Does Evangelism Still Work Today?

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices

Last year, I ran across several articles trying to answer this question: “Does evangelism still work?” I always have two immediate responses to that question. My first instinct is to reply, “Well, does breathing still work?” After all, the word “evangelism” literally means to share the Good News. Just as you can’t live without breathing, you can’t be a disciple of Jesus without sharing His Good News. It’s as natural as breathing.

But usually the intent of the question is about public evangelism: doctrinal meetings to which the public is invited. And this leads to my second, simple response: Absolutely yes.

Last year, we worked on campaigns with hundreds of Seventh-day Adventist churches throughout the North American Division. These are urban, rural and suburban churches, in red states and blue states, from highly churched to highly secular regions. No matter where you are, public evangelism can work. When you plan and execute an outreach event speaking to the needs of your community, and partner with SermonView to craft a clear invitation that demonstrates the value of what you’re offering, people come. God works through you to share the Good News, and lives are changed.

The proof is in the remarkable results that many of you have seen at your events. During the last 5 years, SermonView has introduced over 10 million families to Seventh-day Adventist churches throughout North America. And during the last year, our churches saw 10,000 guests walk through their doors, many with no previous connection to the church. Does public evangelism work? Absolutely yes.

That’s why when the door opened for us to team up with Shawn Boonstra and the Voice of Prophecy for Shadow Empire, we jumped in head-first. We helped over 600 churches across North America host the series, which led to many making the decision to connect with a local church or join Bible studies. And we are confident that God has big plans to reach even more people during the follow-up series, A Pale Horse Rides, in October 2017.

Yes, there continues to be a place for public evangelism. We see it working, because new people are continuing to walk through your church doors to learn about Jesus.

I sit here in awe of what God has done through our partnership together. Thank you for allowing us to join you in ministry this year, and for believing in the evangelism marketing process. I can’t wait to see how God is going to bless your evangelism efforts in 2017.

-Larry Witzel

Why SermonView Evangelism Marketing?

Vince Williams Evangelism Practices

After years of research, we’ve found that higher response rates don’t just come from a nicely designed handbill. While design is important, the combination of compelling copy, marketing best-practices, intentional calls to action, audience research, and eye-catching design must all work hand-in-hand to obtain significantly better response rates. These traits can be hard to distinguish, but we use data-driven, evidence-based decision-making to increase the effectiveness of every campaign that we develop for a local church.

Compelling copy. If your goal is to reach non-Adventists, then you need to understand the way non-Adventists approach evangelism. While SermonView is an Adventist-owned, ASI-member ministry, our team of marketing professionals come from a variety of faith backgrounds. They use their unique life experiences to speak with clarity to those you’re trying to reach, helping to bridge the cultural divide between your church and the people in your community. This has resulted in higher attendance at meetings across the country.

Marketing best-practices. Direct marketing professionals know that continuous improvement comes from continuous testing. When you make a change that you think will improve response rates, the only way to know if it is a true improvement is to try it and measure the results. Then you keep what works and discard what doesn’t. Over the last five years, these incremental improvements have added up to revolutionary change, resulting in thousands of more people engaging in the life of a local church.

Intentional call to action. Our goal with every mailing is to move interests along a path with minimal friction and provide simple steps that lead to a commitment. Our website landing pages and telephone response system offer a simple first step for most campaigns. Ongoing, automated emails comprise a second form of contact, which leads to higher attendance. Our proprietary system has been developed specifically for evangelism marketing and maximizes participation at your series.

Audience research. Our team does intensive research based on your area and considers over a dozen factors when building a list. By managing dynamics such as age, income, and ethnicity, we develop a strong list of neighborhoods near you that will generate the highest response rates for your event. We also factor drive times and traffic patterns to make sure that the people you invite are able to make it to your event. This research is unique for each campaign, because every campaign is tailored for your local community.

Eye-catching design that tells a story. Design plays two major roles in every marketing piece. First, it needs to quickly communicate the basic details to someone who might attend your meeting. Second, it needs to be congruent with your target audience. SermonView’s marketing team includes professional designers, who ensure that the layout and design for your marketing piece will have the highest impact.

Evidence-based decision-making. Subjective opinions are only relevant when confirmed by objective facts. Our practice is to use actual data to influence improvement, not just instincts. We have found that when you use the hard evidence of actual response rates, you get better decisions. And ultimately, that leads to more people through the doors of your church.

We have seen that when a local church hands SermonView responsibility for evangelism marketing, they consistently see results two to four times what they had before. They simply get more guests for the identical budget. We know you’ll see the difference SermonView will make in your response rates and the number of guests at your next meeting.

5 Ideas for Hacksaw Ridge Evangelism

Carrie White Evangelism Practices

With the recent release of Mel Gibson’s moving depiction of the Desmond Doss story in Hacksaw Ridge, many viewers are asking the question— why? Why did Doss refuse to carry a weapon? Why was he so adamant about not training on Saturdays? Why did his faith play such a big role in his life?

hsr-graphic

The movie gives the church an incredibly unique opportunity to step in and answer those questions that viewers are searching for. Our team at SermonView has come up with a couple ideas for how you can do just that:

1. Utilize Bible Study Cards: With an eye-catching design, the Bible study card is made to pique the interest of someone who has heard of or seen the movie. Bible study cards are most effective when they offer a valuable resource to the recipient, and with Hacksaw Ridge there are a number of offers you can make to engage with your community.

2. Host a Documentary Viewing: Invite members of your community to continue lerning about Desmond’s faith by watching Terry Benedict’s 2004 documentary The Conscientious Objector. This is also a great way to get people familiar with your church and a perfect opportunity to invite them to come back again. Promote it throughout your community with a custom campaign kit designed to get noticed.

3. Craft a ‘Faith Like Doss” Sermon: Invite your community to join your congregation for a sermon that outlines Desmond’s Seventh-day Adventist beliefs. Send them an invitation that will grab their interest with a call-to-action to join you and learn more about the faith that made a hero.

4. Share “Hero of Hacksaw Ridge”: The 128-page book, written by Booton Herdon with a postscript by Doug Batchelor, is the exciting Desmond Doss story in book form. This is an excellent alternative for those who prefer to read over viewing the movie.

5. Adopt a #LiveLikeDoss Mentality: Perhaps the most famous words in Doss’ story are, “Lord, help me get one more…” Evangelism Marketing boils down to that very same mentality- just like Doss, our goal is to reach at least one person with the message about Jesus. (And check out the #LiveLikeDoss hashtag on Twitter for inspiration!)

Our Hacksaw Ridge Campaign Kits (vertical and horizontal banners, invitation cards, and more!) are available now starting at just $500. Call 1-800-525-5791 to learn more.

5 Things Your Marketing Team Must Do

Larry Witzel Marketing Practices

The world has changed. Evangelism marketing practices that worked in decades past don’t work the way they used to. By using the tried and true methods of days gone by we leave ourselves destined for diminishing returns. Our best efforts never yield the same results, and many are asking the existential question: Does evangelism even work anymore? But I believe that’s the wrong question. The better question is:

What has changed in this post-modern world? And how do we change our evangelistic methods to adapt?

The fact is, today’s generations are savvy audiences. They can smell hype a mile away, and they can distinguish between reality and hyperbole. They can sense when something is too good to be true.

This means that to be effective in today’s world, evangelism marketing requires an honest approach mixed with an intriguing storyline. You have to compel interests into action, provoking people to leave the comfort of their recliners. But how do we build this level of action without hype or mystery?

We use redundant honesty.

Mystery is no longer the strongest draw. Trick titles, vague suggestions, and confusing images no longer pull a crowd. Straightforward honesty about relevant topics, paired with compelling visuals relevant to today’s culture, is the best way to encourage participation. Of course we need to create interest, but obfuscation does not lead to curiosity. We need to help people understand what they are attending.

This is why effective evangelism marketing is so different today. We need to spot trends and shifts in what people react to, and how they respond. This allows us to craft an authentic message that encourages maximum response in a community.

Redundant honesty is a communication strategy where we approach the interest with transparency and consistency. We focus on the things they do understand, and use that to get them curious about things that they don’t yet understand. This connects us to the audience and speaks to the felt-needs of those you are trying to reach. There is no hype, only truth—a truth that sets people free.

The good news is that there are people in the world who are trained to keep a finger on the pulse of culture, finding ways to leverage this changing culture to communicate more effectively. These people are called marketers. And a few of us even focus on evangelism marketing. These are professionals you can turn to, who will do the heavy lifting of an effective evangelism marketing campaign.

When you’re ready to plan your next evangelistic campaign, here are five things that you should expect your evangelism marketing team to do for you:

  1. Evaluate demographics. This is both art and science. Marketers will start by looking at income levels, age, and ethnicity. But today they also look at voting records, education levels, ratio of homes with children, and traffic patterns to make sure that the audience and the message are tightly integrated. The Direct Marketing Association suggests that proper list management can increase response rates three-fold. Since it is more cost-effective for a local church to saturate a mailing area, the key is to use demographic analysis to determine which carrier routes are best primed for the highest response.
  2. Plan a multi-channel campaign. By communicating your message through multiple channels, you increase response rates across the entire campaign. The question is, which channels should you use? And how much of your budget should be spent in each channel?Evangelism marketers know how to maximize the budget to get the best response. This is because there are a number of factors to consider in every campaign. Although direct mail is still your highest responding paid channel, its performance can be magnified with well-placed ads and signs. Knowing when and how to put the campaign together for maximum effectiveness is the job of your evangelism marketing team.
  3. Hone your message. This may be the best reason to use an evangelism marketing organization instead of just a printer. You’ll work closely with someone who helps you translate church-speak into language that reaches a broader audience. Everyone thinks in terms of their own experience, and many writing styles follow that course. What appears to make sense to a pastor, however, may not resonate with a young mother or a blue-collar factory worker. A good copywriter will help develop a storyline for your campaign that is consistent with the content—helping to ensure that your advertising is targeted to the correct audience.
  4. Create a release timeline. For everything to work together for maximum effectiveness, you need a timeline for each channel. The order of the marketing channels, from signage to mailers, social media to print, must be tactically planned to maximize the number of people walking through your doors. A good marketing team will help educate you on the role your ministry team plays in the marketing, while handling most of the workload themselves to protect your timelines.
  5. Track everything. If the goal of evangelism marketing is to find out how to reach the most receptive people in your community, then data mining is the key to discovery. By acquiring and evaluating data from every campaign, a good evangelism marketing team will uncover trends and determine best practices for churches across the country. The more comprehensive the data, the better the analysis. That allows the entire evangelism community to better understand what works in today’s culture, and to quickly adapt to cultural shifts.

Nearly every Seventh-day Adventist church in North America has active members who came to know Jesus through public evangelism. Evangelistic campaigns continue to be effective at introducing people to the core truths of the church, while beginning to integrate them into the life of the church. A healthy church will include public evangelism in its outreach diet.

When done right, an evangelism marketing campaign will draw people to your event that would not have otherwise come. But the world has changed. Your evangelism marketing methods need to change, too. Working with experienced evangelism marketing professionals will help you make the right changes, increasing your response rate and drawing more people through the doors of your church.

Larry Witzel is founder and president of SermonView, an evangelism marketing ministry that has served thousands of churches throughout North America. Learn more at EvangelismMarketing.com.

Evangelism Isn’t Dead- Pastor Roger Walter

Larry Witzel Case-studies

Dr. Roger Walter“Evangelism isn’t dead!” exclaimed Dr. Roger Walter, senior pastor of the Vancouver, Wash., church. “I still believe that Adventist churches grow differently.”

Dr. Walter recently wrote a blog post about his experience holding the “Apocalypse of Hope” prophecy seminar. SermonView’s role was to develop a marketing package for the event, including a new direct mail piece, a promotional video, roadside signs, and other materials.

“SermonView’s expertise contributed to an exceptional response rate,” said Dr. Walter. He’s been tracking the cost of bringing people through the doors on opening night, and since 2001 his average cost per person is $189. For this event, SermonView’s marketing campaign cut that by one-third, to $125 per person—despite a higher cost per mailpiece.

Dr. Walter is in favor of larger budgets, because it costs money just to get people in the door. “I figured out a long time ago, it’s the same amount of work if 26 people show up or 260 people show up. Spend the money and get higher results.”


Promotional video for Apocalypse of Hope

And what were those results exactly? Nearly two dozen people were baptized as a result of the series. Three of those decisions came on the last night as he made one final appeal to people to get baptized and become part of the body.

“One of those ladies had attended every night,” he said, “but had been holding off. And you could see on her face, ‘I give up…I’ll do it.'”

“It’s a lot of hard work,” Dr. Walter concluded, “but one that is well worth it.”

Read the entire post on the NPUC Adventist Leaders blog.

Spend Less per Guest at Your Next Meeting

Vince Williams Evangelism Practices

The numbers are in, and the results are surprising. By shifting your focus from cost per mail piece to cost per attendee, you can actually magnify your evangelism budget for better results.

Let me explain. None of us are truly focused on the dollars spent, but on the people those dollars bring. By finding ways to get higher response rates on your evangelism marketing campaigns, you’ll get more people through your doors on the same budget.

Here’s an example: If you paid 30% more per mail piece, but received a 50% increase in response rate, you would get more people per dollar spent. You would spend 15% less to get each attendee, and get a bonus of 50% more people at your meeting.

By spending a little more up front, you get a return that exceeds your investment.

I know it sounds crazy. And yet we’ve seen it work consistently throughout 2014.

Better Marketing Gets Better Results

2147507-CostPerGuestChartOkay, so what get’s you a better response rate? Answer: higher quality marketing.

At SermonView, we’re marketing professionals, not just printers. We include an intensive marketing consultation with every campaign, and that extra effort results in a slightly higher cost. However, the result is a significantly more effective mailpiece that draws more people through your doors, delivering a lower cost per attendee.

With over 100 mailings completed in 2014, the data show that 94% of the time, the higher costs of SermonView’s complete evangelism marketing system are more than offset by higher response rates. The end result: a lower cost per attendee. The bonus: more people on opening night.

With this knowledge, there are two approaches you could take.

Option 1: Maintain the Budget

If you have a fixed budget, then reduce your mailing area by 25% by removing the highest-income carrier routes and/or reducing the mailing radius. The end result will be 13% – 50% more people on opening night.

Option 2: Expand the Budget

If you have the flexibility, keep the same mailing area. The end result will be 50% – 100% more people on opening night.

Remember to keep the end in mind. Why does any of this matter? Because better marketing means more people on opening night.


Planning an evangelistic series in the next few months? Call us at 1-800-525-5791 to discuss how better marketing can help you improve your response rates, lower your cost per attendee, and reach a deeper, more diverse audience.

Living with Hope – East Coast

Vince Williams Evangelism Practices

This spring, over fifty churches from across three East Coast Conferences participated in the Living with Hope event. This initiative was a new venture for SermonView; to see if we could apply our in-depth marketing strategies to a multi-church event and still see a good turnout. Add in the fact that the Chesapeake and Potomac areas are a very challenging area of the nation to reach with evangelism, and we knew that this series of events would be a true test.

We worked closely with the Union and Conference leaders to develop a strategy and core artwork. We developed two covers for two different types of demographic environments. As part of the package we made sure to put all of the tracking systems in place to determine the effectiveness of the effort in driving people through church doors. Once the numbers were in we were excited to start sorting through the data. What we found was exciting and will help us all reach more people with a message of hope.

Initial Findings:

Here are a few data points we were able to extract

Churches that offered child care got better response rates: There was a clear 10% increase in attendance for churches in similar demographics that added child care to their meetings.

The subject of your covers matter: This is less about the idea that the cover image matters, as much as what the covers says. We have been testing demographics in connection with subjects. There is a strong correlation between demographic modifiers–like percentage of religious affiliates, national voting record, and average income–in determining which theme is best for your meetings. Of course, the subject needs to be in alignment with your message and we never want to bait-and-switch. However, if there is flexibility in your meeting order and topics, then we can give you great advise to reach more people.

We are excited to continue to work through over 2 million pieces of data to start to pull out trends that we can use to be more effective with our marketing budgets. We will be releasing a complete report this Winter and would love to send you a copy.

Conducting an EDDM Mailing

Vince Williams Uncategorized

Typically, it is in the best interest of a local church to utilize the services of a professional mailing house for your mailers. This is because when we run your mailing we’ll be able to get you the lowest postage rates for your area—in most cases, as low as 8.0¢.

However, there are two times when a standard mailing through us is not your best option.

  1. When you are short on time
  2. When you are wanting to mail less than 4,500 pieces.

In both of these circumstances a program from USPS entitled, Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM), is the correct answer.

EDDM mailings allow for-profit or non-profit organizations a way to reach every door in a given area without extensive knowledge of USPS practices, bulk mail permits, or special designations. The upside is the simplicity. The downside is the additional postage, which will be calculated at a rate of 17.7¢ (based on January 2017 rates.)

EDDM mailings go out within a day of being turned in to a local facility, making them a better option for churches with little time before a meeting.

EDDM mailings require specific sized mailers, special information in the mailing area, and your mailers to be bundled in packs of 100. Luckily, we handle all of those elements for you, so the steps you have are limited.

Here are the steps you’ll need to complete an EDDM Mailing:

  1. Start by visiting the USPS website at https://eddm.usps.com/eddm/customer/routeSearch.action
  2. Start by determining your mailing audience by putting in your starting location.
  1. Once the results appear on the map, select results
    1. Select [SHOW TABLE] and a table of areas will appear over the map.
    2. Select Residential tab right below the address, and choose [RESIDENTIAL ONLY]
    3. Select the routes by clicking on the bar in the table.
    4. Select [HIDE TABLE] at the very bottom of the map, to return to the map view and see where you have highlighted.

  1. Press Continue
  2. Select Drop off date & payment options. Your rate for each mailpiece wil be 17.7¢
  3. Print forms as outlined after checkout
  4. Place facing slips on stacks of mailers based on the instructions.
  5. Take stacks, paperwork, and payment (if you didn’t pay online) to the local post office as listed in your instructions.

 

For complete details on this process you can download the USPS EDDM guide here.

Archaeology Evangelism

Larry Witzel From the Field

pruitt-archaeology“I tell you, I’m not an evangelist!” said Eugene Prewitt, pastor of the Arkadelphia 61-member church. “I haven’t been trained for evangelism, but there’s a desire in me to do this kind of work.”

Pastor Prewitt’s meetings in Fall 2014 used archaeology as the vehicle to teach Bible truth. Titled “Archaeology and Biblical Prophecy,” the intent was to reach a younger demographic in this university town with a full-message series. The church used a multi-touch strategy for reaching their neighbors, including:

  • direct mail
  • personal invitation
  • billboard
  • posters
  • newspaper advertising
  • Internet advertising: Facebook, Google, weather.com

The results were amazing: In their small town of 10,000 residents, the church had 108 guests attend at some point during the 6 week series. Their opening night response rate of 3.6 per thousand actually grew over the first week, reaching as high as 6.4 per thousand.

SermonView handled design for all the various pieces, to maintain a visual consistency across all advertising methods, as well as the printing and direct mailing logistics.

“SermonView has been so helpful to me,” Pastor Prewitt said, “Because of their marketing program, I think that very few people in our target audience were unaware of our meetings. I am happy with the saturation we saw in the community.”

Because of the small target area, SermonView recommended a jumbo card rather than a trifold mailer, to be more cost effective. Pastor Prewitt really liked the form factor. “You know how useful it is that you don’t have to open it?” he said. “It means that even if you throw it out, you can’t help but have seen the message on it.”

The Internet advertising also helped saturate the community. Zip code-specific targeting gave them 150,000 impressions, more than 15 impressions per online users in their town.

“Not one aspect of what we did could be considered periphery or minor,” said Pastor Prewitt. “If we had left any one of them out we would have lost a significant section of our attendees.”

“I’m telling people about SermonView,” he continued. “They do good work.”

Portions taken from Pastor Prewitt’s “Advertising for Evangelism” presentation on AudioVerse.

Skeptical of Higher Response Rates? Me Too…

Larry Witzel Life Lessons

The year 2014 has been a breakthrough year for evangelism marketing at SermonView. After 5 years of some success, grinding it out and learning from our mistakes, we suddenly found a marketing focal point that worked better than anything we’d ever seen. As we honed these discoveries over the following months, we consistently saw handbill mailings with double, triple and even quadruple the previous response rates. It has been truly astonishing.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord” (2 Cor. 10:17 NIV). And Solomon wrote, “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain” (Ps. 127:1 NIV). So I want to be clear: if there is glory in what is happening at SermonView, it is God’s alone.

That doesn’t mean that I can sit idly by. This is exciting news! After decades of progressively declining response rates, down to below one per thousand, we’re suddenly seeing rates of two, three, and sometimes even more than four per thousand! For evangelistic meetings!

Skeptical? Me too. But I’ve seen the data, and it’s unequivocal. Churches across the country are seeing people on opening night that wouldn’t be there if not for the work God is doing through SermonView. I’m excited, and humbled, by the thought.

Don’t believe me? Good. We welcome your skepticism. The world is filled with advertising that shouts lies, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So don’t take my word. Ask around. We’ve done work in almost every conference across the country, and you likely know pastors and evangelists who have used SermonView for their evangelism marketing. Ask them about their results.

Then let’s talk about how we can serve you. Don’t feel comfortable moving your whole budget to us? That’s okay. Let’s do a split test, sending two different mail pieces to different carrier routes in your mailing area. We’ve got systems for tracking the results, and you’ll be able to see for yourself what a difference good marketing can make.

So give us a call, and let’s talk about your upcoming event. We’ll craft a mail piece for you that will improve your response rates, lower your cost per attendee, and reach a deeper, more diverse audience. I’m confident you’ll be pleased with the results.