Sometimes our church outreach events are our community’s best kept secret. We do a great job planning them—safety clinics, classic car shows, sportsmen’s dinners, sports tourneys, dinner theaters, Christmas pageants—but, often, only a few people outside the church family know about them. We need an effective plan for promoting these events in our communities.
Here’s my suggestion: start by training your church family to see the importance of their own word-of-mouth publicity. Nothing can replace the impact of committed Christians who are actively inviting their unsaved neighbors, relatives, friends, and coworkers to events that will include a gospel presentation. But that’s just a starting point. I’ve discovered that successful event planning includes a broad promotional strategy.
Build on personal invitations and worship-folder announcements with a detailed action plan to get the word out. Consider the following ideas (these will not take a ton of time or finances) as you devise your own proactive strategy to promote your next community-wide event.
A promotional page on your church website. Make sure your website is up to date and as sharp as it can be (the importance of a good website cannot be overemphasized). Then add a link to a special events page that attractively advertises the event.
Door hangers. Enlist volunteers (this is a great youth project) to go door-to-door in the neighborhoods nearest the church; expand to other areas as resources allow. Make sure the door hangers are attractive and event specific. Check out door hanger ideas at www.outreach.com.
Temporary signs. Place a banner-type sign on the church property a few weeks before the event. It’s a good reminder to church members, and the change in scenery in front of the church can get the attention of those who drive by regularly. Even better, ask for permission to place these large signs at other locations around town.
Direct mail postcards. When attractively done, these are effective. They can be mailed to specific zip code addresses or new move-ins, and can be used by church members as they interact with friends and coworkers. Preprinted ones that can be personalized can be purchased through www.outreach.com.
Yard signs at members’ homes. A church in Chicago has used this approach with some success. But remember, concise wording and attractive presentation are important, since this type of sign is small.
Weekly ads in a local paper. This works most effectively in small towns. My suggestion is to ignore the weekend religion section and place sizable ads (as big as you can afford) in the sports or living section.
Posters in local retail stores. There’s usually no cost for this—except the posters themselves—because many local businesses offer free use of community bulletin boards. Make your poster colorful and attention getting (community bulletin boards are usually cluttered). And ask permission before putting them up.
TV and radio announcements. Prepare a concise description of the event and explain how to find more information.
Flyers sent home with schoolchildren. Depending on the type of event—and often as a result of a good relationship that has developed with the local school district and private schools—you may get permission for flyers to be handed out to students.
A large sign on a truck. Prepare a sandwich board sign to be placed on a truck or an attached flatbed trailer and park it in high traffic areas around town. Some sign companies will create one for you for a price, but you may be able to construct one yourself. Or think in larger terms—ever consider adapting that parade float you used on Memorial Day?
Jim Vogel (Dmin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is the associate national representative of the GARBC.