If your church has some great outreaches planned, but you’re wondering how to let people know, remember that you have many avenues available to you for getting the word out. This article will provide you with event advertising ideas far beyond just a sign on the church lawn. Many of these strategies are applicable to weekly services as well as one-time events.
Create an Advertising Budget. An advertising fund doesn’t have to be massive, due to all of the low-cost and free options available. Involve the whole church in the decision-making process — most of the money in the budget is, after all, coming from their offerings. Be clear that you don’t want to make the church or its staff into celebrities, but you need to get the word out so that more people will be reached by your programs.
Explore free opportunities whenever you can, so as to use church resources wisely. For example, notice if there are free community announcement boards at the library, post office, coffee shops, or restaurants. All you usually have to do to post your ad on one of these is ask the management. Also, see if local news outlets have an events page where they will feature your church’s event for a low cost (or for free). These can include local TV, newspapers, and radio stations. Have a graphic designer put together any print ads you use, and hire a professional production crew for audio or visual advertising. Low-quality promotion won’t entice people to come to your event.
Have a Quality Church Website. Maintain a church website that features professional design, continual updates with quality content, and easy navigation. This way, you have a one-source reference for anyone who sees your other promotional materials to come and find out more information. Suggested features include recordings of past messages, photo galleries of successful events, links to ministries within the church, contact information for key staff, and service times.
Be Active on Social Media. This is how the younger generation gets their news, so failing to announce an event on your Twitter and Facebook (with links to your website) could cost you a number of attendees. Being active on social also makes it easier to share highlights from events, such as quotes, photos, and videos in which you can tag participants. If an event is of interest to the whole community, you can ask people to repost it so that their contacts who aren’t involved in the church will hear about it.
Place Strategic Signage. Outdoor signs are helpful for people driving by your church. Use bright colors and large, easy-to-read words that convey all relevant information and make your program look inviting. Always remember to include your web address that viewers can visit if interested. If your church building has a permanent sign with letters you can change, use it for relevant announcements, but DO NOT do this or this.
Use Direct Mail. Though slightly more expensive than other methods, printed advertisements are still a good way to get people’s attention. They have a longer shelf life than emails or social media announcements, and will act as a tangible reminder of an upcoming event. Consider mailing out eye-catching, high-quality postcards to promote a new program, or simply to increase interest in your existing ministries. As a church, you qualify for nonprofit pricing on bulk mail. Flyers are a cheaper option, but they are governed by more strict distribution, so check your local laws and homeowner’s association policies. If you decide to try postcards or flyers, keep it rare so that people won’t get used to seeing your promotions as junk mail.
Have a Reliable Voice. Your church voice should be warm, welcoming, honest, informative, and family-friendly. Try also to bring in some elements that reflect your unique identity as a congregation. If your primary parishioners are in the tech-savvy generation, don’t be afraid to sound a little sassy now and then. If you offer services or programs for non-English speakers, make sure your multilingual advertisements are grammatically and idiomatically correct. In all of your promotional efforts, keep your voice consistent.
Follow Up with People who Engage. Your short-term goal is to boost event attendance, but hopefully your long-term goal is to make relationships with your visitors. Request their email addresses or other unobtrusive contact info, and let them know that you’re not going to send them promotional materials or requests for money. You just want to ask them about their experience and whether they’re interested in getting further involved.
The true measure of your advertising success is not how many people you bring in for special occasions, but whether you make visitors and members feel welcome and involved in your church community.