Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Best Way to Invite People

What is the best way to invite visitors to your church?

Hold a Special Sunday

What is this and how do you do it?

A Special Sunday is a planned worship service which is aimed and oriented at the needs of people both inside and outside the church. When correctly executed, you can expect an increase in attendance for that Sunday from 10% to 100% over your regular attendance. Here are the guidelines, but you can read more about this in my book "5 Keys for Church Leaders available through Church Publishing.

These must be compatible with the values, personality, and goals of your congregation.

You are limited only by the imagination of those doing the planning.

There are at least five areas that work for a special Sunday.

I. The recognition of special vocation or occupation: health care professionals (Near St. Luke’s Day), firemen, veterans, public education, Day School teachers, scouting.

II. Special liturgical days: 1st Sunday of Lent, Good Friday, All Saints, Pentecost, All Souls. (Remember that Palm Sunday has the largest number of present parish members attending.)

III. National Days: Martin Luther King, Veteran’s Day, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, World Hunger Day, etc.

IV. Others: The anniversary of the founding of the church, the patron saint day, mid-February marriage celebration, clergy ordination anniversary, long-time member recognition Sunday.

V. Community Concerns: keeping kids safe, keeping kids off drugs, Recovery Sunday, Single parents Sunday, Grandparents, etc.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. However, just scheduling a special Sunday will do little.

How to organize a Special Sunday

First, appoint a taskforce of 5 – 7 people who genuinely care about the topic.

Second, have them coordinate with the Preacher of the day and musicians.

Third, make a list of special people to invite.

Fourth, announce this weeks in advance.

Fifth, in the weeks before, announce it and have prayers for the day.

Sixth, encourage members to invite guests based on the theme.

Then, consider a large canvas red banner to drop over your sign or church building advertising the event.

· Plan a possible follow-up event to connect further. For example, a Christian counselor to speak to blended families.

Our first Special Sunday at the Cathedral was a "Harvest Sunday" on the Sunday before Thanksgiving. As part of this, we printed up invitation cards like business cards and gave them to our members for weeks ahead of time. We invited ANYONE in the food business to join us, waiters, caterers, wholesalers, resturant owners and managers. We had a 25% increase in our English Speaking service attendance and a 50% increase at our Spanish service. During the prayers of the people, we invited all such folks forward and annointed their hands with holy oil for their work. It was very moving.

Special Sundays work because it appeals to both un-churched folks and the 60% of your folks not normally in attendance on any given Sunday. BTW, that fast growing Bible Church down the street holds at least 20 Special Sundays a year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What Should You Put On Your Sign?

The most obvious means of inviting people to your church is something every Episcopal Church has, your sign. True, some of you added to this with a listing in the yellow pages. Many of you have added a website. Very few churches actually advertize in the local media. I know of no Episcopal Church that uses billboards. I know some new congregations that advertize in a movie theatre just before the previews start. But all of us have a sign.

What is on Your Sign?

If you have heard me speak on evangelism, you will know that I do not like most Episcopal Church signs. The essential problem is that most of our signs are aimed at the wrong people! Here is a typical example on what is on most signs.

St. John’s Episcopal Church (in bold letters)

Services: 8am Rite I Eucharist

10am Rite II Choral Eucharist

9:15 Church School for all ages

The Rev. Beth Smith, Rector

Clear enough? Actually, notice that this sign is aimed at Episcopalians and primarily current members of the Church. For example, no denomination in America calls it morning worship a “Eucharist,” not even the Greek Orthodox! What is a “rector?” The Roman Church and all protestant churches call this person the “pastor.”

You need to look at your sign as your opportunity to tell the community, particularly the un-churched why they should join you. So, I like to see churches put on their sign a one sentence or one phrase statement that would attract un-churched people. Of course, add the times and other items but do it in less “Episcopal Speak.”

For examples:

Why not “Worship Service” instead of “Eucharist?”

Why not “Nursery available?”

Why not “Pastor, Beth Smith (put Rector in parenthesis)?

For 8am, why not “Traditional”

For the main service “Family,” or “Main” or “Contemporary” (if the word really fits.

And, why not “Christian Education” or just “Education for all ages”

Now for the sentence; should you put your mission statement? It might be better than what you have now. The better alternative is to say to the un-churched what the mission you offer will do for them. Of course such a message must be both relevant to your life (it must be true advertizing) and it must make sense in your community. For example, an Anglican Church in Canada has “All Tribes” on its sign. Given its location near a first nation’s reserve, this was effective.

Here is my favorite from Grace Church, Georgetown, Texas.

“Grace Church - The Family Church of Georgetown.”

It helps to know that Georgetown is the location of Texas’ Sun City for retired adults.

Finally, don’t put on one of those catchy or clever Christian messages like “a day that starts with prayer, doesn’t unravel.” No one has ever attended a church because of a cute message.