When was the last time you spontaneously tried a restaurant? With no recommendation from a friend or a review read on Yelp. You just saw a sign and said, “What the heck, let’s give that a try?”
If you are like many Gen-Xers or Millennials, cold calls to restaurants are not common. Decisions to go to a new restaurant are based on recommendations from trusted friends or online reviews.
That being the case, why do we expect people to walk into our churches simply because we have a pithy quote on our sign? True, we will, on the odd occasion, have a cold call from a seeker or someone new to town, but these occurrences are far from the norm.
What’s far more common is a friend or colleague recommends their church to a friend, just like a restaurant. They do so because they know why they love their church and can articulate exactly what their church does well and what they enjoy about it. It could be a good youth group, a strong music program or a preacher fantastic at liturgy and inspiring and relevant in sermons.
Whatever the reason, if parishioners know exactly why they love their church, they will be able to clearly articulate their feelings with family, friends or colleagues.
So when people ask me to help them promote their church, the question I always start with is this: What is your “because”? Why would someone come to your church? Can you or your parishioners finish this statement quickly and concisely: “You should come to my church because . . .”
If you or your parishioners can’t finish this statement to briefly and effectively describe your church, any outward communication is premature.
If people can’t articulate their experience with a friend, then we shouldn’t expect hundreds of people to flock to our churches on Bring a Friend Sunday or Back to Church Sunday.
The best and oldest form of evangelism is still our parishioners’ social network. But to leverage these networks, whether online or off, we must first inspire our parishioners, educate them, and, most of all, give them permission to go out into the world and tell people that they love their church because . . .