New Campus / Church Stuff

We just had the third week of our new campuses. A couple of thoughts I’d share with people who are starting new churches and new campuses in the U.S. —

Nine years ago we started our church using mostly postcards and radio ads, and it worked. I’ve heard horror stories from others, but it worked big time for us.

But something happened in the last ten years – the world changed. Here are three examples:
– People who are around 30 now (which is who we expect to respond to our advertising) are different from people who were around 30 then. For one thing, they are less likely to have grown up in church. Ten years ago that age group grew up in the 70’s and early 80’s. Now that age group grew up in the 80’s and early 90’s. The number of people attending church in those ten years was dropping steadily. (And, since the early 90’s has continued to drop, only more drastically). So there are less people who don’t go to church but somewhere deep inside know they should. This is typically the kind of person who responds to a postcard or radio ad, but there’s just not so many around anymore.
– There is more widespread anti-church, anti-Christian sentiment. Read “unchristian” by David Kinneman. (Seriously, read it.) He did tons of research and reveals what most young people today think of Christians and church. It’s not good. So to think that a person who is negative towards Christians/church/Christianity is going to receive a postcard and say, “Yeah, I think I’ll go…” Nope, not happening.
– “Cool” churches are everywhere. When we arrived in Va Beach ten years ago, there was nothing like us. No one had done postcards or radio ads. We were featured on the news because we were a church meeting in a movie theater. So for those people who didn’t go to church, but would be open to a different kind of church, we were there only option. Now people receive church postcards all the time, radio ads aren’t that uncommon, and there’s a church in every movie theater.

So, as you might guess, our advertising didn’t produce the results it did last time. In fact, this time we were advertising three campuses (not just one) and sent a series of postcards to 87,000 homes (not just 32,000) but the results were about 1/3rd of what we experienced nine years ago.

But here’s the cool part. Often a new church will see a big drop in attendance in their second and third weeks (the advertising has stopped, the well-wishers have gone home, the church shoppers have checked you out and moved on) but yesterday (our third Sunday and the first without any advertising) we had our biggest attendance yet at both of our Sunday morning campuses. That’s sweet! And the reason? People are excited and bringing their friends with them. I think that’s what we’re going to have to rely on for church growth in the future which is, probably, a very good thing.

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