You know that people come to your church because friends invite them. But what are you doing to ensure people invite their friends?
It’s a simple fact that the vast majority of the people who check out your church come because a trusted friend invited them. We all know this fact but we often think the latest “marketing trick” will help drive people to our churches. We wonder how we can leverage Facebook advertising to reach out to people. We consider radio ads for an upcoming event. We noodle between dropping 15,000 and 50,000 flyers on our neighborhood. Although each of these tactics might play a part in your overall community outreach strategy, they pale in comparison to ensuring the people who already attend your church invite their friends.
82% of “unchurched” people would attend your church if a trusted friend asked; however, only 2% of church members have invited someone in the last year. [ref]
One of the differences between struggling and prevailing churches is that growing churches have a deliberate plan to encourage people to invite their friends. We need to remind people constantly to invite others and then empower them with tools to do the inviting.
Constancy is key in this area. Rather than focusing on 1 or 2 special big days in the life of your church, you should repeatedly ask people to invite their friends. Many churches use sermon series to break up the year and this provides a logical time to invite new people. Celebrate the launch of the new series by inviting people to invite their friends.
Here are 5 elements your church should repeat every time you launch a new series. Take advantage of the fact that you are “changing the channel” to encourage people to invite their friends. Commit to doing these 5 for a year and see if your invite culture improves!
1) Get Invite Cards in People’s Hands
Invite cards are an incredibly simple tool to leverage in your church. Typically, these are a business-card size up to about 4×6 postcards. They contain all the information about the upcoming series at your church. They are both a tangible reminder to invite friends and something people can hand to others.
Listen to Bob Franquiz at unSeminary’s Momentum Summit talking about the importance of invite cards. Bob is the Senior Pastor at Calvary Fellowship in Miami, FL, which is one of the fastest-growing churches in the country.
The important thing about invite cards is to get them into people’s hands. Put them on every seat, as Bob recommends, or have your ushers give them out to every person. Ensure everyone has invite cards to take away before the launch of every series.
Here are a few other thoughts on leveraging invite cards at your church:
- 3 at a Time // Pack them up in bundles of 3 so when you hand them out it implicitly communicates you want people to invite multiple friends.
- Week Before // I’m convinced people only invite friends to church in the days leading up to the weekend. Only hand out invite cards the week before the series starts. You don’t want people to feel as if we’re always pushing cards so we limit them to just the week before the series starts.
- Arresting Image + Compelling Text // At the core of a great invite card is an image that makes you stop and flip over the card. Up to 3 punchy sentences set up the tension that the series resolves. Show more … say less.
2) Compelling New Series Trailer
The core of a great series is often a dramatic tension that draws people into scripture. Finding the tension and then articulating it through a short 45-60 second video is a great way to encourage people to invite friends. We live in an increasingly post-literate world where images communicate at a deep level. A series trailer speaks the language of a video-driven culture.
Good series trailers have some common elements that make them effective:
- Narrative Arc // They point to the core message of the series. The simplest way to do this is through asking the questions that the series will answer.
- Series Logo // Trailers usually end with the series logo, which connects with the rest of the material being developed.
- Call to Action // Well-executed series trailers make a direct ask to engage viewers. “Starts November 13. Join Us.” or “Starting Next Sunday.” or “Bring a friend.” This piece is the most overlooked part of these videos.
Check out this series trailer as a great example to follow.
3 Ways to Use a Series Trailer
- Sunday Morning // Make sure to run the trailer the Sunday before the new series launches.
- Social Media // Post it on your social media channels and ask people to share it.
- Website // Write a blog post on your own website about the new series and feature the video.
3 Places to Find Trailers for Your Upcoming Series
- Video Hive Templates // This site has a series of templates that a video editor in your church could modify to suit your needs. Although it might take some digging to find something to match your series, it’s worth checking out.
- Fiverr // This service provides low cost (as low as $5) designs and sometimes video projects. You simply tell the editor what you are looking for and they produce it for you. Again, if you dig around, you can find some real gems on there!
- Life.Church Open // This amazing (and FREE) resource provides not only video trailers for churches but also all kinds of support materials. You can brand your entire series with their resources!
3) Shareable Content on Social Media
Always aim to have people share your church’s content with their friends on social media. Engagement is what you are looking for.
Too many churches just post about the service times and then wonder why no one “likes” it. Aim for about 80% of the content you’re producing to be designed to be shared and 20% to contain “calls to action” about what’s happening at your church.
Pay attention to which content you produce gets shared the most on social networks and make more like it. Notice what people share from other providers and consider how to mimic it. This is an ever-evolving area to keep on top of. Be wary of any lists about “types of content people share on social media” because the tastes of your audience are always shifting. Stay connected to your community and attuned to what people are interested in.
7 Types of Content People Share on Social Media 😉
- Surprising Things … Facts & Images // The human mind is a pattern-recognizing machine. When you break the pattern with a new idea, it sticks out. Shocking facts or jarring images get people’s attention and are more likely to be shared.
- Leverage Existing Trends // Remember Pokemon Go? Or Star Wars? Or the Super Bowl? Trends wave through social media. Connecting your message to those trends will help it be shared more.
- Inspiring Quotes & Images // A lot of social media is an escape from “normal life” for people at work. Inspirational quotes and images help draw in people and are shareable.
- Babies & Cats // Seriously … just try it. It’s scientifically proven to be shared more.
- Be Funny (or Controversial) // Posts that elicit an emotional response get passed around. Although it’s really hard to do funny well, if you craft an image that gets people to chuckle it will be shared. The same is true about controversial ideas … remember The Donald’s domination of social media? Advice: tread lightly on controversy.
- Tell People’s Stories // Social media is about connecting with people. Use the medium to help people connect with one another. Profiles of key volunteers or people’s testimony videos are always shared.
- Pictures of Themselves // Photo booths continue to be a great tool for generating social media content. People enjoy seeing pictures of themselves and they like sharing photos of themselves even more. Figure out a way to take pictures of people and then ask them to tag themselves!
4) Direct Email to Everyone
Email continues to be a reliable way to reach a mass of people effectively and inexpensively. In fact, most churches probably don’t send enough emails.
There are 3 times as many active email accounts in the world than Facebook and Twitter accounts combined. In fact, all the messages on Facebook and Twitter make up just 0.2% of the number of emails sent each day (and that’s not including spam messages!). People are more likely to have an email account and send/receive way more messages through email than social media. [ref]
Every time you launch a new series you should email people (at least once if not multiple times) and remind them about the launch of the new series. These emails can contain the information that we’ve talked about above including a PDF of the invite card, links to a series trailer and the request to “like, comment and share” social media posts. The emails should be “call to action” oriented asking people to invite their friends rather than information oriented where they just tell people about the change in series.
5 Facts Every Church Leader Should Know About Email as a Communication Tool
- 33% of email recipients open email based on the subject line alone. (Convince & Convert)
- 7 in 10 people say they made use of a coupon or discount from a marketing email in the previous week. (Blue Kangaroo)
- 27% of consumers were more likely to say their favorite companies should invest in more email. (ExactTarget)
- 64% of decision-makers read their email via mobile devices. (TopRank)
- 1 in 2 marketers use animated gifs in their email campaigns. (Experian)
5) A Personal Ask From a Trusted Leader
Ultimately, the best way to improve the invite culture in your church is to ask people directly to invite their friends. Find ways to ensure that it’s “on the lips” of your leaders. Having them ask people to invite their friends every time you launch a new series is important.
The most obvious example of this direct ask is from the primary teacher at your church. The preacher for the upcoming series needs to take time before the series launches to ask people to invite their friends. It’s important that the leaders of the church are seen as excited for the new series and invested in seeing people come to the church.
Key to the personal invite is sharing (in a safe way) who the leaders will be inviting to the series. This needs to be done tastefully when it’s done publicly, so whomever the leader invites isn’t seen as a “project.” When leaders identify who they are inviting it helps model for the community who they should reach out to. Like in so many other areas of leadership, people will only follow us to places we’re willing to go. If we aren’t inviting our unchurched friends to join us … you can bet that our people won’t be doing it either.
4 Ways to Integrate Personal Asks for Invites Before Every Series That Aren’t Announcements
- Team Huddles // Ask your team leaders to share about whom they are inviting to the next series with the group and then pray for the invited people.
- Email Chain // Have your team email 10 people in the church and share whom they are inviting for the launch of the series … and ask the 10 people to share whom they are inviting.
- Group Leader Texts // Ask your group leaders to do a “group text” sharing whom they are inviting for the series. Ask the small group members to come to the next meeting with the names of people they are thinking about inviting.
- In-Service Prayer Experience // Design a part of the service that has people committing to ask someone to attend the new series and then pray for those potential invitees. Writing names on a card and bringing to the front might be great!
Invest & Invite Still Matters
Asking your church to invest in the lives of the people in their spheres of influence and then invite those same people to church is a core discipleship function.
Engaging people in making an impact in their community through connecting with unchurched people and then inviting those people to connect with your church is like any other growth area in that it needs to be modeled, taught and celebrated.
Rather than seeing “inviting” as something that is done only for special days or by unique people, it needs to be woven into the life of the church.
How have you seen this encouragement modeled well in churches? We’d love to hear from you!