I don’t know how to say this. Most people don’t even know you exist. As a church this presents a problem if you are actually trying to reach people in your community.
The problem isn’t that you’re doing ministry wrong. It’s not because we live in a post-christian world. The issue isn’t that you are not a good communicator. The problem isn’t that your church doesn’t have the right programming or the right type of small groups. The problem isn’t your budget, attendance, or staff. The problem is so much simpler than all of those things. People just aren’t paying attention.
This sad reality applies to the efforts of almost every church, in every location, regardless of size.
You can have a church of thousands and be on the radar for millions of Christians across the country and still have most people drive by your location unaware of who you are or what you are like.
You can have small groups in every surrounding town, reaching into their neighborhoods and still most people will walk right on by without a second glance.
You can have a booming youth ministry, reaching hundreds of students every week and yet so many people at a Friday night football game won’t differentiate your cool youth group name from an energy drink.
You cannot start to grow a church with unchurched people until you understand that unchurched people simply are not paying attention to you.
It’s okay, people weren’t paying attention to Paul as he hung out in Athens in Acts chapter 17 until he started to engage them in their public forum. Sometimes to reach people who aren’t paying attention it just takes a different approach.
Grace Free Church has seen rapid expansion, despite being in a tough context for church growth. The journey all started with a simple question God had been leading us to ask:
How do people even know we exist?
Start asking your leaders that question. As you engage your team in this conversation, here are four ideas to adapt to your specific church context. I honestly believe that if you apply the ideas below you will start to see God do some amazing things through you in the lives of those who currently aren’t even paying attention.
4 Ways To Grow Your Audience When No One Is Paying Attention
1. COMPETE WITH THE WEEKEND. Stop competing with other churches. To really understand how to grow your audience you need to stop thinking about how to out church other churches. In fact, you need to stop thinking like other Christians think.
Your focus has to be completely on understanding the audience you are trying to reach. Our leadership knows that we want all of our area churches to grow. Our mission and vision for our county is too big to accomplish alone. Our leaders also know that we aren’t paying attention to what other churches in our area are doing.
Not only is comparison a thief of joy it is also a terrible outreach strategy. Instead of focusing on other churches our staff talks about how can we compete with golf, or brunch, or sleeping in or a lazy Sunday morning. If you are focused on other churches there is no way you can be focused on the unchurched in your community.
2. ENGAGE THE AUDIENCE ON THEIR TURF. This isn’t just about having a hip small group drinking micro-brews or espresso and talking about Jesus in a living room, or having a “serve the community day.” Those are all great and nothing beats actually engaging real people face to face, but don’t overlook what already has your audiences undying attention. It has a screen and they carry it around in their pockets.
Phones already have your audience’s attention and you can easily start to engage them on this new turf. Through leveraging social media and a simple online strategy you can reach almost every person in your community through the screen on their phone. As one of our elders constantly states, social media is the new town square. Get in the town square and start mixing it up in a positive way.
3. CATCH YOUR AUDIENCE’S ATTENTION. Just being active on social media doesn’t count. I work with a number of churches who were already putting content online but were struggling to get the results they were hoping for. It takes time and some experimentation to figure out what really connects in your context with the audience you are trying to reach. In every case (so far) these churches have been able to figure it out.
At our church it took us almost a year to figure out that what we thought was cool wasn’t working. Fortunately we continued to experiment with content until our audience clearly responded. Once we knew what was working we cut our posts in half and our social media presence took off.
The goal is to create content that gets people to pay attention to your message. Getting people to pay attention means you have to stand out from the mess of content that is being jammed into peoples’ feeds everyday. It also means that your content can’t be fluff.
4. ADD VALUE. You have to add real and experienced value to the lives of the people you are trying to reach. This is by far the most important piece of advice in this entire article. Use your efforts to show the love of God to others unconditionally.
Our news feeds are filled with people trying to sell us something. Everyone wants something from us. Showing the unconditional love of Jesus by adding value to the lives of people in our communities without wanting anything in return speaks volumes about who we are and who we serve.
Don’t be a church trying to grow a church. Be a church trying to show value and, ultimately, Jesus to people who have yet to accept this incredible good news.