Cart before horse.
That’s a cliche that doesn’t mean much now, but back in the day, it was a simple way to say “do things in order.”
Horses PULL carts. If the cart is in front of the horse, you’re not going anywhere.
Our culture has changed
Our technology changed and made the cliche nearly unintelligible. Most of us don’t use horses and carts to go places.
Our technology has also contributed to the change in culture, which makes our usual approaches to church growth unusually ineffective.
No matter how exciting, engaging, and life-changing you think your church is, just promoting your church with “join us Sunday” is not going to work—most of the time.
That’s a cart-before-horse strategy.
If people hear or read “join us Sunday” among the hundreds of message bites they read and hear every day on social media, it’s just more noise to them.
They need a much more compelling reason to stop scrolling and pay attention to your message bite.
An ad for your church is not compelling
Most people are self-trained to tune out your calls to action.
Sure, advertising still works.
Billions of dollars are spent on advertising each year.
But unless you have the budget to hire an advertising agency to upgrade “join us Sunday,” you’ll need to find another strategy to reach the world we’re living in today.
Put the cart in front of the horse.
Give them something first.
Give. Give. Give.
What can I give?
As a church, you have answers to life’s biggest questions.
- Why am I here?
- What’s wrong with this world?
- How can I be happy?
- Is this all there is?
- ______________________ ?
Think about the questions you’ve heard from people you know.
Answer those questions in your blog posts, memes, podcasts, Facebook posts, YouTube videos and wherever you put your worldview on display.
I also recommend you take their questions seriously.
Don’t give mocking answers. Don’t be sarcastic. Snark is the wrong approach.
Assume their questions are sincere.
Don’t demand they visit your church if they want the answers. Reach them while they’re on the go. Answer questions “for free” so to speak.
The key here is to give to them.
And give first.
When can I ask them to join us?
This is not to say you can never advertise “join us Sunday.” Those “commercial” posts are fine to do. They just need to be few and far between.
Acknowledge who you are, of course. People are smart enough to see and hear who is making the message.
Over time, they’ll appreciate what you’ve done and respond.
Don’t rush this.
Meanwhile, consider what you do in your building. When someone connects with you after all these things you give them, make sure what they see when they arrive matches what you offered already.