At least that’s what the banner outside my church said. In big black letters, it declared, “You’ve Got a Date with the Mafia!” Next to the headline was a picture of former mobster Michael Franzese standing in front of a prison window, looking serious, Italian … and a little scary. Did I really want to go on that kind of a ”date?”
Well, as it turned out, not only did I have a date with the Mafia, but a couple thousand other people did, as well. On the weekend of September 4–5th, Michael Franzese, a former captain in the New York mob, spoke at three services at New Song Community Church in Southern California. The weekend was an encouraging example of how effective outreach can be. Here’s the formula that worked at our church:
First, we had an intriguing, authentic, and very engaging speaker. Michael Franzese grew up as the son of the notorious Underboss of New York’s violent and feared Colombo crime family. In his early 20s, Franzese took a blood oath to enter the “family,” and with intelligence and ambition, he quickly became one of its top money-earners. At his peak, Michael and his men generated an estimated $5 to $8 million per week from legal and illegal businesses.
Then a beautiful, young Christian woman entered Michael’s life. Her influence and the gospel of Jesus Christ transformed this dangerous criminal’s life into an inspiring story of hope and forgiveness. (You can more of Michael’s story at www.MichaelFranzese.com.)
Michael’s powerful message of his changed life spoke to church members and visitors alike. Afterward, people waited in line for an opportunity to talk with Franzese and share their own stories and need for God’s transforming grace.
The church also put together a cohesive, multi-pronged outreach plan around Michael’s visit. In addition to the large banner outside the church, New Song did the following:
- Mailed 44,500 postcards to homes around the church
- Inserted mailers (small postcards) in the church bulletins three weeks in advance of Michael’s visit (the mailers were for church members to give to friends and family)
- Provided church members with DoorHangers and mailers by displaying them on a table outside the sanctuary
- Announced from the pulpit the upcoming “date with the Mafia” weekend, urging members to pray about who they would invite
- Showed a video of Michael during weekend services for three weeks in advance
- Included an announcement in the church bulletin for four weeks
- Posted a photo of Michael and an announcement about the service on the church’s website
- Ran a full-page ad in the local newspaper on the day before the event
Finally, the church staff designed the three services to accommodate visitors and to make them feel welcome. Senior Pastor Hal Seed explained the elements of the service to the congregation, made visitors comfortable during the offering (they’re not asked to give), and then invited all newcomers back the following week and to consider the church their home.
The result? The church’s weekend attendance went from approximately 1,300 to 2,200 during Michael Franzese’s visit. That’s an increase of almost 70%! And New Song members were actively praying for those visitors to return again!
In summary, it was a great date! It was a weekend that will stay in my mind for its message, but also for its lesson. A great speaker + prayer + a comprehensive, executed outreach plan = reaching people for Christ.