It was my third meeting as a new member of the Oregon Conference Executive Committee. A serious matter was brought to us, one that would have lasting consequences for a pastor’s career. After extended discussion, it was clear some committee members felt rushed to make a decision. Yet a vote was taken anyway. In the end, the right decision was probably made, but the process left a bitter taste, leading a member to resign.
I write this, not to be critical, but to share my journey as a board member. As I reflected on the experience of that meeting in the days following, I realized that by my silence I had failed the group. I myself was culpable. Frankly, this was not a matter requiring immediate decision. Waiting 2 months could have given this pastor’s congregation an opportunity to process the situation, and perhaps even begin to heal after his poor choices. I knew this in my heart, yet I didn’t speak until it was too late.
That’s when I realized I needed to do a better job in this new role. So I started jotting notes about specific ways to be more effective as a board member. I asked other members what I could do to improve. When I was reelected to a second term on Executive Committee, I asked three experienced members to mentor me. Most importantly, after every meeting I spent the drive home in silence, talking to God about it and reflecting on what I could have done better. I wanted to get better with every meeting.
I was on conference committee for 8 years, and I learned a lot. And now, as I retire from this board after two terms, I’d like to share some things I’ve learned.
Note, this is not a comprehensive article about the responsibilities of a board member. It doesn’t talk about a board member’s duty of care, or duty of loyalty. There are plenty of other comprehensive training resources out there for new board members, such as the free courses at Adventist Learning Community for new K-12 school board and church board members, or free courses for nonprofit board members at NonprofitReady.org. Dr. Byron Dulan at the North Pacific Union Conference recently recorded a webinar for Adventist Community Services called Ministry Boards 101, which is a great introduction to the responsibilities of board members. So if you’re new to boards, I encourage you to complete one of these courses to give you a foundation on boardmanship.
Here, then, are my 10 ways to add value to any board or committee:
1. Say yes—but not too often
If you have an opportunity to join a board, do it! You can’t add value to a board if you’re not on it.
On the other hand, you’ll do better work if you can focus. So if you’re already on a couple of boards or committees, say no to other opportunities so you can fully honor your current commitments.
Specifically, if you have an opportunity to be involved in Seventh-day Adventist Church governance, please take it. Whether it’s an audit review committee, lay advisory committee, session organizing committee, nominating committee, constitution and bylaws committee, constituency session, or executive committee itself, you can have a positive impact on shaping the mission and culture of our denomination in your territory. When you get the chance, please say yes.
2. Show up and pay attention
Turn off your phone. Don’t pull out your laptop to check your email. When you’re in the meeting, sit up, lean forward, and make eye contact with whomever is speaking. Make an effort to track the discussion. If you’re tired, get up and stand behind your chair. Do whatever it takes to pay attention.
To do that, of course, you have to be there. Attending meetings is the only way to participate in discussions. You can’t add value if you’re not there. In my eight years on Oregon Conference Executive Committee, I only missed one meeting due to family responsibilities.
You can’t contribute if you don’t show up. So show up, and pay attention.
3. Understand your role
As a board member, you have no authority outside a board in session. You cannot speak for the board unless you’ve been delegated that responsibility. You cannot speak for the organization, and you cannot act on behalf of the organization. Those are jobs for officers and staff, not you as a board member.
You also can’t talk about deliberations in a board meeting. This is generally true for every meeting, but anything that happens particularly when in an executive session must be kept strictly confidential.
So what is your role? You participate in dialogue about potential decisions brought to the group, vote on these decisions, and support the board decisions and the organization as a whole. You are an advocate for the organization, but without authority to speak or act on its behalf outside of board meetings in session.
You are also an ear for the organization. I can’t tell you how many emails, phone calls, and letters I’ve received from people with specific concerns about the conference. Each time I thanked the person for their perspective and said I would keep it in mind as the committee makes decisions. When appropriate, I would share these concerns with conference leaders or during board discussions.
So your role is to listen, dialogue, and vote. Outside of meetings, you are an advocate for the organization. That’s it.
4. Do your homework
Spend time outside the meetings researching the issues and gathering data to make better decisions.
A few weeks after my first conference committee meeting, I ran into the president at an event. I told him I had been attending the same church for 15 years and was thinking about doing a tour of some other churches in the conference to help get me up to speed on current ministry culture. He was ecstatic that one of his executive committee members would do this and gave me a list of some churches to check out.
Over the next year, I visited 30 churches across the conference: urban and rural, Spanish and regional, progressive and conservative, large and small. I went to Sabbath school and the worship service, then stayed late to pray with the pastor after the service. Sometimes I brought my kids, who gave me a scouting report on the children’s programs. It was a memorable experience that gave me a foundational understanding of the state of the conference. It was also a lot of fun.
Bottom line: the more you engage outside the meeting, with both people and issues, the more value you bring to each meeting.
5. Ask good questions
I learned it’s better to ask questions than to make statements. Questions engage the others in the room, and are more inclusive. Even if I already knew the answer, I found it gave more weight to visibly agree with someone else’s answer than to make a statement myself.
There are four general types of questions I ask while in a meeting:
Clarifying questions. Help me understand what’s being said. How long ago did this happen? What other steps did you take? What was the local church leadership’s response?
Probing questions. Get beyond the surface to understand the deeper implications. Why did you feel this was the right course of action? What has your experience been in similar situations? How will this impact the mission?
Policy questions. Help the committee understand the boundaries they must operate in. What is NAD Working Policy on severance pay? What are the continuing education requirements for teachers? What is the current conference policy on sabbaticals? Many of the decisions a board is asked to make will have policy boundaries you must work within, so asking questions about policy will help everyone understand where those fences are.
Procedure questions. Make sure everyone understands where you are in the meeting process. Is there a motion on the floor? What is the exact wording of the motion? Are we voting on the main motion or the proposed amendment? What does it mean if we vote yes? Roberts Rules of Order and GC Rules of Order require experience to fully understand, so asking questions will help less experienced members keep up with the proceedings.
6. Build relationships
Put some effort into building relationships with the other board members. Come early to connect with board members and staff. Stay after the meeting to process what happened with someone. Text with other members between meetings. Be open to viewpoints that are foreign to you. Embrace feedback, whether positive or negative.
I’ve been part of discussions where other board members have opinions I completely disagree with. Sometimes, I couldn’t understand how someone could hold that belief, and occasionally that disagreement was strong and passionate. But if we’re going to work together, good relationships are crucial.
I found having lunch with someone is a great way to build trust. Building that bridge is far more important than being right. There is more joy in relationships than in close-mindedness.
7. Create an inclusive space
When I started my second term on conference committee, I looked for ways to help new members engage. For many, it was a new environment, with new people. The culture of each board is a little bit different. Policies and processes were foreign. Procedures for motions and amendments can be confusing. It can all be overwhelming to newcomers, so I wanted to do my part to ensure everyone was keeping up with the discussion.
Specifically, when I saw signs of confusion in committee members I would ask questions, even when I already knew the answers. I would ask about policies and procedure to give people a chance to catch up and better understand what’s going on.
More than that, creating an inclusive space means giving others a chance to talk. It means pausing to let someone else make the motion, and the second. It means allowing a discussion to take shape, and if my viewpoint has already been expressed, keeping my mouth shut.
Side note: the less you speak, the more valuable each comment becomes. One of my mentors told me to look at the agenda, pick the one item I cared about the most, and save my words to speak to that issue. In a meeting, the total value of your words is inversely proportional to the quantity. Fewer words have more impact.
8. Make space for the underrepresented
I’m a middle-aged white man. Do you know what this denomination’s committees don’t need more of? Middle-aged white men. I know.
Still, I can bring value. So if I am on a board, I can passionately advocate for those who are underrepresented. For example, during this last term, I worked to formalize young adult representation on Oregon Conference Executive Committee through amendments to the bylaws. I have vocally supported the needs of both Spanish and African-American churches. I’m an advocate for church planting, for women in ministry, and for Adventist education.
More importantly, I worked to include representatives of these groups in the conversation. I’ve had numerous conversations with people from groups whose voices need to be heard, simply building their confidence to participate in the process. And once someone is present from one of these underrepresented groups, I do my part to encourage them to share their perspectives.
Sometimes that even means standing aside to create room for someone else whose voice needs to be heard. I’ve always wanted to be a delegate to General Conference Session, ever since I first attended as a kid. I’ve been to nearly every GC Session since I was a teenager, in numerous roles: TV crew member, musician, exhibitor. I would spend my breaks observing the business sessions, and have read the Adventist Review transcripts for nearly every meeting over the last 35 years. I’ve dreamed of someday wearing that delegate badge. But today I recognize this body needs other voices, and I am at peace with never being an official delegate. At this last Session, I cheered as Dan, Kara, Belinda, and Linda went as our representatives from Oregon. That’s a small sacrifice I can make to create space for someone else, and is a unique way to add value to the organization.
I cannot speak for underrepresented groups, but I can be an ally. And I can do my part to create space for their voice to be heard.
9. Make yourself a board contribution checklist
As I went on this journey, I found myself creating a personal performance checklist. I would look at it before each meeting, to remind myself of my goals, and then reflect afterward on how I did.
Here’s the current state of my checklist:
Safety. Did you do your part to create a safe space for people to share their thoughts and perspectives?
Affirmation. Were you affirming with your words?
Warmth. Did you keep a smile on your face?
Humor. Was your humor appropriate? Did you laugh with, not at?
Gentleness. Were you gentle?
Humility. Were you humble?
Attention. Did you pay attention throughout the proceedings?
Preparation. Did you do your homework?
Value. Did you add value to the conversation?
Mentoring. Did you help other committee members to better understand the topic being discussed? Did you help them understand the process?
You’ll notice this list is tailored to my own strengths and weaknesses. For example, I am not a gentle person by nature, so I reminded myself to be gentle. Boldness is not a problem for me, so that’s not on my list. But someone else might need to remind themselves to be bold, not gentle. Both are important; one, in particular, needed my attention, so that’s what’s on my list.
10. Exude positivity
You help set the tone for the board. So put a smile on your face. Speak words of affirmation and appreciation. Give compliments. Point out things that are going well. Create a foundation of positivity. Then when you do need to speak a hard truth, people will know you’re saying it out of love, not with a critical spirit.
At every meeting, I tried to find a way to give words of affirmation: how honored I was to spend time with these people, how much I appreciated them, and how much fun I had together. I’m confident that if you asked them, people on that committee would say they felt affirmed in their contributions, and that I helped create a positive tone for the group. They would also say I spoke what was on my heart, even if it was discordant with prevailing opinion. You can be both positive and honest; it’s not either/or.
This positivity is so rare it can even be newsworthy. I recently publicly expressed my appreciation for the discussion taking place at the most recent Oregon Conference Constituency Session, and my comments were quoted in the news article about the session. So bringing a positive, affirming voice to a board or committee can add tremendous value to the organization.
While you’re at it, have fun! Once you’ve taken the effort to be at the meeting and understand the issues, enjoy yourself. If someone tees up a funny comment, make it. Laugh together. Change things up and make a simple procedural motion with a loquacious speech. Cheer for each other. Most of all, take pride in the work you’re doing together, having fun while you’re doing it. Be the positive influence God created you to be.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to serve on the Oregon Conference Executive Committee over these last 8 years. Having been in the room when some hard decisions were made, I have nothing but respect for our conference president, Dan Linrud, as I watched him wrestle with competing priorities in this spiritual war. This committee did some good work together, and I’ll always cherish the friendships I made with the other committee members. I’ll be cheering them on in each of their future ministry endeavors.
So what about you? Are you willing to step up and serve? There are organizations that need your help. No matter your experience or personality, you have something to offer. So say yes, and start adding value to the organizations you care about. Maybe you’ll even have fun in the process.
Larry Witzel is the founder and president of SermonView Evangelism Marketing. After serving on Oregon Conference Executive Committee for 8 years, he was elected to represent the conference on the North Pacific Union Conference Executive Committee.
The essential tool for your team hosting evangelistic events.
The AttendanceTracker module seamlessly integrates into InterestTracker, building on the software’s most popular features like tags and interactions. Plus, it offers access to customizable reports, making it an essential tool for your team hosting events.
We understand new technology can feel uncomfortable, and this might sound like a lot. But we’re here to walk you through it. In this webinar, SermonView founder and president, Larry Witzel, covers the basics of the AttendanceTracker system and how your team can utilize the key features of this robust add-on module. You’ll see how pre-registrations automagically flow into your account, how session check-ins work for in-person meetings, and how to create your own precise, easy-to-access custom reports to track the engagement of your guests. Then find out how to use these reports to develop a follow-up strategy to connect with your guests and cultivate every relationship made during your event.
Why use software like AttendanceTracker? Why do we even track attendance at evangelistic events? To answer that, we need to answer a much more fundamental question: What is the purpose of evangelism? More specifically, what is the purpose of Adventist evangelism?
Membership is really important to Seventh-day Adventists, and it has a very specific definition and process. It requires extensive Bible study leading to an understanding of the 28 fundamental beliefs. Traditionally, specific behavioral changes were also required prior to official membership, such as abstaining from tobacco and alcohol use. Once these prerequisites are met, an individual becomes a member when they are baptized or through profession of faith.
As you know, there are several of these fundamental beliefs that require a significant shift in belief. You can’t just walk up to someone on the street and say, hey, I’d like you to join my church. You just need to change the day you worship on, give 10% of your money to the church, and give up meat for textured vegetable protein. Oh, and by the way, your grandma is not actually in heaven. Right? It takes time to help someone work through these shifts in thinking.
So I’m not going to argue whether we should be making members as part of the discipleship process. We believe that as someone grows closer to Jesus, and better understands what He Himself taught about Scripture, that person will want to identify with this Remnant Church. In our denomination, at a practical level, active membership is our goal for evangelism.
Now, Seventh-day Adventists put an emphasis on Bible truth in our evangelistic efforts, but that’s not everything. If our goal is active membership in a local Seventh-day Adventist church, then it’s not just about belief. It’s also about relationships.
Something that we as Seventh-day Adventists often forget is that church is fundamentally a social experience. Yes, there’s theology and biblical knowledge, and there’s a vertical component, a relationship with God Himself. But if you have those 2 things, but nobody around you, that’s not church. Jesus said, “There two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Church exists when there are both vertical and horizontal relationships. Church is fundamentally a social experience.
God created humans with the innate need to belong to community, and one fundamental reason people come to a church event, whether it’s a worship service, a Bible study, or a community event, is because they are seeking to fulfill this fundamental need to belong. We are social creatures. We have this innate need to belong, and at its best, church fulfills that need. Church is fundamentally a social experience.
If that’s true, then your evangelism strategy must address this. And that’s part of what makes public evangelistic meetings so powerful. It’s not just an effective way to teach people Bible truth. It’s also a really effective way to build relationships with guests. It’s both doctrine AND relationship. To be effective in your evangelism, you have to address both.
And how are relationships built? Through communication. The conversations you have with people before and after each meeting are just as a important as the meeting itself. More than that, you’ll want to be communicating with your guests in a systematic manner based on where they are at in their spiritual journey.
I’ll address this more at the end of the webinar today, offering some tactics you can use to communicate systematically with guests. But for now, just understand that the purpose of InterestTracker, the fundamental purpose of AttendanceTracker, is to give you the information you need to be more effective in how you communicate with each interest. Your goal is to draw them into an authentic relationship with you and others at your church. That’s why you use AttendanceTracker.
We have received a lot of interest in registration cards with barcodes. The production team has been working on a solution and hopes to have a product ready for release in the spring of 2023. An announcement for that product will be made as soon as it is ready for churches.
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 market your next evangelistic event. Let us know if you have an evangelistic series coming up, call us today at 800-525-5791.
Some believe that evangelistic sermons are different from the preaching you do at your weekly worship service, because the purpose is different. But evangelist David Klinedinst believes that while the audience may be different, the purpose is the same: to point people to Jesus, connect with the heart, and call each person to take a step forward in faith.
In this webinar, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel interviews David Klinedinst, the evangelism director for the Chesapeake Conference. As an evangelist with decades of experience as a pastor, personal ministries director, and itinerant evangelist, his unique perspective encourages you to take a step forward in your own evangelistic journey. In this conversation, David talks about how to prepare and deliver evangelistic sermons, how to create an environment conducive to a life-changing experience, and how to inspire your members to participate. He also talks about the importance of a year-long evangelism strategy that will add power to public evangelistic meetings.
Here are excerpts from this conversation:
Larry: David, I want to start by looking at the big picture, and talk a bit about your philosophy of evangelism. What’s the purpose? Why are we doing evangelism?
David: Well, for me, evangelism is not just presenting information or doctrinal information that’s only understood intellectually. The purpose is to speak to the heart and invite people to make decisions, and change, and surrender in their life, to actually choose to follow Jesus. It has to go far beyond just giving intellectual information.
Larry: The focus of the conversation today is on the evangelistic preaching itself. So let’s start with this question. What are the differences between Sabbath morning sermons and evangelistic preaching?
David: For me, there is no difference. Now, someone else may answer that differently. The audience may be different, but for me, whether I’m preaching on a Sabbath morning worship service or in an actual evangelistic series, to me it’s the same. I’m wanting to speak to people’s hearts and appeal to them to make life-changing decisions, whether they are big decisions or little decisions. I’m wanting to go beyond just memorizing texts with intellectual information. Obviously, knowing the right information is good. We need that.
But it’s got to go far beyond that. I want to reach the heart, whether I’m preaching Sabbath morning or Tuesday night in an evangelistic series or doing a devotional at a school.
Larry: So while you’re preaching, then, what are you trying to do with evangelistic sermons?
David: When I stand up to preach, I know what I’ll be asking for. You’re not standing up there to just make sure that a topic is understood. Yes, you want the topic to be understood because people don’t make decisions if things aren’t clear to them. But I don’t want to just have an intellectually understood message. I want to know from the beginning what’s the purpose of this message or this topic, what am I going to be asking them to do throughout this message? What is my appeal at the end? Because if I know that from the beginning, that helps my sermon to flow in the right direction, because I know what my purpose is.
Larry: In the context of business presentations, I heard someone say that people don’t go to conventions because they want information. They’re there because they want change. That’s the fundamental motivation for them taking the effort to be there, not because they want to learn more, but because they want to change something in their life.
David: I believe that’s true, especially when it comes to an evangelistic series. Whether you’re doing something that’s short one, two weeks, or you’re doing a full-message series for four weeks, the majority of people that come are looking for something in their life. They are looking for change. Now, there will always be a handful of people, seminar junkies, who just come for information. And I mean, they’re welcome too. But when someone comes to the doors of an Adventist evangelistic meeting, there’s a reason for that because they could be doing 1,000 other things that night. They’re searching for something that goes beyond just an intellectual understanding.
Larry: So if the goal for evangelistic preaching is to see people making decisions to make a change in some aspect of their life, then how do you structure your evangelistic sermons? What’s the flow for an individual sermon? And what’s the flow for an entire full message series?
David: The structure is usually the same. You begin with a compelling story that gets people’s attention. It tells them why you should listen to this subject, or how is it relevant to you. Use some story, some statistics, something that grabs their attention right away, that tells them, I need to listen to the rest of this.
Then you have the body of the sermon where you’re giving the content, bible verses, et cetera. But in that content, after so many Bible verses, I’m wanting to intersperse that with relevant stories, testimonies, and illustrations that are going to engage the heart. The Bible text will obviously engage the mind, but I can illustrate that text with practical stories that will then engage the heart. Maybe the best way to do that is to share little bits of testimonies from your own life, so that people can relate to you.
And then of course, when you come to the end, you are making a very specific appeal for them to take an action, whatever that action is.
So number one, you have the introduction to get their attention. Number two, you have the content and Bible verses, and you’re interspersing stories, and illustrations in between some of these Bible verses. And number three, you are making an appeal for some type of action.
Larry: In marketing, we talk about having a “call to action.” Every marketing communication piece that goes out is asking the person to do something specific. And the most effective marketing pieces have a very clear call to action, a very clear step that we’re asking people to take. It’s one thing, and it’s really clear. That’s marketing, but are there similarities to the way that you’re asking for decisions in preaching?
David: It’s very similar because if I’m not asking for something, then I’m just giving information. That’s all, I’m just giving a lecture. And even politicians, when they give their spiel about why you should vote for them, at the end they make an appeal for you to take an action. Vote for me. So why would I not do that in evangelistic sermons or even Sabbath morning sermons? Otherwise, I’m given good information, but I’m not asking them to do anything with it, and I’m not engaging the heart.
Larry: Okay, then, what are some specific tips you have for delivering an evangelistic sermon?
David: Engaging your audience is probably the biggest thing. For me, I don’t like it when an audience is really quiet. Sometimes that might be because the subject is a difficult one that they’re processing, so quietness doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s bad. But I like to engage the audience. They don’t need to be quiet for 45 minutes.
So you can engage them in so many ways by throwing out questions and queueing for a response. Different church cultures have different ways of doing this. “Can you say Amen?”, or, “Can I get a witness here?” “Does anybody here understand what I’m talking about?” Or, “Raise your hand if this makes sense.” Things like that. It could be as simple as asking them to repeat the text. You know, “Why don’t we turn our Bibles to Matthew, chapter 23 and verse five. Now, friends, what book did I say? What chapter?” And they’re responding back. Even when you’re reading the verse, you can leave out a word and let them fill in the blank. Like John 3:16: “For God so what? What is it?” And then they’ll repeat it. “For God so loved.”
Little things like that, which may seem insignificant, keeps an audience engaged for a longer period of time.
Larry: Last month, we did a webinar talking about cognitive dissonance in proclamational evangelism. One of the ways to help overcome cognitive dissonance when somebody’s struggling with an idea is this idea of social support. And I think that is one of the most powerful aspects of evangelistic meetings is the social experience, where people are coming together. You’re interacting with them beforehand, you’re interacting with them after. And even during the sermon, when you’re asking for a response: “How many of you think this?” And when people raise their hands, the guests are seeing, oh, there’s a lot of social support for this.
This perceived social support gives weight to what it is that you’re saying, which helps them get them closer to that tipping point to overcome the cognitive dissonance. So I like what you’re saying when you’re engaging with people. When somebody sees that other people are engaged with it, that gives more weight to the message that you’re actually preaching.
David: Then it starts to become more than simply a monologue. When people respond or engage, you’re starting to have a little bit of dialogue.
You touched on something really important, yet often the most neglected part of public evangelism. That is the relational aspect. Sometimes we to do evangelism from a distance and preach it from the pulpit. But at some point, I have to come down from that pulpit, so to speak, and connect with people. When I’m engaging responses, sharing bits and pieces of my own experience, I am connecting with people and I am developing trust. That’s going to open the door for them to feel comfortable to talk with me before the meetings when they come early or stay afterwards. It opens the door for personal visitation.
Here’s the thing you will never win someone to Jesus who does not trust you first. You will never move someone to make a decision or some kind of action in their life if they don’t trust you. And trust is only developed through personal interaction and relationship and through having a personable style when you’re upfront speaking and connecting with people.
Larry: When we’re talking about Adventist evangelism, something that’s key to me is that it’s not just about belief. We’re not done if someone is persuaded of Adventist doctrine. Our job is not done until they’re actually connected with a local church and engaged in the life of that local church.
Church is fundamentally a social experience. Yes, there’s a vertical component. There’s the theology, there’s the relationship with God. But fundamentally, church is about believers coming together, and there’s that horizontal social component. So when you’re talking about the relationship, it’s crucial that you have people from the church that are actually there at meetings, getting to know guests, because ultimately the members are the ones to draw them into the life of that church. And that’s all done through relationships.
David: Yes. And there are two components there to what you’re saying. First of all, it’s best to have relationships before the meeting starts.
Some churches say, we want to do evangelism, and I’ve never really understood that phrase. What do you mean, “do evangelism?” That’s what we live every day. So this isn’t so much, what am I doing during the three or four weeks of an evangelistic series? It’s more about, what am I doing the other 48 weeks out of the year? Does my church have a 12-18 month evangelistic strategy that combines personal evangelism, creative evangelism and public proclamation evangelism?
All these other events, we call them bridge events, are just relationship-building events. These are events that aren’t necessarily meant to proselytize, but things that are just meant to get to know people, build relationships throughout the year. So as I am funneling them through, when we do some sort of reaping series, I already have some sort of relationship with them. And that is a big deal when it comes to decisions and soul winning. Churches that have a twelve to 18-month plan will be far more successful in public evangelism than a church that just says, let’s do something for three or four weeks, but they haven’t done anything the other ten months out of the year.
The second component, you mentioned member engagement. Ron Clouzet and I served as evangelists in St. Louis for a time. I remember him saying that he can always tell when a series was going to be good. Minimum, you want one member per guest. But he said, when you get to be having two members per guest and three members per guest, that is when he sees the Holy Spirit working powerfully.
Many times members will say, oh, I’ve been to dozens of evangelistic meetings. I’ve heard all this before. And I will tell a church where I’m doing a meeting, you need to be here. I’m not asking you to come because I don’t think you know the message. Of course, if I were to ask them to give the verses of why they believe what they believe, many of them couldn’t. But the reason I want you to come here is to build relationships with these individuals, because they’re not going to stick around without that.
They can’t just be building relationships with me. They need your friendship. And I will actually tell the church, look, if you’re not going to show up to the meeting, why in the world should you expect the Holy Spirit to do the same? I’ll ask the church board to make the commitment, and I want 75% of the board committed to coming to the meetings regularly. If they can’t commit to that, then I won’t do the meeting.
Larry: When someone says, well, I’ve heard all this before, my response is, Yeah, the meeting is not for you. The meeting is for those who haven’t heard it. To me, church is not for the members. Church exists for those that are not yet part of it. And if you’re part of it, you need to be there to draw those in who are not yet part of it.
David: When I’m doing a prophecy seminar, I want it to be Christ-centered, positive and relational. How does this prophecy or doctrine point me to Jesus. How does it make my life better? So many times we get stuck on the intellectual information, the timelines, the dates. But dates don’t save people. A relationship with Jesus does. And many times members have never heard prophecies in a Christ-centered way, and in some ways it revives them as well.
Larry: I recently saw something that was written where a pastor said, we really wanted this evangelistic series to be Christ-centered. And so we didn’t talk about Bible prophecy, we just talked about Jesus. And we sent out a mailer that had a picture of Jesus on it because it was all about Jesus. But the article didn’t talk about results at all because it didn’t actually lead to people engaging in the life of that church. To me it was a misunderstanding to say, well, it’s either prophecy or Jesus, because if you’re talking about prophecy and you’re marketing a prophecy meeting, all that is a shell for you to introduce them to Jesus.
David: Yes, we see it all the time. You don’t have to choose between those things. When you share Bible prophecy, you are sharing Jesus, because all of Bible prophecy points to Jesus. And if I share the prophecies of the Bible without explaining how it points to Jesus, then I’m not really preaching prophecy. I’m just giving a bunch of information.
We see it all the time. People wonder, what’s going on in the world today. Right? That’s why they come to a prophecy seminar. But I want them to know more than just the information the prophecy says. Let’s just take the 2300 days, for example. You know, when you preach on the 2300 days, that’s not really the topic of your sermon, right? The topic is Jesus. The 2300 days is just the avenue that leads me to be able to point people to Jesus. He’s my high priest in heaven. How do you talk to Jesus as a friend? How do you have a personal prayer life? How can I relate to this sympathizing Savior who loves me and understands what I’m going through? There are so many things in that prophecy to give a picture of a merciful Savior, and I need to make sure that’s the point of the sermon, not the dates.
Of course, I want the dates to be correct. I want my exegesis to be correct and all that stuff. But if people miss the dates, but they see Jesus, I’m okay with that. Now, I’m not saying I want people to misunderstand, but if they have a relationship with Jesus, and they hunger for God’s word, I know the other stuff will come into focus eventually.
Larry: So if you’re doing a series of meetings, how do you create an environment conducive to a life-changing experience for both guests and members?
David: Well, you find opportunities for relational activities. Simple things, like I go to the meetings at least 30 to 60 minutes before it starts, because you always have people who come early. Those are perfect opportunities for me to just walk around and introduce myself and say, “Hi John. I’m glad you’re here. So what brings you to this prophecy seminar?” My visit with him might be two minutes long, but you know those two minutes are gold, because I’ve just made a connection with him. When people stay by afterwards to mingle a little bit, I can say hi. Simple things like that.
We invite people to hand in prayer requests every night. We have a generic response card, and we encourage people that if there’s something on their heart, someone or some situation, they can hand that prayer request in. And our prayer team will pray over that.
And then throughout the series, we can train members of the prayer team to call those people periodically and say, “Hey, Susie, I’m from the Prophecy Seminar. I’m on the prayer team. We got your prayer request, and we just wanted you to know that we’re praying.” We’re praying for your son as he’s serving in the Air Force. We’re praying for your uncle who’s in the hospital. Could I pray with you over the phone? There is nobody who’s going to say no to that, and they will be utterly shocked that someone’s praying with them over the phone.
Or you can even send little cards in the mail and letting them know, Hey, this is a prayer team at the seminar. We’re praying for whatever their request was. It seems like a simple thing, but it’s a step in building relationships with people.
You could have a room where there’s special health checks going on. Medical personnel can be doing blood pressures or just offering different things, and that gives people a chance to bring friends to the meeting. You’re offering something practical, and to do something like that, you have to talk, you have to engage. It’s just building relationships. You need to engage with people.
Larry: So you’re talking about, outside the meetings themselves, doing these little pings where you’re making a little connection, whether it’s a phone call, or a card, or an email, or a text. What are some other things outside of the meetings that you can do to help guests in their spiritual growth and in their engagement?
David: Oh, you must visit people. It’s imperative. I have told pastors, if you’re not going to visit during evangelistic meetings, then you might as well not hold an evangelistic meeting, because that visitation is really what helps me to connect with people.
You have to have a strategy, so you know the purpose when you’re visiting. Are you visiting after you covered the Second Coming? Or after someone has accepted Jesus as their savior? How do I visit someone who wants to know more about the Sabbath? You need to have a purpose for that visit.
I love the visitation part. Yeah, it makes me nervous sometimes. But if I know what my reason is, I get to hear their stories. Every time we ask, “So, Joe, how did you hear about the meetings?” Or, “Susan, what brought you to this seminar?” And whenever you ask that question, you’re going to hear a story. It might be a big story. It might be a small story. They may tell you a little because they’re not comfortable yet, or they may tell you more than you were ready for. And just by listening, you’re connecting with them. You’re showing, hey, I care.
Larry: We live in a society where the idea of somebody coming into your home is a really foreign concept. But as I was reflecting on this from previous conversations that I’ve had with you, David, it occurred to me that in our society today people are really good at compartmentalizing. They’ve got their work, and then they’ve got their home. And when they’re coming to these meetings, they’re compartmentalizing the meetings. But by visiting them in their home, you’re actually breaking down the boundaries where they’re compartmentalizing things. And it’s allowing the truth that they’re learning in the meetings to begin to seep into other parts of their life. I think that there’s something powerful about that. When you visit them, you’re breaking down those compartmentalized boundaries.
David: Visitation is so important, but I think that we sometimes assume things that we hear other people say, only to find out that they’re really not true. When I was an evangelist in a big city, people would say, well, you can’t visit people in their home anymore. I found that to be utterly false. Because 75% of the time, it was never a problem.
This is why early in the meeting, you’re talking with people, connecting with them, building relationships. So when the time comes that you do have a visit at a home, or a coffee shop, or Dunkin’ Donuts, or wherever people are comfortable, they know you. They’ve been to the meeting for over a week. They probably talked to you there. That’s why you do this, because it opens the door to have that home visit.
I can tell you, those visits are awesome, because I get to hear their stories. They become more than just a face with a name. Now when I see Bob there, I know his story. I know what’s on his heart. I know what he might be struggling with. And that’s exciting for me, because now I feel I’m preaching to real people. And it allows me to maybe even adjust some of the things I’m saying, because now I know what’s going on in people’s hearts.
Larry: Let’s go back to the church members. What do you do with members to prepare them for an evangelistic series? And what are your Sabbath morning messages to them during the series?
David: Well, it goes back to the twelve to 18 months strategy. Every church at the end of the year should be sitting down and developing what’s their strategy for the next twelve months. What events, what activities are they doing, and getting their leaders and members on board from the beginning. This is what we’re doing this year, this is why, this is the purpose.
Through that, you’re challenging them. You’re preaching messages on mission, soul-winning, and making a difference in the lives of people. Say to them, “This year, are you willing to ask God to lay on your heart the name of one person in your life that maybe doesn’t know Jesus or just is struggling, and they just need a genuine Christian as their friend? Would you be willing to ask God to let your life intersect with someone like that and to connect with them and be their friend?”
If we’re doing that throughout the year, God is going to use that powerfully. And then when we do a reaping series, we already have someone that’s ripe to come. Then leading up to the meetings, before we invite guests, we’re preaching soul-winning messages on Sabbath morning so the members can understand.
It’s exciting to be used by God to make a difference in the life of others. It’s really what helps us church members, and us speakers. Our life’s full of problems, too. We have weaknesses, we have things maybe we inherited from our families that we struggle with. But you know, when I’m involved in making a difference in the life of another person, that’s also how God grows me and my own weaknesses by being involved in service. So it’s as important for the members as it is for the guest.
Larry: You’ve mentioned this idea of a year-long or 18-month plan. Public evangelistic meetings are only one component of an effective evangelism strategy. So what are the other components? What have you seen to be an effective cycle of evangelism in a church?
David: The church that I attend is the Westminster Church in Maryland. I invite anyone to talk to the pastor there, Ignacio Goya, because he really understands what it means to have a cycle of evangelism. We did a ten-day series there in October, just ten days, and they’re still getting baptisms from that series. People continue to invite friends to church because they’ve been impacted by it.
We’re about to do a full series there starting September 30. But that church is at it all year long. They’ve got different health events, they’ve got Youth Sabbath, they’ve got things they’re doing with a community home school association, who they allow to use their buildings. They have things strategically planned all throughout the year that give members the chance to build relationships, invite guests, personal, creative evangelism. And that is really what has paved the way. With all these relationships built, it’s only natural when a reaping series comes, they already know you, they’ve already been to the church. A lot of the barriers to going somewhere new are already wiped out because they’ve been there. They know some people there. That’s a big deal.
Doing public evangelism is hard work. But you don’t just set up and do it. You need a plan all throughout the year that leads to that. When you do that, yes, public evangelistic meetings are a lot of work, but you’re more effective. And the fruit of it is filled with joy.
Larry: When you’re planning your evangelism calendar for the following year, I like the idea of putting a stake in the ground and saying, we’re going to have our public evangelistic meetings on this date. And now what do we need to do to prepare for that over the next nine, ten, twelve months? Set the date for the reaping series then work backward from there. Put that stake in the ground and say, we’re going to do this. So how do we make this as effective as possible?
David: Right! You’re not having just isolated events. Oh, Men’s ministry does their thing, health ministry does their thing, does their thing. No, it’s all working together because you’re all a team and all the connections you’re making with all these different ministries are moving together. We all want to invite them to experience life change and follow Jesus. So it connects, it funnels into a reaping series. These aren’t disconnected things. No, they’re all connected together. One doesn’t work without the other.
Larry: And why is it the public evangelistic meetings are so important? It’s because you’re asking for decisions. All these other things are relationship-building and you might be asking for certain types of decisions in a Men’s retreat or something like that, but everything’s leading up to the public evangelism series. We’re going to go through the complete message of the Adventist Church and ask you to take steps closer to Jesus through this experience. So everything’s pointing to that and then it really is a reaping series. You’re harvesting what you’ve planted.
David: Studies still show that growing churches have public evangelism as part of what they do. It is not the only thing that they do, but it is an important component of what they do. If I only do public evangelism and I forget about personal and leading relationships, building relationships, having a culture of evangelism in the church, I’m going to get few results.
And that’s where this false dichotomy comes from. The people say public evangelism doesn’t work anymore. Well, it’s probably because we focused on four weeks instead of 52 weeks. And then you have others say, I’m just going to do personal evangelism, but at some point, I need to invite them to follow Jesus. They all work together, right? There’s no dichotomy. It’s not either/or. As the Ohio conference president Buff Condif would say, it’s both/and.
Larry: I had an old Adventist friend I was spending time with a few weeks ago, and said, “Churches used to do these prophecy seminars, and that was really effective before. But are churches doing now? Because I’ve been really struggling trying to find something that’s effective today.”
He went on to me about an experience where he was doing personal evangelism with an individual, building a relationship, and actually doing Bible studies with them. But he was having a hard time finding a way to actually help them make decisions to, in the end, identify with the Remnant Church. And I said to him, you need the reaping series. The great thing about a Reaping series is that it’s a structured way of leading people through these decisions. And what makes it effective is when lots of people have done what you’re doing with lots of guests leading up to it, and now it really is just reaping.
David: Well, sure, there are people that make decisions in a personal Bible study. That’s wonderful. It’s like a mini evangelistic series. But when you invite them to come to a public series around other people, it’s hard to put in to words, but there is just an energy. Call it the Holy Spirit’s presence, it’s just a different kind of momentum. And then, if they’ve already been introduced to Bible studies, it gives them an opportunity to invite their own friends or family to something else that is going on. Putting these things together, it’s a different atmosphere than a one-on-one Bible study. Both are good and important. But there’s something special about when people come together.
I know not everyone is going to be reached by a public evangelistic series. You need all kinds of evangelism. But what I fear is the self-fulfilling prophecy, which I think happens a lot. People have already convinced themselves, public evangelism doesn’t work anymore. And I’ve gotten to the point where even when I hear speakers up front say that, I just smile to myself and I let it go. Because I’ve watched it work for 20 years when it’s done right.
But if I go into something believing that it’s not going to work, that is exactly what I’m going to get. I think it was Joe Kitter that interviewed pastors and churches that were successful in soul-winning. And one of the things that all of them had in common is the church believed they could win souls. The church believed there were people who were open and who were searching.
There are churches who believe that the world’s too secular. People aren’t interested. They don’t want the Bible anymore. Those were not growing churches because they have already convinced themselves that people aren’t interested.
Larry: I want to turn to a project you’ve been working on. SermonView has actually been helping out on this, developing a brand new preaching series that’s available for pastors and lay people to be able to use in their ministry environment. So I want to give you a chance to tell us about Forecasting Hope.
David: Well, Forecasting Hope is a new evangelism package that we’re developing here in Chesapeake. The Columbia Union has partnered with us, as well as SermonView, and we’ve invited Ministry Magazine, as well. It’s a whole package of 21 evangelistic sermons that are Christ-centered, positive, and relational. How does this prophecy or doctrine point me to Jesus and the cross?
There will be new graphics that are being designed right now. The guy that designed Voice of Prophecy’s graphics is designing the PowerPoints and the Keynote slides. They will be editable. And one of the things I think that will be different about this is there will also be instruction on how to visit. What do you do each night and why? And we’re even recording actual role plays on what a visit looks like in each part of the series.
David: How do you visit someone at the meeting? How do you visit someone who wants to accept Jesus? How do you visit someone who’s interested in the Sabbath? Those visits are going to be role-played and recorded so people can actually see. Here’s the questions you ask. Here’s why you ask those questions, here’s the purpose of the visit. We’re excited about that.
Larry: One of the things I love about a package like this is there’s something intricate about the way that we put together an evangelistic series. And if you pull out just one aspect of it, you could break the whole thing and it becomes a lot less effective. Having a long-time, seasoned evangelist like David putting these scripts together, they’re intentional in their flow and the call each night, I’m really excited about this. As a tool for pastors and lay people, you’ll be able to just pull it out of the box.
David: A lot of illustrations in my sermons are my own personal ones, but we put different illustrations in because you have to have your own stories. And we even put signs in there, like, here’s the place where you can tell a little story about yourself, tell your testimony. All that will be in there. It’s personable, and we’ve asked the designer to make the slides editable as well.
Larry: Having this all put together, it makes it a lot easier to actually be able to do a full-message series. I’m really excited about this. And the designer who’s working on this, I worked with him at It Is Written many years ago. He was involved in the New Beginnings DVD Evangelism series and the Acts 2000 graphics. He’s done graphics for GC session. He’s amazing, and the graphics are going to be really great. You can get more information about the series at https://qlck.it/ForecastingHope.
David, thank you so much for taking the time to join us today. I appreciate your heart for Jesus and your passion to reach a hurting world for Christ. Any final thoughts? You’re an evangelist, do you have a call for us today?
David: I guess the call would be to encourage our members and yourselves to understand that Jesus said, the harvest truly is great. And Jesus said that in a society that was ready to crucify him on a cross where he had only twelve followers, the entire religious system rejected him. And you wonder, how could Jesus say that the harvest is truly great in that context? The reason Jesus said that is because he was out with people, mingling with them personally. He saw the needs that were there. And when you’re out with people today in this world, young and old, you see that there are people very much interested in spiritual things. They may not be people who are going to church right now, they may not know their name is Jesus, but they’re wanting something better.
Are we willing to encourage our members to say, Lord, will you bring across my path one person that just needs to know Jesus, that I could be a friend with this year and intentionally connect with? If every member of a church were to do that at the beginning of every year, say, Lord, connect me with one person that I can really intentionally spend time with, our evangelism would change the world. That would definitely make our reaping series or any evangelism ten times better.
On the webinar recording, David also answered audience questions about visitation, online evangelistic meetings, and a widespread misunderstanding of Ellen White’s quote from Ministry of Healing, “Christ’s method alone brings true success.” Watch the full webinar to see his 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 market your next evangelistic event. Let us know if you have an evangelistic series coming up, call us today at 800-525-5791.
Evangelistic meetings take a lot of work, and while SermonView will handle the marketing, there are things we can’t do for you. The biggest? Preaching the series, of course.
Because social interaction and community integration is one of the core purposes of a reaping series, we believe the most effective person to preach the series is the pastor. But writing 20 or 25 new sermons on top of all your other responsibilities can be a big ask.
Evangelistic sermons are different from the preaching you do at your weekly worship service. For Seventh-day Adventists, they need to be carefully crafted to manage cognitive dissonance in your guests and encourage change in belief and behavior. The content is intentionally different from weekly preaching because the purpose is different.
Every day we talk with pastors and church leaders from all over the country, and we regularly hear something to the effect of, “I really want to do a series, but I don’t have time to write the sermons.” Or, “I can’t seem to find evangelistic series content that feels right for my church.”
Fortunately, others have already done the work. Here is a list of full-message evangelistic series written by professional evangelists, with fully-designed matching slides, ready for you to customize to your specific ministry environment. SermonView only provides marketing resources (we do not provide preaching content.) We’ll update this list regularly as we learn about new content, and we’ll include the provider’s contact information and links so you canpurchase the content directly from each provider.
And of course, once you land on the series that’s right for you, please call us. We’d love to help carry the load of your marketing efforts for you, so you can focus on preparing for your event and connecting with your guests.
1. Discovering Revelation(Voice of Prophecy)
Discovering Revelation uses the fascinating lens of Bible prophecy to teach the basic truths of Scripture and Christ’s salvation for sinners. By discovering Revelation, your audience will discover Jesus! By the series’ end, they will clearly understand each of the 13 baptismal vows that cover the 28 fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
This powerful series has been refined with a modern template and brand-new, jaw-dropping graphics that are sure to press the truths of Scripture deep into the minds of your audience.
Register to host this September and you’ll receive access to all of the resources you’ll need to present the series.
Price: Discovery Centers with Evangelism Bundle: $299.95 Not Yet a Discovery Center? Register for $699.00
Revelation Today – The Mysteries Revealed is a comprehensive study series that focuses on the prophecies of the Bible—especially the book of Revelation. Based entirely on the Word of God, Revelation Today lets the Bible speak for itself, and takes series participants on an exciting journey through the major themes of the Bible.
This series is available for FREE from It Is Written. Each presentation is available to download in Keynote, PowerPoint, and PDF formats.
This powerful collection of evangelism resources is designed to empower laypeople to share their faith. It includes the complete New Beginnings series, with presentations and sermon notes! These resources are available in multiple languages.
This series is available for FREE from ASI Ministries.
Each presentation is available to download from Google Drive and presenter notes are in Word.
4. Revelation: Hope, Meaning, Purpose Presenter’s Guide & Resources on USB (AdventSource)
Prepared under the guidance of the South Pacific Division Biblical Research Committee, this series goes through the book of Revelation chapter by chapter, explaining the concepts and prompting readers to consider questions. This set of presenter resources is an integral part of the Revelation—Hope, Meaning, Purpose package.
It contains much of the material that will be used when the series is run as a seminar.
5. Revelation 101: Finding Jesus in the Book of Revelation-Presenter’s Manual USB (AdventSource)
Here’s a fresh look at the Book of Revelation—with a focus on Jesus. The first two sessions contain the guidelines for presenting the Book of Revelation so the Bible becomes its own interpreter (an exegetical approach). The remaining eight sessions present each of the seven segments of Revelation, with two sessions devoted to the focal point at the center of the book.
A Preach-It series that comes with everything a presenter needs including a word-for-word presentation of each session, PowerPoint slides, and Participant’s Guides for each of the 10 sessions.
While this is not a full-message series, it could be used as the nucleus for creating your own series.
6. Forecasting Hope: Prophecies of the Second Coming (Coming Soon to AdventSource)
Forecasting Hope is an evangelistic series that presents Bible prophecy from a Christ-centered, positive, and relational perspective. It is an easy, ready-to-use evangelistic package for pastors, lay people, or anyone else who wants to share the truth of Bible prophecy while pointing people to an intimate, life-changing relationship with Jesus. A Preach-It series that comes with everything a presenter needs including:
Professional, fully illustrated slides
Sermon manuscripts & notes
Video instructions on how to best connect with guests
Instructions on how to conduct the evangelistic series
Bonus: Other Content
Here are some additional options. Some don’t appear to be available anymore, while others would require some editing to be an effective reaping series.
This series by Mark Finley walks through the Book of Daniel one chapter at a time. While it’s not a full-message series, it could be used as the nucleus for creating your own series. Each presentation includes SD graphics. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE:http://www.adventistevangelism.com/prod_detail_list/23
This Bible-marking series includes 16 presentations with SD graphics. While not written as evangelistic sermons, per se, it does cover the distinctive doctrines. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE:http://livingwithhopeseminar.com/
What are you doing this fall?
It’s not too late to run a marketing campaign for your event. Call 800.525.5791 or visit EvangelismMarketing.com/Quote to connect with one of our Evangelism Marketing experts.
I grew up in a home where we were aware of the speed limit, and ignored it entirely. I don’t know if it’s a genetic defect in my family, or the socialization growing up, but my parents do not drive the speed limit. I was born with a lead foot. And it’s been a problem for me most of my life.
I used to live in Seattle, and when I was a young adult I played in the worship band for the Oregon Conference down in Gladstone, OR. The drive from North Seattle to Gladstone should take about 3-1/2 hours, with no traffic. But the wheels on my car were not balanced, and my car would vibrate once I got up to 70 mph or so. If I kept accelerating, though, once I got up to about 95 mph the vibration would stop, so that was my minimum for the trip. One time I made the trip in just a touch over two hours. So yeah, I have a lead foot.
A few years ago I went to a retreat center in the Oregon woods. I spent three days just reflecting, journaling, praying, spending time with God out in nature. As I was driving home, feeling a spiritual high, I got this overwhelming sense of God telling me, I need you to drive the speed limit.
No way, I told Him.
But over the next several days a tension built in my soul. I remembered that Jesus obeyed the laws of the land, telling us to “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God” (Mat. 22:21 NLT). I knew the Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 13, “Those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God” (verse 2 NLT). I couldn’t reconcile disobedience of traffic laws with obedience to Christ. And I finally reached a point where I realized that for me to remain a faithful disciple of Jesus, I needed to obey the speed limit.
So I slowed down. Oh, how painful it was, at least at first. But the pain of that cognitive dissonance motivated me to change my behavior. It was less painful for me to slow down on the road than to continue feeling that dissonance discomfort.
That’s the power of cognitive dissonance.
Today, I’m going to dive into the psychology of Adventist evangelism. Specifically, I’m going to share some of the research about cognitive dissonance that I’ve uncovered in my PhD studies, and I’ll look at how we can use this in our evangelistic practices.
For several years now I’ve wanted to develop a framework for innovation in Adventist evangelism. I want to find a way to take all the incredible creativity and passion found in churches across the NAD and harness that in a way that actually propels effective evangelism forward for all of us. As I’ve worked on this, I came to realize that I need the academic rigor of a doctoral program to actually develop this. So last year I started working on a PhD in strategic media at Liberty University. As I’ve looked at the range of communication theories, I’m beginning to see how many of them apply specifically to our evangelistic practices in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
So let’s start by looking at the purpose of Adventist evangelism. Membership is really important to Seventh-day Adventists, and it has a very specific definition and process. It requires extensive Bible study leading to an understanding of, and agreement with, 28 fundamental beliefs. Traditionally, specific behavioral changes were also required prior to official membership, such as abstaining from tobacco and alcohol use. Once these prerequisites are met, an individual becomes a member when they are baptized or, if the individual was previously baptized by immersion, a public profession of faith (General Conference, 2016, p. 44-51).
Several of these fundamental beliefs require a significant shift in belief. You can’t just walk up to someone on the street and say, hey, I’d like you to join my church. You just need to change the day you worship on, give 10% of your money to the church, and give up meat for textured vegetable protein. And by the way, your grandma is not actually in heaven. Right? It takes time to help someone work through these shifts in thinking.
I’m not going to argue whether we should be making members as part of the discipleship process. I’m taking that as a given. Adventists believe that as someone grows closer to Jesus, and better understands what He Himself taught about Scripture, that person will want to identify with this Remnant Church. In our denomination, then, at a practical level, active membership is our goal for evangelism.
Now, historically public evangelistic meetings have been the primary means of recruiting members. Our denomination has used this method for over 150 years, which begs the question: why are we still using this method? And cognitive dissonance theory actually gives us an answer: because public evangelistic meetings are the most effective way of helping a group of people adopt a new identity as Seventh-day Adventists.
Cognitive Dissonance Theory
Cognitive dissonance theory was first proposed over 65 years ago by Leon Festinger (1957), and since then it has received widespread attention and mountains of research. Here’s the theory in a nutshell:
You have in your mind a bunch of attitudes, perceptions, knowledge, and beliefs. The theory calls these thoughts “cognitions.” When cognitions are related to each other, they can be either consistent or discrepant. Two cognitions are consistent if one leads to the other, and they are discrepant if they are inconsistent with each other.
Cognitive discrepancy leads to psychological discomfort, or dissonance. It’s uncomfortable. “The magnitude of dissonance between one cognitive element and the remainder of the person’s cognitions depends on the number and importance of cognitions that are consonant and dissonant with the one in question” (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019, p. 4).
Using myself as an example, I have a belief that I am a law-abiding citizen. But when I drive over the speed limit, that can lead to cognitive dissonance. That act itself is discrepant with my belief that I’m a law-abiding citizen. When I get in the habit of constantly looking for police, this habit is discrepant with my belief that I’m a law-abiding citizen. And when I realize that I’ve gotten a reputation among my friends for having a lead foot, that reputation is inconsistent with my belief that I’m a law-abiding citizen.
So humans use several strategies for reducing dissonance (McGrath, 2017). First, they can remove discrepant cognitions. They can choose not to retain the thought that leads to the dissonance. So for example, I could decide to completely ignore speed limits, or decide that speeding is not really breaking the law. That eliminates this discrepant cognition.
Second, they can add new consonant cognitions. For example, I could focus on my time usage, where speeding is consistent with my belief that using my time as efficiently as I can. Or at lower speeds I could focus on how speeding to get into 5th gear is more energy-efficient, saving me money on gas, thus my speeding shows good stewardship of the financial resources God has given.
Third, they can reduce the importance of dissonant beliefs. Speeding is not as big a deal as stealing or murder.
And fourth, they can increase the importance of consonant cognitions. For example, troopers in my state are required to issue a ticket when someone is caught going more than 10 miles per hour over the speed limit. When I’m only going 5 miles over the limit, I can focus on that to lower my dissonance discomfort.
In addition, resistance to changing a particular behavioral cognitive element depends on how much pain or loss the change requires, as well as the pleasure, or reduction in pain, that would come from the changed behavior (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019, p. 4). So slowing down increases the pain of driving, as I spend more time in the car commuting. On the other hand, paying a traffic fine is also painful, which is why people often drive more slowly for a while after getting a ticket.
So why is cognitive dissonance so powerful?
One researcher suggests the reason dissonance pain that comes from cognitive incongruency is so uncomfortable is that it implies mistakes in the individual’s belief system (Gawronski, 2012). This inconsistency serves as an unambiguous indication that one’s beliefs must be updated to fix this error.
Because it’s about beliefs, cognitive dissonance theory is a great framework to use in Adventist evangelism.
Using Cognitive Dissonance in Persuasion
So let’s talk about that. How can we use cognitive dissonance in evangelism?
Researchers have looked at several tactics that can be applied in persuasion environments to leverage cognitive dissonance to change a belief (Carpenter, 2019). Let’s go through some of these and look at how they can be applied in the context of public evangelistic meetings.
Repetition can lead individuals to change belief. One early study found that repeated exposure to incongruent information can increase cognitive dissonance, leading directly to belief change (Anderson, 1971). Another study found that people average various pieces of information (Anderson & Farkas, 1973). As inconsistent cognitions are introduced, cognitive dissonance grows, until a tipping point is reached. The new cognitions overwhelm the previous ones, resulting in a reduction of cognitive dissonance as a new belief is accepted due to the repeated exposure to this new information. Because of this, beliefs typically move in the direction of the new information being assimilated. As more information is processed, the weight of the belief is increased, making it harder to change in the future (Phillips, 2021).
Let me give an example from my experience. Back when I was in my 20s, I found myself listening to Rush Limbaugh every day. It didn’t take long before my political views move sharply conservative. Then I moved, and started listening to NPR every day on my commute. Guess what? After a few months I found my political views had become quite liberal. In both cases, as I was exposed repeatedly to a particular viewpoint, my beliefs shifted in the direction of the new information being assimilated.
Public evangelistic meetings are highly repetitive, with various cognitions building on previous ones. The series typically starts with an emphasis on the authority of Scripture, which is then repeated in every meeting. There is also repeated appeal in most meetings to the Lordship of Jesus, as revealed in Scripture, and participants are invited to step forward in obedience to Jesus repeatedly.
The difficult topics that present the most cognitive dissonance are presented later, after a lot of repetition of other consistent cognitions.
A cognition with a higher valence, or value, to a subject has more impact on increasing or decreasing the dissonance resulting from an inconsistent cognition (Chung & Fink, 2008). Several aspects of both the series environment and the presentation work to increase the valence of cognitions consistent with new beliefs introduced by the speaker.
First, the series topic itself offered value to participants. Bible prophecy is a complex topic requiring guidance from an expert, and there’s a lot of interest in it. Using Bible prophecy as the framework for teaching Bible doctrine increases the value of the resulting information presented.
The weight of each consistent cognition adds to the overall weight, leading to adoption of the new belief (Chung & Fink, 2008). So you can increase the weight of consonant cognitions to help someone adopt a new belief. For example, public evangelistic meetings focus on increasing the weight of scriptural authority. Because all these beliefs are based on the Bible, scriptural authority is the one cognition consistent with every new belief as it is introduced. Throughout the series, the Bible is put forth as the authoritative source of truth and therefore given tremendous weight.
Once a guest accepts this belief in the Bible, it becomes a cognition consistent with each new belief as it is introduced. Giving the Bible weight as a consistent cognition helps drive guests toward the adoption of each new belief.
Early on, researchers looked at the role credibility played in cognitive dissonance. One study found that getting a discrepant message from a highly credible source produced higher dissonance discomfort than a similar message from a less credible source (Aronson et al., 1963). For example, if your doctor says you have high blood pressure and should cut down your sodium intake, this will create more cognitive dissonance than if your spouse says it. Essentially, the credibility of the source adds weight to the cognition delivered by that source, encouraging belief change (Phillips, 2021).
Several characteristics of evangelistic meetings work to raise the credibility of the speaker, thereby increasing the weight of new beliefs as they are introduced. Wearing a suit culturally indicates professionalism and authority. The speaker bio in marketing materials can raise credibility.
The environment itself can raise the credibility of the event in several ways. Consistent, high-quality graphic design in marketing pieces, the banner outside the church, and the large backdrop on stage raise credibility. A large mail piece printed in color on glossy paper implies a high-value event. Requesting that guests pre-register will make the event appear to have limited supply, raising its value (Lynn, 1991), and the registration table itself in the lobby can also raise the perceived value of the event. All these characteristics increase the credibility of the speaker and the event itself, thereby increasing the valence of each new belief that is presented.
Studies have shown that social support for an inconsistent cognition increases dissonance, leading to an attitudinal change to reduce this discomfort (Lepper et al., 1970; Strobe & Diehl, 1981). In other words, social judgment increases the weight of the inconsistent cognition, driving toward a change in belief (McKimmie et al., 2003).
It appears that part of the power of public evangelistic meetings is the social support provided in this environment. Guests interact with several church members prior to even sitting down at the first meeting. There will often be “row hosts” assigned to various sections of the seating area whose task is to engage guests in conversation before and after each meeting, building a relationship. Repeated exposure to the same individuals leads to relational bonding (Littlejohn et al., 2021, p. 227), which in turn provides social support for belief change (McKimmie et al., 2003). Having both members and guests wear name badges will aid in this social bonding.
There is also a social aspect to the presentation itself. The speaker can ask a question of the audience, anticipating agreement. For example, you could ask, “How many of you think that we’d be better off if we believe the Bible?” and raise your hand as an example. When people in the audience raise their hands, too, it demonstrates widespread social support for the statement, which adds weight to that cognition.
Here’s one that is completely counterintuitive. The more effort someone puts into a task, the more valuable the resulting reward is perceived to be. In cognitive dissonance theory this is known as the effort-justification paradigm (Harmon-Jones & Mills, 2019, p. 7), and has been confirmed in numerous studies over the years. Requiring more effort to gain the benefit of a specific change in belief increases the value of that belief, and leads to a longer-lasting change.
One of the criticisms of public evangelism among Seventh-day Adventist members is the substantial time commitment required to participate. Yet for those who do participate, this very commitment raises the difficulty level of the task, which is found to decrease dissonance for cognitions related to that task. In addition, the Bible study guide provided to each guest at the conclusion of each meeting is homework that requires additional effort. The effort-justification paradigm suggests that participants who put more effort into the event will find more value in the resulting beliefs.
The long-term effect of this effort is a reduction in post-decisional dissonance, which will lead to higher retention of these new members in the church. In other words, if we want people to stay members after they join, we should be making things harder for them, not easier.
Freedom of Choice
Scholars have looked at the impact of “forced compliance” on cognitive dissonance (Joule & Azdia, 2003). When someone is forced to comply with a rule that is inconsistent with other cognitions, they have less dissonance about that behavior than if they freely chose to follow that rule. As a result, belief is more likely to change when there is freedom to choose that belief, rather than being forced by circumstances or authority.
This is an explanation for what happened in Nazi Germany, when people did things that were incongruent with their core beliefs. Because they felt forced to do these things, they had lower cognitive dissonance, which allowed them to move forward with these behaviors.
Throughout a public evangelistic series, freedom should be granted to each guest to make decisions on their own. While an environment is created conducive to acceptance of each belief that was introduced, compliance is not forced. This increases the dissonance discomfort of new beliefs, which will lead to the adoption of that new belief to reduce dissonance discomfort.
Reduced Media Exposure
I want to cycle back to the weight given to cognitions, and point out something else. Beliefs tend to move toward the new cognitions being integrated, and information integration shapes belief through the averaging of various pieces of information. Because of this, it is important to minimize exposure to cognitions that are inconsistent with each new belief being introduced.
Most television programs propagate a belief system inconsistent with our biblical perspective (Kidder & Penno, 2016). Because of this, minimizing exposure to such television programming will help reduce the weight of cognitions inconsistent with the new beliefs. Public evangelistic meetings occur multiple nights per week for several weeks. So one side effect of this structure is that media consumption is reduced. Participating in the meetings necessarily means guests are not watching television during that time. This reduces the weight of cognitions promoted by this TV programming, and allows the average of information being integrated to be weighted toward biblical belief.
Furthermore, the study guides and books offered at the end of each meeting reduces media exposure as well, because time spent studying and reading this material means less time for consuming other media.
Are you understanding what I’m saying? Public evangelistic meetings essentially require a media fast for several weeks, which has all kinds of benefits. For us, it means incongruent beliefs from television programs are not reinforced during this time period, and that leads toward belief change.
So these are the different ways specific tactics influence cognitive dissonance:
Valence, or value
The weight of cognitions
Freedom of choice versus forced compliance
Reduced media exposure
Cognitive dissonance among participants in public evangelistic meetings appears to be tactically managed through many characteristics of these meetings. Researchers point out that as new information is integrated, it shapes belief through the averaging of various pieces of information (Anderson & Farkas, 1973). As inconsistent cognitions are introduced, cognitive dissonance grows, until a tipping point is reached. The new cognitions overwhelm the previous discrepant ones, resulting in a reduction of dissonance discomfort as a new belief is accepted due to the repeated exposure to this new information.
So the key here is not that you want to minimize cognitive dissonance in evangelism. That dissonance discomfort is the very thing motivating people to change their beliefs. Remember, the reason humans find cognitive dissonance to be so uncomfortable is that it implies mistakes in the individual’s belief system. Inconsistency serves as an unambiguous indication that one’s beliefs must be updated to fix this error. Dissonance discomfort is a powerful motivator for changing belief.
So it’s not that you want to minimize cognitive dissonance. What you want to minimize are cognitions that are incongruent with the new belief you’re introducing, and the way to do that is to emphasize cognitions that are consistent with that new belief. This is why emphasizing scriptural authority is so important in Adventist evangelism.
Let’s end by talking about evangelistic innovation. Many of the characteristics of public evangelistic meetings would result in decreased effectiveness if removed from the method’s structure. For example, reducing the number of meetings lowers the information repetition and reduces the task difficulty, which would work against belief adoption. In addition, a shorter series would not reduce media exposure by the same amount, resulting in more weight given to cognitions inconsistent with Scripture. Through the Covid-19 shutdowns over the last two years, many churches attempted to hold public evangelistic meetings online, but found the effectiveness was reduced. Cognitive dissonance theory would predict this, due to the reduced social support participants receive in an online environment.
On the other hand, there are tweaks to public evangelistic methods which may increase effectiveness. For example, Steve Vail is the evangelist in the Carolina Conference. He has tested a seating arrangement with participants in table groups. Initial results have been promising, suggesting this has the potential to improve effectiveness by increasing social bonding between members and guests, resulting in higher social support for the new beliefs.
The belief framework of Seventh-day Adventist doctrines can lead to significant cognitive dissonance among people newly exposed to these beliefs. As we innovate evangelistic methods, it is important to ensure that cognitive dissonance is effectively managed throughout the process to drive toward belief change. Whether the innovation is evolutionary, with small tweaks to the method, or revolutionary, attempting wholly new approaches, we have to think about cognitive dissonance as we make these changes. The strategies for managing inconsistent cognitions and the resulting dissonance discomfort must be considered for the innovation to be effective.
Let’s go back to the original question. Why are we still doing public evangelistic meetings? Our denomination has used this evangelistic method for over 150 years. So why do we still use this method? I think by now the answer should be obvious. Cognitive dissonance theory shows that public evangelistic meetings are incredibly effective at helping a group of people adopt their new identity as Seventh-day Adventists.
As I’ve worked on this research and put this presentation together, I’ve realized how complicated this stuff is. So let me try to simplify it as I end.
You have to consider cognitive dissonance when you’re doing evangelism. If you pile on too much information that is incongruent with someone’s current belief structure, they’re going to just throw it all away. That’s the easiest way to deal with dissonance discomfort. But when you have an ongoing relationship with someone, it’s harder for them to just throw it away. And when you gently build that information, it gives the best chance for reaching that tipping point, where someone will change their belief because it’s the easiest path to reduce the dissonance discomfort.
Public evangelistic meetings are really effective at doing this, which is why the fastest growing Adventist churches in the NAD still include this as part of the evangelism cycle. The evangelism pyramid tells us that when built on the foundation of friendship, kindness and compassion projects, seed-sowing activities, and bridge events, a reaping series can be incredibly effective at introducing Bible Truth in a way that leads to lasting change in belief.
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 market your next evangelistic event. Let us know if you’re planning a bridge event or reaping series and we’ll get you a quote for evangelism marketing.
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Harmon-Jones, E., & Mills, J. (2019). An introduction to cognitive dissonance theory and an overview of current perspectives on the theory. In E. Harmon-Jones (Ed.), Cognitive dissonance: Reexamining a pivotal theory in psychology (2nd ed., pp. 3-24). American Psychological Association. https://doi.org/10.1037/0000135-001
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Littlejohn, S. W., Foss, K. A., & Oetzel, J. G. (2021). Theories of human communication (12th ed.). Waveland Press, Inc.
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A couple of months ago, my daughter and I visited a college in Tennessee. She’s a high school junior and worship leader at our church, so we like to get out and visit other churches whenever we can and experience other church cultures. On this trip we were there all weekend, so we decided I would pick the church to attend on Sabbath morning, then she would pick a church to visit on Sunday morning, too. I wanted to experience worship at a regional church, while Zoey wanted to go someplace with a good contemporary worship band.
What’s the first thing we each did? A Google search, of course. And as we were searching online, I had this aha moment.
We’ve had a church home for many years, and I haven’t gone searching for a church to visit in a really long time. I had one shot to find the right church, to find the experience I wanted, and the primary means I had to find it was Google searches, leading to church websites.
As I looked at various church websites, I found that very few of them were actually communicating with me as a potential guest. I needed to know the basics:
Time of service
We were still in a Covid-19 wave, so I wanted to know the masking policy
But I also needed more than that. I was looking for a specific type of worship experience, and I had one shot. So I wanted to see a photo of the worship service. I also wanted to know how to dress to fit in with the culture of the church, so I wanted to see people in the congregation in addition to the worship team.
In the end, on Sabbath we visited the Orchard Park Adventist Church in Chattanooga. Now, I’m comfortable in church, but I have to admit, it’s intimidating walking through the doors of a new church for the first time. So getting to know that church a little better through their website helped me be a little more confident walking through those doors.
Same thing for my daughter. Both churches we visited clearly communicated the church culture through the design, content and visuals of the website. Again, we had one chance to find the church experience we sought, and that website was the primary way we got to know churches in the area.
Today we’re talking about church websites, but before I get into the tactics of an effective church website, let’s talk strategy for a moment.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory
To understand what needs to go into an effective outreach website, let’s explore the psychology of church guests. In our last webinar, we talked about how God created humans with the innate need to belong to community, and one fundamental reason people come to a church event, whether it’s a worship service, a Bible study, or a community event, is because they are seeking to fulfill this fundamental need to belong. We are social creatures, and although church of course has a theological component, with a vertical relationship with God, church is fundamentally a social experience, featuring horizontal relationships between humans.
But humans are uncomfortable with uncertainty. When people think about walking through the doors of a strange church, filled with people they don’t know, this can cause anxiety. Today social anxiety is one of the chronic mental health challenges of this age, so we need to do whatever we can to lower the anxiety of our guests. The framework I want to suggest is called Uncertainty Reduction Theory.
Part of this anxiety is the uncertainty of how a social interaction will play out. A guest might wonder, if I don’t wear a tie will people treat me differently? Or what if I do wear a tie, but no one else is? Will people be talking in King James English, or using strange vocabulary I won’t understand? Will I be criticized because my clothes smell like cigarette smoke? Will I get cornered by someone trying to “save” me? In a social setting, people are constantly assessing the environment and predicting how a conversation will flow, because uncertainty is uncomfortable.
Uncertainty Reduction Theory tells us there are several things people do to reduce uncertainty (Brashers 2007). When you meet someone for the first time, there is a cultural ritual we go through, and a big reason for that ritual is to reduce uncertainty. When I shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye and say, “Nice to meet you,” I’m reducing their uncertainty about how our interaction is going to go.
Okay, so what’s this got to do with church websites? Online research is another strategy people use to reduce uncertainty. The primary purpose of your website is to reduce your guest’s uncertainty. The pictures on the website should show people in the church environment, allowing the guest to pick up visual clues about the culture. What are they wearing? How are they interacting? The language on the site should reflect the culture of the church. If you’re a conservative church that uses the King James Version in your service, your website should reflect that. If you’re a church with a contemporary worship service, have a picture of the worship band to show the culture. The website should be authentic to the experience guests will have.
Let’s be clear: your church website IS communicating to guests. It says something about who you are and what you’re about. A lot of church websites are simply saying, we only care about our members, because the site is filled with bulletin announcements and insider speak. Or it doesn’t have anything specific about that local church, just a little something about Seventh-day Adventists in general. What does that communicate to guests who visit your website? Does it make them feel valued? Does it do anything to reduce their uncertainty?
The primary purpose of your website is to reduce your guest’s uncertainty. They should get a feel from your website of what they can expect to experience when they walk through the doors of your church.
What Goes into an Effective Church Website
Okay, enough theory. Let’s talk about what goes into an effective church website. Whenever you are creating a communication piece you want to think about who the audience is. Neil Gordon wrote, “Effective communication preferences the recipient over the sender,” so think about who your recipient is for your church website and what they need.
There are 3 primary audiences for your website: guests, members, and leaders. All 3 groups have unique needs, and they also share some needs, too.
Let’s talk about guests first. Guests are looking for answers to some basic questions:
When do you meet?
Where do you meet?
How should I dress?
What can I expect when I get there?
How can I reach someone if I have a question?
For guests, your primary objective is reducing uncertainty. Communicate who you are, to help them decide if your church might be a good fit for their spiritual needs. Then give them a feel for what they can expect, to help lower the anxiety of walking through the doors of a strange place.
I believe church is meant for those who are not yet part of it, so your website should speak to them first.
Now let’s talk about members. Most member questions have to do with upcoming events and activities.
What was that thing coming up?
When is that thing?
Where is it happening?
Some other questions they might have include:
What are some ministries that I can get involved in?
Who do I contact to get involved?
Can I give tithes and offerings online?
Can I submit prayer requests or praises online?
The last audience is your group of leaders at the church. The primary question leaders ask is about logistics and scheduling:
Who is doing what this weekend?
What was the decision we made about that thing?
How are we doing financially?
For several years, my church’s website had a private login area with documents: board minutes, financial statements, the latest nominating committee report, the church directory. As a leader I found that incredibly helpful.
A church website can speak to all 3 audiences, but you have to be really careful about how you do it. Take a look at our demo website that I think balances this pretty well. Please note, this is not a real church, only a demonstration of how we believe an effective church website is structured: Prairie.church
The primary purpose of this page is to reduce uncertainty for guests, so it goes into great detail about what to expect on a Sabbath morning.
If your website is going to be evangelistic, you have to assume guests have no background with Adventist culture. So on this page some key phrases are explained, such as “Happy Sabbath,” “Sabbath School,” and “Sabbath School Quarterly.” This is intentional, so the guest is prepared to encounter terms when they visit.
More photos reveal the culture of the church.
Roles in Building a Website
Let’s talk briefly about what’s required to actually create a website. This is true for any website at all, and it’s also true for church websites. There are four different roles that each must contribute to constructing an effective website. The first website I built was 27 years ago, for La Sierra University, and I’ve worked on literally hundreds of websites since then. What I’ve found is that for a website to have maximum effectiveness, all four of these roles must contribute to the end product:
Vision. Someone needs to articulate what the website is trying to accomplish and passionately drive the vision forward.
Technical skill. Someone needs to be able to handle setting up a hosting service and building the technical framework of the site.
Communication skill. Someone needs to be able to write the copy on the website in a way that communicates to your audience.
User experience, or design. This has to do with site navigation, buttons, and the photos and design elements that are used.
Most people can contribute to at least one role, sometimes two. There are a few really gifted people in the world that are capable of filling all four of these roles. HOWEVER, each role uses a different part of the brain, and transitioning between each role has a pretty high switching cost. Because of this, one person CANNOT fill all four of these roles concurrently. It’s just not possible. Believe me, I’ve tried. The only way it works is to spread it out over several days or weeks, working on one role at a time, then giving recovery space before working on a different role.
But really, the best websites are created by a team whose members each fill just one of these roles. That’s how we do it here at SermonView when we work on websites.
Using Google Ads to Get Seen
Okay, so you’ve got a relevant, up-to-date website that speaks to guests. That’s nice, but how do potential visitors find that website? Of course, they’ll find you on Google.
There are two ways your website can appear in a Google results list. One is what’s called an organic listing, and the other is paid advertising.
Google builds its database of web pages by going out onto the internet and looking at every page it can find. Once a page is in its database, it checks back every few months to look for any changes. If a website has frequent changes, like a news site, it will check every few hours, or even every few minutes. But for a typical church website, Google updates it every few months.
The system looks at the content of each page and puts it in its database. Then, using a proprietary algorithm, it decides which websites to display for any given search, and decides in what order to show them. It considers your location, other websites you’ve visited, and your recent searches to try to ascertain what you’re actually looking for, then it gives you a list of websites that it thinks will be most relevant to you. It’s pretty amazing technology, because it happens really fast.
There are things as a website owner that you can do to make your website more friendly to search engines. This is called search engine optimization, or SEO. There are companies you can hire to help you optimize your website, using keywords, meta tags, and a bunch of other tricks. But it can take years for SEO work to make a difference, and even then it’s fragile. We’ve had websites with a #1 or #2 rank for a specific search suddenly drop to page 3 or 4 when Google updates its algorithm, which it does frequently.
If you can do it, great, but it takes considerable effort and ongoing attention to be successful. There are companies you can hire to handle SEO for you, but we’re seeing low-end SEO services costing $250 per month, $3,000 per year, and going up to $3,000 per month and beyond. They are expensive and none of them will guarantee results.
When we build a website here at SermonView, we think about SEO and make sure the content is SEO-friendly. But we don’t do active, ongoing search engine optimization ourselves, and we don’t recommend you put effort into it. The payoff just isn’t worth it for a church website.
So if SEO isn’t consistently effective, what can you do? That’s where Google advertising comes in. With Google Ads, you can bid for placement at the top of a particular search. You decide which keywords and phrases should trigger your ad, you can restrict it geographically, and you have full control over what that ad says. And because the searches related to your church are fairly specific and infrequent, this can be a really cost-effective way to get seen.
Some keywords you should advertise on include things like:
Your church name
Adventist church in your city name
Adventist church near me
Church near me
Sabbath church near me
Sabbath school near me
Bible study near me
You should also have articles on your website about some specific Bible topics, then purchase advertising for relevant keywords that direct to these pages. For example:
What happens when you die
End time events
Body the temple of God
You can also purchase advertising on Google maps, so when someone searches on maps your listing comes up first. This is important, because 1 out of 8 Google searches are directly in Google Maps.
Now, if you were to hire a Google ad agency, you would pay similar rates as SEO. The cost starts at $300-500 per month just for the management fee and goes up from there, plus the actual Google advertising costs. But we’ve been able to get that cost much lower, which I’ll talk about in a minute.
So does advertising make a difference? Let me tell you about my friend Laura. She grew up Seventh-day Adventist but had gotten disconnected from church moving around as a young adult. She moved here to Vancouver, Washington, and shortly after that move decided to connect with a spiritual community. She searched “Bible study near me” on Google.
My church was running ads, and we showed up in Laura’s search results. The crazy thing was, she wasn’t even looking specifically for an Adventist church, she just wanted a Bible study. But there we were in the results, so she clicked through to our website. One thing led to another, and today she is fully engaged in the life of our church, serving on the Sabbath morning tech team and participating in a weekly Bible study group. I saw her just last Sabbath, launching a new young adult ministry with some of our other young church leaders.
Does a church website make a difference? Yes. Does advertising that website make a difference? Yes.
Laura found her church on Google.
Last month, over 100,000 people searched on Google for the phrase, “churches near me.” And over 50% of church attendees say that a church’s website is important in picking that church for a visit. Your website is the online welcome mat for the community, and it needs to speak to your guests.
I know updating your church website is a big undertaking, on top of dealing with Google advertising and keeping the website up to date. Creating a website requires those 4 roles we talked about: vision, tech skill, communication, and user interface skills. It’s time and talent that most churches just don’t have. Hiring even a part-time person to handle this will cost you $15 to $20 thousand per year, and so will hiring an online agency to do it.
So let me tell you what SermonView will do for you.
First, we’ll create a localized Google ad campaign that covers the basic searches related to your church: variations of your church name, church near me, those types of searches. We’ll also make sure you’re placed correctly on Google maps and get that location information up to date, then include maps in the ad campaign. On top of that, we’ll cover some additional keywords, like Sabbath, what happens when you die, Bible prophecy and end time events, with these pointing to specific pages on your website with content related to the topics.
If you were to outsource this, the management fee alone would start at $3,600 per year, and could be as much as $10,000 per year. I know small businesses that spend over $1,000 a month, $12,000 per year, on Google advertising. This is all covered in our solution.
But advertising only gets people to your website, and we’d like you to have a strong, guest-friendly website. So we’ll also build you a new website that’s focused on helping your guests reduce their uncertainty. Remember those 4 roles we talked about for building a website? We’ll guide you in discovering your vision for the website, help you with the communication role, then completely cover the technical skills and user interface. We’ll give your website a fresh new look that’s mobile-friendly. Plus, we’ll include features specifically for members and leaders, too.
If you were to hire a website company to create this type of site, it would run you $5,000 or more, and it would require you to help them understand the unique needs and vocabulary of a Seventh-day Adventist church. But we work with Adventist churches every day, and we’ll build this website for you as part of our program.
Plus, because of our partnership with Adventist Church Connect, you’ll save money on website hosting. Quality, high-uptime hosting will cost you $500/yr or more, but the North American Division covers this cost for all Adventist Church Connect websites. Because our solution is built on ACC, your church doesn’t have to pay for any hosting costs.
With ACC, you’ll have access to make updates to your website anytime you want. But we’ve heard from a lot of churches that they don’t want to have to deal with this. So we’ll take care of content management for you. If you have a change you want to be made on the site, just let us know and we’ll do it for you. Send us your weekly bulletin, and we’ll put it on the website each week. Content management is included in our program.
On top of that, we’ll manage your email, too. We’ll set up your website domain to work for email, so you can have email addresses like firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com. We’ll set up G Suite for Nonprofits for your church and manage your email system on your behalf. Need to add an email address for someone? Just let us know and we’ll take care of it for you.
Hiring a company to handle your email management could cost $3,000 or more per year, but we include it with our solution.
If you hired an employee part-time to do all this, it’s going to cost your church $15,000 – $20,000 per year, and even more if they’re proficient at it. You’ll have to manage them and direct their time usage, which can be a distraction for you.
Working with web agencies to handle this, you would pay $14,500 minimum for the first year, plus at least $9,500 per year after that. Besides this, you’ll have to manage the contractors and help them understand the unique needs of a Seventh-day Adventist church.
With SermonView’s Complete Plus Church Solution, we’ll handle all of it for less than the cost of hiring basic SEO services: $2,495 for the first year, then $1,995 each year after that. In addition, we’re focused on Adventist churches, so you don’t need to explain what Sabbath means, or why you want “Bible prophecy” as a keyword.
You’ll get Google advertising for your church name and churches near me, you’ll get advertising on Google maps, plus you’ll get additional keywords pointing to specific pages on your website. You’ll get a brand new, beautiful website focused on your guests, designed to reduce their uncertainty and draw them through your church doors. You’ll get free hosting through our partnership with Adventist Church Connect. Plus, we’ll handle content management for you, so you just send us the changes and we’ll handle it. And we’ll also manage your email system, so you can use the same domain for email as the church website.
All that for $2,495 for the first year, then $1,995 each year after that.
It’s a great program that we’re excited to be able to offer your church, and I hope you’re able to take advantage of it. To sign up, or to request more information from one of our campaign managers, visit EvangelismWebsites.com. Or you can call us at 800-525-5791.
I have a heart for the local church, and I’ve worked on hundreds of websites over the years, including many church websites. I’m just so excited that our crew has been able to put together this comprehensive solution for your local church that covers everything you need. Visit EvangelismWebsites.com, or call us at 800-525-5791.
That’s our webinar for today! The SermonView crew would love to help you turn your church website into an evangelistic engine that helps propel your mission forward. If you’d like to talk with someone about our church website services, please contact us, and someone from our team will reach out to you soon.
Brashers, D. E. (2007). A theory of communication and uncertainty management. Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars, 201-218.
With InterestGenerator you get to meet new people from your area every month and build connections with those who are ready to study the Bible, guaranteed. It’s a simple and easy way to grow your interest list. But how you approach and interact with those who request Bible studies will have a big impact on the longevity of that relationship. (No pressure, right?) There are many ways to approach an interest that are reflective of your church’s personality, but is there a “right” way to connect with your leads? And what should you do if you don’t get a response?
Join Larry Witzel, SermonView’s founder and president, along with Sarah Grant, SermonView campaign manager, as they walk through some best practices and simple solutions that any church can apply to their long-term communication strategy. Watch firsthand how the InterestTracker software can help you organize and maintain your Bible study requests and interactions with your leads. Plus, learn some tried and tested methods to help you see a greater response both initially and long term. You’ll walk away with new ways to encourage your team and engage your leads, helping them move from interested to invested.
Larry: Welcome to today’s webinar, “Turning Leads into Connections: How to Build Lasting Relationships with Your Bible Study Leads.“ I’m Larry Witzel, founder and president of SermonView Evangelism Marketing. Joining me today is Sarah Grant, one of our campaign managers. She is going to help with some of the demonstrations we want to share with you.
My goal for today is that you leave with something practical that you can put into use this week in your ministry. Here’s where we’re going over the next few minutes:
I’m going to begin by talking about the why. Why does a church need to put thought into 1-on-1 communication practices?
Then I’ll pass it over to Sarah, who will tell you about our lead generation program, InterestGenerator, which is how we introduce people from your community to you.
We’ll show you some specific features in InterestTracker, our online CRM for Adventist evangelism.
Then Sarah will get into some specific practices that will improve the communication with your interests.
Finally, we’ll look at some things you can do if someone just isn’t responding, along with some things you definitely should NOT do.
Then we’ll end with your questions.
Why communication is important
Okay. Let’s get to the foundation of interest communication, and I want to talk a little communication theory here. What is church? It’s a holy community, led by Jesus, a community of faith. What is a community? Think of it as a network of relationships. So evangelism is what we call it when God works through us to draw someone new into that network of relationships, into that community faith.
What’s the starting point for that? It starts by building a relationship between one member of that network of relationships, and someone who is not yet a part of that network. As that relationship grows, then there will be opportunities to introduce them to other members of that community, but it starts with one person initiating a relationship first.
The next question is, how do you build a relationship with someone? That’s through communication, specifically through a sequence of interactions between you and the interest. The building block of relationship-building is an interaction.
About 5 years ago, a couple of communication researchers proposed a theory that we can apply here. They call it Communicate Bond Belong Theory (Hall & Davis, 2017). We communicate in order to bond, to build a relationship, and that bond leads to belonging, to affinity and identity with a community. Communicate, bond, belong. As they researched this, they found a couple of things relevant to us here. First, humans have a fundamental need to belong, and we use interpersonal communication to satisfy that need to belong. But relationships take work, so people also have to manage the energy spent in creating those relationships. The researchers put it this way:
“The motivation to socially engage is offset by a motivation to conserve energy.”
(Hall & Davis, 2017, p. 22)
People have limited time and energy, and they invest those resources into the most efficient processes to meet the need to belong to a community. So here’s the application: In your communication practices, design your communication to require as little energy as possible for your interest to engage in each interaction.
Second, reciprocity is important. Both parties need to be contributing to the conversation and to the relationship-building. There needs to be a balance in terms of the give and take in a relationship. So as you’re building the relationship, it’s important to open up yourself to that person, in levels of depth corresponding to them.
So, our goal is to draw an interest into a relationship with you, which can then lead them into that community of faith. People have a desire for that, because God gave us this fundamental need to belong. Communicate, bond, belong.
But how do you meet people who are seeking to meet that need to belong? The SermonView crew has spent years developing methods for finding people in your community who are ready to study the Bible with you, and that’s what Sarah is going to talk about next.
What is InterestGenerator?
Sarah: Interest Generator is a service we offer to connect you with people in your community who are ready to study the Bible. InterestGenerator includes multiple components that work together in a way that local churches have not had access to in the past. With InterestGenerator you get to meet new people from your area every month and build connections with those who are ready to study the Bible. Each of our Interest Generator campaigns are managed by a dedicated marketing coordinator who blankets your community with targeted ads clearly focused on a request for a Bible study. When someone clicks on an ad, they complete an online form that requires them to type in their actual contact information, clicking through some confirmation pages to get to a button that says something like “Request my free Bible study”. So you can be confident that each lead is genuine, and they did not sign up by accident.
We do not advertise a specific study. Rather, we focus on themes to allow your church to choose studies that match the individual request. These themes use specific language in our ads that should be considered when selecting which studies to offer, but we’ll come back to that later when we discuss communication strategies.
The ads we use can be seen all over Facebook, Instagram, and depending on your plan, Google. They are geolocated to your exact area, and only your area. We use detailed targeting along with Facebook’s algorithm to make sure the people who are most likely to respond to your ads will be the ones that are seeing your ads. Now, this likely means that church members will not see your ads. We hear that concern a lot. If you are not seeing your ads, that means your campaign is doing exactly what it is supposed to! We want your budget to reach new people, not the ones you already have.
A lot goes into managing your social media campaigns and SermonView handles it all—ad design & testing, detailed targeting, conversion tracking, and managing comments/messages are all part of the package. We’ll go over some of the ads that we use in a little bit, but next I want to demonstrate how these leads get delivered to you and your team using SermonView’s online relationship management tool, InterestTracker.
Remember when Larry said that the building block of relationships is an interaction? Our team created a relationship management system where the central component is interactions. This system is called InterestTracker. You may be already familiar with this software, but let me do a quick demo for those of you who aren’t.
Unlimited Users/Roles – share the energy with your team
Set notifications to get alerts.
Demo how leads come in to an account.
Assigning a lead to your team.
Show where to find the offer they responded to.
How to mark an offer as followed up/set reminders.
We just covered how to document a follow-up for an offer, but let’s talk about how to actually follow up with your leads in ways that can start a dialogue and help build trust with your church.
Methods to increase effective communication with your leads
How you approach and interact with those who request Bible studies will have a big impact on the longevity of that relationship. There are many ways to approach an interest that are reflective of your church’s personality, but let’s look at principles that should be present with all interactions.
First off, spend time praying for them before you make contact. Often times we find ourselves seeking God or the Bible when we are facing challenging circumstances in our lives. Lifting up each individual in prayer not only supports them but softens our hearts to them and helps us to be open to potential needs they may have.
Look at the offer to understand the need. We can begin to “understand their need” by looking at the offer they responded to. This will help you know what attracted them and led them to make the request. It’s tempting to share what we want them to know, but this is about what they are responding to. If they clicked on an offer titled “God Cares”, they may not connect with materials about the mark of the beast or prophecy. Instead, you’ll want to use a Bible study that reflects the character & love of God. Likewise, if they clicked on an ad about “Bible prophecy”, they will be more likely to stay engaged with a study focused on prophecy.
Choose something that resonates with the offer that drew them to fill out the form. By doing this, you are not only building trust, but you are helping with their “emotional energy conservation” as Larry mentioned earlier, so there should be little resistance on their end by offering them a free resource they are already interested in.
Introducing yourself. Next, I want to point out one thing that SermonView does ahead of time to help with your communication. We run your ads under our brand “My Free Bible Study.” We do this because we don’t know what someone’s previous church experience is, so in case of a potentially negative experience, we remove that from influencing their decision, plus we build credibility with a professional brand]Since they’ve responded to ads from My Free Bible Study, you should introduce yourself as someone from the My Free Bible Study team when you first start communicating. Dropping something off at the door? Wear your volunteer name badge and, again, introduce yourself as someone from “The My Free Bible Study Team”. This will help them remember the ad that they first responded to, and avoid confusion about where you are from. Using this method will help give a reminder and a reason for reaching out to them.
You can try different methods of communication too. We recommend:
Start with a phone call.
Follow up with a text or an email.
Then mail a card with a personal hand-written note.
Continue building the relationship. Remember, your goal is not just to get someone to complete a study, but to build a relationship. As the old saying goes, “people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care” is very applicable as you begin establishing a relationship with each individual. Whether you hit it off right away or are having a hard time connecting, here are 7 tips to keep in mind as you move forward:
Remember to guidegently. Stay attentive to their comfort level when it comes to pace. Ask them how often they’d like a new study, and follow up without pressuring them to be done faster. Remember, each person’s life looks different, some will have full plates and others will have much more availability.
Respect their preferred method of delivery. If they opt to receive their studies in-person or by mail, don’t change it on them without them discussing it with them.
Online studies still need human connection. If they are receiving their studies through an online platform, you should still reach out to them so they are not left to navigate it on their own.
Contact should be about them. Check in with them as they journey through their studies and see if they have questions. Remember to make your reason for contact about them and their needs.
Relate with them. This one is big. Remember back when you were first learning about God or the Bible? Share that you had questions or struggles, or maybe areas that relieved struggles when you learned it. By giving that “equal emotional investment” that Larry mentioned is required for building a relationship, you will become a safe person for them to work through their questions. (Practical TIP: Be familiar the Bible study yourself first so you are prepared for any questions, discussion, or to point out your favorite parts.)
Save invitations for when the relationship is ready. We hope that each relationship grows to include your church, but be attentive to their comfort level and wait to invite them to events at your church until the relationship has grown to that point. The exception to this is if your church is holding an event that is clearly related to and focusing on the topic of the ad they responded to.
If they come, meet them out front so they don’t have to walk in alone. Walking into a new church can be scary for most people. We don’t know everyone’s experiences with church. Having someone to walk in with that they’ve already built a relationship with will speak volumes about your care for them.
OK… But what if they still aren’t responding?
This can definitely feel disappointing. As Larry mentioned earlier, humans have a fundamental need to belong, and while, with our leads, we use interpersonal communication to satisfy that need to belong, we are human too—and it can still hurt when there is little or no relational feedback. But remember: although we don’t know what prompted them to make a request for a Bible study and then not respond to you, we do know that they expressed a clear interest in learning more about God or the Bible. It’s important to remember that unless someone asks you to quit contacting them, they are not a lost opportunity.
Continue to show them that you and the Bible are a source of Good News and encouragement. You never know when they will be ready to finally take that step, so it’s important you are there when they are ready, and that they know they can come back to you—even if they ghosted you for a while.
Remember, this is a very normal part of the process. These interests signed up to receive a Bible study; they may be intimidated with a conversation. However, by prayerfully and carefully engaging with each person, you can be a bridge to connection and God’s love. When they decide to cross that bridge is between them and the Holy Spirit, it‘s just our job to keep it open.
How to build a long-term communication strategy
So, how do we help keep that bridge open and help them move from interested to invested? We build a long-term communication strategy. Let’s look at a few factors to consider as you develop a plan that works for your church.
Some requests will be from dedicated Christians that want to dig deeper into their understanding of God, while others may have just suffered a tragedy or hurt that has compelled them to look to God for the very first time. Remember: Humanize the numbers and understand these are real people behind each lead and it will help us to be understanding of each person, whether they respond right away or not.
Every request is valuable. It’s true, that not all leads will turn into studies, but at one point that person took the time to give their personal information in exchange for an offer to study the Bible. This will provide understanding & should also encourage us to continue to reach out in meaningful ways.
The key to success is a combination of prayer and a communication strategy. One answer comes from the brand-loyalty best practices found in the business world:
The corporate world knows that once someone gets on their interest list, it requires reaching out multiple times in order to build a connection. The data suggest that number is an average of 8. That means that you need to reach out to your interest list an average of 8 times, with something that they find important or interesting (not something we find important or interesting.) Remember the need for energy conservation? Messages that are encouraging and uplifting will fill their energy, and you want that associated with your team and, more importantly, the Bible.
Here are 4 easy things you can apply to your long-term communication strategy to help build connections:
Try a weekly inspirational text. Text messages are quick and have a 98% open rate. What if you sent a text every Friday to your interest list? What if every inspiration contained a positive message, drove people to read their Bibles, and invited people to reach back to your ministry team? That is a low energy ask, with a high value reward of hope and connection. Text messaging is easy within InterestTracker,… [SARAH: You can do this by email, or by text in Interest Tracker. You can send a bulk message to your entire list, sort it by those who have requested Bible studies, or individually.]
Create a mental anchor. You want to start your communications the same way each time. Using a short, consistent phrase at the beginning of your communications creates familiarity with what it is and who it is coming from. We use “God cares” because it is short, meaningful, and matches an ad campaign that seems to really resonate with people across the country.
Be an inspiration. The feel of your communication should always be one that speaks into a person’s life. This is not the time for teaching or correcting. Again, you want to show them that the Bible and your team are a positive, uplifting addition in their life.
Always end with a call-to-action (connection) By encouraging a reply to your communication, you give your reader permission to start or continue engaging in a conversation. “Need prayer?” is a short and easy way to invite a response, and again, keeps the focus of the conversation on your interest. Remember: Communication then bonding leads to belonging.
Have you seen our brand-new “InterestGenerator Team Guide”?
If you haven’t seen our new Team Guide, please check it out. Over the last few years we’ve run over 250 campaigns, helping churches connect with over 25,000 people in their community. Partnering with these churches, hearing the successes and struggles, has helped us gather real-world data from the field and we’ve compiled the information into a team guide to create best practices and tips for building real connections as you engage with your leads. A lot of what we just covered is listed in this booklet. Plus, we have scripts to help with initial contact. If you haven’t gotten one yet, you can request one at the link on the slide, which will also include in the chat system.
Larry: That’s our webinar for today! My goal today was to help inspire and equip you with ways you can work with your team as they communicate with your interest list, turning a list of leads into relationships. Some things we covered today:
We looked at the big picture: community, individual relationship, and interactions to build that relationship. Or flipping that around: communicate, bond, belong.
We went over InterestGenerator and how that program works.
We shared ways to help your team stay organized and on top of new requests with the InterestTracker software.
We discussed methods to increase effective communication with your leads.
We went over a few key things you can apply to your long-term strategy as you reach out to leads at every stage along their journey.
The SermonView crew would love to support your next outreach event, or help you find people in your community ready to study the Bible. We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing, and we’d love an opportunity to share more about how we can bring value to your church outreach. If you don’t already have an InterestGenerator Lead Campaign going with us and you’d like to learn more about what it can do for your church, contact us today.
Hall, J. A., & Davis, D. C. (2017). Proposing the communicate bond belong theory: Evolutionary intersections with episodic interpersonal communication. Communication Theory, 27(1), 21-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/comt.12106
Last month, SermonView had the pleasure of helping with a conference-wide coordinated start event in our very own Oregon Conference. When word got out to the pastors about the upcoming event, 40 churches reached out to us for help with their marketing campaigns. Utilizing the professional content and stirring art from It Is Written, we set out to maximize each church’s budget. From social media campaigns to banners and mass mailers, we wanted to help share the event in a targeted way with as many people as we could. And the results were amazing!
We handled the personalization and mailing of over 500,000 pieces into our communities. Social media ads saw over one million impressions online. Both marketing strategies contributed to over 1,200 pre-registrations. That’s 1,200 individual people wanting to hear about freedom, healing and hope in Jesus. If you joined us for our last webinar—or if you’ve ever hosted any event—you’ll know that pre-registration does not equal attendance. But, remember: all pre-registrations are real people, with loved ones they wanted to bring with them. Those are the warmest leads you can get, so these churches are continuing to reach out to them as part of their long-term communication strategy.
What are your dreams to grow God’s Kingdom?Whether you’re looking to hold a full-message evangelistic series, a small bridge event, or a conference-wide evangelistic campaign, SermonView’s digital marketing and direct mail services can help you get more people to your event, at a lower cost per guest. Call us today to get started!
You paid thousands of dollars for an evangelism marketing campaign and got dozens of pre-registrations for your meetings. But on opening night, most are no-shows. All that effort, little to show for it. Does this discourage you? How do you deal with it?
In this webinar, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel will help you to take hold of that discouragement and use it to power the mission forward. He’ll walk you through a process of reframing to see the potential rather than the loss, talk about the positive power of failure, and give you practical communication strategies to follow up with those who never showed. You’ll leave this webinar with a practical plan for propelling your ministry forward—even when discouragement threatens to hold you back.
When SermonView promotes an evangelistic event, and especially when we handle marketing for a full-message public evangelistic series, we like to check in after opening night to see how things went. Sometimes we get good news, sometimes it’s so-so, and sometimes it’s bad. But we always want to hear it, because it helps us learn and grow, so we can all get better at the science of evangelism.
There is one response we sometimes hear from church leaders after opening night. Now, this certainly isn’t everybody, it’s only a slice of our customers who express this. But we’ve probably heard this hundreds of times over the years, so I want to address it today. It goes something like this:
We’ve been promoting this event for weeks, and our members are excited. We got 80 pre-registrations for our meetings, and we were eager to meet them. But on opening night only 20 showed up. We’re really discouraged by these results.
Now, let’s be clear. The feeling is real, and I want to acknowledge that. I don’t want to minimize this feeling of discouragement.
But stop and think about it. You have 20 guests! These are 20 people who made the effort to come to your church and hear your message of hope! More than that, you have 60 people who were really interested in the topic, who took the time to give you their real information. Those are 60 people you can follow up with and connect with in the future!
Still, discouragement. So let’s talk for a minute about where this feeling of discouragement comes from. In this particular case, there is a psychological concept in the field of behavioral economics that explains it, called “loss aversion.”
Loss aversion is the idea that “losses loom larger than gains” (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). It’s a concept found in Kahneman’s Prospect Theory, and researchers have spent the last 40 years studying it. They found that the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. People are more willing to take risks to avoid a loss than to make a gain.
Another way to look at this is that emotionally, people don’t think about the final number, but about the change that resulted in that number. In retirement investing, we know that the stock market moves up and down, fluctuating every day. Studies have found that someone who owns a stock that goes from $50 to $100 are more satisfied than someone who stock goes from $50 to $150 then down to $100. They consider that a loss, and that loss is painful.
So let’s apply this to evangelism. Before the marketing campaign, the church had zero people coming to the evangelistic series. 20 people is a huge increase from zero. But that’s not what you saw. It went from zero to 80 pre-registrations, then down to 20, so it feels like you lost 60 people. To be clear, that’s not what actually happened, but emotionally, that’s how it feels.
But there’s more. Loss aversion doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. Several studies have shown that personality is a mediating factor in loss aversion (Canessa et al., 2013; Tom et al., 2007), and one study in particular looked at the Big Five personality inventory (Boyce et al., 2016). They found people high in what’s called the Conscientiousness trait experienced higher levels of loss aversion. In fact, in this group they found almost no pleasure from gain, and higher levels of pain from loss. It turns out that this Conscientiousness trait is also found in the type of person most effective at putting together a public evangelistic series. So among the pastors we work with, loss aversion is really strong.
Dealing with Loss Aversion
Okay, so we know that loss aversion is leading to this discouragement. What can we do about it?
First, reframe the numbers. Prior to opening night, you have zero guests, so in this scenario we went from zero to 20 guests. That’s a win. Set aside the pre-registrations, we’ll come back to those in a minute. Focus on the 20 people who took the time to come through the doors of an unknown church, with people they’ve never met. Let’s celebrate those who did come.
But we still have those 60 pre-registrations who didn’t show. And here at SermonView our team has asked, do we even want to tell you about them? We know that 70-80% of pre-registrants don’t come opening night, so by telling you about them, aren’t we just setting you up for disappointment? That’s a fair question.
As we discussed it though, we think you should know about every pre-registration. It gives you an opportunity to pray for each name leading up to the meetings, and it does help you build the interest list. So we think it’s important for you to have all the information. Remember, ultimately it’s not about you feeling good. It’s about reaching souls for the Kingdom. It’s about helping you be the most effective evangelist that you can be.
We’ll talk more about what you can do with those 60 no-shows in a minute. But first, let’s talk about outright failure.
Dealing with Failure
We’ve worked with churches who promoted a big event and got no guests at all. Often this happens when a church gets creative and tries something new. Innovation is important, and we’re going to do a webinar in a couple of months specifically about an innovation process for ministry. Right now I just want to talk about the aftermath of a failed experiment.
Remember this: failure is not the end, unless you make it the end. Failure is just a data point. You discovered something that doesn’t work! Trust me, most conference leaders would rather you try to do something and fail than to do no outreach at all.
Here’s a quote I love, from Hayakawa:
“Notice the difference between what happens when someone says, I have failed three times, and what happens when they say, I am a failure.”
Failure should not define you as anything other than someone who tried something and learned from it! There’s a famous quote from Thomas Edison, when he was working on inventing the light bulb:
“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
We as a denomination need to do a better job of celebrating failure. I’m not talking about moral failure here. I’m talking about innovation. Try something and learn from it. That’s not failure, that’s progress.
Dark Night of the Soul
The title of this webinar is Dealing with Discouragement, and I’d like to pause for a minute and just mention another type of discouragement. This webinar is not about that deeper, spiritual discouragement that can come with full-time ministry. Maybe you’re burned out. Maybe you’re experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, where there’s just no joy left in what you’re doing. If that’s where you’re at, you’re not alone. In fact, during the pandemic something like 70% of pastors across all denominations have considered quitting.
Before you give up, though, talk with someone. If you’re feeling a deep depression, talk with a Christian counselor about it. Loop in your ministerial director, and if you don’t feel safe doing that, confide in another non-Adventist pastor in your town. Please, reach out and ask for help. I’ve experienced that Dark Night of the Soul myself, and it’s not fun. But you can get through it. I’ve seen a Christian counselor for over 20 years, and I still check in with him every month.
If God has called you to ministry, He’ll provide you with not just the power to do that ministry, but also with confidants and supporters you can turn to. Again, it’s outside the scope of the webinar, but I just wanted to acknowledge that sometimes something deeper is going on, and if that’s where you’re at, please, ask for help. Don’t try to do this alone.
Communicating with your interests who didn’t show
Okay, so let’s talk about those 60 people in this hypothetical example who pre-registered, but didn’t come opening night. Remember, these are real people in your community who took the time to register for the event, giving you their real contact information because they really intended to come. Sure, we see the occasional fake registrations. One of my favorites was Lucifer Fryer at 666 Hot Springs Lane. But the vast majority of pre-registrations are real people who give you real information.
Every person who pre-registered, whether they’ve attended each session, missed a few, or haven’t come at all, are real people in need, so take the opportunity to connect with each person right where they are at. Here are a few things to remember as you review your InterestTracker list:
1. All pre-registrations are“leads” People signed up to attend your event because they felt drawn to the topic (whether they attended or not) so be sure to include them in any future bulk invitations you send out to your Interest List for future events at your church.
2. Anyone who attended at least 1 session has questions Something may have come up that prevented them from continuing the series. Connect with them and offer to pray or go over any sessions they may have missed.
3. Continue to check in on all of your guests Developing a personal relationship to answer questions or prayer during your event will help your guests know they are not alone, and will encourage them to continue their faith journey.
Seeing your results in AttendanceTracker
Develop a communication strategy based on attendance reporting from AttendanceTracker. You can see which session each person has attended or missed directly in their interest snapshot at the bottom of the page. And you can quickly see the overall nightly attendance from all of your guests right in your event details in AttendanceTracker.
Connect with your guests in InterestTracker
Do you have the Text Messaging Module? You can also send out bulk texts to some or all of your interests right in your interest list. Just select the interests you want to send a text message to, type in your text message and send it. We also just added a feature to be able to schedule a text to send later, so you can set these up ahead of time. We have some great training videos on how to use InterestTracker and AttendanceTracker, and you can access those at InterestTracker.org.
Communication should always feel genuine and natural, so try starting simple. Here are a few tips from the field for communicating by phone call, text message, or email.
Phone: Always introduce yourself as part of the ministry at the event and ask if it is a good time to talk. If not, your guest may feel rushed to end the conversation. Mention the reason for your call (We missed you last night, wanted to check in how you were enjoying the messages, etc.) And end the call with prayer if possible, and set up a time for another phone call or communication method.
Text: Always introduce yourself as part of the ministry at the event and ask if this is their preferred method of communication. (Sometimes they may want you to use a different number for texting.) Remember that text messages should be short and sweet. If your responses are too long, you may want to suggest a phone call or email – this will help the grammar and tone of your messages come through better. And lastly, don’t pester. You may get timely responses some days, but other times you may not. Since you don’t know their schedule or what else might be going on in their lives don’t push for the conversation to happen “right now”. Text messaging is a more immediate medium, but it’s still asynchronous, meaning you don’t both have to be texting each other at the same time. So you may get a response within minutes, or it could take hours or days to see a response to your text. Be patient. You’re just checking in and letting them know you care.
Email: Keep your introductory email short and to the point. If your email is too long your reader may just skim or skip it altogether. Ask if there is anything specific you can pray for, or if there is a topic you can look into for further study options for them. Email is usually the easiest way for people to read and provide responses, however, your guest may be a verbal processor, so perhaps offer a phone number they can call too if they ever want to have a “live” discussion.
So those are some ideas for what you can do with your interests, even if they didn’t show up.
Here’s the most important thing: be present. God is moving on the hearts of each one of these people. Circumstances in their life are going to push them one way or another. And when that moment of soul-searching happens, you want to be present. You want to be the one they think of to call, to text, to check in with. Be present. Be there. Be available to them, because when they’re ready, you need to be there for them.
That’s our webinar for today. My goal today was to help you take hold of discouragement and use it to power mission forward. I walked through a process of reframing to see the potential rather than the loss. I talked a bit about the positive power of failure. And I offered some practical communication strategies to follow up with those who never showed to your evangelistic event.
Listen, just being on this webinar today is huge. The greatest obstacle to evangelistic success today is not active hostility or opposition. It’s complacency. So taking the time to join me today says you care about reaching people in your community.
So please don’t be discouraged. Stop. Breathe. Pray. Then take hold of that discouragement and use it to propel evangelism forward in your community.
The SermonView crew would love to support your next outreach event, or help you find people in your community ready to study the Bible. We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing, and we’d love an opportunity to share more about how we can bring value to your church outreach.
Boyce, C. J., Wood, A. M., & Ferguson, E. (2016). Individual differences in loss aversion: Conscientiousness predicts how life satisfaction responds to losses versus gains in income. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(4), 471-484. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167216634060
Canessa, N., Crespi, C., Motterlini, M., Baud-Bovy, G., Chierchia, G., Pantaleo, G., Tettamanti, M., & Cappa, S. F. (2013). The functional and structural neural basis of individual differences in loss aversion. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(36), 14307-14317. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0497-13.2013
Tom, S. M., Fox, C. R., Trepel, C., & Poldrack, R. A. (2007). The neural basis of loss aversion in decision-making under risk. Science(American Association for the Advancement of Science), 315(5811), 515-518. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1134239
Before I get to that, a couple things. First, thank you for your continued support of SermonView. It means more than you’ll ever know.
Second, I’m amazed at how the SermonView crew has worked with each of our churches this year, and I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of SermonView.
I know during this season many are feeling the pain of loss, the strain of change. We’ve lost too many, too soon, during this pandemic. I feel for the pastors who have had a particularly rough go of it, trying to minister in a world filled with divisiveness, anger and pain.
SermonView has been feeling it, too. Many of my staff have been grieving this year: one lost his dad, another lost her sister, two lost brothers. None were from Covid-19, but all were unexpected losses. Our team is hurting.
The last seven months have been tough for me, too, as I’ve personally suffered compounding loss.
Larry at his dad’s 85th birthday
In April, my dad died, losing a decade-long battle with pulmonary fibrosis.
In May, one of my closest friends lost his battle with glioblastoma, a frightfully aggressive brain cancer. Paul left behind a wife and young son.
In July, I broke my ankle. (Expert tip: hold the rail when you walk down stairs in the dark.) For someone who values effectiveness and productivity, missing over two months of work took a crippling emotional toll, and combined with my other loss the darkness was often overwhelming.
Then in September, SermonView’s cofounder Vince Williams told me he needed to move on from our work together. We’ve been friends for two decades, starting SermonView together 16 years ago. I can’t imagine doing this without him—he was the Lewis to my Clark, the Lennon to my McCartney.
But he feels God leading him to pursue other entrepreneurial interests, and I support that. It’s the right thing for him, and the right thing for SermonView. We parted as friends, and I’m cheering him on.
Still, there’s a hole in my heart. I miss Vince. I miss Paul. I miss my dad.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) says:
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior.
I choked up as a business colleague sat in my office last week, reading this passage to me. My fig tree feels bare. There are no grapes on the vines, no sheep in the pen or cattle in the stalls. Yet I choose to rejoice in the Lord. I am joyful in God my Savior.
The SermonView crew before Covid-19
Frankly, Covid-19 should have broken SermonView. When you do event marketing for churches, and church events are shut down, it’s going to impact business. Revenue collapsed—fourth quarter last year was down 84%. Our work is labor-intensive, with high payroll and thin margins, and I had no idea how we could make it.
But God sustained us. The team came together, we kept innovating, and we somehow managed to thrive through it all. There were no layoffs. Everyone who wanted to keep working full time was able to, And today we’re positioned to serve you better than ever, as we solve even more marketing challenges churches face: church websites, interest tracking, Bible study interest generation, technology for online and hybrid events, and yes, evangelistic event marketing.
SermonView’s future is brighter than ever. But even if it wasn’t, I would still rejoice in the Lord.
Maybe you had a great year overall, and if so, we celebrate with you! But if this year was hard for you, too, we weep with you. And if you can find the strength in your heart, I invite you to join me in rejoicing in the Lord. Be joyful in God our Savior.
Thank you for your support of the SermonView crew over the years. I’m incredibly blessed to lead this team, and I’m honored to serve you. I love pastors, and I believe the local church is the heartbeat of ministry. So please pray for us, as we also pray for you. I’m grateful to work with you, and look forward to seeing God do big things in your church and community next year and beyond.
Larry Witzel Founder & President
P.S. What are your big dreams for 2022? I’d love to hear what God is doing in your church!