The church isn’t an exclusive social club like the Elk Lodge. It isn’t a fraternity like Skull & Bones that requires rigorous hazing to join. It’s not even like a high school or college social culture, in which the enormity of the population serves as a foundation to enshrine the special few of the inner circle.
The church is different from every other social group in the world. It wants to grow—not to serve the special interests of the elders, or to retain the regality of its reputation, or even to be an escape from the world of responsibility. The purpose of the church’s existence can be summed up in one sentence: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and ... love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-38).
Part of loving well is including others in that love. In the context of a community of people, sharing that love looks like growth. And growth doesn’t just occur in overall attendance, but in the quality of engagement.
One of the ways that churches measure engagement is by how many people show up to church events outside of Sunday service. If nobody is coming, why aren’t they coming?
Every church wants attendees at their event, because they love the people in their community. Church events offer new visitors a low-pressure environment to get a feel for the church's culture culture, and it gives existing members an opportunity to connect with each other without the pressure of a formal agenda.
Here are 7 strategies from the event industry that churches can implement in their communications strategy to boost engagement, and foster a deeper sense of community among their members and visitors alike.
1. Create special marketing materials just for the event (no matter how small)
Even if it’s just a prayer night, create special marketing materials for each event.
If you have a brand guide for your church, this is simple. Just apply that brand guide—your logo, color palette, and church fonts—to a stock design or photo, and use it across digital and print platforms.
With a service like VistaPrint, you can get 100 really nice 5x9 cardstock prints that you can hand out to your church attendees, share on social media, use in your email marketing. Ideally, you should ask your members to share these cards with friends and family who don’t attend your church to increase your reach for potential engagement—whether that is sharing the VistaPrint card, forwarding the email, or sharing on social media.
2. Showcase the community element
In your marketing copy, explain how your church event is going to be interactive.
If your church is hosting a concert, don’t just say “Come to the concert!” Get a food truck to come before the concert so that people can have a chance to connect before the event.
Even if you’re hosting something as simple as a prayer night, put on the marketing materials that there will be a 30-minute time of fellowship and food afterward.
3. Promise a special kind of food
If I was a communications director at a church, and I had to choose between a $10,000 event marketing package and a high-res, up-close picture of a juicy cheeseburger … I’d go with the cheeseburger pic 9 times out of 10.
In fact, I would recommend using the food as the hero of the event design, as long as it doesn’t diminish the seriousness of the event. For example, if your church event is a prayer night, you don’t want to print a 5x9 card of a cheeseburger. But it would be wise to print the cheeseburger on the back (or in the corner).
This may feel like a hokey tactic. It’s not. It’s a basic understanding of human psychology. If people have to choose between [blank] and [blank] + food, they will choose [blank] + food every time. They will choose this especially if you appeal to them visually through a picture. Use that to your advantage—especially if you are trying to grow turnout for your next church event.
4. Provide child care
If you don’t have childcare, you will lose 90% of your adults with children. Or, you force only one parent to attend the event. Make sure that you bring your A-game with childcare—all of your fully vetted volunteers whom your members know, like, and trust. When people feel that your church takes security seriously, they will trust you with their kids. And if parents trust you with their kids, they will trust you with their time and money by coming to your church events.
5. Make event registration as easy as possible
Make sure to use an event registration software like Tithe.ly Events. The benefit of using a software like this is that it allows you to track who’s officially registered for the event and syncs with each registrant’s Google calendar to remind them of the event.
With Tithe.ly Events, you can turn any browser into an event registration kiosk. This means that you can simply set up computers, iPhones, or iPads in your lobby area—or even pass them through the aisle in church—to have people register for events.
6. Start promoting the event in church at least 4 weeks out
Make this church event a fixture in your members’ minds. They should think every time they come to church: “I’m so glad he reminded me again.” It’s okay to annoy people with reminders about this event, because they often need these reminders.
7. Send push-notifications through the church app
Often, people are unresponsive to prompts to register for events. This rarely indicates that they aren’t interested in attending the event. Usually, it’s because they’re super busy. It feels like just another task to complete in a sea of a million other tasks.
Use the Tithe.ly Church App to organize events in your church so that you can send push notifications to your users to remind them not only to register, but to go after they’ve registered.
Over to you
This is a simple protocol to boost attendance at your next church event. Make sure you have marketing materials in place—even if they’re simple and small. Tell people why the event will connect them to other people there. Showcase the food. Provide your A-grade childcare volunteers. Make registration as easy as possible with Tithe.ly Events. Start promoting at least 4 weeks out. And finally, use your Tithe.ly Church App to send push notifications to your members.
Sharing God's love with your community through making it as easy as possible for people to participate in your church events sometimes comes down to implementing these simple strategies. Use them to increase God's kingdom in your own community.