4 Communication Lessons Learned from Leading 125,000+ through a 40-Day Church Series

Over the course of the last 30 months, we’ve had the honor to lead more than 500 churches and 125,000 individuals through one of our church-wide 40-day challenges.  On February 14th, we are having our single-largest launch day with more than 100 churches across the world kicking off one of our 40-day challenges. Through this blessing, we have learned many best practices.  This blog is written to help the communication director maximize the impact that a 40-day church series can have in their church.

Here’s 4 tips:

  1. Encourage and Support the Lead Pastor’s Public Involvement

The lead pastor is integral to the success of a 40-day church series.

Many 40-day church series will also offer some sort combination of reading, homework, a challenge to complete, and/or a small group to enter into.  We have found that the more the lead pastor is involved in the 40-day church series, the greater the overall results will be.

Leading up to the 40-day series, the lead pastor has the opportunity to be the best “marketing” approach for your church.  His/her endorsement of the series as well as being able to articulate why this series is important for the church is the best marketing your church can do.  Helping your pastor craft powerful statements that can be given through social media, blogs, during Sunday services, etc. will increase participation and engagement.  The best statements will do one or both of the following:

  • Answer the why. Why is this important for me as an individual?  Why is this important for our church?
  • Help solve a problem. The reason we are doing this series is because this series will help you _________.  This series will help our church ________.

During the 40-day series, it’s important that the pastor is publicly participating in the series.  If there is reading to finish, a challenge to complete, or a small group to participate in, it’s important in your communication that you are highlighting how the lead pastor is doing this.  People in our churches will feel more apt to fully engage when they see the main leader giving it their best effort..

As the communication director, what can you do?  Show support to your lead pastor and be proactive with him/her by sitting down and game planning what it looks like to promote the series well and also publicly share his/her involvement in the 40-day church series.  Ideas could be a weekly or daily video, email devotion, social media posts, etc.

  1. Establish Buy-In from All the Key Leaders Ahead of Time

For a church series to have maximum impact it needs to be front and center in all capacities.  What I mean by this is make the 40-day series “the thing” for the 40 days.  Do not mix and match other ideas, events, small groups, or sermon series in.

I recommend a 4-tier approach:

  • Make the 40-day series your sermon series/weekend experience for all ages.
  • Encourage every individual in the church to grab a book to participate in the daily readings (in our cases, also to participate in the daily challenge).
  • Encourage those individuals to also meet collectively during the week for small groups.
  • Ensure that the kids ministry and student ministry are also heavily involved and using the material(s) for their ministries.

When the entire church is involved, the energy and excitement is palpable and the results are maximized.

In reality, we’ve found that sometimes it’s hard to get the entire church and key leaders to buy-in.

We have ran into many churches who want to use our challenges, but not in their entirety.  Some will encourage their church family to do the readings, but won’t want to use the 40-day series as the weekend sermon series.  Oftentimes, the kids or student ministry leaders will already be tied to their normal curriculum and will be hesitant to change.  Many churches have some small group leaders who only want to teach what they want to teach.

Working ahead of time ensuring buy-in from all the key leaders is incredibly important. Quite simply, the larger your church is, the more lead-in time you will likely need.

While we create a 40-day church challenge that we promote as “turnkey” we have found best practices to begin establishing buy in at least one month out for a church of 200 attendees or under and likely 2-6 months out for churches that are over 200 attendees on a weekend.  Our team has created checklists that we would be happy to provide you with to help ensure you are strategically getting the buy-in needed from the entire church.  Email us at hello@redletterchallenge.com.

  1. Help Craft a Clear and Generous Promotion and Distribution Strategy

 A 4-5-week promotion and distribution time before launching a 40-day church series is ideal.  By promoting and distributing it for several weeks, it allows you to get this initiative in front of everyone who considers themselves a faithful member of your church family.

As we mentioned above, the best promotion we have seen is when key leaders, especially the lead pastor, gets involved.   Creating content on social media, Sunday announcements, emails, etc. that can answer why this series will be helpful and what problems this series will answer is the direction your promotion should move in.

As great as digital marketing is, surprisingly, we also find that an old-fashioned method is very effective.  Sending an invite card through the mail noting your kickoff day, important dates coming up in the 40-day series, and ways for people to participate is integral on this invite card.

As important as promotion is, we have found distribution to be as important.

Create as many entry points as possible for people in your church to participate.  As you promote it you should also be distributing your books.  Do not ask people to sign up today and get materials late. Rather, when promoting it, be ready to distribute the books.  Distributing your books for churches that meet onsite is a no-brainer.  During coronavirus times, crafting a simple Google Form or page on your website and offering designated pickup times or a place to have the book delivered is a great strategy that many are implementing.  I also encourage the larger churches that have decent size staffs to make those designated pickup times fun.  This may be the first time you are seeing or re-engaging with someone in your church family for many months.  Create a great new first impression and use this time wisely.

The most common strategy of distribution is a shared cost suggested donation method.  It’s an investment to purchase a 40-day church challenge or series.  We have seen 50% more participation in churches that are able to offer books at a $5-$10 price point than those churches that try to hard sell them in the $15-$20 price point range.

My favorite method of distribution that has seen the best results is when a church gives the books away for FREE.   Typically, the leadership will see this as an evangelistic tool and they will give away the resources.  For more on this idea as well as the promotion/distribution plan, check out this video.

  1. Plan to Grow Your Social Media Presence

Do you want to see more than 400% increase in reach and engagement in social media in just 40 days!?  That’s typically what churches that have used our 40-day challenges have seen.  Here’s three strategies to see this kind of growth:

  1. Using hashtags is important.

We provide one hashtag in our original workbook #RedLetterChallenge and that hashtag ties your church in with thousands of others.  This will automatically put your eyeballs on your church.  In addition to using the hashtag we provide, we also suggest creating your own unique hashtag to go along with it.  Hashtags allow people quickly to see the magnitude of what is happening in one place.

  1. Create unique material daily with a call-to-action.

This sounds daunting.  However, if you’ve done well on the above steps, this will be much easier.  When the lead pastor, along with the entire church is fully bought in, they can help you create unique material each day.  You simply need to come up with the plan and delegate clearly.

The unique material that you create doesn’t have to be the most fully produced and polished.  It simply has to be real and authentic.  We highly encourage video.  Sharing testimonies and stories of God at work in the 40-day church series is always highly engaging.

In one of the most successful 40-day church challenges we ever launched, the Lead Pastor decided to post a daily video to go alongside of the challenges.  The quality of the videos wasn’t great, but it was good enough.  It was amazing to see his church rally behind him and celebrate with him in his strengths, but also resonate with him in his weaknesses.  His vulnerability and authenticity brought far more engagement to his church during these 40 days.  He had some incredibly hard news come upon him during these 40 days and because he was in a rhythm of posting daily videos, he ended up receiving support from others while he was inspiring thousands of people despite his hardship.

As you are posting unique content, to maximize engagement, consider any of the following: ask a question, issue a challenge, provide a prize, etc.  Simply by asking people to respond you will see increased engagement.

For tips on creating digital content, I love Carey Nieuwhof’s article here, especially points 5-7.

  1. Use pre-made graphics that are provided.

When looking for a 40-day church series to implement, look for one that already has some pre-made graphics.  We provide a graphics package for FREE with our 40-day challenges so that the communication director or graphics designer never has to start from scratch.  In fact, we encourage them to use our materials because it not only ensures that their graphics are going to look excellent, but it also helps our brand stay on point.  By using pre-made graphics, typically it’ll save you hours as you simply insert your logo or key dates onto something that’s ready to go in just minutes!  This time saved will help you with the above point in having the time available to help create the unique content that will increase social media engagement.

I hope those 4 tips are helpful for you.  To all the communication directors out there, thank you for what you do.  It truly does matter.  If our team can be helpful or if you are looking for a powerful 40-day church-wide challenge, we’d love the honor to work with you and challenge everyone in your church to be greater followers of Jesus.  We have two resources available currently.  You can learn about Red Letter Challenge and Being Challenge by clicking on their links.  If you have more questions on why a 40-day series could work for your church, we’ve  created a series of 10 short videos here that will be helpful for you.  God bless you!

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