Part 3: 10 Ideas to Grow Your Church for Little to No Money

Welcome to Part 3 of a blog series called “10 Practical Ideas to Grow Your Church For Little to No Money!”  In this blog, not only will you learn three more practical ideas to spur church growth, but I will share with you the secret to how we received 3x more connection cards by doing just one small thing.
As more and more churches are emphasizing and planning to get back into full participation in worship, I am dropping a series of blogs packed with practical ideas to help maximize your church’s impact.  Over the past 12 months momentum for the overall Church has decelerated like we’ve never seen before.  I firmly believe, however, that a shift is happening right now.  It’s the churches that don’t play prevent defense, but instead, pull the goalie and act with urgency that will see great dividends.
If you missed Part 1, you can read that here.  Part 1 presented why church growth is important and gave Ideas 1 and 2 to help your church grow.
If you missed Part 2, you can read that here.  Part 2 presented ideas 3-5 and talked about the single biggest key to church growth, and how our church leveraged this to become the fastest growing church in our denomination.
Part 3 continues with more ideas to get more people through the front doors of your church. Let’s get right into them.

Idea 6: Strong Social Media Presence

If you are like me, then you probably have a love/hate relationship with social media.  I love the fact that it’s a tool that we can use, but I hate how addicting it can become.  I also hate how divisive conversations can get.  While we all, individually and collectively, should have appropriate boundaries when it comes to social media, I am convinced that the answer is not total abandonment. There is so much darkness spread through social media, which means never more has shining the light of Jesus been needed.  The apostles, especially Paul, would often go into secular marketplaces and have discussions which gave them the opportunity to present the Gospel.  Today, social media is that marketplace for us to shine the light of Jesus.
Ed Stetzer says, “If churches truly want to see the Gospel impact and influence a community, they should go to the place where the most significant conversation is actually taking place right now. Today, that’s on social media.”
69% of adults use Facebook, according to a Pew Research Report.   That’s up from 2012 when it was at 54%.  With the exception of YouTube–the video-sharing platform that is used by 73% of adults—no other major social media platform comes close to Facebook in terms of usage.  Around 4 in 10 adults say they use Instagram, while smaller shares say they use Pinterest, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Twitter, and WhatsApp. 
Social media is important for these reasons:

  • Helps get the word out
  • Shows your audience that you are relevant
  • It’s a great place to highlight what you do well
  • You can control what goes out to the public
  • You can further engage with your people throughout the week

One other major reason why it’s important to use social media is because it is FREE, unless, of course, that you purchase ads, boost posts, etc.
My suggestion, if social media feels overwhelming is to excel in one.  And if you are going to choose one, choose the one where most people are.  That is Facebook.
Among adults that use Facebook, 74% visit the site on a daily basis.
An exception to this is young adult and student ministry leaders should probably consider YouTube and Instagram, and potentially even Snapchat, as a higher percentage of teenagers are using those platforms.
Social media is important, simply because it reaches people.
During one month on our Facebook page not long ago, we had a reach of over 1000 people on Monday-Saturday, meaning our content from our Page was in front of them on their screen.  On each Sunday during that month we had close to 7000 reach that day alone.  Through one month we had more than 32,000 total reach on our Facebook page alone.
Diving deeper into the data I found out that of all the people who like, or follow, our page about 80% of them are within a 25-mile radius of our church.  While we are really excited to stream our services to the world, what’s amazing is that most of the content we send out is largely reaching people that have a chance to one day walk into the doors of our church and be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit working through us.
We have leveraged Facebook for the church that I have planted from the very beginning.  The amount of people who like our page is anywhere from 10-15x our average Sunday attendance.  We’ve encouraged our people to check in on Facebook during the middle of our Sunday services.  It gives our attendees a great chance to tag the friends that they are with and to let their other friends know where they are on a Sunday morning.  In addition, it gives them a chance to invite their friends, to say something great about our God, or maybe even to brag on their church.  By having them tag friends and check-in it puts your church’s name on a lot of news feeds of people who currently may not like your page.  Again, it’s about reaching as many people as we can.
You say, “Zach, numbers, numbers, numbers, so what.” Each of those numbers represents a person who is loved by God and that He desires to be in relationship with. 
We have seen that reach leads to engagement.
As we broke down the influence social media has had on our growth, we were blown away.  Over the course of a year that we studied, we looked at every “Connect Card” that was filled out by a first-time guest, and we found out that 64 people came to church because they first heard about us on Facebook.  If each card represents 2 people, then that means 128 new people came into our church because of the impact we had on our social media.  Also, we know that not everyone fills out a card, so the number could be well north of 250 in one single year because of how our church stewarded Facebook.
We had a family that came to church because they saw us on Facebook.  Three weeks after attending I had the chance to baptize their daughter.  Two weeks after that opportunity, I heard her father stand up in a room full of about 40 men after we had discussed pride.  He said that he had left his relationship with God due to pride over 3 decades ago, but thank God that recently he heard about our church through Facebook, because now he is back where he needs to be.  He was excited about discovering more about Jesus, rekindling his faith that he once had, and helping lead his family in a godlier way.
What you do on social media can impact the kingdom of God! 

Challenge: Look into the analytics on your preferred social media site.  Make a goal of increasing your reach and engagement in the next 60 days.  

Need help?  Consider reading this article to help you build your church’s social media strategy.  Additionally consider joining these three incredible Facebook Groups: Church Marketing University, Lutheran Communicators, and Church Communications.

Idea 7: Lead a Churchwide 40-Day Challenge

Over the past few years our team at Red Letter Living have become experts in the 40-day challenge field.  We have discovered incredible power behind an all-in church challenge centered on the life, words, and habits of Jesus.  Many churches we talk to strategically add an all-in church series like this once or twice in each calendar year.
How does an all-in turnkey 40-day help grow the church?  Here’s 5 reasons we’ve discovered:

  • Challenges Bring Tangible Excitement in the Gathering

I remember in Seminary there were some classes that I looked forward to and some that I dreaded going to.  The difference in how I approached the class typically was a direct correlation to how prepared I was for the class.  In Seminary, as in most graduate programs, there is a good bit of reading.  I will confess to you that there were many reading assignments that I did not do.  Those that know me aren’t shocked by that statement!  But, on the days when I had previously read and understood the reading, I was excited to go to class and join the conversation!
When it comes to church, I have found that how deeply I connected with God during the week still has a direct impact on my attitude in coming to church that Sunday.  The weeks where I had been more lackluster or apathetic in my devotion for God were weeks that were oftentimes harder to connect to God and to others. The weeks where I felt stronger in my devotions towards God would typically produce more excitement, passion, and energy in my worship and response on the following Sunday.
How do you get an entire church to not just attend Sundays but to come with energy and excitement?  It will happen as they read and take steps towards Jesus Monday-Saturday.
Attendance in most churches is a shadow of what it was just over a year ago.  But the expression is still true: “Nothing draws a crowd like a crowd.”  Having an energetic and excited room, spiritually speaking, a room that is Spirit-filled, is a key ingredient that will help draw others back into your church building.
Not only this, but our resources have proven to grow small groups by 40% in just 40 days.  Much of these blogs are written to help us be “fruitful” in numbers, but the reason I love small group growth is because those are the relationships, times, and discussions that can help us also learn and grow in being “faithful.”  At the root of it all, pastors wants churches that not only are growing numerically, but are becoming healthier as well.

  • Challenges Bring Unity Especially in a Distanced Time

The year 2020 brought incredible division not only to our nation, but to our churches.  Having to deal with a global pandemic, racial tension escalating, and a political election all at the same time, sadly, only 9% of churches said that they did not experience any division within their church. 
Amazingly, however, the #1 positive trait that we have heard consistently about our 40-day challenges during the global pandemic is the word unity.  Why do these resources bring unity?

  1. Culture divides. Jesus unites.

When the entire church is reading, learning, and being challenged daily to take steps to follow Jesus, incredible unity abounds.  In a culture that has become extremely divided, nothing brings unity back to the church like Jesus.

  1. Every person included.

All-in church challenges include opportunity for every age (kids, students, and all adults) to be learning the same principles.  Not only this, but it can be a great bridge between the online church and in-person church.

  1. Daily challenges give more opportunity to stick together.

Attending church on a weekly basis is an incredible keystone habit in a believer’s life.  Leveraging your church’s social media and/or website on a daily basis, however, will give people opportunity to check in, engage, share, and feel like they are part of a movement.

  • Turnkey resource allows the staff more time to focus on other areas of ministry

I know what it’s like to lead a church and to be exhausted.  For many growing churches, making the change from a generalist to a specialist is not an easy transition.  In many cases, as churches are growing, the staff are called to do multiple things and can quickly burn-out.  Sometimes the most exhausting thing of all is just coming up with new ideas from scratch.  Creating a space in the church calendar where you don’t have to start anything from scratch is extremely freeing.
By having ready-made materials for 40 days, it allows the staff to take the bones of what’s already there and tailor-make it to their context without feeling overwhelmed.  We provide we churches with sermon manuscripts and videos, weekly kids curriculum, ready-made graphics for in-house and social media, and small group guides and videos.  By providing all of these extra resources, it allow staff to have confidence in the 40-day series, but also gives them ample time to tend to other needs in the church that can build up over time.

  • Challenges are “Invite-a-Friend” Friendly

We have already mentioned the key to church growth is “invitability.”
Launching a 40-day church-wide challenge is an “invitable” opportunity on many levels!
We’ve seen many churches give away our workbooks for FREE with an invite card to attend on the opening Sunday of the Challenge.  In every case that this has been done, the church has been overwhelmed with the response they’ve seen.
In addition, by having a resource and a system that helps grow small groups, we challenge our small group leaders and facilitators to invite not just people in the church already, but their neighbors, co-workers, and friends who are not a part of the church to attend as well.
Many of our Challenges also provide a great opportunity for a church to host a larger event or serving challenge that could benefit the community.
By adding a 40-day Challenge into your church calendar, you are building in many different invitations for others to join your church.

  • Challenges Activate New People

I often wonder how much growth the Church loses out on simply because we don’t ask or challenge our people enough.  Many pastors are skilled at proclaiming the justification of Jesus, but fewer are skilled at the challenge of sanctification.  It’s a fine call to ask someone to believe in Jesus; it’s a deeper call to challenge someone to follow Jesus.
The perennial call that Jesus gave to His disciples is “Come, follow me.”  Jesus was inviting all of us to enter His kingdom right here and now.  To participate with Him in bringing heaven to earth.  Until we preach the Kingdom of God and challenge our people to step into that calling, we will always be scratching our heads wondering why our people are not stepping up to the commands of Jesus.  We should never abandon the invitation to believe in Jesus, but we certainly should always be challenging our people to truly follow Jesus.
What I have found over and over and over again is that when you challenge your church, there are people that come out of the cracks that you would have never thought.
Simply by challenging people to lead a small group you will find new small group leaders.  By challenging people to join a small group for 40 days you will have more people join a small group.  By challenging people to open up their Bible, some will.  When you challenge people to fast for a day, some will.  When you challenge people to tithe, some will.  If you challenge everyone to invite a friend to next Sunday’s service, some will.  Let’s not be afraid to challenge people and call them to something deeper.  Watch and see who God works through.  It just may surprise you!

Challenge: Look at your church calendar and find a strategic time to insert a 40-day challenge. 

Our team would love to help you launch a 40-day church challenge.  Simply put, it’s what we do.  If you want more information, here’s a blog on everything you need to know about launching a 40-day challenge.  If you are more visual, here’s a series of 10 short training videos to help you implement a 40-day challenge and see incredible results.  If you are a pastor and would like to receive a FREE Workbook, fill out this form here.  Finally, if you need more information, click the links for Red Letter Challenge or Being Challenge or email us at

Idea 8: Develop a Generous Strategy For Your Connection Cards

It’s an incredible blessing to see someone new in church.  However, I noticed early on that many new people that were coming to our church would not fill out a connection card.  Only a small percentage would be willing to give us their contact information.  By not collecting their information, it was virtually impossible to follow up with them and get them plugged in.
It is poor stewardship to work as hard as we can to get new people to come through the front doors of our church but then not collect their information.
Sitting down with our leadership team, we started tackling the question, “How can we get more of our new guests to fill out a connection card?”  This question becomes even more vital to ask with the acceleration of online church.  Not only should we be pursuing our in-house connection cards, but also our digital connection cards as well.
We decided to first look at what happened in our past year.  We found out that the previous year our church averaged 10 connection cards per Sunday.  In our context that meant that we had 500 cards, and if each one represents 2-2.5 people we had somewhere between 1000-1250 new people represented by the connection cards.
According to Rich Birch’s Church Growth Flywheel, the average church gets 1 visitor per attendee for the year.
If your average worship attendance is 250, you the average church would see 250 visitors in a year.  If you are seeing less than this, the previous 7 points should be seriously considered.
We set a goal in our church to increase the number of new visitors filling out a connection card.
We decided to do three things:

  1. Make Filling out the Card Simple

We looked at our card and simplified it by taking out any “insider” language and also removing any information that we truly didn’t need to collect.  By keeping it clear and quick, this would be helpful.  To me, the only things that were vital were asking for their name(s), their email, their phone number, and how they heard about us.  Things like mailing address, date of birth, etc. could be important for your church.
2. Make Filling out the Card a Priority on Stage
We pointed them to filling out the connection card every service, strategically at 5 times.

  • Pre-service slides
  • During the welcome by the service host
  • During the offering
  • At the end of the service
  • Post-service slides

In those slides or announcements, it should be very clear, as well, where to turn in or submit the connection card.  These same principles can, and should, apply online as well.
But where we really saw incredible growth was this third idea:
3. Give away a gift and use their card to bless a local charity
When a new guest filled out and turned in a connection card we decided that not only would we give them a specific gift but we would also give a gift on their behalf to one of our local charity partners as well.
Here’s a tip when employing this strategy: Be specific on what will happen if they turn in a card.
When we promised to give a gift to someone when they turned the card in, we decided rather than keeping it vague, we would tell them what the gift is.  Personally, I’d like to know what the gift is, and so would nearly everyone else on the planet.  People don’t sign up for things that are vague or not well thought out.  So whether it’s a mug, a pair of sunglasses, a book, or a chance at a FREE trip to Hawaii, tell them what it is. If you are embarrassed to say what the FREE gift is, it’s probably not the best gift to giveaway.
It is also wise to be specific on which charity will be receiving money and how much money per card turned in.
For our context, we started with $10 and increased it to $20 per card.  We would change the charity every month and invite the leader of that charity to come up after their month and present them with a check.  We would also give them an opportunity to tell us about their charity, and at the same time, invite people to join them in their great work of being the hands and feet of God in the community in which we live.  Finally, we would pray for them.
Not only was this a “win” for people to see this, but people could tell we were being transparent.  It also was an accelerator for some people jumping into long-term serving opportunities with some great non-profit partners.
After moving to this strategy, we measured the next two months and went from 10 cards in a week to 25-30 in a week.  One normal Sunday we saw more than 40 cards!
You might say, “Well, $10-$20 each card adds up to a lot of money.”  The truth is that not only has God called your church to be generous, but if you are constantly bringing in new people through your doors, God will supply your church with more than enough to carry out His mission.
Collecting information from new guests is vital to growing your church.  Being generous and strategic about your connection cards could lead to maximum growth.

Challenge: Go over your current connection card strategy and commit to analyzing and strategizing on these three things:

  • Make it simple (eliminate insider language and unnecessary info requests)

  • Make talking about connection cards a priority from stage

  • Find a way to be generous in collecting this data

I hope these ideas help you grow your church.  Stay tuned next week for the finale.  I’ll write about what I believe is the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to church growth.
God bless you!

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