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What would you think of an outreach event that attracted 50% of your normal worship attendance as visitors? I want to tell you about such a plan.

One of the things I am going to love about pastoring is the opportunity to experiment with ideas. Anyone who knows me knows I am an idea guy. I love ideas. I never met an idea I didn’t like. In my old life I only got to smile about ideas. Now, I get to experiment with ideas and see if they work. The good ones I will pass along to you.

Most ideas don’t work. I was in a church once that was having lots of visitors. I asked them how they attracted so many visitors. “Banners” was the pastor’s brief reply. They were on a busy street. They had a pile of seasonal banners. Seasonal, but not dated. So, they would put up a banner for two weeks, then have nothing for two weeks. Then, a different banner for two weeks, and take it down for two weeks. This was one pastor’s explanation for lots of visitors.

I loved this idea. Loved it so much that the first thing I did when I started pastoring was to buy a banner. Zero visitors. We may try it again; the banner ended up looking great on the computer screen, but not so good in the real world. It was the wrong color — too much like the color of dirt. (There is lots of dirt where I live.) It didn’t stand out much. So, that idea didn’t work. But still, we might try it again.

This idea worked in spades. We did a Mother’s Day Photo Shoot. We offered a free 8 X 10 for every mother and child that came to get their picture taken. Worship attendance at our church is normally about 30. We had fifteen visitors there on Mother’s Day. If you would like to see the pics, click here: http://www.joshhuntphotos.com/gallery/8189261_DJ5fR#534972955_nDf8R

While we are showing off photos, here are some of my favorite wedding photos I have taken: http://www.joshhuntphotos.com/

Of course, it helps that I do a little wedding photography on the side and have some photographer’s lighting — umbrellas and such. If you don’t do wedding photography as a side business, you might have to hire a photographer. I’d think you could get one cheap if you offered the photographer the opportunity to sell additional prints. In my case, they can buy additional prints if they want at cost.

The prints themselves cost about $2 each. In our case, we have a church member that owns a Radio Shack that has a photo printer and they agreed to print the photos for free. So, no cost for the photographer, and no cost for the prints. God is good.

One other little bit of fine print. I told them the free photos would be ready in two weeks, but they have to come back to church to get them! So, they have to hear me preach twice to get a free 8 X 10. Fifteen people thought that was worth it!

This plan could, of course, work on Father’s Day. My guess is it won’t work quite as well as Mother’s Day because Moms are more into this kind of thing. But, I still think it could work.

We are still fixing up the parsonage so we can do follow up in the form of — you guessed it — parties! But, for now, we will celebrate the victories we have.

How to grow a church

In order to grow a church you have to have visitors. 100% of the growth of any church will come from the visitors. Then, once you have visitors, you have to get them to stick around. You have to lead them (as much as it depends on us) to Christ, and lead them to live the disciple’s life. Then, you have to lead them to be workers so you can expand the organization. It all starts with visitors.

Most churches have plenty of visitors. I did a survey once where I asked 500 churches four questions:

  • How many visitors do you have?

  • What is your attendance?

  • How many join?

  • What was your attendance a year ago?

I worked out the math and discovered that growing churches have very few more visitors than non-growing churches. The difference is, in growing churches, the visitors stick around. But, this number varied widely. There were some churches that had very few visitors. Hard for these churches to grow, no matter how sticky they are.

I was an interim pastor for a while in El Paso. We had around 75% of our visitors joining, and still were barely growing by 5% a year. Explanation? Very few visitors. For churches like that one, and the one I am in now, the key to growing the church starts with attracting visitors.

Our next attractional event is next Friday. We are showing the Fireproof movie. Great movie. We bought a bunch of posters and a guy in our church, Wayne, put them up in a bunch of stores. I will let you know how that works out. We show the trailer in church and encourage everyone to invite their friends. We plan to do this kind of thing regularly– plan events that might be attractive to outsiders.