In an age of plenty, church growth strategies have to be more flexible than ever

The history of churches in the United States begins more than 400 years ago. Settlers in Jamestown, Virginia established America’s first Protestant Episcopal parish in 1607. In 1629, Samuel Skelton became the first pastor of Salem, Massachusetts and in 1638, Roger Williams founded the first Baptist church in America, which stands to this day.

During those early days, church growth strategies were, shall we say, a bit different than would be acceptable today. In 1638, Anne Hutchinson was driven from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for undermining the authority of the church. When the first Quakers came to Boston in 1656, they were arrested. While some were subsequently deported, others were hanged for defying a law which prohibited Quakers from settling in the colony. Yikes!

In 1675, a Massachusetts law required church doors to be locked during services. Legend has it the law went into effect to keep people from leaving before the sermons were over. And the infamous Salem Witch Trials of 1692 have ever since been a stain on the city.

We can probably all agree that these questionable (at best) church growth strategies are nothing short of shocking today. Thankfully, we’ve come a long way in allowing people to attend the church of their choice and practice religion as they wish. With an estimated 300,000 – 400,000 churches in the U.S., people certainly have options. The question is how you can get them into your church?

Appeal to the next generation of worshippers with an Everwall social media display at your next church function.

15 Church growth strategies any congregation can use

1. Be welcoming

Welcome- 15 of the Most Effective Church Growth Strategies for Congregations on a BudgetSimple enough, right? Most churches pride themselves on welcoming newcomers with open arms, but is that an idea or do you genuinely follow through on it? Sometimes we think we are more welcoming than we are. Test your congregation by bringing in an out-of-town friend to act as a “secret shopper” and find out if your church is truly welcoming.

2. Start a book club

If you want more people in your church, offer more than just a few weekly services. Have some fun with a book club. Meet in someone’s home, a comfortable spot in the church, or a local coffee shop. Get the word out and invite anyone in the community. People are more likely to attend your church if they’re already acquainted with the congregation. And you don’t have to stick to religious books, either. There’s more than enough exciting literature available for you to choose from.

3. Start a soup kitchen

Some of the most successful churches are also known for their community outreach. Start a soup kitchen to feed the needy population in your area. Invite local college students, high school students, or nonprofit organizations to volunteer.

4. Keep it clean

Make sure your church is clean – especially in the oft-overlooked areas like bathrooms. Ensure there are ample supplies for people. Keep glass doors free of streaks and fingerprints, and watch out for dust bunnies underneath the pews.

5. Take care of the congregation

Broom- 15 of the Most Effective Church Growth Strategies for Congregations on a BudgetOne of the most crucial church growth strategies isn’t so much about growth as it is about reducing turnover. Just like in business, you can’t grow if you lose customers just as fast as you gain new ones. Make sure the people in your church feel taken care of and appreciated.

6. Be social media savvy

There’s no getting around it. If you want to attract a younger generation of churchgoers, you have to get social. Ask a volunteer to be the official Tweeter for sermons, sending out live updates. Post pictures on Instagram of church events and get-togethers (like the Book Club!).

7. Use the right hashtags

Going right along with the last tip, make sure your church is easy to find on social media by using the right hashtags. Hashtag the name of your church, your city, and other affiliated hashtags, like #Catholic, #Baptist, #youthgroup, or anything else that seems fitting.

8. Use digital signage

Use digital signage to enhance your message. Set up screens in areas of the church where congregants may not be able to hear the service. Or, if you have a protected space outdoors, you could even use a digital sign in place of your marquee and broadcast your Twitter or Instagram feed.

9. Invite guests

Of all the possible church growth strategies, you’re probably wondering why we included this one. Seems obvious, right? But when is the last time you actively encouraged your church members to invite friends and acquaintances?

10. Send out an email newsletter

Keep everyone up-to-date, whether or not they come regularly. You can either send out a bulk email (making sure to BCC recipients) or you can use a service like MailChimp, which is free for up to 2,000 subscribers. Include the topics for upcoming services, share event schedules, or your favorite inspirational quotes.

11. Host a kids’ movie night

Movie- 15 of the Most Effective Church Growth Strategies for Congregations on a BudgetA free movie night is a great way to get young families in. Provide care for children while they watch a movie like Toy Story or Finding Nemo, and in another space, let parents have social time with drinks and snacks or even a different movie. (And make sure you Tweet about it, so the event shows up on your outdoor digital sign!)

12. Host interesting speakers

There’s no denying the popularity of a good story. Ted Talks are famous for engaging, mind-expanding talks. This American Life is one of the most popular shows on the radio because they know how to tell a story. Your church can host talks, too, that exist outside of your usual services. Host a discussion with a traveling author. Invite a local astronomer to talk about meteor showers or the Mars Rover. Bring in a college professor to discuss community development, genealogy, or any other topic of interest.

13. Engage your community

The best church growth strategies are those that get the church into the community. If you want people to visit you, you have to let them get to know you. Go to community events and participate. Set up a free popcorn stand if your town has a merchant’s stroll. Offer face painting at a community fair. Sponsor a 5K.

14. Update your website

When’s the last time you updated your website? Is it mobile-friendly? Fast? Is it still hanging out in 2007?

15. Set goals

Every church wants to grow, but if you’re going to measure and fine-tune your success, you have to set goals. Do you want to increase membership by 25% this year? Is your goal to attract ten new church members each month? Do you want to increase volunteer participation by 50%? Set the target, so you can grow.

An effective church growth strategy doesn’t have to be difficult, but you do have to keep up with it. Using digital tools can make that task a lot easier.

Increase donations online by promoting a catchy hashtag, then keep track of your efforts by displaying everyone’s social posts in your church and on your website. Start building your social wall today.