With Christmas on the horizon, you have probably already started planning for the Advent season. You may have your sermons, music and special events planned out, but do you have a plan to make sure you will see visitors during Advent? It’s no longer a “given” that unchurched or dechurched people will come during the holiday season. So how do you find and invite more people to your church? Read on for ideas…
Christmas used to be a time when most people attended church, but that is not true in our current culture. So as you plan out your Advent-season events, make sure you are thinking through how to reach out to your community and invite them in for the holiday. It may not be as difficult as you think – after all your own church database may hold the clue to increasing your Christmas attendance. Here are some tips on finding more visitors and inviting them to your church:
HARVESTING YOUR PAST VISITORS
Unless you are a brand new church, chances are that you have a list of people who have been guests at your church in the past and that is a wellspring that you can tap into for Christmas invitations. We aren’t talking about going back 10 years, but there are probably 4 groups of fairly recent visitors that may still be looking for a church to call home – see if any of these groups could become visitors this December:
- Many churches will be hosting or participating in halloween-alternative or other Fall events like Harvest Festivals, Trunk or Treats and Carnivals in the coming weeks. These events will bring you in contact with many families who are probably in your geographic area, make sure you are collecting contact information or providing each family a physical invitation to your upcoming holiday events.
If you are hosting one of these events, make sure your children and youth volunteers are front and center, greeting, shaking hands and talking with unfamiliar faces. The more comfortable a parent is at your church, the higher the chance is that they will return on a Sunday morning.
- If you’re like most churches, during the Pandemic you lost some regular attenders who still have not returned. Some of these people have switched churches or decided to continue to watch online. But some may just be “out of the habit” of coming in person and may be ready for a warm invitation back during the Advent season. Now is the time to reach out through email, phone calls and yes a physical invitation like a postcard. Make sure your correspondence is friendly, welcoming and non-judgmental – you just would like to see them come back this Winter.
- Along the same lines as your Fall visitors, another group of people who could be potential Christmas visitors are all the families who attended your Summer activities like movie nights, VBS and Summer Camps. These families have already been to your church, may have made friends and may be very open to coming back for Christmas. Don’t be shy about reaching out and letting them know that you would love to see them again.
- Finally, if you held a Back to Church Sunday event in September, don’t forget to include those guests to your list of special invitations. These people may be nervous about returning to church on a “regular” Sunday, or may have been caught up in the busy-ness of the back to school season, so Christmas may present a perfect opportunity for coming back and experiencing the joy of a Christmas Eve service.
CHOOSING THE BEST INVITATIONS
Now that you’ve compiled a list of potential visitors, you may be wondering what the best method is for reaching out to all of them. And there is no one answer that works for every church but a multi-channel approach has the highest success rate and is considered a “best practice” by most marketing professionals.
Here is what many churches find to be the best approach:
Personal Invitations – Your church members and regular attenders are your best method for reaching out and inviting people to church, so provide them an easy mechanism like a small invitation card or door hanger.
These inexpensive options make it easy to say: “Hey we’ve missed seeing you at church, here’s some information on the Christmas services.” Or “We’re going to go to Christmas services this weekend, would you like to join us? Here’s some information on it.” Current statistics say that most people will come if invited by someone they know!
Direct Mail Postcard Invitations – Physical mail is NOT dead. In fact recent statistics show that younger adults actually enjoy receiving mail. And at just (price) per postcard including postage, it’s the easiest and most effective way to reach thousands of people near your church.
Mailing an invitation for your Christmas events doesn’t have to be complicated either, Outreach.com has hundreds of Christmas postcard designs that can easily be customized for your church without the need of a graphic designer! And our experts can help you pull a saturation list of your neighbors to go along with your own list.
Did you know that thousands of people relocate to new homes during the summer months? If you already subscribe to a New Mover Outreach service, then you have a treasure trove of people who you have already invited to come to church. But by sending invitations to a saturation list of people in your immediate area, you will be inviting every home in the streets around your church to celebrate Christmas with you – including new families who may be looking for a church home.
Social Media Ads – Digital channels can provide your church with a great way to reach out to people on Facebook and Social Media with an invitation to your special events. Social Ads are also a great second touch when coordinated with your postcard mailing and other marketing efforts. They reinforce your message and help raise recognition for your other promotions.
Be sure to purchase an Ad and not just post about your event. Social posts reach your established audience and followers, ads reach new people in your area who may not know about your church. You can set up your own social ads but professional help is available to provide effective graphics, make sure your ad campaign reaches the right audience and to help provide reports on its effectiveness.
Promotional Outdoor Banners – Think of your promotional outdoor banners as mini-billboards that grab attention and can quickly communicate simple details to passing traffic. They are available in many sizes and can quickly be customized with your service information and website using an easy online editor.
Outdoor banners are another tool that helps reinforce your other invitations. Families who receive a postcard to your event will drive by your church and see a similar graphic with your service times or website address and be able to make the connection between the two.
With these promotional tools and by being proactive and reaching out to families, you can make sure that everyone receives an invitation to your Advent services and has a chance to hear the good news of Christmas.
Have other outreach ideas for Christmas? Share them with us on Facebook!