside of that, there’s always the need to be able to reach out to those we haven’t met. God did say “go”, so the Leads program was born and our focus is to find the people that are interested in Bible studies and connect them to the people in our churches that are willing to meet them and give Bible studies. A simple way to define the Reach Your Neighbor Leads program is basically to connect the local church member with searching souls in the community in order for them to start Bible studies and build relationships.

Larry: Nice. Can you tell us a couple of stories about the experiences that members have had working in this program?

Lavinia: There are always stories, we get so many coming in now. I’ve actually picked a couple of them that are more typical as opposed to these super “wow” stories, where people are like “oh wow, that happens only once in whatever”, but people could recognize how it could happen or have experienced something like that. One happened in North Georgia, where one of the Bible study leads had been receiving Bible studies through the mail from a church member that was sending them to her with personal notes and was faithfully sending her the lessons. The church member was not sure to what extent this lady, Gayla, was actually doing the lessons—receiving them, enjoying, and attributing them in her life—and apparently, Gayla had been getting all the way past the Sabbath study, did the other ones too, and had become increasingly convicted that she wanted to find a Sabbath-keeping church. So she actually did a search and found the only church in her area to which she bravely showed up on a Sabbath morning to a church not knowing what to expect.

When she was in the church lobby, a very friendly greeter came up to her and greeted her. When she said her name, her Bible study person (the member that had been sending her Bible studies) yells across the lobby. She hears Gayla’s name and she yells across the room, “That’s MY person!” and quickly approaches her, to which obviously Gayla was in shock. Like, okay, I don’t know you. What do you mean I’m “your person?” And they proceed to understand their connection. “I’m the one that’s been praying for you for months now. I’ve been sending you these lessons in the mail. I can’t believe you’re here today. That’s so awesome!” It was so neat to see that, even though she didn’t know to what extent these people were going through, it was during the pandemic, so there wasn’t a lot of in-person visitation. This lady was guided by God as a result of the things she was learning from the Bible studies, and she found an instant friend that had been deeply committed to her, without ever having met her in her life and praying for her. So fast forward, Gayla has been baptized already. She’s joined the church! Gayla feels like she has found the family she’s always been looking for. And the part that’s neat now is now Gayla follows up on leads, and starting to give Bible studies because she’s so excited that she can do that for someone else.

So that’s the power of that program, and I love that story, but that’s not the only one. It keeps happening to the people that are coming in and getting baptized. Then they become part of the group. We move their name from the “interest” part of InterestTracker to “users.” That’s the full cycle where they themselves reach out to other leads or to their friends and start giving Bible studies.

Another story is about a lady who was willing to take the lessons from the mail, but there was no response back. So earlier this year when we decided to just visit everybody, the church member decided to go out and visit all the people she’s mailed to and one of the people that she visited got really excited and said, “I would love to sit down and go over these studies with you.” So the church member obviously offered to be a personal coach. So they set the time for the Bible studies. She showed up the first time and the lady wasn’t home. And you would think that at this point the church member could easily feel like her lead wasn’t that interested and just give up, which sometimes we do. But after waiting for half an hour, and not being able to get a hold of her by phone, the church member was faithful enough to go again three different times until she found her home again and say, “All right, when can we schedule this?”

And they have been faithfully studying in spite of that first delay. She no longer misses the lessons. The church member says she writes her notes faithfully and she meets up with her. They have just covered the Sabbath studies, so that’s now going to hopefully transition and give an opportunity to introduce her to more of the people at the church when that time comes. But I love how this shows again that many times we think of giving up too soon and make assumptions that people are not interested, whereas there is a balance between pursuing and not pursuing too hard. We need to realize there’s a lot more to do on our part than we think initially.

There are so many other stories, I can’t go through them all. But, just a quick mention, there was a lady that was watching Hope Channel in the background when somebody showed up. Imagine the excitement this person was having because all this stuff is already in her heart. Or people that are attending community events that are not just doing Bible studies, but they’re attending community events. And we have a church that has a goal, and it’s almost close to it, of having 100 Bible studies in one year. And they’re getting there, slowly but surely. There are hundreds of church members giving hundreds of Bible studies all over our conference, and we’re hearing so many powerful stories of people getting to know God and getting to know us, his children, as a result.

Larry: That’s awesome! Let’s talk about some principles for interacting with interests. When you get a lead, what are some principles covering how you interact with people?

Lavinia: Yes, it’s very important. The main principle I always go to at the beginning is for us to realize the importance that God stresses on the fact that we need to “go” and we need to “seek.” There’s a verse in Romans 10:14-15, and we all know it when He basically says, “how can they call on Him that they have not believed? How can they believe if they have not heard? And how can they hear without a preacher? And then He says, how beautiful are the feet of those that go, that bring glad tidings.” So these feet don’t just stay at church, in the church lobby, or at home, and expect to see people come to them. Right? We’re bringing glad tidings. We’re “going” because how can they hear unless there’s a preacher, and a preacher gets sent? So it is very important for us to remember that although we can have a beautiful church program and a great greeting system out in the lobby, we need to “go and seek”, we need to be available to them.

There is another quote, Desire of Ages, on page 142. It says that “God could have reached His object of saving sinners without our aid.” He could have done it without our aid, He could have used the angels. And many times I wonder, why wouldn’t He? They could do a way better job than I can. No matter how many training seminars I go to there’s no way I could do it. God uses people, He doesn’t use the angels. He says, in order for us to develop a character like Christ, we must share in His work. So if we have this mindset and if we realize these principles of the Divine method, the Divine recipe, then everything else lines up well. Because if I know that God must use me, then I just know that all I have to do is depend on Him. It’s His method. He’s the one that came up with it, so I just have to trust it. These people are just needing someone to be sent, and He has sent me for it.

Which leads to the second principle. And that is many times we are thinking that if I just attend enough seminars, get enough training, could go to this school, if I was just a pastor, if I had a master’s in evangelism, then I could do it. And it’s not like that. That’s not what we should rely on. We’re supposed to rely on prayer because we’re only relying on God. Look at the Quote in Christ’s Object Lessons, page 146. It is so interesting. It says, “It is not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have.”

Whatever your fill in the blank, “If I get to this point of knowledge, then I can start giving Bible studies.” You will never have enough for what this work requires you. It’s not the capabilities you now possess or ever will have, that will give you success. It is that which the Lord can do for you and through you. And the one that comes right after that in Christ’s Object Lessons on page 333. It says, “As the will of man cooperates with the will of God, it becomes omnipotent.” It just blows your mind, if we just could claim this and whatever is to be done at His command, may be accomplished in His strength, all His bidding and enabling.

If you get nothing else out of this webinar and you pause here, that’s sufficient. I keep saying, “If God can use a donkey, He can use me.” And may we be more like the donkey, so that He can actually get the glory.

And I’ve seen people that have had very little training, very faithfully trust in God, and get result after result after result. It blows my mind because of the methods they use sometimes, I wouldn’t use it, but they are trusting in God for it, and they are getting their strength from Him and the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit is blessing their efforts.

Now, there is a place for training, don’t get me wrong. God says, “an army of youth, rightly trained.” So I’m not saying there isn’t a need for training, but our dependence is not on our training. Our dependence is on God and on prayer.

One principle, you’ll hear me mention it again later, is that we team everybody up with prayer partners. Everybody gets a prayer partner. And the people that they’re going to visit are being prayed for by them and their prayer partners. The “foot soldier”, as I would call it, is the one that goes in the field, their hands are being held up by the prayer partner when they go out. That’s not an option or a nice addition, that is imperative. Without that, it doesn’t work. Just like Joshua with the battle, when Moses’ hands were being held up, if Moses’ hands were not held up, no matter how good of a soldier Joshua was, the battle would not be won. There is no other way around it. It’s the only way it works. So that’s why I’m emphasizing these two at the beginning because they are the only ones that really are the foundation of everything.

I have three more principles. Think of it in the life of a plant: sow, cultivate, and reap. A lot of times we are looking to get to reap where we have not sown. It’s important for us to be able to sow, cultivate, and reap a harvest. There’s a story of the berry picking that comes from Ellen White. She talks about many times people tried to pull on green fruit and how the green fruit was not supposed to be pulled. We’re only supposed to be pulling on ripe berries. Understand the concept of what it means to come across a ripe berry. Understand that it takes time for something to grow. If it grows super fast, it may be on stony ground. There are so many principles in seed sowing, and in that Ellen White’s vision from berry picking. Many people would go to these bushes and would tell her, “We found nothing. How are you finding a bush of royal berries?” And she says, “They’re not all together. I pick one from here and one from there. They’re in places you don’t expect and they’re not on the outside. You have to dig through the leaves and find them one by one.”

There’s a lot in that parable that also goes into the principle of being organized. She goes to the wagon afterward with her bushel full of berries, ready to put them in some kind of container and go back and pick more. And she found out the wagon had absolutely no preparations for holding anything that was picked and brought back. And I think that’s because the process hadn’t been thought through. Many times we don’t think through the process of all the steps that it takes either. What if we get a lead and we don’t even have the supplies yet? Were the Bible studies ordered ahead of time so you are ready for when a lead comes? Maybe think through the steps of when they eventually come to church. Is there a Sabbath school class that’s friendly for them? Whatever the steps may be, we need to be prepared and go through all this process with them.

Another principle that I’m very convicted by, and this can be discouraging at times, is for us to persevere and to expect tears at times. And I know that sounds like a strange principle, but I have a verse I’m basing it on, it’s Psalm 126:5. It says, “Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.” Does it say, those who sow in joy? You’re at the beginning with most of these people on their journey of learning about God and the Bible. If you’re sowing in the lives of these leads and there are no tears, then you’re not experiencing this verse. It may sound like a strange way to look at it, but at some point, there is going to be some kind of wrestling with God. You’ll probably experience heartbreak as you wrestle for their souls in prayer with God. Many times we forget this verse exists and we are shocked by the tears that come with evangelism and with sowing.

There is a Christian service quote on page 101. It’s one of my favorites. It says, “If you fail 99 times in 100, but succeed in saving the one soul from ruin, you have done a noble deed for the Master’s cause.” (If you fail 99 times in 100, God says, “Good job!”) Look at it from His perspective and realize it’s a little bit different than we tend to think, but this is the way that He views success. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not grow weary while doing good. For in due season we will weep if we do not lose heart.” So if you find yourself growing weary, you’re not the only one. I grow weary all the time. I think we all do. And then I go back on my knees and I ask God to fulfill this worst in my life and to help me not grow weary while doing good. The promise is in due season, we will reap if we don’t lose heart and persevere.

And just one last principle that I want to throw in here, just in case it’s not common knowledge: use normal social interaction principles. I’m assuming I’m talking to people who are Adventists, but it just seems that a lot of times in Adventism (or maybe it’s just true in Evangelism) we almost forget that “normal human interaction principles” are the way that we’re supposed to do it. How would you walk up to somebody and tell them about an exciting book you’ve been reading? How would you walk up and tell them about a new restaurant you found? How would you expect that interaction to be with a brand new person you met? Put yourself in their shoes, and try to think of things from their perspective. They filled out a Facebook ad, and you showed up at their door. Is that something that you think they might be excited about, or maybe they’re surprised? Assume that if you were in this situation, you would be surprised too. You can gauge your behavior accordingly just by trying to put yourself in their shoes.

Larry: That’s really good stuff. I love these five principles. Let’s talk about some tactics. Tell us some specific communication tactics that you use to coach your Bible study volunteers.


When it comes to communication, a lot of times the simple and obvious things need to be stated. So I’m going to go through some of the obvious ones. The first one is if possible, you need to reach your new leads within a few days to a couple of weeks. Especially if it’s a Facebook ad. They were probably in the middle of a Facebook page or looking at a friend’s account, then they saw the ad which they can fill out so fast (sometimes they may even do auto-fill) they click submit, and then they’re back to looking at another friend’s pictures. If it’s too many weeks past that, the memory of filling out the form has been lost. It wasn’t like they sat down and filled out a postcard, put a stamp on it, and walked it down to the mailbox. It happened so fast that it slips their mind, and we have to hit the iron when it’s hot. We cannot be waiting on these things. I recommend the church does not turn on the campaign until they’re ready to act right away so that when they actually come through, we jump on them quickly. And it just shows respect for this person’s request. Somebody requested something and they should get it when they expect it.

Another one is in-person is best. There is a huge, huge difference in the number of reactions we get from people when it happens in person, rather than trying to text, email, or do a phone call. I know it’s less convenient, but it’s harder. I know it’s a long drive sometimes to go to their home and you risk them not being there, but it makes such a big difference. And I know that when you get there, they’re not expecting you in person. So all of those shocks and all of those things keep members sometimes from actually going in person, and then they get the kind of results that happen by only text, which seems to be like only 1 out of 50 people that respond or something disappointing like that sometimes. It just seems to be so hard just by text. If you have no choice and no way of getting out to them in person and you only have that, then try that multiple times and make it very personalized.

We recommend people go in person with a gift bag. Why a gift bag? Because it causes a paradigm shift in the person that goes up to the door. It’s just as much for the church member as it is for the lead. Sometimes we feel like we’re selling them something or we think we’re asking them for a favor, and our body language starts reflecting that kind of thinking. When you show up with a gift, then everyone is excited. And your body language and smile relax them because they’ve never met you, but they see a gift bag. (It’s actually quite fun!) And in the gift bag we put the Bible study lessons one and two (not the whole set because we want to keep coming back) and a nice quality gift book like Steps to Christ. A book that looks valuable. You don’t have to pay a lot of money for some of these because we have them in nice quality in bulk at Adventist Book Center. And then put a letter in there. It should have your contact information and explain it to them in case you have to leave it on the doorstep. And then sometimes just one other little thing like a bookmark, so that it feels like you have a gift bag with several things.

We have scripts on our website that we use for in-person visits too. We cover tips and scripts for how to handle questions or shock when you first show up at the door, with easy ways of explaining to them.

For example, you can say, “Yes, we know. Everybody says they expect to get it through the mail, but there’s a lot of stuff in here, and the post office has been losing so many things, especially since COVID. I’m a local representative in your area and I just wanted to make sure you got this and that it didn’t get lost. Plus this way you can also have my contact information since I am your prayer partner, I’ve been assigned to pray for you.”

And then that’s when you can lead into, “Are there any specific things can I pray for you? I’ve been praying for you anyway. Can I pray for something more specific?” And you are in person and you are friendly, it’s just different than trying to do that by phone.

There are two goals that I also wanted to share here in your interactions. One goal is to try to get them into Bible studies, it can be either personal or correspondence. So it doesn’t have to be personal studies. Don’t allow yourself to add that kind of pressure. Work with where they’re at. Think of Jesus’s methods. He met everybody where they were and then moved them a little further on that line, so to speak. One is to get them to have Bible studies, but the second is to form lifetime relationships with them or church members. Those are the two goals, not just at the first time, but throughout your interactions with them. You want to look for opportunities for them to continue communication with you and contact points with you and with other church members besides just Bible studies. And if you try to aim at these goals, then it makes it easy for you to know what to do and what to say. How do I get them to engage in Bible studies? How do I get them to interact on a consistent basis with me and my friends?

And then number four I already kind of mentioned, which is becoming their prayer partner. You have already been putting their name on a card in your Bible, ideally, so you have it at your morning devotions. It’s their name. And the other five or ten names, however many names have been assigned, they’re in your card, and you’re praying for them daily. And then when you’re meeting them in person, you want to know what prayer request you can add under those names. And then you also would give those prayer requests to your prayer partner that has been praying for them along with you. And that becomes very important to let them know, I am praying for you, and I want to know how specifically to pray for you. And then it’s possible to pray with them really briefly before you leave that day when you’re at their door. Sometimes that can take a person from stone cold to even tears or warming up to you when they hear your caring prayer on their behalf specifically for what they said.

All right, so just a few more here, make sure you have their contact information. It is very important that you give them your contact information. Obviously, you’ve got some of theirs, so maybe you’re missing a phone number or an email or something that you want to confirm, but give them your contact information. And if you want to just put neutral contact information from the church, we recommend people to have a hotline so that they’re not calling and hearing you’ve reached ____ Seventh-day Adventist Church. That way when they’re calling they hear, “Hello! You’ve reached My FREE Bible Study. If you have questions or prayer requests, please leave a message. Someone will get back to you.” It’s nice to be able to have that and for a church to see themselves as a community center in which you have a community voicemail and a community hotline. And a lot of times, sometimes people ask, “Why can’t I just put my church’s Seventh-day Adventist contact info?” And my reasoning for that is the same reason why Jesus did not say, “I am the Messiah” to every single person He met. In fact, very few people did He ever reveal that to. And those who knew it He would tell them not to speak it because not everybody was ready to hear “I am the Messiah.” It was about a time and a place, and these people don’t know us yet. They need to know more about us. They need to know more about God. They need to see the bridges of so many things that we have in common prior to bringing in new information like that. The Holy Spirit can be completely different from that, so follow the Holy Spirit. But it’s nice to have something more neutral as you first meet them, because of the negative connotation sometimes a community can have with the name Seventh-day Adventist. And it depends if it’s a city or rural area. In rural areas there’s a lot more prejudice, so you have to be even more careful with that.

One more principle is to basically be respectful, and allow them to engage. Don’t pursue too hard, be available to guide them without being pushy. Keep in mind when you’re out the door, if they’re very stand-off-ish, if their stuff is on the stove, if a child is crying, any of those things, just make it short. Skip the prayer, give her the bag, and get out of there. Like, what is the most respectful thing? What communicates the most love? But at the same time realize that you have something greater to give them that they may not be aware of and make sure that you pursue them because they are not fully aware of what you’re giving them. So don’t be too passive. Balance those two together.

Another communication tactic is to start the Bible studies gradually. Sometimes people are ready to sit down and study the Bible with you and sometimes they are not. They may just be okay with reviewing a lesson for five to ten minutes on the phone after they completed it, and that’s it. Over time, that can increase to 15 or 20-minute calls, and eventually a full sit-down in-person study. So keep in mind that you can start gradually and then increase as the Holy Spirit leads it. And then like I mentioned earlier, keep looking for ways to connect them not just with you, but also with church members. And not necessarily at church because they may not be ready for a Sabbath until they learn about the Sabbath. One of our churches did a kayak trip in which they invited their Bible study leads to go kayaking with them. And they had quite a big group that went and they had a blast together. The Bible study students met each other and they met the other church members.

So keep finding ways for these connections to happen. Again, it’s Bible studies and relationships, so try to build both in a natural way.

Larry: You guys are using InterestTracker to distribute the leads there in Georgia Cumberland, as well as for recording follow-up notes, to-do tasks, and that type of thing. Let’s talk about the mechanics of how the Bible study lead information flows. Can you go through that for us?


Yes, for sure. InterestTracker has been a lifesaver for our conference! If we did not have InterestTracker we would be stuck right now. We have looked for other software to do what we want it to do, and they just don’t work like InterestTracker. So thank you! What you guys are developing makes it so easy. The part that I love about it is that it does the basics of what we need and it doesn’t have too many bells and whistles that just confuse the church members.

When the campaign gets turned on the leads come straight into the church’s InterestTracker account. But, I just want to make sure before the campaign gets turned on, churches need to make sure they have all their supplies ready. Sometimes it’s easy to forget. Make sure you have your gift bags with your Bible studies, books, and your labels to put your number inside of the books. Make sure that you have everything you need so your team is ready. Your team should each have their own copies of the Bible studies that they’re going to be teaching. They should have their prayer partner, and they should have reviewed the scripts of what to say at the door. And last, they should have those gift bags ready in their trunk. This last Saturday at church people just came in, they assembled them, and they put them in the trunk. What we love is when a lead comes into InterestTracker we get an email notification to the account admin letting them know that they have a new lead and that account’s church admin can log in and review it. (This person could be the leads leader, the head secretary of some churches, or a pastor.) They log in and assign them to one of their team members. We try to make sure that, if possible, choose a church member that is geographically close to the lead, so you aren’t sending a member on the other side of town.

When that church member gets a lead assigned to them, they get an email notification letting them know and they log into their InterestTracker account to review the lead’s information. Hopefully, by this point in your preparation process (prior to this being turned on) each one of your team members has watched the short training videos on Those training videos show them what to do so your team members are not calling you to figure out how to log in or where to go once they are in. They should already have gone through that so you can help them and fine-tune your process, but you’re not starting from scratch. And then so they log in, they get their lead, they put them on their prayer card in their Bible. Then they call their prayer partner and they give them the same name to pray for (or ideally many names, right?) because each person should be able to handle 5 to 10 names probably. And then after they pray for them, they deliver the offer. They bring them that gift bag with the Bible studies that they already built out.

And then, depending on that interaction, you would add notes to your InterestTracker account. You should also update your prayer partner as to what their new prayer requests are or whatever the case may be. And this is the next part that sometimes can also get dropped. It’s important that after you’ve made that initial interaction, you get in the habit of connecting with this person every week or every other week at the most. Either for giving them the next set of studies, praying with them, reviewing the study with them, or maybe inviting them to a community event so you’re always connecting. In this way, you are keeping a rhythm of connecting.

You can create this as a follow-up task in InterestTracker or you can put it in your calendar to remind you to keep staying in rhythm with these people regardless of their contact. Because as you guys remember from the testimonies at the beginning, things are happening, the Lord is working in their life. You just have to continue making yourself available through that and then you can bring them to these community events. As time goes on, it’s important to make sure that you also write notes in InterestTracker so that the leads leader can see them too because sometimes they need to connect with their church members, and their teammates.

Your team is going to get in a habit of getting together with the leads leader once a month at least, maybe a couple of times a month, for encouragement, support, and for questions. Notes become important both externally and internally because things happen in our lives and that’s why it’s nice to work with a whole team at church with InterestTracker. So that’s what we do with that and what we recommend that happens with the flow. And like I said before, I mean, I just love the fact that InterstTracker allows for all of that to happen. Including texting straight through the software if you’re wanting to send a reminder to your person and keep things organized well.

Larry: Well, interest tracker has been something that we put a lot of effort in just listening to Bible workers like yourself and pastors and church leaders. It’s something that we’re really glad to be able to offer. I’m glad to hear that it’s something that’s been a blessing for you guys there in Georgia Cumberland.

Lavinia: Yes, we appreciate it. What is it you guys call yourself? Geeks for Christ. We definitely need it.

Larry: We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing.

Lavinia: Nerds for marketing. That’s it. I love it.

Larry: Let’s talk about the expectations of your volunteers. You mentioned earlier that not every lead turns into a Bible study. So what do you do to set expectations, to then prepare them to have less discouragement as they’re going through the process?


When Bible workers are at this for a while, we kind of know what to expect and when to get excited. I had to come up with a percentage for sharing with our team. It seems to be about 10-40% of the leads turn into conversations or Bible studies—when you’re being consistent. And people are shocked when they see that. And they just started. They’re like, “What do you mean? I got ten people that have requested Bible studies! Like, they actually filled out a form that has their name, phone number, email, and their address. I mean, that’s a lot of commitment to give that much information to a stranger online, you know what I mean, in today’s generation. So if I have 10 of these, what do you mean only 10-40% of those will turn into conversational Bible studies?” It’s just how it works. We have to go through the process. Some people have experienced 50% or more. It just depends sometimes on the area, the approach, and the experience of your church members, but it is on average 10%-40%, and that has helped set expectations. People realize after being consistent and continuing to check in with them, and still only getting 3 out of 10 engaging, that it is completely normal and actually very exciting.

People have a spiritual interest. God is working in their life, you just need to find out how you can minister to them. It may be that you’re their prayer partner. It may be that you become their friend, that you become their correspondence Bible teacher, their actual sitdown Bible teacher and coach. Or just someone that occasionally invites them to events or helps them unload the groceries because they were unloading their trunk when you got there for the first visit. So you just have to find out where you can minister in their life and be happy with your part. Because our duty is not for that end result, whatever, we imagine that to be, our duty is very clear. It’s supposed to be consistently planning, praying, and being available to God and to them.

Be patient with the process. It can be a long journey, let God do the increase. There are a couple of quotes that I use for this on a regular basis to keep my expectations balanced. It is one from the Duke of Wellington, in Gospel Workers. It says the Duke of Wellington was present once at a party of Christians where men were discussing the possibility of success in a missionary effort among the heathen. They appealed to the Duke to see whether his judgment in such efforts was likely to prove successful. And the Duke answers, “Gentlemen, what are your marching orders? Success is not the question for you to discuss. If I read your orders right, they run thus: ‘Go. Go, ye in all the world, preach the gospel to every creature.’ Gentlemen, obey your marching orders.” I love the simplicity of this quote and of this man’s thinking. He is saying do not worry yourself about “the success.” You’re supposed to be faithful to your marching orders. You’re a soldier in the army of Christ. Don’t worry about how, and what works in what order. Trust that God will give the result.

And then Ecclesiastes 11:6 says, “In the morning, so your seed. In the evening do not withhold your hand, for you don’t know what will prosper. Either this or that or what are both alike will be good.” That’s our faithfulness. So in the morning send out your text messages, in the evening do your in-person visitation, and pray for them every day in your devotional time. You don’t know what will prosper, just be faithful, and don’t worry about it.

I’ve got a friend in the conference, she’s a Bible instructor, and she too, just like all of us, experience frustration and discouragement from something not happening the way or at the speed that we would like. And I love how God answered her prayer. She asked God to, show her that what she was doing is working. She’s sowing her seeds in the morning, she’s sowing her seed in the evening, and she’s being faithful. She has been sending these messages and these Bible studies to this gentleman in South Georgia, far away from her, so she had no ability to visit him. (It’s one of the “orphans” as we call them.) They’re in our mission areas basically, and she had no idea if anything was happening. But she still faithfully sent these lessons. And then that very next day, her mom calls her up and says, “You won’t believe what just happened at church today.” Now, her mom was her prayer partner who would pray for the leads that she would be following up with. And her mom lives a couple of hours away in Tennessee, and this person was from South Georgia. Her mom said, “so and so just walked into our church this morning.” (He has a unique name, I don’t remember what it is.) And she said, he walked in and I was a greeter at church on that Sabbath. She says, “I’m pretty sure he’s the guy on your list. You have got to go and look, I think it’s him”! My friend thinks, what are the odds? What would he be doing in an Adventist church? Her mom says, “He told me it was the first time he was ever in an Adventist church.” She goes, okay, let me go look in the database and she just prays, “Lord, if this is from You, I pray that you would help him to continue the lessons.” He randomly texts that evening for the first time in response to the numerous texts she had sent before.

“Please don’t give up on me. I’m in the process of moving. I have been very slow in responding to these Bible studies, but I depend on them. I’ve been enjoying them so much. Here’s my new address. Please continue to send them to me.”

So my friend, Karen, is just shocked. She can’t believe this. And then she tells him, “By the way, this might sound weird, but I think you met my mother this morning. Did you go to an Adventist church in the Collegedale area this morning?” (Obviously, I’m sure he’s shocked.) And he’s like, “Yes I did.” And she goes, “Well, you met my mother. She was the greeter. And by the way, she and I have been praying for you together.”

The amazing thing is that God showed her this one story in answer to her prayer for her to see that her faithfulness was paying off. God doesn’t always show us the results because he can’t always trust us with it. So many times we need to just be faithful, follow our marching orders, do our work faithfully, and trust that God is the one that’s in control. And it’s up to Him what happens with those results, not us. And just stay consistent because apparently, it’s working even if we don’t see it. And sometimes He may give us a glimpse like this story of what He’s really doing behind the scenes. I just thought that was phenomenal.

On the webinar recording, Lavinia mentions resources for your team.

Those resources can be found on the Georgia Cumberland website, which includes downloadable files such as checklists, scripts, letter templates, stickers, and more. She also answered audience questions about connecting with leads, which Bible studies they like to use, and how to keep your church’s volunteer team engaged and motivated. Watch the full webinar here to see her replies.

At SermonView, we have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing.

We believe that church exists for those who are not yet part of it, so our passion is helping churches like yours reach people in your community who are ready to connect with you. We do that by helping you market your evangelistic events, and by finding people in your community ready to study the Bible with you. And we can also help you turn your church website into an evangelism engine.

The SermonView crew would love to help you reach more people for Christ through lead generation or marketing your next evangelistic event. Let us know if you have any questions about LeadGenerator or have an evangelistic series coming up, call 800-525-5791.