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Church Strategy

Tools and Trends for Strategic Planning

Black Friday has become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Someone realized that lots of people do their Christmas shopping on the Friday after Thanksgiving and decided to create sales and discounts targeted at that date.  Believe it or not, the strategies retailers deploy on Black Friday have big implications for your church.

Retailers work to catch shoppers' attention on Black Friday. What are you doing to catch potential attendees attention as they decide where to spend Christmas? (Image from

Black Friday sales have grown dramatically over the past few years.  Online Black Friday sales grew at 16% in 2010.  Each year, some department store opens earlier than the rest to attract attention.  We’ve all got the friend that was at some Wal-Mart at 4 AM to get great deals.  This year, Kohl’s opened at 3 AM.

What’s going on here?  And what can it possibly mean for your church?

When People Are “Buying,” You Need to Be “Selling.” Throughout the year, our churches work to attract new attendees.  We try to get the music just right, design our sermons both for the believer – whom we know will be there – and the non-believer – whom we hope will be there.

What retailers have realized is that lots of shoppers are paying attention on Black Friday.  Since the shoppers will be paying attention, they decide that it’s the right time to do crazy things to get their attention.  Huge deals, early hours, “one per customer” limits.

Non-believers Are Looking for Your Church Right Now. During Christmastime, your “shoppers” are paying attention.  If someone is going to try out your church, they’re going to do it during Christmas.  In the Recession, anecdotal evidence is that non-believers are particularly likely to visit church.

This Advent is likely the best opportunity you have to attract new attendees.  There are people in your area who will visit church for the first time – or the first time in a long time – this Christmas.  It’s just a question of “Why should they attend your church?”  You don’t need to open at 3 AM and you don’t need to sell indulgences at outrageous discounts.  But you do need to find ways to get their attention.

Ideas. You are going to have ideas about the best ways to draw new people to your church.  Let me give you a few that I’ve seen work:

  1. The Kids Christmas Pageant. The National Cathedral here in DC has a Christmas pageant for children.  Those who want to participate show up 30 minutes early dressed as shepherds or angels and get to join in the fun.  This touches a couple key points of emotional connection: (a) many parents who don’t want “religion” for themselves are eager to somehow connect their children to something church-y; (b) Christmas pageants trigger warm memories for many who were raised in the church, but have been away.
  2. Live Nativity Scene. It takes some money – or connections to someone with a farm! – but some churches get traction with a live Nativity scene.  (Even the Mormon Temple here in DC has a Nativity scene!)  It creates buzz and is highly visible as people drive by.  Often they’ll visit for the Nativity scene and decide to come back for services.
  3. Caroling. As a kid, our church would Christmas carol on the weekend before Christmas – with the obligatory church cookie exchange afterward!  The carolers handed each family to whom we sang a candle and an invitation to church.  Carolers strike a nostalgic note.  Some close friends of mine came to Christ shortly after we caroled their home.  It spreads the word about your church, and gives your neighbor a beautiful picture of a caring community of believers.
  4. Facebook Advertising. So everyone runs an ad in your local paper, right?  Every church is there.  If you haven’t tried the “microtargeting” possible with Facebook ads, you are missing out.  For a ridiculously low budget, Facebook ads allow you to put your logo and image in front of exactly the demographic that you want to reach.  If you want me to walk you through it, contact me at

Again, just a few ideas to get you going.  Your neighbors are more interested this year than most years; and they’re most interested in checking you out this time of year.  What will you do to make sure that, when they decide to go to church, they decide to come to yours?  Happy Advent!


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