We have had the privilege to launch and implement 40-day challenges with hundreds of churches over the past few years. Because of this, we receive many questions, collect much data, and have learned many best practices. We have compiled what we believe is most helpful in the blog post below to help you determine how launching a 40-day challenge could be the right next step for your church.
Before we dig into how to launch a 40-day church-wide challenge, let’s first answer the why.
5 Problems a 40-Day Church-Wide Challenge Solves
Thus far, 100% of pastors that have gone through one of our 40-day challenges have recommended our 40-day challenges. Here’s the top five reasons:
- Practical Jesus-Centered Discipleship Content that’s Challenging
Readers appreciate the simple-to-understand writing yet challenging-in-concept nature of following after Jesus. Each 40-day challenge gives daily clear and practical challenges that allow all to participate, thrive, and ultimately take next steps in their discipleship journey with Jesus!
2. Unify a whole church
Our 40-day challenges bring unity not just to the entire church on Sunday’s but also Monday-Saturday as well. Especially in a distanced time like coronavirus, churches have been loving how our resources bring unity to their whole church. These challenges not only unify the digital and in-person church experiences to feel like one church family again, but provide unity across all ages, races, and economic levels as well. It turns out that Jesus is incredibly unifying!
3. Small Group Growth
Through data we have collected, churches that implement our process are likely to see 40% growth in their small groups! For more on an building an effective small group strategy, check out this short video here.
4. Turnkey Resource
Each of our 40-day challenges come with a load of FREE resources to make this as turnkey as possible. In addition to separate workbooks for adults and children we offer free small group materials (guides and videos), weekly kids curriculum, sermon manuscripts and videos, graphics package, etc.
5. Social Media Engagement Increase
Churches that use our custom pre-made graphics and also implement their own personal unique daily content on social media typically see a 400% (no, that’s not a typo) social media engagement increase.
For more on reasons why a 40-day church challenge could be right for your church, check out this short video here.
Now that we’ve answered questions on why to lead a church-wide challenge, let’s now discuss some best practices.
7 Best Practices for a Church-Wide Challenge
1. Go All-In!
Churches that have seen the best results for our 40-day challenges are the churches that go all-in! We highly encourage these 4 practices:
- Individuals in the church read through their workbooks daily
- Collections of those individuals gather weekly for small groups
- The entire church gathers on the weekend for the accompanying sermon series
- The students and children’s ministries are fully participating as well. For more on including the children and students check out this short video here.
For more on this all-in approach, check out this short video here.
2. Best Strategic Times for a 40-Day Church-Wide Challenge
These are the 4 best times we’ve seen to launch a 40-day church campaign.
- New Year: You can promote heavily in December and at Christmas and build some serious momentum in the new year. For more on why the New Year is a perfect time to launch a 40-day church challenge, read this blog.
- Lent: 40 Days prior to Easter: Many churches will encourage people to give up something for the 40 days of Lent. We love this practice, but also, we’ve seen many churches encourage their people not just to give up something, but to start something new as well. There is nothing better to start than putting the words of Jesus into practice! For more on why the Lent season is a great strategic time, read this blog.
- 40 Days after Easter: You can promote heavily in the lead up and on the day of Easter and really give your church something exciting to come back to the next week. Usually a church will have 6-8 weeks left after Easter while families are still in school and this can provide some great momentum going into the summer months.
- Fall: Weekly worship attendance is normally at its strongest in the Fall. Why not start the fall with a powerful 40-day church discipleship challenge? We encourage a start time any time after the school session is back and encourage churches to wrap up by Thanksgiving.
For more on scheduling this in the church calendar, check out this short video here.
We recommend a 4-week promotion time with books in hand to distribute. While you can use our promo videos to help promote the series, we believe the best promotion comes when the lead pastor and/or key leaders in the congregation show their excitement in as many areas as possible (stage, newsletter, announcements, social media, etc.). For 4 more communication lessons we’ve learned from leading hundreds of churches through a 40-day challenge read this blog. For more on promotion and distribution check out this short video here. Speaking of distribution…
We recommend these two approaches:
1. Shared Donation Cost Approach
This is the approach most commonly used. We have seen churches that share the cost of the workbooks with those in their church be more effective than trying to charge full price. Some churches have found one donor or used some discipleship budget dollars to help offset the cost of the books so they could get the books to their attendees at a suggested donation of $5 or $10 which is a much better price point for most congregations. Churches that can get to that price point will have about 50% more participation than trying to get $15-$20 for a book. As a pastor, if I know I can get way more people involved for 40 days by simply investing around $5-$10 a person, I consider that a cost well worth it! Usually by telling the church attendees what the books cost, and then letting them know they are sharing the cost with them, and inviting them to give more or donate towards someone else who can’t afford most churches make up at least 80% of their initial investment, and many recoup their entire cost.
2. FREE Generous Approach
Many churches have decided to be extremely generous and given away FREE 40-day challenge workbooks to those in their church/school. Some churches have hand-delivered a FREE book to each member of their church/school a few weeks in advance with an invite card. As a result, their worship attendance, small groups, and offerings increased greatly. Churches that have used this strategy are still seeing major long-term impact. If able, we highly suggest and encourage this approach.
Here’s a short video to help explain distribution further.
5. Use our FREEbies + Add what is Unique to You
We have done everything possible for this to be as turnkey as possible for a church of any size. Everything you would need for our 40-day challenges outside of the workbooks is available for FREE on our website. There you can see all of the following: small group videos, small group guides, sermon manuscripts and videos, kids curriculum, promotion videos, graphics packages, etc.
We highly encourage churches to use our branding and graphics that have been thought about with great intentionality and have been paid for and made by professional designers. This ensures quality and will help you stay on brand. We have created posters, social media graphics, sermon slides, fliers, etc.
Churches that both use our free materials and branding and match with their own unique, custom content see the greatest results. We encourage churches to include something unique each day in the challenge. Here’s a few examples:
- One-minute videos of the pastor talking about the challenge (iPhone quality is great)
- Testimonies/stories of God working through someone in the church
- Quick daily emails with an encouraging thought from the pastor or key leader
In your custom content, we encourage you to come up with some sort of response or call-to-action in your unique content to increase engagement.
6. Order Early and Choose the Right Package
Churches that have used the promotion and distribution model we suggest above have seen 90% of their average weekly worship attendance participate in their daily workbooks (for example: if you worship 100 on a weekend this means you’ll distribute 90 or above workbooks) Many churches are blown away by the response and more than 50% of churches have to reorder. The typical church also orders about 25-30% of kids books compared to adult workbooks (this could vary greatly depending on the size of your children’s ministry or if you are including a school in the challenge as well).
In addition to choosing the right size church package, it’s important to order early. While our books ship fast and quick to you, we like to have books in hand ideally about 5-6 weeks ahead of launch date.
We have discounted (10-40% off) church packages for Red Letter Challenge and Being Challenge ready to go. However, if you need a different quantity or would like to do it differently than listed on that link, or want to mix and match the adult and kids books, simply email us and we’ll give you a comparable quote or next steps.
No-Risk Refund: We want this to be as risk-free as possible. We offer a full refund for unused books. Less than 5% of churches need to send unused books back, and likely, if they do, it’s because they have taken a different strategy than detailed in this blog. It is cheap (about $1/book for insured media mail) to send books back to us.
For more on choosing the right size and why that’s important, check out this short video here.
7. Extras Matter
We have extras available in our shop like shirts, wristbands, decals, magnets, and small group DVD’s. None of these things are required but all of them can enhance your 40-day experience. We have found many churches will purchase a shirt for their small group leaders as a gift or include wristbands for FREE to each person in their church as an inexpensive but easily seen daily reminder. Please note, we do throw some of these things into the church packages that are ready to go for purchase for Red Letter Challenge and Being Challenge.
Which 40-Day Church Challenge is Right for your Church?
Great question. We are expanding our library of 40-day challenge offerings, so please watch this video for more information on what is unique about each of our 40-day challenges.
We have worked with churches of all sizes, denominations, and kinds. We’d love to work with your church! If you have any questions at all, we are happy to help. Please contact us here. God bless you, and let’s together challenge all people to become greater followers of Jesus!