Using Direct Mail to Launch or Build Your Congregation
By Phil Wood
Like humans, on the same day one church is dying there is another congregation giving birth. The principle of natural life-cycles holds true for people, businesses, and churches. No one cheats death and sometimes delaying it is not always very pretty.
No matter how many advances in medicine are being made, birth pretty much continues to happen the same way it always has. Unfortunately, one common denominator that extends all the way back to the garden is pain. There are also constants when birthing a new church. Pain, notwithstanding, there is also the need to get the word out.
CCC, the “Yellow Box” Church in Naperville, Illinois, led by Dave and Jon Ferguson, has been an effective force in planting new church sites. Currently, each launch includes a postcard mailing campaign. As a cutting-edge ministry, they have found direct mail to still be effective and like many business, despite the many internet options, are not ready to give up on snail mail.
The common thought among professional mailers is that a single mailing will not produce the desired results, but rather effectiveness increases exponentially with multi-mailing campaigns. While new churches are sending a series of cards in the weeks leading up to the launch, the natural harvest times of fall/back-to-school, Christmas/Advent Season, and Easter makes sense for established congregations.
Three principles to remember when considering a mailing are:
1. Saturation. It is totally a numbers game. The more people you can contact, the better chance you will connect with someone seeking what you are providing.
2. Campaigns. Budget, design, and plan a series of mailings as opposed to once-and-out. It can also be coupled with a google ad campaign or other cost-effective media in your community that might connect with your target audience.
3. Cost-effectiveness. Someone has said, “Advertising does not cost, it pays.” There are many tools and professionals today who will help you identify what works and to make adjustments accordingly. Don’t be satisfied with what gets people in the door, but rather focus on the portal that leads to your ultimate goal. I imagine and hope that for most churches that is seeing someone become a fully-devoted disciple of Jesus Christ.
In a perfect world, mailings are not needed. Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois, went over 30 years before sending out their first community mailing just last year. Pastor Bill Hybles reported that neighbors did not even know that they were a church.
When a church has exhausted their natural networks, is attempting a turn-around, or is yet unknown, the mailing can be like an immediate door-to-door campaign, yet with more potential to create a buzz.
Is it worth it?
A decent mailing will cost a couple thousand dollars. If however, it reaps one new family, particularly a giving or tithing family that comes with a whole new network of friends, it will dollar-for-dollar pay for itself in no time. There is no price tag, however, on the encouragement a new family to a congregation brings or the hours of volunteerism they will contribute. Of course, there is absolutely no way to put the price on the value of a soul.
Most churches should not expect the traditional 1%-3% response that a mailing might produce for a business that is offering a deal. Instead, one lost sheep or straying family returning to the fold would certainly be worth the effort.
As an addendum, USPS’s Every Door Direct Mail (EDDM) has put direct mail back within reach for many churches. On the retail side, with very little effort and oversized pieces, you can mail to everyone in a carrier route for 16 cents each. If you have a not-for-profit permit, the EDDM rate is .074 each, and you don’t have to mess with mailing lists or labels.
Phil Wood is pastor of Fellowship Church of Carol Stream and director of Urban Youth Ministries, an outreach to at-risk youth in Aurora, Illinois.
The article “Using Direct Mail to Launch or Build Your Congregation” was written by Phil Wood. From: www.churchcentral.com web site. September 2013.
The material is most likely copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.
This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones