Many people have imagined what being a fly on the wall would be like or having the super power of invisibility. Imagine being invisible and being able to sneak into a place and out of it without ever being seen! You could be the perfect spy.
Unfortunately, a lot of church plants, and churches, have this super power. They are perfectly visible to themselves but invisible to the world. Being visible is more than having a day in the community when you are working to make an impact for Christ. Being visible means your church family can be found when needed by the community.
One of the biggest struggles I had when attempting to plant Faith Community Church was the problem of being seen past the big events we tried. For example, each year we participated in the local community's Independence Day event. We passed out hundreds of bottles of water to the masses of humanity (this event is one of the largest fireworks displays in the area). We handed out water, flyers, cards, hand fans, and even held a raffle. People loved the water and were grateful for a moment of shade. Great outreach event!
The problem came in follow-up. Being visible at an event does not mean we were visible in the community. We rented a 11,000 square foot building but we were so far off the main road that the building was not immediately visible from it. The other problem was that we were not allowed to put advertising or any signage out on the main road to point people to our meeting place! We were never able to get a second touch out into the community to help remind people we were there...
Many advertising experts agree that you need to "touch" a person about 7 times to get them to buy from you. I know of numerous churches that have given out free products at events I have attended, and later I have driven by their facilities on another day and that product came to mind. We were unable to capitalize on this opportunity.
I am not making excuses. I am, however, trying to get you to be more aware of those "touches" and how effectively you are in reengaging people in the community. Maybe you also have the problem of signage. Maybe your building is hidden from the main road. Maybe you are meeting in a community center or school. None of those things matter if you are doing more than just one thing in touching or reaching your community.
SO how do you become more visible (beyond a good outreach event)?
1 - You have to model invitation and develop an inviting community of believers. A big event is just that - a big event. It is not meant to get a bunch of people to come to your church. Personal invitation is the number one reason people say they attend a church service. Big events are not personal invitations. These events are necessary to remind the community you are there. The personal touch of your congregation is the catalyst needed to get more people into your worship services.
2 - Know your community. Take a moment to survey your community and get to know what keeps them there. Map out an area around your facility and go engage your community at places that people gather. Ask them simple open ended questions such as "What makes this community special?" Open ended questions are not "yes/no" questions. They are questions that get people to talk and show your interest in them and not in your intentions. You may be surprised at some of the answers you get as you learn to ask questions that get at the heart of people's needs and desires.
I wish I had an perfect plan that makes perfect sense. But communities differ vastly. In the area I attempted to plant a church, you could drive 15 minutes to the next large city and find a completely different culture. Within the city, the north side was different from the south side. There is not a perfect in-the-box solution to reaching your community - other than getting to know the people and being personal in your invitations.
Do not stop doing the big events. In fact, think of it this way: Awareness, Connection, Relational, and Discipleship. Big events touch large groups to help people become aware of your presence in the area. Very few people, if any, will attend your church from these events. Next, you want to engage your community through connection events (VBS, Festivals, Movies, Picnics). People come closer to visiting but more importantly they get a chance to know you as you get a chance to know them. Next, develop relational events (Small groups, Conferences, etc). People know you care and were thoughtful of their needs. Discipleship happens when they attend, and that is a whole new ballgame because you want them to return. Personal invitation is vital throughout all of these areas.
Hope this gets you to think about your visibility in your community. I am available to consult or to coach you in this area if needed. Feel free to contact me: EMAIL