Effective Church Websites

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices, Marketing Practices

Turning Your Church Website into a Powerful Evangelistic Tool

A couple of months ago, my daughter and I visited a college in Tennessee. She’s a high school junior and worship leader at our church, so we like to get out and visit other churches whenever we can and experience other church cultures. On this trip we were there all weekend, so we decided I would pick the church to attend on Sabbath morning, then she would pick a church to visit on Sunday morning, too. I wanted to experience worship at a regional church, while Zoey wanted to go someplace with a good contemporary worship band.

What’s the first thing we each did? A Google search, of course. And as we were searching online, I had this aha moment.

We’ve had a church home for many years, and I haven’t gone searching for a church to visit in a really long time. I had one shot to find the right church, to find the experience I wanted, and the primary means I had to find it was Google searches, leading to church websites.

As I looked at various church websites, I found that very few of them were actually communicating with me as a potential guest. I needed to know the basics:

  • Time of service
  • Location
  • We were still in a Covid-19 wave, so I wanted to know the masking policy

But I also needed more than that. I was looking for a specific type of worship experience, and I had one shot. So I wanted to see a photo of the worship service. I also wanted to know how to dress to fit in with the culture of the church, so I wanted to see people in the congregation in addition to the worship team.

In the end, on Sabbath we visited the Orchard Park Adventist Church in Chattanooga. Now, I’m comfortable in church, but I have to admit, it’s intimidating walking through the doors of a new church for the first time. So getting to know that church a little better through their website helped me be a little more confident walking through those doors.

Same thing for my daughter. Both churches we visited clearly communicated the church culture through the design, content and visuals of the website. Again, we had one chance to find the church experience we sought, and that website was the primary way we got to know churches in the area.

Today we’re talking about church websites, but before I get into the tactics of an effective church website, let’s talk strategy for a moment.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory

To understand what needs to go into an effective outreach website, let’s explore the psychology of church guests. In our last webinar, we talked about how God created humans with the innate need to belong to community, and one fundamental reason people come to a church event, whether it’s a worship service, a Bible study, or a community event, is because they are seeking to fulfill this fundamental need to belong. We are social creatures, and although church of course has a theological component, with a vertical relationship with God, church is fundamentally a social experience, featuring horizontal relationships between humans.

But humans are uncomfortable with uncertainty. When people think about walking through the doors of a strange church, filled with people they don’t know, this can cause anxiety. Today social anxiety is one of the chronic mental health challenges of this age, so we need to do whatever we can to lower the anxiety of our guests. The framework I want to suggest is called Uncertainty Reduction Theory.

Part of this anxiety is the uncertainty of how a social interaction will play out. A guest might wonder, if I don’t wear a tie will people treat me differently? Or what if I do wear a tie, but no one else is? Will people be talking in King James English, or using strange vocabulary I won’t understand? Will I be criticized because my clothes smell like cigarette smoke? Will I get cornered by someone trying to “save” me?
In a social setting, people are constantly assessing the environment and predicting how a conversation will flow, because uncertainty is uncomfortable.

Uncertainty Reduction Theory tells us there are several things people do to reduce uncertainty (Brashers 2007). When you meet someone for the first time, there is a cultural ritual we go through, and a big reason for that ritual is to reduce uncertainty. When I shake someone’s hand, look them in the eye and say, “Nice to meet you,” I’m reducing their uncertainty about how our interaction is going to go.

Okay, so what’s this got to do with church websites? Online research is another strategy people use to reduce uncertainty. The primary purpose of your website is to reduce your guest’s uncertainty. The pictures on the website should show people in the church environment, allowing the guest to pick up visual clues about the culture. What are they wearing? How are they interacting? The language on the site should reflect the culture of the church. If you’re a conservative church that uses the King James Version in your service, your website should reflect that. If you’re a church with a contemporary worship service, have a picture of the worship band to show the culture. The website should be authentic to the experience guests will have.

Let’s be clear: your church website IS communicating to guests. It says something about who you are and what you’re about. A lot of church websites are simply saying, we only care about our members, because the site is filled with bulletin announcements and insider speak. Or it doesn’t have anything specific about that local church, just a little something about Seventh-day Adventists in general. What does that communicate to guests who visit your website? Does it make them feel valued? Does it do anything to reduce their uncertainty?

The primary purpose of your website is to reduce your guest’s uncertainty. They should get a feel from your website of what they can expect to experience when they walk through the doors of your church.

What Goes into an Effective Church Website

Okay, enough theory. Let’s talk about what goes into an effective church website. Whenever you are creating a communication piece you want to think about who the audience is. Neil Gordon wrote, “Effective communication preferences the recipient over the sender,” so think about who your recipient is for your church website and what they need.

There are 3 primary audiences for your website: guests, members, and leaders. All 3 groups have unique needs, and they also share some needs, too.

Guests

Let’s talk about guests first. Guests are looking for answers to some basic questions:

  • When do you meet?
  • Where do you meet?
  • How should I dress?
  • What can I expect when I get there?
  • How can I reach someone if I have a question?

For guests, your primary objective is reducing uncertainty. Communicate who you are, to help them decide if your church might be a good fit for their spiritual needs. Then give them a feel for what they can expect, to help lower the anxiety of walking through the doors of a strange place.

I believe church is meant for those who are not yet part of it, so your website should speak to them first.

Members

Now let’s talk about members. Most member questions have to do with upcoming events and activities.

  • What was that thing coming up?
  • When is that thing?
  • Where is it happening?

Some other questions they might have include:

  • What are some ministries that I can get involved in?
  • Who do I contact to get involved?
  • Can I give tithes and offerings online?
  • Can I submit prayer requests or praises online?

Leaders

The last audience is your group of leaders at the church. The primary question leaders ask is about logistics and scheduling:

  • Who is doing what this weekend?
  • What was the decision we made about that thing?
  • How are we doing financially?

For several years, my church’s website had a private login area with documents: board minutes, financial statements, the latest nominating committee report, the church directory. As a leader I found that incredibly helpful.

A church website can speak to all 3 audiences, but you have to be really careful about how you do it. Take a look at our demo website that I think balances this pretty well. Please note, this is not a real church, only a demonstration of how we believe an effective church website is structured: Prairie.church

Prairie.church Example

Some things to notice on this website’s homepage:

  • Right at the top, it speaks to guests, with a prominent link to a page specifically for guests.
  • There are lots of pictures that showcase the people and culture of the church.
  • There are several ways someone can respond immediately, with links to submit prayer requests, praises, and kudos.
  • For members, the schedule is prominently before the top section.
  • A complete list of recurring weekly events is found at the bottom of every page, along with a map showing where the church is.

On the page for guests, there are several things to note:

  • The primary purpose of this page is to reduce uncertainty for guests, so it goes into great detail about what to expect on a Sabbath morning.
  • If your website is going to be evangelistic, you have to assume guests have no background with Adventist culture. So on this page some key phrases are explained, such as “Happy Sabbath,” “Sabbath School,” and “Sabbath School Quarterly.” This is intentional, so the guest is prepared to encounter terms when they visit.
  • More photos reveal the culture of the church.

Roles in Building a Website

Let’s talk briefly about what’s required to actually create a website. This is true for any website at all, and it’s also true for church websites. There are four different roles that each must contribute to constructing an effective website. The first website I built was 27 years ago, for La Sierra University, and I’ve worked on literally hundreds of websites since then. What I’ve found is that for a website to have maximum effectiveness, all four of these roles must contribute to the end product:

  1. Vision. Someone needs to articulate what the website is trying to accomplish and passionately drive the vision forward.
  2. Technical skill. Someone needs to be able to handle setting up a hosting service and building the technical framework of the site.
  3. Communication skill. Someone needs to be able to write the copy on the website in a way that communicates to your audience.
  4. User experience, or design. This has to do with site navigation, buttons, and the photos and design elements that are used.

Most people can contribute to at least one role, sometimes two. There are a few really gifted people in the world that are capable of filling all four of these roles. HOWEVER, each role uses a different part of the brain, and transitioning between each role has a pretty high switching cost. Because of this, one person CANNOT fill all four of these roles concurrently. It’s just not possible. Believe me, I’ve tried. The only way it works is to spread it out over several days or weeks, working on one role at a time, then giving recovery space before working on a different role.

But really, the best websites are created by a team whose members each fill just one of these roles. That’s how we do it here at SermonView when we work on websites.

Using Google Ads to Get Seen

Okay, so you’ve got a relevant, up-to-date website that speaks to guests. That’s nice, but how do potential visitors find that website? Of course, they’ll find you on Google.

There are two ways your website can appear in a Google results list. One is what’s called an organic listing, and the other is paid advertising.

Organic Listings

Google builds its database of web pages by going out onto the internet and looking at every page it can find. Once a page is in its database, it checks back every few months to look for any changes. If a website has frequent changes, like a news site, it will check every few hours, or even every few minutes. But for a typical church website, Google updates it every few months.

The system looks at the content of each page and puts it in its database. Then, using a proprietary algorithm, it decides which websites to display for any given search, and decides in what order to show them. It considers your location, other websites you’ve visited, and your recent searches to try to ascertain what you’re actually looking for, then it gives you a list of websites that it thinks will be most relevant to you. It’s pretty amazing technology, because it happens really fast.

There are things as a website owner that you can do to make your website more friendly to search engines. This is called search engine optimization, or SEO. There are companies you can hire to help you optimize your website, using keywords, meta tags, and a bunch of other tricks. But it can take years for SEO work to make a difference, and even then it’s fragile. We’ve had websites with a #1 or #2 rank for a specific search suddenly drop to page 3 or 4 when Google updates its algorithm, which it does frequently.

If you can do it, great, but it takes considerable effort and ongoing attention to be successful. There are companies you can hire to handle SEO for you, but we’re seeing low-end SEO services costing $250 per month, $3,000 per year, and going up to $3,000 per month and beyond. They are expensive and none of them will guarantee results.

When we build a website here at SermonView, we think about SEO and make sure the content is SEO-friendly. But we don’t do active, ongoing search engine optimization ourselves, and we don’t recommend you put effort into it. The payoff just isn’t worth it for a church website.

Paid Advertising

So if SEO isn’t consistently effective, what can you do? That’s where Google advertising comes in. With Google Ads, you can bid for placement at the top of a particular search. You decide which keywords and phrases should trigger your ad, you can restrict it geographically, and you have full control over what that ad says. And because the searches related to your church are fairly specific and infrequent, this can be a really cost-effective way to get seen.

Some keywords you should advertise on include things like:

  • Your church name
  • Adventist church in your city name
  • Adventist church near me
  • Church near me
  • Sabbath church near me
  • Sabbath school near me
  • Bible study near me

You should also have articles on your website about some specific Bible topics, then purchase advertising for relevant keywords that direct to these pages. For example:

  • Sabbath
  • What happens when you die
  • Second coming
  • Bible prophecy
  • End time events
  • Healthy living
  • Body the temple of God

You can also purchase advertising on Google maps, so when someone searches on maps your listing comes up first. This is important, because 1 out of 8 Google searches are directly in Google Maps.

Now, if you were to hire a Google ad agency, you would pay similar rates as SEO. The cost starts at $300-500 per month just for the management fee and goes up from there, plus the actual Google advertising costs. But we’ve been able to get that cost much lower, which I’ll talk about in a minute.

Laura’s Story

So does advertising make a difference? Let me tell you about my friend Laura. She grew up Seventh-day Adventist but had gotten disconnected from church moving around as a young adult. She moved here to Vancouver, Washington, and shortly after that move decided to connect with a spiritual community. She searched “Bible study near me” on Google.

My church was running ads, and we showed up in Laura’s search results. The crazy thing was, she wasn’t even looking specifically for an Adventist church, she just wanted a Bible study. But there we were in the results, so she clicked through to our website. One thing led to another, and today she is fully engaged in the life of our church, serving on the Sabbath morning tech team and participating in a weekly Bible study group. I saw her just last Sabbath, launching a new young adult ministry with some of our other young church leaders.

Does a church website make a difference? Yes. Does advertising that website make a difference? Yes.

Laura found her church on Google.

Last month, over 100,000 people searched on Google for the phrase, “churches near me.” And over 50% of church attendees say that a church’s website is important in picking that church for a visit. Your website is the online welcome mat for the community, and it needs to speak to your guests.

SermonView’s Service

I know updating your church website is a big undertaking, on top of dealing with Google advertising and keeping the website up to date. Creating a website requires those 4 roles we talked about: vision, tech skill, communication, and user interface skills. It’s time and talent that most churches just don’t have. Hiring even a part-time person to handle this will cost you $15 to $20 thousand per year, and so will hiring an online agency to do it.

So let me tell you what SermonView will do for you.

Google Ads

First, we’ll create a localized Google ad campaign that covers the basic searches related to your church: variations of your church name, church near me, those types of searches. We’ll also make sure you’re placed correctly on Google maps and get that location information up to date, then include maps in the ad campaign. On top of that, we’ll cover some additional keywords, like Sabbath, what happens when you die, Bible prophecy and end time events, with these pointing to specific pages on your website with content related to the topics.

If you were to outsource this, the management fee alone would start at $3,600 per year, and could be as much as $10,000 per year. I know small businesses that spend over $1,000 a month, $12,000 per year, on Google advertising. This is all covered in our solution.

Website

But advertising only gets people to your website, and we’d like you to have a strong, guest-friendly website. So we’ll also build you a new website that’s focused on helping your guests reduce their uncertainty. Remember those 4 roles we talked about for building a website? We’ll guide you in discovering your vision for the website, help you with the communication role, then completely cover the technical skills and user interface. We’ll give your website a fresh new look that’s mobile-friendly. Plus, we’ll include features specifically for members and leaders, too.

If you were to hire a website company to create this type of site, it would run you $5,000 or more, and it would require you to help them understand the unique needs and vocabulary of a Seventh-day Adventist church. But we work with Adventist churches every day, and we’ll build this website for you as part of our program.

Hosting

Plus, because of our partnership with Adventist Church Connect, you’ll save money on website hosting. Quality, high-uptime hosting will cost you $500/yr or more, but the North American Division covers this cost for all Adventist Church Connect websites. Because our solution is built on ACC, your church doesn’t have to pay for any hosting costs.

Content management

With ACC, you’ll have access to make updates to your website anytime you want. But we’ve heard from a lot of churches that they don’t want to have to deal with this. So we’ll take care of content management for you. If you have a change you want to be made on the site, just let us know and we’ll do it for you. Send us your weekly bulletin, and we’ll put it on the website each week. Content management is included in our program.

Email management

On top of that, we’ll manage your email, too. We’ll set up your website domain to work for email, so you can have email addresses like pastor@oasislive.org, or secretary@oasislive.org. We’ll set up G Suite for Nonprofits for your church and manage your email system on your behalf. Need to add an email address for someone? Just let us know and we’ll take care of it for you.

Hiring a company to handle your email management could cost $3,000 or more per year, but we include it with our solution.

If you hired an employee part-time to do all this, it’s going to cost your church $15,000 – $20,000 per year, and even more if they’re proficient at it. You’ll have to manage them and direct their time usage, which can be a distraction for you.

Working with web agencies to handle this, you would pay $14,500 minimum for the first year, plus at least $9,500 per year after that. Besides this, you’ll have to manage the contractors and help them understand the unique needs of a Seventh-day Adventist church.

With SermonView’s Complete Plus Church Solution, we’ll handle all of it for less than the cost of hiring basic SEO services: $2,495 for the first year, then $1,995 each year after that. In addition, we’re focused on Adventist churches, so you don’t need to explain what Sabbath means, or why you want “Bible prophecy” as a keyword.

You’ll get Google advertising for your church name and churches near me, you’ll get advertising on Google maps, plus you’ll get additional keywords pointing to specific pages on your website. You’ll get a brand new, beautiful website focused on your guests, designed to reduce their uncertainty and draw them through your church doors. You’ll get free hosting through our partnership with Adventist Church Connect. Plus, we’ll handle content management for you, so you just send us the changes and we’ll handle it. And we’ll also manage your email system, so you can use the same domain for email as the church website.

All that for $2,495 for the first year, then $1,995 each year after that.

It’s a great program that we’re excited to be able to offer your church, and I hope you’re able to take advantage of it. To sign up, or to request more information from one of our campaign managers, visit EvangelismWebsites.com. Or you can call us at 800-525-5791.

I have a heart for the local church, and I’ve worked on hundreds of websites over the years, including many church websites. I’m just so excited that our crew has been able to put together this comprehensive solution for your local church that covers everything you need. Visit EvangelismWebsites.com, or call us at 800-525-5791.

Wrap up

That’s our webinar for today! The SermonView crew would love to help you turn your church website into an evangelistic engine that helps propel your mission forward. If you’d like to talk with someone about our church website services, please contact us, and someone from our team will reach out to you soon.

References

Brashers, D. E. (2007). A theory of communication and uncertainty management. Explaining communication: Contemporary theories and exemplars, 201-218.

Turning Leads into Connections: How to Build Lasting Relationships with Your Bible Study Leads 

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices

Overview

With InterestGenerator you get to meet new people from your area every month and build connections with those who are ready to study the Bible, guaranteed. It’s a simple and easy way to grow your interest list. But how you approach and interact with those who request Bible studies will have a big impact on the longevity of that relationship. (No pressure, right?) There are many ways to approach an interest that are reflective of your church’s personality, but is there a “right” way to connect with your leads? And what should you do if you don’t get a response?

Join Larry Witzel, SermonView’s founder and president, along with Sarah Grant, SermonView campaign manager, as they walk through some best practices and simple solutions that any church can apply to their long-term communication strategy. Watch firsthand how the InterestTracker software can help you organize and maintain your Bible study requests and interactions with your leads. Plus, learn some tried and tested methods to help you see a greater response both initially and long term. You’ll walk away with new ways to encourage your team and engage your leads, helping them move from interested to invested.


Webinar Transcript

Larry: Welcome to today’s webinar, “Turning Leads into Connections: How to Build Lasting Relationships with Your Bible Study Leads.“ I’m Larry Witzel, founder and president of SermonView Evangelism Marketing. Joining me today is Sarah Grant, one of our campaign managers. She is going to help with some of the demonstrations we want to share with you.

My goal for today is that you leave with something practical that you can put into use this week in your ministry.
Here’s where we’re going over the next few minutes:

  • I’m going to begin by talking about the why. Why does a church need to put thought into 1-on-1 communication practices?
  • Then I’ll pass it over to Sarah, who will tell you about our lead generation program, InterestGenerator, which is how we introduce people from your community to you. 
  • We’ll show you some specific features in InterestTracker, our online CRM for Adventist evangelism. 
  • Then Sarah will get into some specific practices that will improve the communication with your interests.
  • Finally, we’ll look at some things you can do if someone just isn’t responding, along with some things you definitely should NOT do.
  • Then we’ll end with your questions.

Why communication is important

Okay. Let’s get to the foundation of interest communication, and I want to talk a little communication theory here. What is church? It’s a holy community, led by Jesus, a community of faith. What is a community? Think of it as a network of relationships. So evangelism is what we call it when God works through us to draw someone new into that network of relationships, into that community faith.

Community is a network of relationships

What’s the starting point for that? It starts by building a relationship between one member of that network of relationships, and someone who is not yet a part of that network. As that relationship grows, then there will be opportunities to introduce them to other members of that community, but it starts with one person initiating a relationship first.

The next question is, how do you build a relationship with someone? That’s through communication, specifically through a sequence of interactions between you and the interest. The building block of relationship-building is an interaction.

About 5 years ago, a couple of communication researchers proposed a theory that we can apply here. They call it Communicate Bond Belong Theory (Hall & Davis, 2017). We communicate in order to bond, to build a relationship, and that bond leads to belonging, to affinity and identity with a community. Communicate, bond, belong. As they researched this, they found a couple of things relevant to us here.
First, humans have a fundamental need to belong, and we use interpersonal communication to satisfy that need to belong. But relationships take work, so people also have to manage the energy spent in creating those relationships. The researchers put it this way:

“The motivation to socially engage is offset by a motivation to conserve energy.”

(Hall & Davis, 2017, p. 22)

People have limited time and energy, and they invest those resources into the most efficient processes to meet the need to belong to a community. So here’s the application: In your communication practices, design your communication to require as little energy as possible for your interest to engage in each interaction.

Second, reciprocity is important. Both parties need to be contributing to the conversation and to the relationship-building. There needs to be a balance in terms of the give and take in a relationship. So as you’re building the relationship, it’s important to open up yourself to that person, in levels of depth corresponding to them.

So, our goal is to draw an interest into a relationship with you, which can then lead them into that community of faith. People have a desire for that, because God gave us this fundamental need to belong. Communicate, bond, belong.

But how do you meet people who are seeking to meet that need to belong? The SermonView crew has spent years developing methods for finding people in your community who are ready to study the Bible with you, and that’s what Sarah is going to talk about next.

What is InterestGenerator?

Sarah: Interest Generator is a service we offer to connect you with people in your community who are ready to study the Bible. InterestGenerator includes multiple components that work together in a way that local churches have not had access to in the past. With InterestGenerator you get to meet new people from your area every month and build connections with those who are ready to study the Bible.
Each of our Interest Generator campaigns are managed by a dedicated marketing coordinator who blankets your community with targeted ads clearly focused on a request for a Bible study. When someone clicks on an ad, they complete an online form that requires them to type in their actual contact information, clicking through some confirmation pages to get to a button that says something like “Request my free Bible study”. So you can be confident that each lead is genuine, and they did not sign up by accident.

We do not advertise a specific study. Rather, we focus on themes to allow your church to choose studies that match the individual request. These themes use specific language in our ads that should be considered when selecting which studies to offer, but we’ll come back to that later when we discuss communication strategies.

The ads we use can be seen all over Facebook, Instagram, and depending on your plan, Google. They are geolocated to your exact area, and only your area. We use detailed targeting along with Facebook’s algorithm to make sure the people who are most likely to respond to your ads will be the ones that are seeing your ads. Now, this likely means that church members will not see your ads. We hear that concern a lot. If you are not seeing your ads, that means your campaign is doing exactly what it is supposed to! We want your budget to reach new people, not the ones you already have.

A lot goes into managing your social media campaigns and SermonView handles it all—ad design & testing, detailed targeting, conversion tracking, and managing comments/messages are all part of the package. We’ll go over some of the ads that we use in a little bit, but next I want to demonstrate how these leads get delivered to you and your team using SermonView’s online relationship management tool, InterestTracker.

InterestTracker Demo

Remember when Larry said that the building block of relationships is an interaction? Our team created a relationship management system where the central component is interactions.  This system is called InterestTracker. You may be already familiar with this software, but let me do a quick demo for those of you who aren’t.

  • Unlimited Users/Roles – share the energy with your team
  • Set notifications to get alerts.
  • Demo how leads come in to an account.
  • Assigning a lead to your team.
  • Show where to find the offer they responded to.
  • How to mark an offer as followed up/set reminders.

We just covered how to document a follow-up for an offer, but let’s talk about how to actually follow up with your leads in ways that can start a dialogue and help build trust with your church.

Methods to increase effective communication with your leads

How you approach and interact with those who request Bible studies will have a big impact on the longevity of that relationship. There are many ways to approach an interest that are reflective of your church’s personality, but let’s look at principles that should be present with all interactions.

First off, spend time praying for them before you make contact. Often times we find ourselves seeking God or the Bible when we are facing challenging circumstances in our lives. Lifting up each individual in prayer not only supports them but softens our hearts to them and helps us to be open to potential needs they may have.

Look at the offer to understand the need. We can begin to “understand their need” by looking at the offer they responded to. This will help you know what attracted them and led them to make the request. It’s tempting to share what we want them to know, but this is about what they are responding to. If they clicked on an offer titled “God Cares”, they may not connect with materials about the mark of the beast or prophecy. Instead, you’ll want to use a Bible study that reflects the character & love of God. Likewise, if they clicked on an ad about “Bible prophecy”, they will be more likely to stay engaged with a study focused on prophecy.

Choose something that resonates with the offer that drew them to fill out the form. By doing this, you are not only building trust, but you are helping with their “emotional energy conservation” as Larry mentioned earlier, so there should be little resistance on their end by offering them a free resource they are already interested in.

Introducing yourself. Next, I want to point out one thing that SermonView does ahead of time to help with your communication. We run your ads under our brand “My Free Bible Study.” We do this because we don’t know what someone’s previous church experience is, so in case of a potentially negative experience, we remove that from influencing their decision, plus we build credibility with a professional brand]Since they’ve responded to ads from My Free Bible Study, you should introduce yourself as someone from the My Free Bible Study team when you first start communicating. Dropping something off at the door? Wear your volunteer name badge and, again, introduce yourself as someone from “The My Free Bible Study Team”. This will help them remember the ad that they first responded to, and avoid confusion about where you are from. Using this method will help give a reminder and a reason for reaching out to them.

You can try different methods of communication too. We recommend:

  • Start with a phone call.
  • Follow up with a text or an email.
  • Then mail a card with a personal hand-written note.

Continue building the relationship. Remember, your goal is not just to get someone to complete a study, but to build a relationship. As the old saying goes, “people don’t care what you know until they know how much you care” is very applicable as you begin establishing a relationship with each individual. 
Whether you hit it off right away or are having a hard time connecting, here are 7 tips to keep in mind as you move forward:

  1. Remember to guide gently. Stay attentive to their comfort level when it comes to pace. Ask them how often they’d like a new study, and follow up without pressuring them to be done faster. Remember, each person’s life looks different, some will have full plates and others will have much more availability. 
  2. Respect their preferred method of delivery. If they opt to receive their studies in-person or by mail, don’t change it on them without them discussing it with them. 
  3. Online studies still need human connection. If they are receiving their studies through an online platform, you should still reach out to them so they are not left to navigate it on their own.
  4. Contact should be about them. Check in with them as they journey through their studies and see if they have questions. Remember to make your reason for contact about them and their needs. 
  5. Relate with them. This one is big. Remember back when you were first learning about God or the Bible? Share that you had questions or struggles, or maybe areas that relieved struggles when you learned it. By giving that “equal emotional investment” that Larry mentioned is required for building a relationship, you will become a safe person for them to work through their questions. (Practical TIP: Be familiar the Bible study yourself first so you are prepared for any questions, discussion, or to point out your favorite parts.)
  6. Save invitations for when the relationship is ready. We hope that each relationship grows to include your church, but be attentive to their comfort level and wait to invite them to events at your church until the relationship has grown to that point. The exception to this is if your church is holding an event that is clearly related to and focusing on the topic of the ad they responded to.  
  7. If they come, meet them out front so they don’t have to walk in alone. Walking into a new church can be scary for most people. We don’t know everyone’s experiences with church. Having someone to walk in with that they’ve already built a relationship with will speak volumes about your care for them.

OK… But what if they still aren’t responding?

This can definitely feel disappointing. As Larry mentioned earlier, humans have a fundamental need to belong, and while, with our leads, we use interpersonal communication to satisfy that need to belong, we are human too—and it can still hurt when there is little or no relational feedback. But remember: although we don’t know what prompted them to make a request for a Bible study and then not respond to you, we do know that they expressed a clear interest in learning more about God or the Bible. It’s important to remember that unless someone asks you to quit contacting them, they are not a lost opportunity.

Continue to show them that you and the Bible are a source of Good News and encouragement. You never know when they will be ready to finally take that step, so it’s important you are there when they are ready, and that they know they can come back to you—even if they ghosted you for a while.

Remember, this is a very normal part of the process. These interests signed up to receive a Bible study; they may be intimidated with a conversation. However, by prayerfully and carefully engaging with each person, you can be a bridge to connection and God’s love. When they decide to cross that bridge is between them and the Holy Spirit, it‘s just our job to keep it open.


How to build a long-term communication strategy

So, how do we help keep that bridge open and help them move from interested to invested? We build a long-term communication strategy. Let’s look at a few factors to consider as you develop a plan that works for your church.

Some requests will be from dedicated Christians that want to dig deeper into their understanding of God, while others may have just suffered a tragedy or hurt that has compelled them to look to God for the very first time. Remember: Humanize the numbers and understand these are real people behind each lead and it will help us to be understanding of each person, whether they respond right away or not.

Every request is valuable. It’s true, that not all leads will turn into studies, but at one point that person took the time to give their personal information in exchange for an offer to study the Bible. This will provide understanding & should also encourage us to continue to reach out in meaningful ways.

The key to success is a combination of prayer and a communication strategy. One answer comes from the brand-loyalty best practices found in the business world:

The corporate world knows that once someone gets on their interest list, it requires reaching out multiple times in order to build a connection. The data suggest that number is an average of 8. That means that you need to reach out to your interest list an average of 8 times, with something that they find important or interesting (not something we find important or interesting.) Remember the need for energy conservation? Messages that are encouraging and uplifting will fill their energy, and you want that associated with your team and, more importantly, the Bible.

Here are 4 easy things you can apply to your long-term communication strategy to help build connections:

  1. Try a weekly inspirational text.
    Text messages are quick and have a 98% open rate. What if you sent a text every Friday to your interest list? What if every inspiration contained a positive message, drove people to read their Bibles, and invited people to reach back to your ministry team? That is a low energy ask, with a high value reward of hope and connection. Text messaging is easy within InterestTracker,… [SARAH: You can do this by email, or by text in Interest Tracker.  You can send a bulk message to your entire list, sort it by those who have requested Bible studies, or individually.]
  2. Create a mental anchor.
    You want to start your communications the same way each time. Using a short, consistent phrase at the beginning of your communications creates familiarity with what it is and who it is coming from. We use “God cares” because it is short, meaningful, and matches an ad campaign that seems to really resonate with people across the country.
  3. Be an inspiration.
    The feel of your communication should always be one that speaks into a person’s life. This is not the time for teaching or correcting. Again, you want to show them that the Bible and your team are a positive, uplifting addition in their life.
  4. Always end with a call-to-action (connection)
    By encouraging a reply to your communication, you give your reader permission to start or continue engaging in a conversation. “Need prayer?” is a short and easy way to invite a response, and again, keeps the focus of the conversation on your interest. Remember: Communication then bonding leads to belonging.

Have you seen our brand-new “InterestGenerator Team Guide”? 

If you haven’t seen our new Team Guide, please check it out. Over the last few years we’ve run over 250 campaigns, helping churches connect with over 25,000 people in their community. Partnering with these churches, hearing the successes and struggles, has helped us gather real-world data from the field and we’ve compiled the information into a team guide to create best practices and tips for building real connections as you engage with your leads. A lot of what we just covered is listed in this booklet. Plus, we have scripts to help with initial contact. If you haven’t gotten one yet, you can request one at the link on the slide, which will also include in the chat system.

Wrap up

Larry: That’s our webinar for today! My goal today was to help inspire and equip you with ways you can work with your team as they communicate with your interest list, turning a list of leads into relationships. Some things we covered today:

  • We looked at the big picture: community, individual relationship, and interactions to build that relationship. Or flipping that around: communicate, bond, belong.
  • We went over InterestGenerator and how that program works.
  • We shared ways to help your team stay organized and on top of new requests with the InterestTracker software.
  • We discussed methods to increase effective communication with your leads.
  • We went over a few key things you can apply to your long-term strategy as you reach out to leads at every stage along their journey.

The SermonView crew would love to support your next outreach event, or help you find people in your community ready to study the Bible. We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing, and we’d love an opportunity to share more about how we can bring value to your church outreach. If you don’t already have an InterestGenerator Lead Campaign going with us and you’d like to learn more about what it can do for your church, contact us today.

References

Hall, J. A., & Davis, D. C. (2017). Proposing the communicate bond belong theory: Evolutionary intersections with episodic interpersonal communication. Communication Theory, 27(1), 21-47. https://doi.org/10.1111/comt.12106

Huge wins for Jesus in Oregon

Larry Witzel Uncategorized

Last month, SermonView had the pleasure of helping with a conference-wide coordinated start event in our very own Oregon Conference. When word got out to the pastors about the upcoming event, 40 churches reached out to us for help with their marketing campaigns. Utilizing the professional content and stirring art from It Is Written, we set out to maximize each church’s budget. From social media campaigns to banners and mass mailers, we wanted to help share the event in a targeted way with as many people as we could. And the results were amazing!


We handled the personalization and mailing of over 500,000 pieces into our communities. Social media ads saw over one million impressions online. Both marketing strategies contributed to over 1,200 pre-registrations. That’s 1,200 individual people wanting to hear about freedom, healing and hope in Jesus.
If you joined us for our last webinar—or if you’ve ever hosted any event—you’ll know that pre-registration does not equal attendance. But, remember: all pre-registrations are real people, with loved ones they wanted to bring with them. Those are the warmest leads you can get, so these churches are continuing to reach out to them as part of their long-term communication strategy.


What are your dreams to grow God’s Kingdom?Whether you’re looking to hold a full-message evangelistic series, a small bridge event, or a conference-wide evangelistic campaign, SermonView’s digital marketing and direct mail services can help you get more people to your event, at a lower cost per guest. Call us today to get started!

Photo courtesy of the Oregon Conference.

Dealing with Discouragement: When Evangelism Doesn’t “Work”

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices

Overview

You paid thousands of dollars for an evangelism marketing campaign and got dozens of pre-registrations for your meetings. But on opening night, most are no-shows. All that effort, little to show for it. Does this discourage you? How do you deal with it?

In this webinar, SermonView founder and president Larry Witzel will help you to take hold of that discouragement and use it to power the mission forward. He’ll walk you through a process of reframing to see the potential rather than the loss, talk about the positive power of failure, and give you practical communication strategies to follow up with those who never showed. You’ll leave this webinar with a practical plan for propelling your ministry forward—even when discouragement threatens to hold you back.


Webinar Transcript

When SermonView promotes an evangelistic event, and especially when we handle marketing for a full-message public evangelistic series, we like to check in after opening night to see how things went. Sometimes we get good news, sometimes it’s so-so, and sometimes it’s bad. But we always want to hear it, because it helps us learn and grow, so we can all get better at the science of evangelism.

There is one response we sometimes hear from church leaders after opening night. Now, this certainly isn’t everybody, it’s only a slice of our customers who express this. But we’ve probably heard this hundreds of times over the years, so I want to address it today. It goes something like this:

We’ve been promoting this event for weeks, and our members are excited. We got 80 pre-registrations for our meetings, and we were eager to meet them. But on opening night only 20 showed up. We’re really discouraged by these results.

Now, let’s be clear. The feeling is real, and I want to acknowledge that. I don’t want to minimize this feeling of discouragement.

But stop and think about it. You have 20 guests! These are 20 people who made the effort to come to your church and hear your message of hope! More than that, you have 60 people who were really interested in the topic, who took the time to give you their real information. Those are 60 people you can follow up with and connect with in the future!

Still, discouragement. So let’s talk for a minute about where this feeling of discouragement comes from. In this particular case, there is a psychological concept in the field of behavioral economics that explains it, called “loss aversion.”

Loss Aversion

Loss aversion is the idea that “losses loom larger than gains” (Kahneman & Tversky, 1979). It’s a concept found in Kahneman’s Prospect Theory, and researchers have spent the last 40 years studying it. They found that the pain of losing is psychologically about twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. People are more willing to take risks to avoid a loss than to make a gain.

Another way to look at this is that emotionally, people don’t think about the final number, but about the change that resulted in that number. In retirement investing, we know that the stock market moves up and down, fluctuating every day. Studies have found that someone who owns a stock that goes from $50 to $100 are more satisfied than someone who stock goes from $50 to $150 then down to $100. They consider that a loss, and that loss is painful.

So let’s apply this to evangelism. Before the marketing campaign, the church had zero people coming to the evangelistic series. 20 people is a huge increase from zero. But that’s not what you saw. It went from zero to 80 pre-registrations, then down to 20, so it feels like you lost 60 people. To be clear, that’s not what actually happened, but emotionally, that’s how it feels.

But there’s more. Loss aversion doesn’t affect everyone in the same way. Several studies have shown that personality is a mediating factor in loss aversion (Canessa et al., 2013; Tom et al., 2007), and one study in particular looked at the Big Five personality inventory (Boyce et al., 2016). They found people high in what’s called the Conscientiousness trait experienced higher levels of loss aversion. In fact, in this group they found almost no pleasure from gain, and higher levels of pain from loss. It turns out that this Conscientiousness trait is also found in the type of person most effective at putting together a public evangelistic series. So among the pastors we work with, loss aversion is really strong.

Dealing with Loss Aversion

Okay, so we know that loss aversion is leading to this discouragement. What can we do about it?

First, reframe the numbers. Prior to opening night, you have zero guests, so in this scenario we went from zero to 20 guests. That’s a win. Set aside the pre-registrations, we’ll come back to those in a minute. Focus on the 20 people who took the time to come through the doors of an unknown church, with people they’ve never met. Let’s celebrate those who did come.

But we still have those 60 pre-registrations who didn’t show. And here at SermonView our team has asked, do we even want to tell you about them? We know that 70-80% of pre-registrants don’t come opening night, so by telling you about them, aren’t we just setting you up for disappointment? That’s a fair question.

As we discussed it though, we think you should know about every pre-registration. It gives you an opportunity to pray for each name leading up to the meetings, and it does help you build the interest list. So we think it’s important for you to have all the information. Remember, ultimately it’s not about you feeling good. It’s about reaching souls for the Kingdom. It’s about helping you be the most effective evangelist that you can be.

We’ll talk more about what you can do with those 60 no-shows in a minute. But first, let’s talk about outright failure.

Dealing with Failure

We’ve worked with churches who promoted a big event and got no guests at all. Often this happens when a church gets creative and tries something new. Innovation is important, and we’re going to do a webinar in a couple of months specifically about an innovation process for ministry. Right now I just want to talk about the aftermath of a failed experiment.

Remember this: failure is not the end, unless you make it the end. Failure is just a data point. You discovered something that doesn’t work! Trust me, most conference leaders would rather you try to do something and fail than to do no outreach at all.

Here’s a quote I love, from Hayakawa:

“Notice the difference between what happens when someone says, I have failed three times, and what happens when they say, I am a failure.”

Hayakawa

Failure should not define you as anything other than someone who tried something and learned from it!
There’s a famous quote from Thomas Edison, when he was working on inventing the light bulb:

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

Thomas Edison

We as a denomination need to do a better job of celebrating failure. I’m not talking about moral failure here. I’m talking about innovation. Try something and learn from it. That’s not failure, that’s progress.

Dark Night of the Soul

The title of this webinar is Dealing with Discouragement, and I’d like to pause for a minute and just mention another type of discouragement. This webinar is not about that deeper, spiritual discouragement that can come with full-time ministry. Maybe you’re burned out. Maybe you’re experiencing a Dark Night of the Soul, where there’s just no joy left in what you’re doing. If that’s where you’re at, you’re not alone. In fact, during the pandemic something like 70% of pastors across all denominations have considered quitting.

Before you give up, though, talk with someone. If you’re feeling a deep depression, talk with a Christian counselor about it. Loop in your ministerial director, and if you don’t feel safe doing that, confide in another non-Adventist pastor in your town. Please, reach out and ask for help. I’ve experienced that Dark Night of the Soul myself, and it’s not fun. But you can get through it. I’ve seen a Christian counselor for over 20 years, and I still check in with him every month.

If God has called you to ministry, He’ll provide you with not just the power to do that ministry, but also with confidants and supporters you can turn to. Again, it’s outside the scope of the webinar, but I just wanted to acknowledge that sometimes something deeper is going on, and if that’s where you’re at, please, ask for help. Don’t try to do this alone.

Communicating with your interests who didn’t show

Okay, so let’s talk about those 60 people in this hypothetical example who pre-registered, but didn’t come opening night. Remember, these are real people in your community who took the time to register for the event, giving you their real contact information because they really intended to come. Sure, we see the occasional fake registrations. One of my favorites was Lucifer Fryer at 666 Hot Springs Lane. But the vast majority of pre-registrations are real people who give you real information.

Every person who pre-registered, whether they’ve attended each session, missed a few, or haven’t come at all, are real people in need, so take the opportunity to connect with each person right where they are at. Here are a few things to remember as you review your InterestTracker list:

1. All pre-registrations are“leads”
People signed up to attend your event because they felt drawn to the topic (whether they attended or not) so be sure to include them in any future bulk invitations you send out to your Interest List for future events at your church. 

2. Anyone who attended at least 1 session has questions
Something may have come up that prevented them from continuing the series. Connect with them and offer to pray or go over any sessions they may have missed. 

3. Continue to check in on all of your guests
Developing a personal relationship to answer questions or prayer during your event will help your guests know they are not alone, and will encourage them to continue their faith journey.

Seeing your results in AttendanceTracker

Develop a communication strategy based on attendance reporting from AttendanceTracker. You can see which session each person has attended or missed directly in their interest snapshot at the bottom of the page. And you can quickly see the overall nightly attendance from all of your guests right in your event details in AttendanceTracker.

Connect with your guests in InterestTracker

Do you have the Text Messaging Module? You can also send out bulk texts to some or all of your interests right in your interest list. Just select the interests you want to send a text message to, type in your text message and send it. We also just added a feature to be able to schedule a text to send later, so you can set these up ahead of time. We have some great training videos on how to use InterestTracker and AttendanceTracker, and you can access those at InterestTracker.org.

Communication Tips

Communication should always feel genuine and natural, so try starting simple. Here are a few tips from the field for communicating by phone call, text message, or email.  

Phone: Always introduce yourself as part of the ministry at the event and ask if it is a good time to talk. If not, your guest may feel rushed to end the conversation. Mention the reason for your call (We missed you last night, wanted to check in how you were enjoying the messages, etc.) And end the call with prayer if possible, and set up a time for another phone call or communication method. 

Text: Always introduce yourself as part of the ministry at the event and ask if this is their preferred method of communication. (Sometimes they may want you to use a different number for texting.) Remember that text messages should be short and sweet. If your responses are too long, you may want to suggest a phone call or email – this will help the grammar and tone of your messages come through better. And lastly, don’t pester. You may get timely responses some days, but other times you may not. Since you don’t know their schedule or what else might be going on in their lives don’t push for the conversation to happen “right now”. Text messaging is a more immediate medium, but it’s still asynchronous, meaning you don’t both have to be texting each other at the same time. So you may get a response within minutes, or it could take hours or days to see a response to your text. Be patient. You’re just checking in and letting them know you care. 

Email: Keep your introductory email short and to the point. If your email is too long your reader may just skim or skip it altogether. Ask if there is anything specific you can pray for, or if there is a topic you can look into for further study options for them. Email is usually the easiest way for people to read and provide responses, however, your guest may be a verbal processor, so perhaps offer a phone number they can call too if they ever want to have a “live” discussion.

So those are some ideas for what you can do with your interests, even if they didn’t show up.

Here’s the most important thing: be present. God is moving on the hearts of each one of these people. Circumstances in their life are going to push them one way or another. And when that moment of soul-searching happens, you want to be present. You want to be the one they think of to call, to text, to check in with. Be present. Be there. Be available to them, because when they’re ready, you need to be there for them.

Wrap Up

That’s our webinar for today. My goal today was to help you take hold of discouragement and use it to power mission forward. I walked through a process of reframing to see the potential rather than the loss. I talked a bit about the positive power of failure. And I offered some practical communication strategies to follow up with those who never showed to your evangelistic event.

Listen, just being on this webinar today is huge. The greatest obstacle to evangelistic success today is not active hostility or opposition. It’s complacency. So taking the time to join me today says you care about reaching people in your community.

So please don’t be discouraged. Stop. Breathe. Pray. Then take hold of that discouragement and use it to propel evangelism forward in your community.

The SermonView crew would love to support your next outreach event, or help you find people in your community ready to study the Bible. We have a passion for ministry, and we’re nerds for marketing, and we’d love an opportunity to share more about how we can bring value to your church outreach.

References

Boyce, C. J., Wood, A. M., & Ferguson, E. (2016). Individual differences in loss aversion: Conscientiousness predicts how life satisfaction responds to losses versus gains in income. Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, 42(4), 471-484. https://doi.org/10.1177/0146167216634060


Canessa, N., Crespi, C., Motterlini, M., Baud-Bovy, G., Chierchia, G., Pantaleo, G., Tettamanti, M., & Cappa, S. F. (2013). The functional and structural neural basis of individual differences in loss aversion. The Journal of Neuroscience, 33(36), 14307-14317. https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0497-13.2013


Kahneman, D., & Tversky, A. (1979). Prospect theory: An analysis of decision under risk. Econometrica, 47(2), 263-291. https://doi.org/10.2307/1914185


Tom, S. M., Fox, C. R., Trepel, C., & Poldrack, R. A. (2007). The neural basis of loss aversion in decision-making under risk. Science(American Association for the Advancement of Science), 315(5811), 515-518. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.1134239

A Christmas Letter from Our Founder

Larry Witzel COVID-19 Response, Life Lessons

Larry Witzel, Founder & President

This year really took a toll on my soul.

Before I get to that, a couple things. First, thank you for your continued support of SermonView. It means more than you’ll ever know.

Second, I’m amazed at how the SermonView crew has worked with each of our churches this year, and I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of SermonView.

I know during this season many are feeling the pain of loss, the strain of change. We’ve lost too many, too soon, during this pandemic. I feel for the pastors who have had a particularly rough go of it, trying to minister in a world filled with divisiveness, anger and pain.

SermonView has been feeling it, too. Many of my staff have been grieving this year: one lost his dad, another lost her sister, two lost brothers. None were from Covid-19, but all were unexpected losses. Our team is hurting.

The last seven months have been tough for me, too, as I’ve personally suffered compounding loss.

Larry at his dad’s 85th birthday

In April, my dad died, losing a decade-long battle with pulmonary fibrosis. 

 In May, one of my closest friends lost his battle with glioblastoma, a frightfully aggressive brain cancer. Paul left behind a wife and young son.

 In July, I broke my ankle. (Expert tip: hold the rail when you walk down stairs in the dark.) For someone who values effectiveness and productivity, missing over two months of work took a crippling emotional toll, and combined with my other loss the darkness was often overwhelming.

Then in September, SermonView’s cofounder Vince Williams told me he needed to move on from our work together. We’ve been friends for two decades, starting SermonView together 16 years ago. I can’t imagine doing this without him—he was the Lewis to my Clark, the Lennon to my McCartney.

But he feels God leading him to pursue other entrepreneurial interests, and I support that. It’s the right thing for him, and the right thing for SermonView. We parted as friends, and I’m cheering him on.

Still, there’s a hole in my heart. I miss Vince. I miss Paul. I miss my dad.

Habakkuk 3:17-18 (NLT) says:

Though the fig tree does not bud
   and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails
   and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen
   and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord,
   I will be joyful in God my Savior.

I choked up as a business colleague sat in my office last week, reading this passage to me. My fig tree feels bare. There are no grapes on the vines, no sheep in the pen or cattle in the stalls. Yet I choose to rejoice in the Lord. I am joyful in God my Savior.

The SermonView crew before Covid-19

Frankly, Covid-19 should have broken SermonView. When you do event marketing for churches, and church events are shut down, it’s going to impact business. Revenue collapsed—fourth quarter last year was down 84%. Our work is labor-intensive, with high payroll and thin margins, and I had no idea how we could make it.

But God sustained us. The team came together, we kept innovating, and we somehow managed to thrive through it all. There were no layoffs. Everyone who wanted to keep working full time was able to, And today we’re positioned to serve you better than ever, as we solve even more marketing challenges churches face: church websites, interest tracking, Bible study interest generation, technology for online and hybrid events, and yes, evangelistic event marketing.

SermonView’s future is brighter than ever. But even if it wasn’t, I would still rejoice in the Lord.

Maybe you had a great year overall, and if so, we celebrate with you! But if this year was hard for you, too, we weep with you. And if you can find the strength in your heart, I invite you to join me in rejoicing in the Lord. Be joyful in God our Savior.

Thank you for your support of the SermonView crew over the years. I’m incredibly blessed to lead this team, and I’m honored to serve you. I love pastors, and I believe the local church is the heartbeat of ministry. So please pray for us, as we also pray for you. I’m grateful to work with you, and look forward to seeing God do big things in your church and community next year and beyond.

Merry Christmas!

Larry Witzel
Founder & President

P.S. What are your big dreams for 2022? I’d love to hear what God is doing in your church!

5 Questions Your Church Website Must Answer

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices, Marketing Practices

Over 50% of church attendees say that a church’s website is important in picking that church for a visit. If your website is the online welcome mat for the community, it’s not enough to simply have a website for your church. It needs to speak to your guests, those you want to attract through the doors of your church.

First off, there are 3 things your church website must do to be most effective:

  1. Reflect your culture. The design of your website, the photos, and the written content should all work together to reflect the culture of your church. The photos of your pastor and key ministry leaders should show some personality.

  2. Encourage engagement. Remember, the purpose of your website is to draw people through the doors of your church. So make your calendar of events easy to find and accurate. Give people a way to contact you online. Point to your Facebook page. Help people know what to expect when they visit, to reduce some of the anxiety brought on by going someplace new.

  3. Answer questions. When someone visits your website, it’s intentional. They have a reason for going to the website: to get directions, to see what time Sabbath School starts, to get the phone number of the church. So anticipate these questions and make it easy for guests to find answers.

So what questions should you answer on your church website? Think about the “5 W’s”:

Who are you? The website should reflect your church culture through the design, photos and written content. This should be 80% reflection and 20% aspirational, describing who you want to be.

You should also include photos and short bios about the pastor and key ministry leaders.

What do you do? Describe your ministries, both how you serve the community and how people serve the church. Make it clear how someone can get involved if they want.

Also include a section on what you believe.  Write a simple summary of your core believes, then link to the official 28 Fundamental Beliefs on the NAD website. Keep in mind, though, that guests care less about a statement of doctrine and more about who you are and why you do what you do.

When do you do it? Your website should have an event calendar that is kept up to date. Highlight public events where guests can engage with you church, in addition to internal meetings like church board. Make your website the central, authoritative source to communicate the church schedule.

Where do you do it? Put a map prominently on the website of where your church is located, along with a link to something like Google Maps so people can get directions. If a particular event is happening elsewhere, make that clear in the calendar event listing.

Why do you exist? You should have a short statement that describes your purpose. Whether you call it a vision statement or mission statement, make it prominent on the website.

There are people just like Laura in your community looking for a spiritual home, and your website is how they’ll find your church. So don’t let your church website be an afterthought, because it’s important for attracting guests. A little effort up front will make a huge difference in reaching people in your community.


SermonView now offers a service to turn your church website into a powerful evangelistic tool. We’ll help you create a site that feels relevant, personal, and welcoming. Then we can help you get that website seen by people in your community searching for a church near you.

Ready to turn your church website into an evangelism engine? Call us today at 1-800-525-5791. We’d love to help!

Larry Witzel is founder and president of SermonView Evangelism Marketing.

The One Thing…

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices, Leadership

As we begin to look toward 2022, here’s a question for you:

What’s the one thing God is asking your church to do together next year?
This question is powerful, because it pushes you to clearly articulate a goal. And it’s driven by several things that are really important for success in ministry:

Vision

When you imagine your church a year from now, what does it look like? When your community gathers, what’s the spirit people show each other? What is your church consistently doing in the community? How have your members grown? This isn’t about goals and metrics. Instead, it’s about visualizing how God wants to mold this congregation into His likeness.
 
Once you imagine it, describe that vision succinctly. Turn it into a short phrase or sentence, then repeat it every time you get together with people at church. Put it prominently in the bulletin every week, and on your website. Then use that vision as the foundation for answering the question: What’s the one thing God is asking your church to do together next year?

Focus

Asking about the one thing forces you to focus. Personally, I do my best work when I’m focused. Of course, there are many priorities at church, and you’ll be involved in many aspects of ministry. But what is that single, highest priority that you can rally the church leaders and members around? What is that one focus for 2022?

Action

There is a time for patiently waiting for God to prepare you. But more often He says to go do it.
 
Scripture is filled with stories where God tells someone to do something. At the Red Sea, God told Moses, “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward” (Ex. 14:15). He told Gideon, “Go in this might of yours” (Ju. 6:14). He told Isaiah, “Go, and tell this people” (Is. 6:9). And of course, Jesus told His followers, “Go therefore and make disciples” (Mt. 28:19).
 
So what are you going to do?

Community

Rallying your church to do something big together is a powerful way to build community. Yes, you gather on Sabbath morning to worship, and hopefully members leave inspired to change their individual worlds for Christ. But what about that big thing? What are you going to do together?

God’s Leading

This isn’t your vision, it’s God’s vision. This isn’t your church, it’s God’s church. And when the Spirit inspires, He also empowers. God wants you to do something bigger than your little group of believers could ever accomplish in their own power. When you do what God wants you to do, He promises the power to do it. As Paul wrote, “For it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Ph 2:12). God works in you to act.
 
So back to the question, which captures vision, focus, action, community, and God’s leading:
What’s the one thing God is asking your church to do together next year?

When you know the answer that question, you’ll be on your way to seeing a harvest for God’s Kingdom in your town.


The SermonView crew would love to partner with you to do something big in your community. Whether it’s evangelistic event marketing, Bible study interest generation, interest management or a more effective church website, we’re ready to help. Talk to a campaign manager today at 1-800-525-5791.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Rethinking Direct Mail for Evangelism

Larry Witzel Marketing Practices, News

Considering direct mail as part of your evangelism marketing strategy? It’s time to rethink your timelines.

First, let’s be clear: direct mail is still the only way to ensure that someone in every household has an opportunity to respond to your message. Facebook and Google can’t do that. Neither can radio or TV, nor billboards, banners or road signs. If you want to reach someone in every home, you have to use direct mail.

And direct mail works. An analysis of events over the last 18 months shows that while there is variance based on geography, seasonality, and demographics, on average we’re seeing 10 more people on opening night for every additional 8,000 mailpieces sent.

However, we have to rethink our timelines. Because everything is slower, you’ll need more time to get the mail out effectively.

Before Covid-19

To understand the impact these last two years have had, let’s look at how things were done before.

Two decades ago, the rule of thumb was for your mailpieces to land in mailboxes precisely on the Monday before your meetings. That’s because stories were told about pastors getting up on Sunday, holding up the handbill, and saying to the congregation, “Don’t go to these meetings. It’s heresy.” So the goal was to give people enough time to plan, but not enough time for their pastor to stop them.

However, even back then this wasn’t a viable goal. The US Postal Service allowed you to request a 3-day window for a mailpiece to be delivered, but they make it clear that it’s a guideline, not a requirement. Ultimately they have absolute control over mail delivery, and they’ll deliver it when they’re good and ready.

So SermonView was already aiming for the Friday-Monday prior to opening night, just in case there was a backlog at the post office that delayed the mailing. The last thing you want, after all, is for your mailing to land in mailboxes after the event has already started.

To do this, we would deliver it to the sectional facility (SCF) 10 days before opening night. The standard practice was 2 days to get to the delivery post office, then 3 days to deliver to mailboxes. Often the mailer would arrive in mailboxes before that Monday, sometimes later, but it was almost always in that window.

Supply Chain Slowdowns

Today, everything is running slower. First, UPS, FedEx, and other freight companies have suspended their delivery guarantees for all shipments. That means:

  • Paper delivery is slower, so offset printing takes longer
  • Delivery from the printer to the mailhouse is slower
  • Delivery from our mailhouse to the USPS sectional facility is slower

What used to take 2 days now takes 4 days or more, which really adds up with each stop. Furthermore, when shipping to the SCF, we have always paid extra for a guaranteed delivery date. Because those guarantees are now suspended, we can’t predict when a mailing will actually get dropped off into the postal system.

But it gets worse. The US Postal Service is officially slower now, too, recently announcing that they are relaxing their internal service standards. So instead of 2 days to get from the SCF to the delivery unit, the new standard is 4 days. Instead of a 3-day window for delivery into mailboxes, the new standard is 5 days.

Both the supply chain and mail delivery are much slower now. And unfortunately, because there are now so many factors outside our control, SermonView has been forced to suspend our delivery guarantee, too.

Changes to Mail Habits

But even when the mail was landing in mailboxes on time, there was already a societal change taking place. The US Postal Service did a study back in the early 2000s, which found that 98% of postal customers check their mailbox every day.

Today? Not so much. A recent Reddit thread showed less than half of commenters check their mail daily. Most check it once a week or less. If that’s the case, getting your handbill in the mailbox 5 days before opening night means 25% of your audience won’t even see it until after the meetings start.

The New Direct Mail Plan

So what does that mean for you? Two things:

First, SermonView needs at least 8 weeks to do your mailing. We used to be able to turn around a mailing in 5 weeks or less, but we just can’t do that anymore. We’ve always done our best to serve latecomers, but we got burned recently when we tried to turn around a mailing in 4 weeks. The pallet of handbills from our print vendor took 2 weeks to arrive, instead of the 2 days they promised. In this case, the church was able to reschedule the meetings, so we were able to reprint and get the mailing out on time. But with everything slower now, the risk is too great. So give us at least 8 weeks to get your mailing out.

Second, you need to get your flyer into mailboxes sooner. We now recommend aiming for 2 weeks prior to the meeting, which means delivering it to the SCF 3 weeks before the meeting. This ensures the mailpiece will be seen in at least 95% of your homes before opening night.

Social Media Advertising Alternative

If you’re late in your planning, there is a proven alternative: social media advertising. SermonView is seeing increasing success with Facebook and Instagram advertising for evangelistic events. Our research shows that a $2,500 social media budget gets the equivalent response on opening night as a $10,000 mailing.

Of course, social media advertising does not scale the same way direct mail does. Doubling your direct mail budget will essentially double your pre-registrations, but increasing your Facebook budget offers diminishing returns. Ideally, you’ll include both in your advertising mix, along with some banners and road signs for maximum effectiveness.

The bottom line: direct mail is still effective, and needs to be included if you have a larger marketing budget. But everything is taking longer, so please give us 8 weeks to get your mailing out.


Have an evangelistic event coming up? Request your evangelism marketing quote today.

Laura’s Story

Larry Witzel Evangelism Practices, Marketing Practices

Laura’s life was changed because of my church's website. For real!

Let me explain. Four years ago, Laura* moved to town. She grew up Adventist but had gotten disconnected from church moving around as a young adult. Some time after her move, she decided to connect with a spiritual community, so she searched “Bible study near me” on Google.

My church website has a page showing our Bible study groups, and it showed up on the search results. One thing led to another, and today she is fully engaged in the life of our church, serving on the Sabbath morning tech team and participating in a weekly Bible study group.

Laura found her church on Google.

Last month, over 100,000 people searched Google for the phrase, “churches near me.” When someone in your community types that into the search bar, will they find your church? And when they do go to your website, will they feel welcome?

Over 50% of church attendees say that a church’s website is important in picking that church for a visit. Your website is the online welcome mat for the community. So it’s not enough to simply have a website for your church. It needs to speak to your guests, those you want to attract through the doors of your church. 

​There are people just like Laura in your community looking for a spiritual home, and your website is how they’ll find your church. So don’t let your church website be an afterthought, because it’s important for attracting guests. A little effort up front will make a huge difference in reaching people in your community.​


SermonView now offers a service to turn your church website into a powerful evangelistic tool. We’ll help you create a site that feels relevant, personal, and welcoming. Then we can help you get that website seen by people in your community searching for a church near you.​

Ready to turn your church website into an evangelism engine? Call us today at 1-800-525-5791. We'd love to help!

The Top 3 Reasons We Decided to Host Indestructible This April

Larry Witzel COVID-19 Response, Evangelism Practices, From the Field, Marketing Practices, News

By Pastor Travis Walker

“Love as Christ loved.” That’s what we strive to do for everyone who walks through the doors of Daytona Beach Seventh-day Adventist Church. And through this pandemic, that desire has extended to our online ministry as well. Whether in-person, on Facebook Live, on YouTube Live, or on Zoom, reaching our community through a “love first” mentality—and leading as many as possible into a relationship with Jesus—has been the ultimate goal of every event we plan.

A few weeks ago, we were trying to figure out what to do next to reach people in our community in the midst of all this chaos. We considered many options. But most of the digital options currently available don’t address our desire to connect broadly with our community. We want this effort to make a clear, significant difference in people’s lives.

Other options will require us to put in a lot of work ourselves, to develop and implement the program. For instance, recently we reached out to SALT (Service and Love Together) to begin exploring a partnership with them, and we’re continuing to move forward with them. But that will take time and considerable effort. We’ll also continue developing our digital evangelistic resources through Adventology which we’ve been doing since even before the pandemic began. But frankly, at this point we’re tired. I’m tired. My leaders are tired. We need something simpler.

Then, out of the blue, the answer I was looking for came straight to my email inbox. I was invited to a 1-hour webinar where it became clear what our church would be involved with this spring.

We decided to host Indestructible this April.

Indestructible is an all-new series from Faith for Today and SermonView Evangelism Marketing that promises to deliver compelling content without the hassle. Indestructible is like a modern version of a NET meeting, which was designed to use the technology of the day to present some of our strongest speakers, in a way that connected people with the local church. Indestructible is similar but with content more relatable to our climate.

Here are our top 3 reasons why we decided to host Indestructible:

1. It will reach a lot more people.

How many events do you know that have a nationwide following? Let’s face it, community outreach is challenging during non-Covid times, but it’s been twice as challenging during the pandemic. As pastors, we’ve had to learn, and relearn, the best ways to engage new audiences from behind a screen, and, so far, we haven’t had a lot of resources to do so.

Indestructible promises to be different. Faith for Today is the oldest continuous religious broadcast in the world, with over 4 million viewers weekly, making Pastor Roy Ice an internationally acclaimed speaker. His energy and charisma will work great for an online broadcast.

Unlike trying to reach a cold audience, people will be hearing from someone they already trust andhave a relationship with. Plus, there’s a national ad budget being tossed into the mix. That’s a powerful combination! Given its scope, this event promises to reach a different demographic—one that we wouldn’t be able to reach without hosting an event like this.

2. The subject matter is compelling.

Right now, people in our community are looking for an anchor in the middle of all this chaos. We’re always looking for ways to bridge our church with the community. We have enjoyed a great relationship with AdventHealth and their outreach program, Creation Health, over the years, targeting people’s felt needs in ministry partnership. That’s exactly what I believe Indestructible will do with powerfully up-to-date material.

Pastor Ice will present current, relational topics that touch on his AWARE principles from Lifestyle Magazine: Attitude, Wellness, Activities, Relationship, Existence. During each nightly episode he’ll show interviews with celebrities from his program and deliver real-world tactics for helping people in your communities grow in their relationships and start living a life of purpose, all from a biblical perspective.

3. We get to be at the center of all the excitement.

Viewers across the country will be invited to access this program exclusively through a local church portal, putting our church front and center. That’s really exciting! This isn’t a media ministry sending us leads weeks or months later. The guests in our community will be in our portal, start to finish, so we get to build the relationships immediately. This event will spark relationships as we gather online with friends and neighbors to hear a timely message of hope and wholeness.

Hosting any evangelistic event is a big undertaking, and it’s hard to know how to move forward in this pandemic. But it’s also something we can’t afford not to do. The lifeblood of the church is connection, and this type of relevant event will build connections and improve our reputation. Over time, we’ll have the opportunity to invite the curious to attend our Sabbath services and ultimately grow members. I believe Indestructible has the potential for all that, and then some.

We’re really excited to be part of this nationwide event and to reach new people in our community who are hungry for hope and a message of healing from God’s Word. That’s why we’ve decided to host this Indestructible this April.

Learn more about how your own church can participate: www.IndestructibleYou.org/host
Learn more about how your own church can participate in Indestructible at www.IndestructibleYou.org/host
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Pastor Travis Walker, MDiv has been serving as pastor of the Daytona Beach Seventh-day Adventist church for 5 years. He finds real joy in proclaiming the Everlasting Gospel and helping seeking individuals to develop a deeper relationship with Christ. He is also the creator, host and editor of Adventology, a podcast and YouTube Channel that focuses on asking the big questions of life concerning God, faith, truth, and eternity from a Seventh-day Adventist perspective.