Finding New Ways to Reach Your Community
Let’s get something clear up front. You can not grow your church. But that doesn’t mean your church can’t grow and you won’t be part of it! God is at work in the world and God can use you and your local church to reach your community and beyond with the Gospel. In fact, you are commissioned by Jesus to do exactly that! You are called to be a messenger of God’s Good News, and to invite people into a relationship with God and into a local community that worships and grows together.
This is the unchanging call of the church. But the way it has carried out has changed dramatically. What worked in 1st century Ephesus didn’t work in 19th century America. Christians in America needed to find new ways to reach their community.
That is true for us today as well. The cultural landscape has changed and what worked eighty, or even ten years ago no longer works. We don’t need a new mission or message for the church. Instead, we need a new and timely vision on how to live out this mission and communicate this message in our communities.
The New "Front Door" for Church Growth
Very few first time visitors will get their first experience of your church driving into your parking lot and walking through your front door. Most visitors will have already had a first impression through the metaphorical first door they’ve already come through: your web presence. Broadly speaking the three separate doors most people will enter are:
1. Google My Business
This is often either the first or last door before a visit (or both). Google has a listing for local businesses called Google My Business (GMB) listing for and displays this in Google searches and Google Map searches. You can easily recognize this listing which is e visible as:
- The map listing at the top of search results. Google will display three listings and have a link to “more places.” Google usually displays this when it knows someone is looking for a type of business.
- The business listing as a box to the side of the search results on PC or the top of the results on mobile that shows information about a business. Google usually displays this when it is clear someone is searching for a specific business.
- The individual results from Google Maps.
The reason GMB happens as the first interaction for many people is because it is the first result they will see when searching for your church or for any church in your area. Because of this is is critical to do a good job setting up your GMB listing so that it will be easy to find (rank higher) and communicate a friendly and inviting message that encourages next steps of visiting your church, your website, or contacting your office.
Whether visitors found your church through a personal invitation, Google search, or social media once they decide to visit your church event or service it is likely they will again use GMB as they use Google Maps to direct them to your church.
2. Your Website
The most important thing your website can do is offer a clear compelling invitation to your church. This is because most people decide whether or not to visit a church by evaluating your website.
There is a reason the about page and staff page are almost always the top rated pages on a website. People are looking at your website to see what your church looks like and what you believe. They are trying to find out if they fit it.
3. Facebook (and social media)
For many social media, and Facebook in particular, is the signpost rather than the front door to your church. It is likely that most people looking to visit your church on a Sunday morning won’t find you through social media, or if they do will need to go to your website before making a decision.
One exception for this is events. Facebook has a robust event platform and events are one of the only ways to really connect with a wider audience through Facebook for free. We highly recommend using Facebook and events and following up with participants to help Facebook become a new front door to your church.
People Matter in Church Growth
These next two on their face aren’t new ideas. Since the beginning of the church both people and God have played a critical role in the growth of the church. What IS new for your church today is the type of people who make up your community and their specific needs and world views.
If your church is going to grow today, it will be by caring about and loving real people in your community and finding ways to connect with them not just as demographics, but as fellow humans. Your church won’t grow by “increasing attendance.” It will grow when you share meaningful invitations that meet the real needs of people in your community and then build real relationships with these people when they come to your church.
Ideas for Connecting with Real People In Your Community
1. Pray for the people who live in your community.
2. Look for ways to meet needs within your community. Remember, most people attend church because of a need to grow closer to God and to help their children or themselves become better people. How is your
3. Gather email addresses and send followup emails to people who connect with your church through special events.
4. Use Facebook ads to send weekly invite videos sharing how your church service will make a difference in peoples lives. You can be inviting thousands of people per month for less than $50.
5. Have a simple and clear guest card and highlight it every service. Be sure to follow up with guests no later than the next morning.
6. Each person is different. Take the time to get to know them- there is no shortcut for this.
"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
What God Can Do to Grow Your Church
There are real things you can do today to be more effective in sharing the gospel. If you invest in your new church front door (GMB, Website, Facebook) and prioritize reaching and caring for people we are confident you will find new opportunities to reach your community.
Unfortunately, none of this is easy. Fortunately, it isn’t a path we travel alone. Church isn’t just another local business trying to adjust to rapidly changing technology and consumers. We are serving a living and real God who promises to be with us each step of the way.
As your church reaches out to share the gospel in new ways and in new places (online), remember Jesus’ promise in the the Great Commission to be with us always. Remember that the Gospel is good news of new life that seems impossible. Remember that in our weakness God is most strong.
Real Reasons for Hope
Church decline is real. There is simply no way to overlook the fact that most churches are losing more members than they are gaining. The percent of people who attend church or find church important is declining in America. The percentage of Christians is declining. Much of this is beyond your control. Wow- that doesn’t sound like a great start to this section on hope. In the midst of this sobering reality, don’t overlook these three truths:
1. Church decline is not guaranteed, many churches are thriving today because of new strategies and God’s presence.
2. There are real steps you can take to more effectively reach more people with the Gospel.
3. Challenges have always fueled God’s work
Don’t buy into the myth that your church can’t grow in 2020. We pray that you can find new ways to reach your community in order to share the Good News of Jesus and the help plug people into authentic relationships that spur on deep discipleship.