A large percentage of the questions centered on that age-old question: “How do I increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church?” during a Q & A session after a day of my presentations in a seminar.
Here are seven tried and tested steps you might want to consider in order to “increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church”:
1. Drive through every local street to your church parking lot and start from the outside and look in
This is exactly what I do when I pay a visit to a church for consultation. I look for a church sign or a church building to see how easily it leads me to the premise. Once I park my car, I sit in my seat. Then I try to assess the demographics of who passes through and comes in.
It becomes an investigation time when a new comer-look-alike drives in and wanders around to find their way into the worship place. My interests are: What are the moving lines, who greet them, how long it takes to get inside the building, etc.
When I come in into the building, I analyze how well the church building is organized. I take an objective look at the church directories and wall displays–does it appeal to visiting seekers? Any signs, posters, pictures, images, statues, print-outs are telling something to a newcomer. It also affects his or her first impression at large. Since the impression dramatically varies among different generations, your church should be organized along with your first audience. Ask a person of your main target audience that never been to your church to do the above. It is important to have a write-up about his or her experience. It will be a great starting point to increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church.
2. Construct an SEO-focused Landing Page Church Website (this is a pre-requisite to steps followed by this one)
A tweet or Facebook post is not enough. That might get clicks but scarcely increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church on Sunday. The importance of your church website is doubled even in the social-media age since 93% of the online experience begins with a search engine. However, it is also true that your website becomes the main cause, when it is not well maintained, for a visitor-to-be to get away from your church.
You may not have the time to make a full-blown new church website since it takes enough time to build a great new site. On the other hand, maybe you already have a church website that cost your church significantly in the past. The good news is that the church website is not functionally used for inviting seekers. It is because it contains contents of many different subjects. The church website is more like an intranet solution for your church members to gather necessary information.
Instead, what you need is a single-page website, responsive and optimized for mobile devices, linked from SEO-focused landing pages with a singular purpose of representing your ministries and selling points to those seekers. The first major difference between a traditional church website and the SEO-focused Landing Page Church Website is your audience. The latter is specifically targeting those who are searching online. For example, someone might search for “Best Churches in (your area)”
The word, “SEO-focused” simply means that those online searches land at one of your landing pages specifically optimized for the keywords. Remember that those landing pages should have one specific goal only: convert traffic. In other words, there will be a single call to action (CTA) that gets people to sign up for more information.
3. Host a community event with community influencers
One of the best ways to increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church is to host a community event. I acknowledge that some churches don’t have the required man-powers to host the community event from planning to execution. What I’m trying to stress here is, “Please don’t host the event by yourself even when your congregation has the capacity,” if you want to “increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church.” Instead, consider teaming up with other businesses nearby to offer the community event.
Building relationships with other local businesses and organizations in your community is a key to boost your church’s awareness and reputation. Host the events such as a block party, a concert, high-school game promotional event, etc. Create a landing page to promote the event by taking sign-ups that are interested in participating in the event or to sell tickets to the event featuring the event ahead of time. Create an event page on your social media. For maximum impact, ask co-hosting parties to link the announcements on their websites or social media posts to the corresponding articles on your church website. Ask them to share and comment on the posts on your website. When there are external links to your church website, sharing and commenting, your website is highly recognizable by search engines like Google.
4. Use your church or a partial area as a platform
Service-based businesses are looking for a place to hold a seminar or a class for their customers. A Yoga studio could use your place as a satellite classroom. Florist shops could host a flower arranging class. How about cooking classes? English as a second language classes? They surely “increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church.” If you have a gym, how about sports-related classes? The local businesses are very professional about how to make their customers happy. They will help to promote your church in the community.
Rethink your church facility as a white box solution for other community organizations in need of a hosting place. Make sure you have your church’s own online scheduling and ticket selling solution so that any prospective organizers can use it for hosting their classes/events. You could build a considerable size of big contact data who sign up for those. Don’t forget to ask them to receive information on upcoming community events/classes.
5. Engage your contacts in new ways
It’s always refreshing to hear of a church doing something new to the community. People may not come to attend your Sunday services yet but love to do community service together as it “increases seekers’ foot-traffic to my church.” Team-up with a community service organizer to do community work with an excellent cause. And thanks to the power of social media, doing something new or good can quickly go viral. Community services are specially carved in the DNA of emergent generations. It will open up a brand-new window for your congregation to work together with these emergent generations.
6. Stay in touch
Staying top of mind with existing church members and community contacts who you’ve engaged through your new efforts is not just about “increasing seekers’ foot-traffic to my church.” It’s intentionally about staying in touch. Send out an e-newsletter program, regular updates about your community events/classes, church news, and start to engage with them via social media. If you host a Vacation Bible School or some events for the community, your contacts will work as your good neighbors/agents. Ask them to bring in new participants to those events/classes, and offering them a little incentive, such as a free giveaway and discounts, is always effective.
7. Discipleship training for caregivers: an organic approach to increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church
Offer a caregiving session to your community. You, as a pastor, probably need to volunteer for a caregiver in the beginning and to provide discipleship training for future caregivers from your congregation. Start small. You can begin with a one-on-one session. Ask your contacts if there is anything for a pastor or a congregation to pray about or to offer a blessing on. This can be done through an online form linked in all the e-communications from your church. Or a pastor or a caregiver could personally ask for it at the end of any community events/classes hosted in your church.
Please do not simply ask them to check out your Sunday services. More often, a bad Sunday experience causes them not to return to church for good. Try to build a relationship with them, for a while, as a caregiver before inviting them to your Sunday services or small-group gatherings.
Make yourself and your caregivers available before and after any community events/classes. And try to engage in a one-on-one conversation for no more than 3 minutes. Don’t be religious. Just go a little deeper than a shallow conversation. Ask them politely, at the end of your one-on-one, if you could have another time to continue your conversation. Don’t forget to ask if they need your prayers or blessings. This will surely “increase seekers’ foot-traffic to my church” and revitalize your congregation for the glory of our risen Lord.
Old ministry paradigms are not working anymore in the digital world we live in. In order to increase seekers’ traffic to my church, follow the above steps. Be open to new opportunities. Any interactions with your community will set a new orientation for your church-to-be in the midst of your community life into the future of your ministry. Even before completing the 7 steps, there will be new traffic to your church, which will un-stuck any stagnant ministry and mobilize your church for a better ministry story.