church marketing congregation growth

Church Marketing FAQ: What’s the best way to target your mailing list for congregation growth?

Does marketing your church seem, well, unseemly? Church marketing is necessary in order to successfully reach out into your community to spread your word and invite kindred souls to join your congregation. That means it’s vitally important for ministerial and lay leaders to understand the mechanics of various marketing techniques as well as how to target your church marketing to reach the right people.

Churches grow by word of mouth, of course. But you need to be more proactive to reach new residents, people considering changing churches or people wishing for a spiritual life change. A church postcard is one of the best ways to achieve your marketing goals.

What is your ministry area?

You can target your church postcard for delivery to certain ZIP codes. You can target addresses within a certain radius from your church – typically up to three miles if you’re located in a densely populated area, up to 5 miles in a suburban setting or up to 10 miles in a rural area. Or if you have official parish boundaries, you can target that area.

Create a profile of your congregation.

For many churches, the most effective targeting comes from using a “resident” mailing list that reaches every address in your area. After all, you have no way of knowing exactly who among them will find your message timely and meaningful at any given point.

But no church or congregation appeals to absolutely everyone. Churches of traditional denomination with large congregations may have a different message to deliver than newly-forming non-traditional spiritual groups. And churches that are long-established usually see the makeup of their neighborhood evolve over time.

Understanding the demographics of your membership allows you to more closely target your marketing. Are there age or other demographics you could or should be using to narrow your targeting? Who lives and works nearby? What are your most likely prospects looking for in a church? Are you making an overt effort to appeal to the newest residents in your ministerial area?

Depending on your congregation profile and growth goals, you may want to target your church marketing using selection criteria such as:  

  • Percentage of children, teens/young adults, etc. in the area.
  • Population growth trends – if the nearest neighborhoods are losing population, perhaps you should extend your target area.
  • Average household income.

A properly-designed church postcard sets you apart.

Studies show about 40% of churches identify competition from nearby congregations as a major obstacle to growing their membership. So while targeting the right recipients is critical, equally important is the content of your message. Specifying all your programming activities gives prospects more ways to connect with you:

  • Worship schedule
  • Bible study
  • Sunday school
  • Choir
  • Congregation fellowship activities
  • Community service activities

Also, include convenience factors known to significantly affect people’s church attendance:

  • Ample parking.
  • Distance (include a small locator map).
  • Scheduling options — offering worship services, study classes and other activities at multiple times helps people avoid conflicts with their work hours or children’s school activities.

Ongoing monthly church marketing enables you to attract and retain new members. You can also use your church postcard to:

  • Get the word out about seasonal activities that engage the entire community, such as your live Nativity at Christmas.
  • Build interest in special events such as your annual kids’ camp, couples retreats, etc.
  • Gently encourage renewed of participation from lapsed attendees without singling out anyone personally, in a way that might embarrass them.

Creating a church marketing plan energizes your entire congregation. The process of self-reflection and defining your collective identity and goals brings everyone closer together and gets members of your congregation talking — out in the community as well as among one another. 

photo credit: hoyasmeg via photopin cc

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