In 2013, Christ the Lord Lutheran Church faced a challenge that many WELS churches in America were facing then and still are today: they were an aging congregation in an aging community with not enough young families in membership to repopulate the church. After participating in WELS’s School of Outreach program and coming to understand the research on “friendship evangelism,” Christ the Lord adopted a bi-annual “Friendship Sunday” outreach approach.

The big idea was this: most people visit a new church for the first time because they are personally invited by someone they know. CTL’s new evangelism approach would hinge on this philosophy, so now we needed a marketing strategy to match.

Best marketing practices dictate a multi-modal tactic; one avenue is never enough, because different people make use of different media (or sometimes no media at all.) We also had serious budget limitations as a small church, so we needed to get the biggest “bang for the buck” possible.

Our marketing strategy was all about putting the right tools into the hands of members, so they could do what they were being trained to do. Number one, we created attractive and informative business cards on the cheap. Each member was encouraged to take home one or two dozen and hand them out to friends, neighbors, loved ones, and to drop them on restaurant tables and other public locations. Second, we created a Facebook “event” with our same attractive design and encouraged all our members to “like” the church’s Facebook page (if they hadn’t already) and then to send personal invites to the Friendship Sunday event to anyone they considered a prospect. Finally we designed a very good-looking poster that was within the maximum size parameters of our capable color-laser printer and printed them on some quality paper. The posters were hung up on the church campus as well as at a couple local businesses where church members had formed relationships with the proprietors. Had our budget been larger, we could have run some very reasonable Facebook ads promoting the Facebook event and specifically targeting Facebook friends of our members who lived in the target geographical area.

The end result was an encouraging turnout for the first event and a clear, repeatable strategy for success in the future, as well as some ideas for expanding the marketing reach when a larger budget would allow.

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