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Eight things your church can do to increase membership in 2011

Most churches in the United States are facing declining membership, but the message is still as relevant as in the past. So what’s changed? The message is getting lost in all the clutter. If you are a pastor or church worker, you probably did not receive any training in marketing. Even if you did so much has changed in the last few years that much of the information is no longer current.

So the Tips for increasing your church membership in 2011:

  • List your church on Google Places. It is an online Yellow Pages developed by Google. When someone searches for a church, Google displays its Places page in the search results. Last month 17 million people typed in “church, find a church, church home, Methodist Church, Baptist church, etc.” If your church is not showing up, then visitors are going somewhere else.
  • Make up or buy some cards that invite people to your church and hand them out to every member. Ask them to go out and perform random acts of kindness and give out the cards. The cards should include the name, phone number, address and website of your church. Memory Cross has developed some very unique ones or you can create your own. If each of your members can touch three people a year, think what an impact that would make to your community and your church.
  • Get a list of people in the neighborhoods around your church and reach out to them at least 3-4 times a year. Postcards are a great tool because they are inexpensive and people have to see them, at least for a second. When you buy the list, make sure you can use it multiple times.
  • Create door hangers or flyers and give them to members to hand out in their neighborhood. If your members are willing to knock on doors, hand out the flyer and invite people to a church event, that will give you the best results. The flyer should let people know about upcoming events or services that you have going on.
  • Hold a free community event. It can be anything from a car wash to a concert to handing out bottles of water on a hot summer day. Do not accept any donations. Instead hand out a card with your church information on it.
  • Start using email marketing and ask for the names and email address of all visitors. This will provide you a second way to connect with them.
  • Set up a system where you connect visitors with someone in your church as soon as possible. Too many people come one time; and if they don’t feel connected to the church, they may not return. Even a phone call to thank them for visiting is a great way to open up conversation.
  • Form a group that is committed to praying for people in your community. Meet on a regular basis and encourage them to write down any outreach ideas they come up with.

If you take action on these eight steps, you will find new visitors coming to your church and people’s lives being changed.

I have put together a new site to help churches use new and traditional media to reach out to their community. The website is: http://www.GrowingChurches.net.

Why Churches need Google Places

Most churches in the United States are facing declining membership, yet 17 million searches were done by people looking for a local church last month.  What did they search for?  Churches, find a church, church home, Baptist church, Methodist church, the list goes on.  What they usually find is an unclaimed Google Places page that only listed the name and phone number of the church.

What is Google Places? It is an online directory that lists businesses in each country.  Think of it as an online Yellow Pages.  There are a number of directories, but since most people use Google, their directory is the best place start listing your church.  When someone searches for a church in a particular city, Google shows up the results it has stored in its Places database.

Having an unclaimed Google Places page is like locking the doors on Sunday mornings.  People coming to the church whether physically or virtually are looking for information.  If a church has not claimed its Google Places page it looks like it is closed and the searcher will go onto another church.  The good news is that it is easy to claim and set up a Place page and once you do Google will provide all kinds of useful information that a church can use.  Information like how many people saw their listing, went to the website, clicked on the maps page, got driving directions, watched a video and search keywords.

Is it worth the effort for a church to set up their Places page? Here is some information from Covenant Church United Methodist in High Point, NC.  In one month 502 people saw their Google Places page, 73 clicked on their website, 19 clicked on maps to find out where the church was located and 8 asked for driving directions.  That is pretty powerful.  If you take a conservative number and say the only people who showed up were the 27 who got directions then that is 324 visitors per year.  Not bad for a church with a membership of 1,000.  Google is not the only directory sending potential visitors either.

Listing your church on Google Places is free.  We have created a website that gives step by step instructions plus tips on how to get your church to the top of Google’s Places page.  The site is GrowingChurches.net.

Google Places for churches

Google Places
Google Places

Google has really been working on their local search directory called Places.  It is their goal to be the place people turn when looking for information about a local business and they have been successful in their efforts.  They command a lion’s share of the search market and they plan on owning local search as well.

So what does this mean for churches?  Why should a church spend the time to claim their Google Place listing, update it and work on getting in the top of the search results?  Because people are searching Google before they ever show up at your church and if you are not there, they’ll choose one who is.

Here are a few statistics that I think you will find interesting.

  • There were 17 million search in the United States last month for church and all related keywords
  • 1.5 million for Baptist church
  • 823,000 for Catholic Church
  • 450,000 for Methodist Church
  • 33,000 searched for church services
  • 22,000 searched for “Need God”
  • 14,800 searched for find a church

Now that covers the entire country but you can find out the approximate number that searched in your area by taking your population and dividing it by the number of people in the United States (308 million).  For High Point, Greensboro and Winston-Salem  NC there are about 1 million people so if I took 17 million searches and divided it by 308 I come up with almost 57,000 searches.  What if your church could show up for those searches?  Well it can and in the next few weeks I will show you exactly how your church can not only claim their Google listing but optimize it so that is it showing up in the top 10 spots.

I have put up a new website that is dedicated to helping churches use the internet and other emerging social media to reach out to people.  The website is: http://www.GrowingChruches.net.  I hope you will check it out.