I have an idea—two, in fact—and they relate very closely to helping connect people with the message of Christ through our identity as a congregation. Both are easy. And both, I think, would make a difference.
One of the things I’ve noticed is that when we are clear, straight-forward, and intentional in our efforts to communicate to our surrounding community that we are a congregation that appreciates the historic liturgy, does not have rock bands or screens, holds to the Bible as the inspired, inerrant, and immutable Word of God and the sole source for faith and practice, and subscribes to the Lutheran Confessions as a true exposition of the Word of God—when we communicate these particulars to our community, we see a regular stream of “off the street” visitors. When we stop doing this, we stop the “off the street” flow.
We didn’t send out mailings this past spring. We didn’t see many visitors. We left the “Now enrolling…” message on the sign for most of the summer. We didn’t see many visitors. I changed the sign two weeks ago to what it says now (see the photo), and as I expected, we’ve seen a pick up in the flow of visitors.
I believe this is indicative of something we’ve already known for a while around here: People are searching, but they’re searching for substance. They’re looking for something more than what they can get in an entertainment complex or a movie theater. They are looking for something that doesn’t just look and sound like a church, but something that feels like a church—something that emits a sense of care and concern for holy things, and in so doing, provides a setting of reverence in the presence of the Holy One.
This is a comment I receive regularly from visitors with regard to our worship life: “You guys aren’t like the other churches I’ve visited.”
Sometimes that’s meant as a compliment, sometimes not. But whether it’s good or bad, its message is unmistakable. There are fewer and fewer congregations like us.
So, here are the ideas. The first is the easiest.
We need money for effective marketing of this message to the community. We don’t have any in our budget and we need some. If that’s something you feel like supporting, please do. Any time we receive funding for marketing, we always spend it well and it always produces results. I have plenty of leads on ways to do it, and I think I’m creative enough to fashion some decent messages to the community. So again, if this is something you feel like supporting, go for it.
The second idea is still easy, but it takes a little more intentional effort.
Remember all of the Kids in the Divine Service booklets we used to have in the pews but swapped out for the new ones? Well, they’re sitting in a box on the floor in the entryway to the church office. There’s about 150 of them. I don’t want to throw them out. I’d rather give them away. With that…
Another frequent comment from visitors is that these volumes are priceless for teaching, and often they’ll ask if they can take four or five copies with them to share with friends. That’s a great thing, because when they look inside, not only will they find substance regarding solid, Biblical, and historical worship, but they’ll find information about our congregation—a church that does it! So, if they’re looking for a congregation like that, they’ll know where to find one!
So the idea is this: Take some of the older versions of the Kids in the Divine Service booklets from the box—as many as you want—and leave them in places here and there throughout your day. For example, if you have lunch with a friend at Leo’s in Hartland, take a few in and leave them at the table before you go. When you go to the library, take a few in and leave them on a study table. When you visit a hospital or nursing home, take a few in and leave them in one of the waiting room chairs.
People will find and read things that people leave behind. They always do. You know how I know this? My son Harrison, that’s how. He went with me to Walmart a few years back and was walking around reading a proof copy (which is a copy that I and others use to edit the manuscript before the final print) of one of my The Angels’ Portion volumes. He got distracted and set it down, and then lost it. He couldn’t remember where he’d left it. About a month later I got an email from someone who’d picked it up and had read the whole thing. He loved it, and since I was local, he reached out to me through my website to see if I wanted it back. In the end, I told him to keep it, and then eventually I met him at the Fenton Walmart and signed it for him. Fun, huh?! And an introduction was made. Since then, I do this purposely with every proof copy of any of my books. When I’m done with it (as long as it isn’t chock full of embarrassing mistakes that make it unreadable), I leave it behind for people to keep and read. And like it was with the first time, connections have almost always been made. In fact, I’ll be doing an online radio interview with a smaller, up-and-coming podcaster in a few weeks, and it’s the result of one of the proof copies ending up in his hands.
Now, it might not always work out like this, but there’s also the chance that it will. And it doesn’t hurt to try, does it?
So, take those Kids in the Divine Service booklets and do the same. Let’s see what happens.
By the way, remind me to tell you about the conversation I had at Tim Horton’s in Hartland this morning.
On second thought, maybe I’ll just add it to the sermon. I think it fits well with Paul’s emphasis in the Epistle.