Young Families Missing? Try Aiming! [Blog]

Hoping is not the same as aiming. Many churches acknowledge they need more young families. Many churches wish they had more young families. Many churches even pray for more young families. But it almost always ends there. Hoping, wishing and praying, but little actual aiming toward the target.

At ReachKeep we get a lot of calls. Two phone calls this week were almost scripted to be the same. A pastor and a laymen, from two different states, but they had the same problem. An old church doing things in old ways and getting the same old results. I am not wanting to be critical of the old paths.  We are conservative and in many ways very old-fashioned at our church here in Sinclair, WY, but we also have a mandate from the Lord to reach our community. I suspect you have that mandate and burning desire also.

So, if you’d like a few ideas on how to target those young families, here is the step-by-step approach we took to get 30 first time guests (all young families) to come on Easter.

Step One: Aim.  About two month prior to Easter we sat down and discussed the goals for this important day.  We had discussed previously the idea of doing a church service of some sort in an “off-location”.  We have learned that to reach people no one else is reaching, you often need to do what no one else is doing.  “Off-location” meetings are hard work, but payoff with great results.  They generate the excitement that a local church should have for evangelism in several ways.

  1. They shift the focus to outsiders. (the people not attending)
  2. They stimulate creativity. (new facility, new setup, new decoration, etc…)
  3. They mobilize volunteers. (get everyone involved)
  4. They rekindle excitement. (see Events vs Routines in the Snowy Wedding)

Step Two: Plan. Our planning meeting also included a desire to reach young moms and dads through some type of “Acquisition Event”.  “Acquisition Event” is an insider term we like to use when planning the purpose of an event. Similar to an off-location event, they are hard work and take extra time to conduct.  They are not full blown church services, but events designed to get to know people in a more casual or unguarded environment. Many churches use these to open doors and build relationships.  Here are few ideas: Have a open house; use the church for a community event like voting, a school play, host meals for seniors or after a funeral; do a food distribution; let local clubs use a room, like boy scouts or a radio club.

Our planning meeting gravitated toward an Easter kids event.  We knew that kids events were already popular items (think egg hunt) with the young moms and dads we were aiming to reach. The complexity came in to play when we tried to figure out when to host this event. We were already doing three Easter services. Early Easter things like sunrise services are difficult here in the mountains with the temperatures being so cold. Also, people with kids tend to sleep late on Sundays.  It didn’t take long to figure out a late afternoon, kid focused event would work the best. So we rented the biggest community building in town and began to plan the All-Community Easter Service for Kids.

Step Three: Promote. For promotion we leaned on the one of the best assets a church has—its kids.  We figured the church kids knew all the other kids in the community. We made birthday style invitations and printed them on our black an white printer. We had the kids color them during the two weeks before they were to be given out.  We created a little envelope with directions for the parents. Additional promo was given to the adults and a few ads were run in the paper along with our standard Easter ads.  The big kicker was Facebook.

Three different people in the church made Facebook ads and postings.  The ads were paid for by individuals.  The total cost were about $25 each. The postings of photos and text entries were made nearly daily for about two weeks prior to the event.  The ads were very easy to create and manage and they generated hundreds of contacts. Many town people commented about the exposure the Facebook ads created.

The event went off without a hitch and many new friends were made. Addresses were collected and followup work has begun. Like any sport or discipline, aiming take hard work and practice and should always be the first step in any church event.

Question:  Why is it, in church work, we often do so many things without aiming?

P.S. One of the “wins” for us in doing these types of programs, is that it positions our church as an influential part of our community. We have long thought that the local church should be the most important building in a community; not the local mall, the court house or the public school, but the local Bible teaching church.

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Mike Holmes

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