3 Online Tools for Improving Your Church Campaigns

Vince Williams Marketing Tools

The message of the gospel has not changed, but the ways that we can communicate it has radically been overhauled by technology. As churches learn to communicate with their members and evaluate various forms of outreach it is easy to get lost in the overwhelming amount of online tools that may, or may not, be useful.

Because of our passion and focus for modernizing evangelistic communication, I have spent many hours trolling the web for sites that offer something unique, and often free, to local churches. Here is a list of the three online tools I have recently found that will benefit your church’s community outreach efforts.

www.neighborlinkup.com: NeighborLinkUp offers a church the ability to create a helping hand ministry, both quickly and efficiently. You can use the site as a way to manage helping projects, ask the community to report on people who need help, and organize teams to engage with the requests. It is pretty easy to manage and can have a great impact on your church’s ability to reach out to the community.

Creative tip: You could generate cards or door hangers that will invite members of the community to list potential projects for their neighbors or themselves. Then your volunteers will have lots of people they can help.

www.eventbrite.com: Eventbrite isn’t specifically a church tool, but it can be a real blessing. Your church can develop a registration page for any event. You can control and manage everything about the registration process including continued emails about the event and event night check in.

Creative tip: We use this tool at my church to organize our homeless outreach ministry. We limit sign ups and people can list the food and supplies they’ll be bringing, so that we have just the right amount of help and all the food we need to feed people.

www.myfreebiblestudy.org: This is a site we developed here at SermonView to reduce the time it takes between when someone responds to a Bible study card mailing, and when you receive that visitation request.

People use the site to respond from a mailing or personal invitation. They place in an offer code specific to your church and are greeted with an introduction from your church coordinator. They then can request an in-home visit from a member of your church. You receive the invitation to visit this person within minutes of their request. This tool allows churches to respond faster than traditional Bible card mailings and reach people while they still feel interest.

Creative tip: Send out a regular Bible card mailing to different areas around your church, at a quantity your church can afford. This will give your Bible worker or volunteers a consistent stream of interests they can visit and develop real, meaningful relationships.

Investigate each of these simple online solutions to find out how your church can start using technology to promote interaction with your local community.

To learn more about how to use MyFreeBibleStudy.org with your next Bible study card mailing, contact us.

The One Thing You Absolutely Must Do to Grow your Church

Vince Williams Marketing Practices

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

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

You must be provocative.

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

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

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

Are we willing to compete?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5 keys to effective, provocative messages

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

3 Barriers to Your Church’s Outreach Success

Vince Williams Evangelism Practices

I grew up outside of the church. During my early high school years I was sent to a Christian school—not because my parents had faith, but because the school offered discipline and structure. As a young man entering this new world I felt confused by the ideas and words that were used around me. Today, as a committed Christian I am deeply implanted in that culture. But I still remember how uncomfortable I felt my first few months of being around committed Christians.

The reality is that the Church has its own subculture. And like any subculture it has its own views, assumptions and language, which can be barriers when communicating with those you want to reach.

For me, there were three barriers that I had to overcome in my journey:

1. The barrier of assumption. Assumption is dangerous in communication. It leaves out the possibility that the ideas you are trying to convey have a distinctly different meaning to the person with whom you are communicating.

As a new student at my Christian school we sang a hymn that used a phrase about us being “lowly.” I now understand that this was referring to the humility we feel from the chasm between what we deserve and what we’ve been given. But as a non-Christian the idea of being lowly was counter to any God I might be interested in. We need to understand that the ideas and phrases we use can be misconstrued by people if they don’t understand the whole story.

2. The barrier of exclusion. It was bad enough that people assumed I was in the same place as them. But more painful than that was the discovery that I would be excluded from the community until I fit in. This “club” mentality is easy to acquire, but dangerous to reaching new people in your community.

The school I attended was like every other school where I had gone; there were cliques and subdivisions that were exclusive to the people within them. If your church is not excited and ready for new people to come in then it will be hard for people to stay past the first visit or two. New families should feel a warm sense of welcome when they walk through your church doors. Unless people feel welcome, no amount of outreach activity will grow your church body.

3. The barrier of fakeness. In order for outreach to be effective there needs to be genuine hunger for new people to come to know Christ. Without that passion, the church can just go through the motions. We can shake hands and smile, but not in a way that feels genuine.

When I started my Christian school experience I was asked to attend service weekly. That’s where I saw people that had their act down. They could say all the right things, and do what they were supposed to during the service. But elsewhere their actions told a story that wasn’t nearly as loving. To me, it looked like they were faking it. I wish there were more who were real with me, remembering how much God loves each person we meet in order to share with them the “light of the world.”

Although my first experience with Christians wasn’t entirely positive, I was eventually won over by God’s love. My understanding of God was impacted by the love and influence of one youth pastor at my school. He took the time to know me as I was and cared for me genuinely as I developed my relationship with Christ. His ability to be caring and real pulled me toward a need to understand the God he served.

In turn, I want to do everything I can to remove these and other barriers for the people around me who are seeking answers. I want to be the light that Jesus calls us to be in Matthew 5:14-16:

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”

The One Reason You’re Not Getting Heard

Vince Williams Marketing Practices

Many churches want to break through the noise of today’s busy culture to reach people for Christ. But even if they do break through, too often it is for just a moment, and the connection is lost before they can build a long-term relationship.

After eight years of helping thousands of churches improve their communication, I have seen one practice that is far and away the most effective approach to outreach communications. Yet it is consistently ignored by most churches. As a result, churches waste money and minimize the results of their community campaigns. By adopting this one approach to church communications, you will become more effective at getting noticed by your community and build a rapport with the families in your neighborhood.

So what is this practice?

Momentum through consistency. Communication momentum means that people have heard of you, and maybe even have an opinion of you. When you have momentum, you can put fewer resources and less energy into your outreach marketing while maintaining your results.

However, many church leaders seem to believe lies that impair momentum. These beliefs may not be spoken out loud, but are often embedded deep in the culture of the congregation. Some of these beliefs include:

  • Reaching the same person more than once gets diminishing returns.
  • Once people say no to an invitation, they won’t ever say yes.
  • It is better to reach as many people as possible once (quantity) rather than reaching fewer people more often (quality).

Once these ideas invade your church outreach philosophy, you’ll find strong headwinds to ever getting heard.

Airplanes use considerably more fuel during takeoff than they do while cruising. Once they are at cruising altitude, they can travel using substantially less energy. Multi-stop flights have a higher average cost per mile because of the shorter cruising period and additional take offs required. Airlines account for this phenomenon when determining their flight costs.

Marketing efforts follow a similar pattern; allowing for you to conserve on resources once you have full air-speed. This proven model is used by today’s fastest growing companies and non-profit organizations, and you should follow it for your church outreach efforts, as well. With it your initial investment in a campaign will allow you to reach more people in your community over time for less money.

This is where too many churches get off course, when they opt to conserve their budget for one or two big draw items: Christmas, Easter, VBS, or a big evangelism campaign. They spend lots of resources and attention on getting seen and heard one time, and then miss the opportunity to maintain that channel of communication throughout the year.

This can have multiple adverse effects on your church outreach.

  1. You waste money. Gaining momentum is costly; maintaining it is cheaper and easier. You waste financial resources by taking off once or twice a year without doing something more with it.
  2. You expend energy. Not only do you waste money by not maintaining momentum, but you expend a lot of creative energy coming up with new concepts from scratch.
  3. You never gain credibility. When someone receives regular communication from your church, you can gain the credibility that comes from becoming recognized for your ongoing ministries.
  4. You miss ministry opportunities. When you don’t create an ongoing stream of communication, you miss the opportunity to touch a person during their specific time of need.

With such compelling evidence against inconsistent promotion, why do churches still engage in the practice? Because anything that involves momentum requires patience and discipline. And although we may be good at applying these traits to our spiritual journey, they often don’t make it into church administrative issues.

So how do you increase the long-term effect of your outreach without heavily impacting your budget? Here are a few questions to consider when addressing your upcoming outreach efforts:

  • Do you have a follow-up method? Once you have spent the resources to engage someone in the community you should be able to do it again for less. But the key is to move closer into the person’s communication circle. This means email, Facebook, or even phone numbers can be your new form of communication with this person for other upcoming activities. If you don’t collect any contact information you’ll lose any momentum you have with that person.
  • Do you have a follow-up activity? Do they know what to do next to stay engaged with your church?
  • Do you have a follow-up person? Having the first two elements are great, but if no one is there to handle this aspect you may lose your opportunity to develop a relationship with your neighbor.

By committing to a consistent program of outreach you can develop a presence with your community that requires less fuel to maintain.

To conclude, here are three ways that SermonView can help your church build momentum through consistency:

  1. New Mover’s Cards: Our New Neighbors program offers a church the opportunity to reach people who have just relocated, whether across town or across the country. This card is more than an invitation. It may be a lifeline for a family in a world dominated by isolation. This program automatically mails a card to new movers based on your church’s budget and/or geographic reach. The best part? You receive the list of addresses so that you can follow up with a personal letter or house-warming gift.
  2. Bible-study Cards: Sending out a monthly mailing to stay in front of your neighbors can be a good way to develop trust and build recognition. You can send out cards that tell people about upcoming sermon topics or offer people an opportunity to join a small group or one-on-one Bible study. We offer response methods such as website registration and toll-free numbers. By collecting information you have an opportunity to develop a connection with the recipients, and by sticking to a range closer to your church you can afford to send something out more consistently.
  3. Rotating Banners: Many of the faster growing churches in our area change their signage regularly. By rotating out your outdoor signs every month you engage local traffic at a very low cost to your budget. Use this tool to communicate upcoming events, invite people to church, or keep them engaged with various seasonal signs. The important thing is to come up with a schedule and make sure to stick with it.

The key to developing momentum is consistency. This applies both to outreach marketing or your church’s volunteer efforts in the community. If we want to see real momentum in the growth of a local church we need to stop thinking in terms of trying to rocket our way to a big turnout and think in terms of developing a long-term flight plan.

5 Effective Ways to get New People to Church

Vince Williams Marketing Practices

Easter is the biggest day of the Christian year. It is the day we celebrate Christ’s love and His defeat of death through His resurrection. On this day, we remember that climactic moment in history, when Satan lost and God won.

It is for this reason that many who normally do not attend church will seek one out to attend. This is the one time a year where you know there are families looking for a church. Therefore it is this time of year that churches should make their biggest push toward outreach through invitation.

Here are some great ideas for doing it cost-effectively and with a little creativity.

1. The personal invitation. The best form of invitation is a personal one. Anytime a person can hand someone else an invitation the value of that invite goes up greatly. This year create an invitation that begs to be handed out. Design a folded greeting card and envelope with a personal invitation built in. People love seeing their name on an envelope and digging inside to discover the words of affirmation awaiting them. Make the card a general sentiment of good will with a little invitation thrown in. Have members of the church grab 5 cards and envelopes each, then have them write the names of the people they would love to invite on the envelopes. This will help remind them to hand these out. A nice-looking card with a positive message will draw members in and help to overcome their fear of inviting someone to church.

2. Put up a new sign. Many churches are located right next to one of their best assets for inviting new families: their road. If your church is located on a fairly busy street, then you have the opportunity to capture the minds of those drivers as they pass by. The question is what do you say? Many churches have opted for fun sayings or basic service times. While these may be effective for the day-to-day of your church, Easter is a special time that requires a special sign. Full-color banners catch the eye, or if you have invested in a backlit sign there are unique materials that can turn it into a full-color sign that will definitely get noticed. The key is to keep it simple and inviting. “You are invited” in big letters is a good way to start. People don’t need to know to everything about your church. Mostly they just need to know it is OK to show up.

3. Mailed invitations. Many churches feel that mail is just too expensive. Although mailing does require some investment, it can be an excellent way to reach people outside of your members’ influence, especially at Easter. A 10,000 piece mailing can run as little as 23¢ per household. During Easter it is very typical that a well-crafted postcard will see 5 families or more per 1,000 postcards respond to the invitation. That is a cost of $46 to get a new family into your church. And this can potentially pay for itself: If one of the five families becomes an active, giving member of your church, their new financial contributions could pay for the mailing within months.

The key to a successful mailer is a combination of great design and a good offer. Check out the best practices for a successful mailing in our previous article, “The 10 Commandments of Church Mailings

4. Get social. Churches are still in the throws of discovering how to use social media in relevant and effective ways. Easter is a great opportunity to utilize your social network to get the word out about your Easter plans. Design a fun digital invitation that you can post to your Facebook page. Then ask all of your members to “Like” your page and your invitation. They can in turn throw out invitations throughout their network by referencing your invite. The power of social media means that you could reach out to thousands of people in a matter of days, if you can get everyone with an account from your church participating.

5. Email invitations. Every church should find ways to take advantage of the cost-effective world of digital invitations. Create a landing page designed with your specific Easter information, and then develop a tell-a-friend invitation that matches. This way your members can use the email addresses they have to invite people to your church. The invitations still have a personal feel, but generally members don’t have quite the same fear associated with a face-to-face invitation. If developing a tell-a-friend feature seems intimidating, there are a number of online services. (Our team offers a registration page and tell-a-friend for $295.00 that can be used for both invites and to get people to pre-register for a specific service time.)

The key to seeing more people come through your doors this Easter is visibility. The demand is already there, all you need to do is let people in your community know that your doors are wide open.

Growing Your Church by Meeting Their Needs

Vince Williams Evangelism Practices

People in your community have needs. Those needs, or unmet needs, are what drive people to buy things, to get out and socialize in bars and clubs, and to choose habits that are destructive to their lives. Those same needs are also the reason someone attends a local church. So, how do we speak to people’s needs in our evangelism efforts? And how do we do it with a resounding truth that will stir them to action?

People are designed to take care of their own needs. Ephesians 5:29 says ”After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church—.” This verse seems to be at odds with the faces of the public we see every day. It appears that so many of the people we meet truly don’t care about themselves at all. The truth is they have bought into a lie: that their needs can be met through the idols of this world. If we are to offer them a rescue plan, then we need to speak to those same needs that have driven them into their current dilemmas.

There is a hierarchy to human need. People cannot concern themselves with a deeper need until they have resolved the more primal ones. The most popular model on this hierarchy is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Although this theory lacks a Christian perspective it does outline the needs people are aware of in their lives. We know the answer to all of these is Christ’s love, but we cannot simply say those words and expect a consistent response. We are to be the hands of Christ (meet the needs of the broken) in order for people to turn their eyes to the heavens.

Using Maslow’s Hierarchy as a framework, let’s look at the basic needs of every human:

Physiological Needs: These needs are all about the physical nature of man. These needs include food, water, sleep, and shelter. If these needs are not being met then a person is incapable of concern about their higher level needs. In the eighth chapter of Mark, Jesus illustrates this perfectly as He feeds the masses.

Safety: This is the need for security. Secure employment, resources, health, family all need to be addressed at this level. Many people today stay focused on this needs level. Church communication that focuses on Safety can be very successful.

Love/Belonging: This is where people become aware of their need for companionship. Love, friendship, and intimacy all fall in this level.

Esteem: This need is primarily derived from our feeling of value from others. It is also where people assess their own value.

Self-Actualization: This is where Christianity and Dr. Maslow take a strong parting of ways. His version of self-actualization involves developing the self. As Christians we understand the opposite to be true. As it is written in Philippians 2:3-4, “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.” However the outcome is in many ways the same: focus on interest outside of self, respect for others, ability to discriminate between good and evil.

Although this template of human development is not perfect it does illustrate the keys to reaching people in your community. But in order to better understand its application we need to first look at the problem.

Where do we stand?

Before considering the needs of others, let’s first look at our own needs. All of us have unmet needs that we are attempting to give up to God, but for the most part church leaders have grown to a place of self-actualization. We are working toward growing our relationship with God and learning to focus on things outside ourselves. This is good. This is why we have a heart for the lost, because God has rescued us and demonstrated how he can meet our needs. The challenge is that this leaves us far from the people we want to reach. Our needs and theirs are no longer the same. How do we learn to focus on the needs of our community without supplanting our own needs into the communication?

First, create a needs profile. The community surrounding a local church may fall into a specific need level. Assessing the needs of your local community, you can create a “needs profile.” Developing one of these is a great way to determine how you want to communicate with the families in your area. Work through each of the levels of needs to determine which one requires the most assistance in your neighborhood.

Second, articulate the need. Each community will be unique, so it is important to be specific when addressing the need. By tapping into specific needs you build trust that you can help fulfill the unmet desires of people’s hearts. For example, if there is a lot of financial turmoil in your area due to a closed factory, mention the closure and address the fear that people have lost their security.

Third, point to the solution. By addressing a need you show that you have the potential to understand the solution. The better you articulate step two, the more successful you will be building trust in the solution.Remember, the solution must stay focused on the present need. If you jump ahead to illustrating the solution to our need for esteem, self-value and God’s presence, you may lose some people still focused on their current pain.

Following this process can lead to clarity in your ministry opportunities. If you live in a low-income area, then physiological needs will be a major focus of your outreach. You can also combine various needs to hit a large range of people. For example, families spend a lot of their energy on physical needs. People need food, shelter, and clothing to live. Adding a meal to an event is a great way to up attendance by offering a solution to a base need.

Needs-based outreach is only one tool in reaching your community for God. But remember, Satan uses this same approach to stealing the hearts of the people in your community; we can use it to win them back.

Vince Williams is Vice President for Marketing at SermonView. He ran his first direct mail campaign 20 years ago, and enjoyed it so much that he has been involved in sales and marketing work ever since. For the last 8 years Vince has dedicated himself to helping churches communicate better and market themselves more effectively. Vince lives with his wife in Vancouver, Wash.

7 Lessons from 10 Years of Ministry

Larry Witzel Life Lessons

Ten years ago, my life changed.

Back then I had big plans for my life. I had tried pastoring early in my career, but found it stifling. (I was also pretty bad at it.) So after working in public relations for a few years, I earned an MBA and went to work in high-tech product marketing. I worked for a Fortune 500 company, as well as some little Internet startups with big plans. My goal was to hit a home run, retire young, and go start a church plant.

God had other ideas. And ten years ago, almost to the day, instead of just letting me pursue my own plans, he drew me into a job where I got to serve pastors and local church leaders. I loved it. And out of that experience, SermonView was born.

As I reflect on these last ten years of serving local churches, here are some things I’ve learned:

1. Effective is more important than innovative.

There are always better ways to do something. The world around us is constantly changing, so we have to continue to innovate in order to keep up.

Personally, I enjoy innovation, and in the beginning I pushed churches to do things in more innovative ways. But I came to realize that the ultimate goal is not innovation for its own sake; the goal is effectiveness. Just because it’s a new way, doesn’t mean it’s a better way. Maybe I’m turning into an old fuddy-duddy, but I now believe that if something is working, don’t change it. Especially when you’re dealing with volunteers running ministries on a weekly basis, there had better be a good reason to make a change. If it’s going to make you more effective, then make the change. Otherwise, leave well enough alone.

Similarly, I had some ideas for marketing evangelism meetings that were really innovative. But we tested some of them, and they didn’t work as well. I never in a million years thought I would ever say this, but if the beasts of Daniel and Revelation on the cover of a mailer are effective (and for some prophecy seminars, they really are), then use them.

That said, you must continue to innovate, or your effectiveness will drop over time. But I no longer innovate for its own sake; the goal of innovation is effectiveness.

2. Problems are God’s, not mine.

God is a whole lot smarter than me. It took me a while to figure it out, but when I let God work through me to do His work, things get a whole lot easier.

A few years back, I read about an encounter someone had with Dr. Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ. As the story is told by his son, a reporter from a Christian magazine asked him, “Dr. Bright, share with us a problem from your life that the average Christian could relate to.”

“I don’t have any problems,” Dr. Bright replied.

The reporter pressed, “Don’t over-spiritualize this. We all have problems.” The reporter repeated the question several different ways, to the same response.

Finally, Dr. Bright looked him in the eye and said, “Young man, you need to understand something. I am a slave of Jesus, and a slave doesn’t have problems. It is not the slave’s responsibility to be successful, but simply do what the Master asks. When you understand this, you realize you don’t have problems. All that’s left are opportunities to see the Master work.”1

That idea continues to transform my life. SermonView is God’s ministry. It allows me to really live the words of Paul: “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand” (Phil. 4:6, 7). I don’t need to worry about anything, because God has already worked out solutions to the challenges we face as a ministry. I just have to obey.

3. Money follows ministry.

God has access to financial resources I can’t even dream of—and I have a pretty good imagination. As God said through the psalmist, “I own the cattle on a thousand hills” (Ps. 50:10). If I’m doing the work he is asking me to do, then He’ll take care of paying for it.

Early on, we had some pretty dark days, as we grappled with the financial needs of SermonView. And a couple of years ago, as the global banking crisis caught up with us, we lost several key lines of credit all within a few months. My instinct as an MBA is to focus on the financials. The fundamental purpose of a business is, after all, to make money, and I was trained to look there first.

But I had to quit thinking like that. It was only by focusing on our ministry to local churches that we were able to push through these times. Yes, we had limited resources, but we looked at how we could use them to maximize our impact on those we serve. And God has blessed. Oh man, has He blessed. The last 18 months especially have been an absolute rocket ride, because we focused on the ministry, not the money. We don’t ignore financial issues; they just weren’t our primary concern. And I can testify that in my experience, money follows ministry.

4. Growing churches invest money in marketing.

By marketing, I don’t mean the sinister lies of materialism and vanity propagated by Madison Avenue. I’m simply talking about systematically communicating with the people around your church.

We began to shift the focus of SermonView toward printed visual communication when we saw how big an impact it can have on the life of a congregation. I don’t want to spend a lot of time on this, because we’ve written many previous articles on the topic. And if this sounds self-serving, then don’t use SermonView if we’re not meeting your needs. But please, do something.

The churches who are really committed to reaching the lost—and who are most successful at it—use every tool at their disposal. I’ve been surprised at how effective bimonthly postcard mailings can be for a local church. And for major evangelistic events, I’ve seen that a complete, coordinated marketing plan, including handbill mailings, posters, banners, and tactical media advertising, can really bring people through the doors.

5. Persevere.

My best friend in high school used to say, “My hobby is starting hobbies.” I was right there with him. I wasn’t really known for sticking with something and finishing well.

That has changed. When asked the secret of his success, Andrew Carnegie said, “Put all your eggs in one basket, then watch that basket.” Well, for me SermonView is that basket. It wasn’t until our 5th year that we really hit our stride, and I’m so glad we didn’t quit when it got hard.

Peter included “patient endurance” as one way we respond to God’s promises. Then he wrote, “The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 1:5-8). It is only by persevering through adversity that anything of substance is accomplished.

6. You can’t do it alone.

Halfway through our first year, we decided not to fill an open position to save some money. So for about 6 months, I handled all our shipping. At first, I was pretty good at it. But after a while, I was barely functional. I would get a headache thinking about coming in to do this job. I was cranky. No one wanted to be around me. One day, after I exploded over some little thing, Vince took me aside and said, “Maybe it’s time to bring in someone to handle shipping for us.” Good call. I was so stuck in the mire, I was blind to the fact that I’m not wired to do shipping every day.

This team that God has brought together at SermonView is simply amazing. I love the work our design team does. Our customer service team actually cares about our customers. Vince’s sales and marketing leadership is exactly what we need. Each one brings unique gifts and talents that together are far more than the sum of our parts.

Beyond that, it deeply moves me to think of all the people who have supported this ministry in the last ten years, from pastors who champion what we do to my family and close friends. There’s no way we could be here without them.

And every time I see someone else doing shipping, it makes me happy.

7. I love pastors.

I have always had a desire to support pastors in ministry, but it wasn’t until I was actively serving them that I discovered how much I truly love pastors.

Bill Hybels has said, “The local church is the hope of the world, and its future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders.” I agree. Jesus called every local church into existence to be His body, to share His love, to tell His story. Without believers regularly coming together, He can’t do that. And without leaders, there is no coming together.

We founded SermonView to help pastors communicate more effectively in a visual world, both with their congregations and with their surrounding communities. I have such deep respect and admiration for these men and women who get up week after week to preach, who are interrupted daily by needy people, who can only do what they do because they let God flow through themselves as broken vessels. When I think of all this, I feel my heart burning with a desire to help, to take something off their plate, to use my gifts to serve those who serve so selflessly.

If you are a pastor, I just want to say this: THANK YOU! Thank you for everything you do. And thank you for letting my team and me be a part of your ministry. I’m humbled and honored by the trust you put in us, and it is my true delight to serve you.

It’s been a terrific ten years. I can hardly wait to see what the next ten will bring.

Larry Witzel is Founder of SermonView. A former pastor, Larry has 18 years of marketing and public relations experience, and for the last 10 years has used his gifts to help church leaders communicate more effectively. Larry earned his MBA in marketing from the University of Washington, and lives with his wife and two children in Vancouver, Wash.

1Brad Bright, written in the forward to Bill Bright, My Life is not My Own (Ventura, CA: Gospel Light, 2010), p. 11.

Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Is Every Day Direct Mail right for Churches?

Vince Williams Marketing Tools

Mail is a powerful tool for reaching people in a church’s local community. The challenge is that costs and complicated postal regulations can make mailing a big challenge for churches inexperienced in the inner workings of the postal system.

Recently, the US Postal Service has introduced a new program to simplify the maze of paperwork and procedures required for mailing, called Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM). While it is not a perfect fit for all outreach efforts, it is a great way to save money and time for certain church mailings. Here’s a look at this new program.

What EDDM is
Every Door Direct Mail is a new service from the US Postal Service that allows a local organization to mail flat-sized mail pieces to every home in a neighborhood for 14.2¢ per mailer.

One advantage to EDDM is that a mailing permit is not required. A mailing permit costs hundreds of dollars per year, and adds a layer of complexity to the standard mailing process. Because no postal permit is required, EDDM mail can be taken into your local post office and given right to a postal worker at the front counter.

The post office has supplied a pretty effortless online system for determining the number of addresses in a given area and instructions on the forms you need for the mailing.

This new program can save a local organization substantial time and money on their mail pieces. However, it also has restrictions that make it limited in its value, especially to churches, primarily because it does not offer any additional benefits for being a non-profit.

What EDDM is not
EDDM is not an open ended way to reach your neighbors at the lowest price. First, EDDM has multiple restrictions: your mailer has to be a “flat” size (minimum 11-1/2 inches long and 6-1/8 inches wide); you can’t mail more than 5,000 pieces in a given day; mailers have to be bundled in groups of fifty; and the mail piece must go to every home in each selected carrier route.

In other words, if you want to mail an 8-1/2″ x 5-1/2″ postcard, or an 11″ x 17″ trifold mailer, you can’t use EDDM. Nor can you use this new service if you want to mail more than 5,000 time-sensitive pieces, or mail to select addresses in an area.

Furthermore, the post office offers better discounts to non-profit organizations wanting to saturate their area for a large outreach event or evangelism campaign, with postage as low as half the cost of EDDM. These discounts are not as simple or manageable by a local church, but are certainly more cost-effective.

When EDDM is right
EDDM is perfect for saturating smaller areas of a community where the ease of paperwork and lack of permit will be a savings over the lower rate of postage you get using the traditional non-profit discounts. For example, if you mail 1,000 jumbo postcards to a neighborhood for your summer VBS program your cost using EDDM would be $450; versus traditional direct mail at around $550. However, once you get into a larger campaign volume, like 10,000 pieces, you would spend around $300 more to handle the mailing yourself than to have someone like SermonView handle it for you.

In the end, even with the new program church mailing can be confusing for churches. And many smaller print shops and mail houses are not familiar with the unique requirements for non-profit mailings. For years now, SermonView has worked exclusively with local churches. We understand how to save money on mailings from just 500 on up to 100,000 pieces.

Don’t be confused by the various options. Just know that the post office is working to make direct mail even more effective for you, and SermonView will continue to watch the maze of ever changing policies to get you the best deals on your mailing campaigns.

Vince Williams is Vice President for Marketing at SermonView. He ran his first direct mail campaign 17 years ago, and enjoyed it so much that he has been involved in sales and marketing work ever since. For the last 5 years Vince has dedicated himself to helping churches communicate better and market themselves more effectively. Vince lives with his wife in Vancouver, Wash

Evangelism Lessons from Super Bowl Sunday

Vince Williams Evangelism Practices

It’s time to love American made. At least that is the message Chrysler paid $9 million dollars1 to tell us last Sunday during the Super Bowl. And whether you are an American car lover or not, the ad had impact. In fact, most Super Bowl ads do. But why? Is there something that churches can learn from these over-priced ads to help us better reach people for God?

Let’s take a look at three of last weekends Super Bowl ads, and see what we can glean. (You can view these ads here at the Wall Street Journal Super Bowl ad site.)

1. VW “The Force”

According to the Wall Street Journal online survey, this ad is the overwhelming favorite. This is not because people love Star Wars, but because people resonate with the heart of a dad for his son.

As a church, we have to learn to speak the language of the heart. Jesus uses feeling language throughout His ministry to help people understand heavenly issues. He didn’t describe heaven; he told people what the Kingdom of Heaven is like. Today, the name of Jesus may not mean anything to someone in your neighborhood, but the story of the lost sheep speaks to the heart. Make sure to communicate in universal ways that pre-believers can relate too.

2. GoDaddy.com “Girl” (don’t watch this)

Go Daddy’s Super Bowl advertising is well known for crossing the boundaries of good taste. Some might argue that these ads are more about the ego of Bob Parsons, the company’s owner, than about good marketing practices. But I think there are two things we can learn from these ads:

First, the ad is just a step in the process. Every Go Daddy ad starts with some ridiculously provocative scene, and ends with the line, “See what happens next at GoDaddy.com.” Their goal is to get people to the website, and it works. People hooked by curiosity take action.

The Church is too often afraid to use curiosity as a tool in evangelism. Here at SermonView, we see too many handbills trying to give too much information. You’ve got to pique curiosity, then ask them to take the next step. We need to create a compelling offer, and then let people search their hearts and decide if they are willing to take action. Those that do will be more committed to investigating the truth when they attend your church.

Second, don’t be afraid to offend people in order to reach your target. Every year there are a few ads that are ranked near the top of both the best and worst ads. As of this moment, Go Daddy’s “Girl” ad was ranked 6th best and 3rd worst in the Wall Street Journal online poll. Some love it, some hate it. The ad evokes a strong response, and Go Daddy is willing to offend some in order to reach others.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “But we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (1 Corinthians 1:23, 24). He also spoke of “the offense of the cross” (Galatians 5:11). Jesus himself offended people (Matthew 15:12). Clearly, the gospel has always offended some.

Here’s an example of putting this principle into practice. We’ve worked with churches to send out mailings with images of apocalyptic beasts on the cover, and we regularly hear from offended recipients. Yet those very images intrigue others, leading them to learn more about Bible prophecy and more deeply commit to Christ and a community of faith. We don’t want to be intentionally offensive; but we can’t be afraid of offending some in order to reach those who are ready to hear God’s message of hope.

3. Audi “Release the Hounds”

This ad was another favorite this year. Its single goal was to change your perception of Audi and its place in the luxury car world. Without attacking Mercedes directly, it clearly said Audi was better.

The media increasingly portrays the Church in a negative way. Well, it is time that we set the record straight. We have solutions to many of today’s most pressing problems. With the Bible as our guide we are experts in marriage, healthy living, job ethics, and so much more. We are witnesses to the miraculous power of the Spirit in our own lives and the transforming power of a relationship with Jesus.

It’s time we invite people to hear from the Creator of this life on how to live, instead of letting Hollywood tell our story for us. Our communication should simply focus on the facts. We don’t need to say the world is bad; people know it’s broken. It is about pointing to a better way of life.

Super Bowl ad success is not a fluke. Wieden+Kennedy, the company that produced the two-minute Chrysler spot and several other Super Bowl ads this year, have spent millions of dollars and endless hours to discover how to reach people with a message that connects. Their expertise has led them to create some of the best and most memorable commercials of this decade.

Yet without a single focus group or market survey, Jesus told this story that has connected with hungry souls for thousands of years:

Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:4-7 NIV).

Now that’s a moving story. Let’s see a Super Bowl ad hold up like that for two thousand years.

Vince Williams is Vice President of Marketing for SermonView. He is passionate about using his 17 years of marketing and business experience to help churches find effective ways to communicate in their local communities. He lives in Vancouver, WA. with his lovely wife April.

1 http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20110207/FREE/110209919

Scripture quotations  taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

The Four F’s of Church Marketing

Vince Williams Marketing Practices

Almost every week, as I talk with church leaders about their upcoming evangelism efforts I’ll hear this phrase: “Mailings don’t work.” And it’s true, mailings don’t work…unless they’re done properly. Firing off a mailing without a good plan is a waste of church funds, but by using some proven principles that have been honed by direct marketing professionals over decades, you can effectively reach interests through the mail and start to see new faces coming through your doors.

Your church mailer needs to accomplish two goals with each home it reaches:

1. It needs to get read.
2. It needs to elicit a specific response.

Additionally, it also needs to be cost effective, and must represent the truth in an uncompromising fashion.

These break down into the four principles of an effective mailing: frequency, function, funds, and faithfulness.

Frequency
The first glaring variation between a professional’s approach to mailing and that of the local church is frequency. Frequency is the cornerstone to any successful marketing program. A recipient is unlikely to take any action on your invitation the first time it is seen. When weeding through mail it is easy to ignore anything that doesn’t immediately catch your attention, and frequency helps your brain to say, “Oh, this is familiar.”

When I worked in secular marketing I was hit with the same concerns and objections that I hear today from local churches. Funds are low so we’ll just make one quick attempt and blame the medium when it doesn’t work. We want to do just enough to say we tried. This philosophy isn’t shared by large companies, or large churches for that matter. They understand that consistent communication increases response. The human brain is wired to distinguish between things that are familiar and things that aren’t. You definitely want to be on the familiar list.

Try sending a mailing to a smaller radius every month for six months. You can change the mailer, but keep consistent with the logo, the general feel, and the call to action. You can send one per sermon series, or just a general invite focusing on different aspects of your church.

So if consistent messaging is so powerful, why can’t you just send a card with nothing but your name on it? Well, the answer to that falls under the next point…

Function
Frequency has gotten households to notice that you have something to say. Now make sure you say it well. Remember, the goal of your marketing is to incite a response. Here is where many churches fall short. They assume the message is either:
• Jesus loves you; or
• stop by and visit.
Both are great messages, obviously, but the reader is unlikely to care about either without more information. You wouldn’t care if you got a mailer that said Bob loves you or stop by my no-name store. You wouldn’t care unless you knew Bob or knew what was waiting for you in the store.

Although the message of Jesus is always our primary goal it will be hard to explain his divinity and love in one simple postcard, therefore I believe churches should focus their attention on the invite. The key to a good invite is to let people know what they are going to find. A good birthday invite lets you know you will see friends, have food, have a little fun and most likely eat cake. The same is true for a church invite. Are there friendly people there? Are there kids? Is the music good? Is the message applicable to life today? Is there something unique about your church family that people will find endearing? These are all good components to a church invite.

Here’s a sample of a card we recently printed that I think hits the mark.
Postcard_sample

Funds
As a church, making money is obviously not your goal. But money is just as clearly necessary for a church to function effectively. So how do you fund this kind of consistent marketing? Well, God has a plan. He knows it is going to take money to move the message of the church forward, and He established a system for its continued financial growth: tithes and offerings.

On a practical level, mature disciples support the church financially. As God works through a church to grow maturing disciples, He funds the work through these gifts. That means that as you draw new members into an environment that fosters spiritual growth, these new members will add to your financial base. From a purely financial perspective, effective outreach funds itself.

Example: If a church sends 10,000 cards out to a neighborhood every other month for a year, they can expect to see 100 families walk through their door over the course of that year. Assuming just 1 in 5 families stay you will have acquired 20 new families. Based on standard tithing and offering rates of American families today,1 contributions from the new families alone will cover the mailing costs within 8 months. In business, you would call that return on investment. In ministry, we’ll call that effective evangelism, and once you have that engine running your outreach will fund itself.

Again, the church should not be focused on making money. But I know that God can and will bless your outreach efforts, both spiritually and financially.

Faithfulness
So you have a solid plan. You have planned for frequency, created a functional outreach tool, and set aside initial funds to start the campaign. Is the mailer telling the truth in an uncompromising fashion?

This is where a lot of church committees run aground. Some members of the church want to do something that is completely post-modern with no mention of anything biblical, while others want to just put a picture of Jesus on the cover of the card. I believe the answer lies firmly in the middle. Biblical truth is as relevant today as it has always been. But truth isn’t defined by our internal “Christian-speak.” Truth is universal, and there are always ways to communicate it clearly within today’s culture.

For example, I recently passed a church displaying a banner that said, “We love you! But not in a weird way.” Now that is uncompromising truth with a fun modern feel. It is also a church that is growing and reaching new people. In the end, that is what it’s all about.

By taking into account these four F’s your church will be able to reach people more effectively for less money, and with more success.

Need help creating a church mailing campaign?
We’d love to help. SermonView has a team of designers and marketing experts ready to help you get the most out of your next mailing. Give us a call at (888) 336-3048 and see how we can use our expertise to serve your church.

1 http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/18-congregations/41-new-study-shows-trends-in-tithing-and-donating?