If you’re a leader in a 21st century U.S. church, your church is almost guaranteed to have a marketing plan. Maybe that plan is just an ad in the weekly paper and a marquee out front. Or maybe it looks more like a full-time team with a complex marketing strategy in place.
Whatever its scope, marketing can be a great tool to reach people for Christ. But here’s the thing: When it comes to leading people to Jesus and into the church, the early church had it right. The most effective tool is plain, old-fashioned word of mouth. In other words, evangelism.
Christ prescribed word of mouth to His disciples to grow the early church, and—according to a 2013 Nielsen consumer survey —word of mouth has shown time and again to be effective in the business world.
Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On, explains the value of word of mouth in the context of business and customers. His argument translates easily to a church setting:
"To be successful as an entrepreneur, you don’t need to have a huge marketing budget. You don’t need to have a big team. You don’t need to be a social media wizard. At the end of the day, all you have to do is turn your customers into advocates. Turn the people who purchase from you, that work with you, that buy from you—get those people to bring just one or two people in with them. Think about it: Each one, reach one. If we could get each one of our customers to bring just one new customer or client, we’d be hugely successful. The good news is, it’s not random, it’s not luck, and it’s not chance. There’s a science to why people talk and share. A dollar spent on word of mouth goes 10 times as far as a dollar spent on traditional advertising."
So how do you get people talking? It starts at the top. That doesn’t mean all the responsibility falls on you, but your entire team should be modeling it. Are you and your team inviting people to church and being intentional about sharing the gospel with neighbors, friends and acquaintances? You can expect your members to do only what their leaders are modeling.
Maybe your people don’t have the confidence to evangelize. Here’s some encouragement for them: God calls every Christian to evangelize, even the ones who—on the surface—seem the least likely or able to do it. Think about Paul, who persecuted Jesus’ followers before he became one of them. Or Timothy, who was young. Or Simon the Zealot, who was a rabble-rouser.
Everyone in your church, regardless of their circumstances, can share the gospel and disciple someone else who is less mature in their faith.
On this month’s Leadership Momentum Podcast, guest Nick Vujicic shares with host Chris Brown how he overcame his own obstacle—being born without limbs—to make his life’s work sharing the gospel and using his disability to glorify Christ. Nick has preached the gospel to 6 million people. “If God can use a man without arms and legs to be His hands and feet, certainly He’ll use any willing heart,” Nick says on the podcast.
Everyone in your church can—and should—be doing the same.
Nick recognizes the importance of getting people talking about Jesus and your church outside of your church: “Churches that are the most effective at reaching new people are creating raving fans in the seats who can’t stop talking in their community about what they’re experiencing in their church. Personal relationships are key, and word of mouth is the world’s most effective marketing.”
So lead the way and get people talking!
For more great thoughts on leadership in the church, check out the latest episodes of the Leadership Momentum Podcast.