Mary Deckert

Mary Deckert has over 40 years’ experience in multiple communications and strategic functions including leadership, marketing, crisis management, creative and problem-solving roles in government and business (both private and public sectors); for-profit and ... read more

What growing churches do that declining churches do not

How to reach more people and grow your church

Reaching new people for Christ and helping them grow in that faith – that’s what we are all passionate about. The good news is you don’t have to start from scratch or figure it all out yourself. You can learn from the failures and successes of those who’ve gone before you. Scripture is rich with examples of people learning from others more experienced and wiser than we. “Tune your ears to wisdom, and concentrate on understanding. Cry out for insight, and ask for understanding. Then you will understand what is right, just, and fair, and you will find the right way to go.” –Prov, 2:2-3

We surveyed over 2,000 churches of all sizes, backgrounds, denominations, and locations to find out what they were doing and how successful it was (or was not). And we discovered a pattern of things that churches who are growing do on a consistent basis. Not surprisingly, churches that have plateaued or are in decline do not do those things consistently. And while the latest and greatest is always a fun thing to consider, you just can’t ignore the data that spans such a wide variety of circumstances. Some of those discoveries were real “ah-ha” moments.

4 things growing churches consistently do

1. Next Gen Focused

The biggest commonality among growing churches is a focus on reaching the next generation. Based on our assessments most churches that are growing are led by a Pastor who is abnormally and passionately focused on reaching the next generation. (This is true 38% of the time in declining churches, 68% of the time in growing churches, and 88% of the time in rapidly growing churches.) They think about that when preparing their message and when setting up for the next weekend, and their ministry and budget reflect that focus. Hands down, this one characteristic far surpassed all others in identifying what makes a church grow and be effective in reaching more people. 

Focus on reaching the next generation – that’s how you make an impact, see growth, and develop the next generation of believers. It’s what growing churches do consistently.

2. Gather Contact information

All ministry flows from relationships and relationships take time. That’s probably the first thing you learned on your road to building your church. But you can’t build a relationship if you don’t have any way to interact with someone. That’s why the second most consistent trait of growing churches is a focus on gathering people’s email addresses and phone numbers both online and in person. Nearly three-quarters of growing churches routinely gather contact information so they can follow up and build relationships with visitors. It’s how they turn event visitors into church service visitors and ultimately into consistent and engaged attenders. We cover how to gather, retain, and use contact information in our upcoming Visitor Growth Engine Lab on Sept. 27-28. If you are not a member of Church Marketing University or Church Fuel we highly recommend you enroll for a scholarship here to become a member of our Starter Plan so you can participate in the Visitor Growth Engine Lab.

3. Consistently Capture and Share Photography

This is perhaps the easiest yet most overlooked “quick fix” in the church world. Put simply, photography could be the breakthrough your church needs to reach more people. It’s something the vast majority of growing churches have figured out. Lives literally can change for eternity simply through your church’s photography!

Consider this: Photography allows people to visit your church without visiting your church. It alleviates the fear and anxiety of non-church people by showing them what to expect. And it can help tremendously with Google searches. Photography tells a story, it captivates people. And it’s necessary when trying to engage the next generation. Our culture, especially the millennial generation, is visual…it all revolves around visual imagery: video and photography … that’s the language of our culture today. 

People attract people. The people you highlight in your church’s photography will be the types of people you will see coming to your church. Like begets like. It’s an undeniable principle. And all you need are 10 photos of smiling people, something we cover in our Visitor Growth Engine Lab coming up on Sept. 27-28. We’ll show you how to do that and so much more. Sign up here on your CMU Dashboard. If you are not a member of Church Marketing University or Church Fuel and you’d like to participate in the Visitor Growth Engine Lab, you can enroll for a scholarship here and become a member of our Starter Plan.

If you have photos, good photography of your people, it will make everything else you do so much better. Jesus’s mission was to come and give us life — an abundant life. When people see the photos of your church, they should see the type of life that God wants to give to every single person, every single family.

4. Stream of positive reviews online

In today’s world, it’s common knowledge that reviews drive decisions! Wondering where to go for lunch? Google “good restaurants in my area.” Looking for that special gift? Ask Siri, “What are people saying about this new gizmo?” Trying to find a church that will fit your family? Call up “Churches in my area” and read what your neighbors are saying about it. 

Word of Mouth is powerful! According to the Yale School of Management, almost 90% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. And over half of people aged 18 to 54 will read online reviews before they ever step foot in a local business, including a church. Reviews are a tool we can use to share what’s happening inside our church with our community. The majority of growing churches understand and embrace this reality. We cover how to easily generate new positive reviews in our upcoming Visitor Growth Engine Lab on Sept. 27-28. If you are not a member of Church Marketing University or Church Fuel and you’d like to participate in the Visitor Growth Engine Lab, you can enroll for a scholarship here and become a member of our Starter Plan.

Reviews build trust and have a way of making every other part of your communications and outreach work way better.

Makes sense, so how do I do that?

We didn’t just survey churches, we’ve worked with over 50,000 churches and routinely help thousands of churches every week to grow and reach more people for Christ. We know what works and we understand what needs to happen, and we’ve simplified it into small, easy steps that drive growth. 

For example, consider these simple facts:

  • 91% of people never go past Page 1 of Google. This means that if your church website isn’t on Page 1 then your church is almost invisible … at  least to new visitors …at least to people in your city who are searching for a church
  • If you add three new pics to your Google My Business account every week then your church can get an extra 25,000 views a month
  • If you get two to three new Google reviews a week it can move your Google maps up to the top of a Google search … almost instantly appearing on page 1 of a search!

So how, practically, can your church achieve these goals? You could do it alone, or you can sign up for our upcoming Visitor Growth Engine Lab on Sept. 27-28. The Visitor Growth Engine Lab is all about helping your church build an engine for reaching your city and seeing more visitors each week. Your church will learn and have the opportunity to implement the key marketing elements that all growing churches have in common. And you’ll do it all in two days to get ready for the upcoming Fall and Holiday seasons.

We’ll teach you how to add three new pictures to your Google My Business and two to three positive reviews on Google. Don’t know what Google My Business is? We’ll cover that and help you set it up for your church. We’ll even tell you how to apply for a Google Grant where you can get $10,000 per month in free ads to help spread the word about your church to your community – all on Google’s dime!

If you are not a member of Church Marketing University or Church Fuel we highly recommend you enroll for a scholarship here to become a member of our Starter Plan so you can participate in the Visitor Growth Engine Lab.

Sign up for the Visitor Growth Engine Lab to establish the easy and simple foundations you need to put your church on the path to long-term growth!