One of the essentials for leading an outreach-focused, growing church (and likewise RARELY present in a stagnant one) is a detailed 12-month church growth calendar created six months before that calendar year begins.
What I mean by this is the Senior Pastor and team must create a roadmap for the congregation to follow, which, when executed, will ignite church growth.
I always tell Senior Pastors I coach to picture themselves as the vacation planners for the entire church.
Have you ever been on a trip that someone else organized, only to show up and realize that nothing was planned? Don’t you hate that? You stand around wasting time and feeling frustrated.
It turns out that the people we lead hate that too.
Your job as a Senior Pastor is to go out 12-24 months into the future, map out the terrain, get a tangible feel for what your church will look like when it is 25% larger, then come back and put together the action steps to make that happen.
Your annual church growth calendar is the roadmap you create to take your entire church back to that place (12-24 months away) that you just came from.
As Senior Pastors we create the roadmap to get our churches to the place God has laid out for us in the future.
That’s why I tell people that one of the tangible differences between Senior Pastors of growing churches and Senior Pastors of stagnant ones, is that the leaders of the growing ones have taken the time to figure out (a) what causes churches to grow and (b) crafted an annual calendar that their entire team follows to make that happen.
What to Include in a Church Growth Calendar
Here are the seven things we always include our church’s annual growth calendar:
1. 12 Monthly Special Events
Every calendar needs to have a special congregational event, each month, DURING its weekend services, that give congregants additional opportunities to invite their friends.
The events we have planned for 2016 are:
January: Justice Day
February: Marriage Makeover
April: David Akers Speaking (former Philadelphia Eagles player)
May: Mother’s Day photos
June: Man Series/Car Show/Homeless shelter drive
July: Kids’ Camp Sunday (special day following massive camp)
August: Special speaker
September: Back to Church Sunday (we will also honor first responders since it will be 9/11)
November: Money Series
December: Christmas Eve
Here is our entire 2016 Church Growth Calendar. But let me give some context to one of the events we’ve created that have created a lot of traction for us. In January 2016, we host a special “Justice Day” to precede the week of Martin Luther King Day. Last year we had Bob Goff speak. Before that we invited International Justice Mission. This year World Relief will present on the refugee crisis.
To make this a special event we will hand out Invite Cards. We’ll put out 10-15 step stake signs, a banner on the property, send an html email to the congregation to forward to their friends, and have the entire staff perform an orchestrated social media blitz.
Why Special Events Matter
The goal is to give our people an extra opportunity to invite their friends to something of meaning.
In a previous post I mentioned that if you want to grow by 100 people, you have to have 1,000 people come through your doors in a year’s time. I also said 250 of those people will come at Christmas Eve, 250 at Easter, and the remaining 500 will be evenly divided among the 12 months of the year.
With that in mind, this is an event to help bring 42 people through our doors in January (500 divided by 12 = 42 people needed in January to hit our 1,000 annual target). We also know that if we want to grow by 200 people this year we’ll need to attract closer to 100 new visitors a month.
2. 12 Inviting Sermon Series’ To Begin On Opposite Weeks From Our Special Event Sundays
You don’t want to start a new series on the same day you have your Special Sundays. That’s wasting a great opportunity to have TWO things to which your people can invite friends.
For example, the week following Easter we will launch a new four-week series titled, “One Nation Under gods.” The first week we’re going to interview hard-core radical Muslims and address Radical Islam.
For that week we’ll go down our checklist of marketing possibilities and decide which ones we’ll use to promote the series to the friends of our people.
Our marketing checklist is one that you’d typically see in any Guerilla Marketing checklist:
- Announcements from stage
- Invite cards passed out at the end of service (we design in-house and use OvernightPrints for printing and delivery. 2,000 sharp Invite cards will cost us around $150).
- Phone calls to database (we use a mass phone-call system, but only use it 2-3 times a year for really special events)
- HTML emails that people can forward to their friends
- Press releases to morning talk shows, newspapers and blogs. (FYI: if you have a huge event and you want to gain regional or national attention, always use PRNewsWire to host and push your press release)
- A special page on the website
- Step-stake signs
- Banners on the church property and in community
- Newspaper inserts
- Social media blitzes
- Facebook and Google ads
The key is to pick the right mix of promotional touches that will help your people get their friends to come.
3. Smaller Invitational Items
Undoubtedly there will be smaller things that you can do on a Sunday that can bring more people to your services.
For us the two smallest (in terms of scope and effort), but the biggest in terms of ROI, are always Child dedications and kids singing in our services.
Child Dedications – we hold these three times a year, and always on our three least attended days – Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day. We do that because each time we hold a child dedication at least new 100 family members and friends come to watch it. So why not do that on low attendance days?
Kids’ Singing In Services – we hold these three times a year and always on days where we know we need people to show up. For instance, if we notice there’s a long break between things that we think will bring people, we’ll schedule a Kids’ Sing at that point. They can occur anywhere in your calendar, so why not conduct those on days when you need a boost?
4. Evangelistic Presentations
Here’s where the real strategy comes in.
The goal is not to just get a bunch of people to visit. You need to think through how you will present the gospel to these people, lead them to Christ, and then propel them on to full devotion in Christ.
While we lead people to Christ every day at CCV, and don’t need a special day to prompt us to share the gospel in our services, it has proven helpful to create one specific Sunday a month where we’ll make an extra special effort to clearly communicate the gospel and call for a decision to follow Christ.
In our 2016 Church Growth Calendar you’ll see that we do that once a month, and it always includes me drawing “The Bridge” during or after a message, clearly explaining the gospel, and either jumping right into our baptistery and asking people to make a decision to follow Christ right then and there, or inviting them to fill out a “Baptism Response Card” to join us the following week at our monthly baptism service.
5. Monthly Baptism Videos
Right after I share the gospel, we’ll go into The Lord’s Supper, and during that we will show a video of the people who came to Christ over the last month and were baptized.
Our goal is to show actual live people who have taken the step recently and to inspire people to take action.
Here is an example:
6. Starting Point Class
We purposely host a Starting Point Class (our 101 class for new people) immediately after 3rd service on the same day we make an intentional gospel presentation. It is a 90 minute class that I teach that covers who we are as a church, what we believe, how we are led, what we have to offer people, and a presentation in greater detail of how to become a Christian and then how to live like one.
The reason we hold this immediately following church services where I’ve presented the gospel and showed a video of people responding to it, is that people are ready right then to ask questions.
Since we’re a church that is focused on growing through conversion growth only, we have to take great pains to explain everything, each and every month.
We assume our new people know absolutely nothing about Christianity.
The goal in doing so is to give people an opportunity to come and ask questions.
7. Monthly Baptism Services
Obviously readers of this blog differ on the nature of baptism, but the one thing we all agree on is it should be done.
We believe it should be done immediately upon a confession of faith, so we baptize people 7 days a week here at CCV.
However, we’ve found that people in our area (primarily former Catholics) prefer to make their baptism an event shared by their entire family. As a way to honor that, we publicize each month a larger corporate baptism service to which people can make plans to attend with their family and friends. These are always done immediately following our three services, though sometimes are done in the services themselves.
In addition to this, two times a year we will conduct a “spontaneous baptism service” where I just jump into the baptistery and share the gospel from there and call people to respond. These are usually large responses – anywhere from 15-50 people at a time.
For more information on how to increase your baptism numbers I’d suggest checking out my article 10 Ways To Increase Baptisms.