And the story repeats itself again this Christmas: before buying a product a new customer needs to trust the product and the company behind it, which either grows through personal experience, through the experience of a trusted person (aka "referral"), or through heavy marketing spendings by the company brand.
As churches we find ourselves in a world of choices, diversity and competition. Not only do we compete with other church brands on a limited number of "seekers" in our area, but we compete with mindsets, trends, cultures and distractions. (We may not like it, but unfortunately this is reality in many Western regions)
What can we do to win the competition, how can we filter out those who really want to join a church, those who are ready, those who have identified their need for a church congregation, their need for God?
The answer is simple: we have to reach as many people as possible on order to filter out a large number of "prospects" - those who find themselves in a situation and a place in life where they are willing to make changes and are open to learn more about God.
But how do we get them into our buildings? How do we get them to get up, go, travel, step out of their comfort zone of anonymity and expose themselves in our "foreign, loud, engaging but loving church environments"? (which at times can seem somewhat threatening to the inexperienced soul at first glance, wouldn't you agree?).
It may have been a tract, a flyer, a brochure in the past, but those media's capabilities are limited to text and photos on paper and primarily convey the street address and meeting time. Do we really think that this is still enough in our times of "try-before-you-buy"?
There is no way around it in our culture today: in order to sell your worship experience you have to provide a "free-trial" and to make your offer available to as many viewers as possible. And there is primarily one major technique by which a church can make its free-trial-offer reach as many people as possible: ONLINE MEDIA DISTRIBUTION.
Online media distribution of your "free trial product" simply means to make
a. live-streams and
b. video on-demand libraries of your message, your worship experience, your services available on
c. as many devices as possible (computers, tablets, smart phones, TV-screens)
d. through as many channels as possible (your website, your social sites, video sharing platforms, set-top-boxes, SmartTVs)
It is the most inexpensive form of marketing (distributing) of your "free trial product" and make no mistake: it will not keep your existing congregation from coming to the building (as sometimes assumed in the past), but it will make "free trial users" step out of their homes and come to the building. It may take time, but you will see growth everywhere: in your online audience and in your weekly attendants at your physical church campus.
Don't feel ready yet? Just dare to use the two fish and five loaves you have been given at this time and watch a miracle of multiplication to feed the hungry. It may not yet be comparable to a 5-star restaurant, but hungry people enjoy the fish!