How to reach the right people
Is your church struggling to reach the right people? You aren’t the only ones.
It has always troubled me in church marketing how we consistently target the wrong audience with our message.
We’ve all seen the websites, mailers, and social media ads throughout the year and around holidays. You know the ones I’m talking about. The ones with the generic messages designed to make you feel “inspired” to attend.
They say things like
- Welcome Home!
- You Belong Here!
- Connecting People to Jesus
- Connect | Grow | Serve
- Find Relevant and Inspiring Messages
- Upbeat Music
I could go on for days. You’ve probably received one of these mailers from a local church or seen similar Facebook ads around holidays.
My first question has always been,
“With this kind of messaging, who are you intending to reach?”
The only answer I can come up with is, “Christians who are either without a church or disgruntled with their current church.”
My second question would then be,
“Why are so many churches putting all these marketing dollars into attracting Christians instead of non-Christians? Aren’t we supposed to be trying to make disciples, not encouraging Christians to play ‘Musical Churches’?”
What are your primary church audiences?
The reality is, churches often fail to differentiate our internal and external audiences. We end up creating messages better suited for our internal audience because they are who we’re comfortable with. Then, we put those words out to the community expecting them to be persuaded to come to worship or an event. It doesn’t work very well.
When we define our audiences we are able to better reach the right people.
So, let’s do just that.
Internal Church Audience
Your church members and regular attendees are your internal audience. They likely understand the culture of the church and the vocabulary of the church. With this audience, you can use acronyms for various groups or programs more liberally. You can use insider language a little more (don’t overdo it) because these are your people. They get it.
External Church Audience
Your external audience is anyone outside of your church. These people don’t attend regularly and definitely are not church members. They don’t understand your insider vocabulary and your acronyms mean nothing to them.
For the most part, they don’t have any interest in your church and don’t yet understand why your church matters in their life.
You must speak to them differently than your internal audience.
Where to Find Different Audiences of the Church
Now that we have defined our two audiences, where do we find and speak to each audience?
Internal Audiences of the Church
Some examples of places you communicate with your internal audience might be…
+ Sunday Sermons and Announcements
Your sermons might be positioned to the audience of church members and regular attendees. Sermons are predominantly an “internal” message, unless you have a large audience online that listens or watches later. If you happen to have a lot of visitors regularly, this might change how you position your messages on Sunday mornings as well.
Pulpit or stage announcements would fall in this same category.
+ Weekly or Regular Emails
If you send weekly or regular emails, this audience becomes an internal audience. Chances are you only have one or two email lists. There’s a good chance most people on those lists are church members or regular attendees.
+ Private Church Facebook Groups
You might have private Facebook groups for your church or various ministries of your church. As long as the group isn’t open to the public, these can be considered internal groups.
External Audience of the Church
Some various places you might speak to your external audience are…
+ Church Website Homepage or Landing Pages
The homepage of your church website is entirely external in nature. This is where you layout for your external audience how you understand what they’re going through and position yourself to guide them to something better in life.
This is not where you post all of your internal updates and calendar items.
In addition, if you create special landing pages for specific public events or ministries, these would be externally focused as well.
+ Social Media Feeds
Whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, or anywhere else, your social media feeds are predominantly for your external audience. This is the best place to reach people unattached to your church.
This doesn’t mean you can’t post things ABOUT your church members and regulars. In fact, you want to share pictures and videos of the amazing things happening within your church. However, you want your text or caption to be positioned to speak to your external audience.
Honestly, this gives you the best of both worlds. Your internal audience gets all the feels from the fun pictures and videos of their friends and family and your external audience gets a glimpse into the heart of your church with a message that connects to their heart.
+ Mailers, Flyers, Yard Signs, etc.
We’ll just lump all the general printed external items together to make it easy. These are items that are delivered to your audience’s home or place of business, or stuck in the church lawn or a member’s yard somewhere.
These are 100% external in nature. The point is to try to reach non-church people. So, act like it when you write the copy and design them.
Make them easy to read from a distance while driving by quick if they’re in yards. Call it what it is instead of your fancy name for it. For example, call it “Kids Camp” instead of “Ignite Camp.” Use as few words as possible while getting your information across. Eliminate redundant words or phrases.
Your goal is clarity on all these items. Being cute or clever will often lead to confusing your audience. Stick to the facts and tell them why you matter to them.
Craft a Message to Reach the Right People
Crafting a message for your internal and external church audiences involves the same process with different outcomes. Walking through either of these processes will ensure you reach the right audience.
Storybrand for Churches
Personally, as a Certified StoryBrand Guide, I use the StoryBrand 7-part framework. The StoryBrand Framework (SB7) utilizes “the seven universal story points all humans respond to.”
Simply, using this framework, I help your church position your audience as the character in the story and you as their guide. We all experience life through our own two eyes (lens). Every character has something they want, something getting in the way, and needs someone to help them overcome a problem to find success.
Your church and its ministries play the guide that helps your members and community overcome a problem and find success (relationship with Jesus and community in the church).
Learn more about StoryBrand for churches.
A Simple Framework for a Clear Church Message
Often, I use a simplified framework to help churches clarify their message for individual programs, events, or ministries. This framework has 5 simple steps and questions.
- Audience: Who are you trying to reach?
- Problem: What tangible or felt problems do they experience?
- Solution: What are you offering to help them overcome their problems?
- Success: What does success look like after engaging your ministries?
- Call-to-Action: What ONE THING do they need to do to participate?
If you just take the time to ask yourself these 5 questions your message will be 100% more effective in reaching any audience you put it in front of.
Dive deeper into the simpler 5-Step process by downloading my free PDF, “5 Steps to Communicating Ministry Clearly.”
Learn how to communicate ministry clearly in 5 simple steps.
Avoid one size fits all messaging and see your church grow
The biggest reason most churches end up putting out internal messaging for an external audience is simply that it’s easier. Most of the time we create programs and ministries for both internal and external audiences. So, we create one message for both.
Let’s all commit to taking the time necessary to creating nuance in our messaging designed to connect deeply with our specific audiences.
If we do this we will connect more deeply with our communities and our churches will see more meaningful growth.
How, in the past, have you differentiated your audiences for different ministries or events? Is this a new concept for your church? Leave a comment!
Story is a universal clarifier for the human brain. Every single human on earth responds to a good story. How should your church use story?
Want to be an externally-focused church? Here’s our process for how to position your church in your community to grow your reach.
Email is a great way to communicate, but most churches do it poorly. Here is a simple weekly church email template to help you succeed.