How To Achieve 277% Growth

April 16, 2007 by

OK, so the title isn’t fully accurate. But it is how one church did it. Eastpoint Community Church in Middletown, Del. had an incredibly simple, strategic and successful marketing campaign, detailed by Marketing Sherpa (membership required). Here’s a quick summary of their story:

A small, young church, they were looking to reach a community saturated by a younger generation with a general disquietude towards the idea of church. They knew that an unobtrusive web site would bring just the proper message–we don’t merely want to tally converts, but we want you to discover us. Thus the brainstorming began.

They knew a web site alone would not be enough. How would people find it? So they created a place of interest–a web site, and they created a vehicle for reaching this place–a marketing campaign. Rather than spending countless hours and resources reinventing the wheel and discovering new methods of marketing, they turned to time-honored tactics. Mailers and a billboard (you know how we love to talk about billboards here at CMS).

They created the site, and they put up a billboard. The billboard didn’t mention their physical address. It didn’t mention their mission statement. It just read “Before you turn church off …”. In addition to the billboard, they sent mailers to their community advertising the web site.

The final piece of this puzzle was creating a web site that would matter. They decided to go with a web 2.0 feel and create a prayer wall and blogs.

It seems that these efforts created a perfect storm in their community. Church attendance shot up 277% (I believe that must now include most of Deleware’s population), and they’re looking for a new building.

So now comes the dilemma. When looking at this model, have we found the perfect example for increasing church attendance? Hardly. Blogger Nathan Rice makes a great point that not everything is for everyone. I think we can look at this and the most we can say is, “Wow, they were sensitive to how their community would respond, and they acted accordingly.” This campaign won’t work for all churches or all communities, but it is a tremendous story of what happens when we remain aware of the world around us and create accordingly. Oh yes, and it’s a subtle reminder to those 30% of you who said “Billboards are for truckers” that maybe billboards aren’t so bad. (link via Mike Atkinson)

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Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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14 Responses to “How To Achieve 277% Growth”

  • Kirk Longhofer
    April 16, 2007

    As an unitentionally appointed critic of billboards… I’ve got to say that I love this. It speaks to benefit for the customer… instead of just going for the cheap bump. Love the tag line…

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  • mark
    April 16, 2007

    Well that is great that it worked for them. However, I must say that I think the trick to growth (numbers and spiritual health) is going out into the community (after all, we can’t expect people to come to us if we don’t first go to them) and authenticity.

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  • Miracle
    April 19, 2007

    I know that the billboards drew people onto their website, but it was the community that was formed on the site which is the reason why people came to the church.

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  • Kevin Headings
    April 20, 2007

    Who cares about growth? ‘Growth’ has nothing to do with it. Love God and love others.

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  • Gina Witcher
    April 22, 2007

    I am absolutely shocked at Mark and Kevin’s comments. What about the person who never comes across a believer? Even the writer of Evangelism Explosion says only 2% of people come to Christ through this face to face encounter with a stranger. Your church may be great, but if they think you’re wierd, or a “Jesus Freak” are they just doomed to go to hell. If the world uses marketing, why can’t we use marketing for the sake of the Gospel?

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  • Gloria
    April 23, 2007

    I think the issue there Gina speaks more about how we, as Christians, ought to be cultivating authentic relationships with people outside the “Christian” sphere.
    We should be going out and meeting people, and relating to them and not being “complete strangers.” Because who is honestly going to listen to a complete stranger nowadays? You’re likely to hear, “Pfft, you don’t KNOW ME!” rather than “Yes I am a sinner.”
    Having said that, I too, like the idea of marketing, because it helps us bridge a gap that we’re created for ourselves. It’s not a “solution” but a “patch.”

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  • Craig in Wisconsin
    April 23, 2007

    My best friend and pastor said something in a 6 week Fishing series that I loved. He said, “People, I don’t want you to bring people to church…..I want you to bring the church to people.” I am a marketing guru, but the real marketing comes in the form of the love we put on people in the real world. That said, I still love the ideas I get here and as Outreach Director I am inspired by the creative minds and approaches here. Thanks all!

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  • Zach Lorton
    May 3, 2007

    We’re in an area of the metro St. Louis region where there are many low-income families, and a good deal of them don’t have internet access. Still, our website has impressed a lot of people, because we broadcast our Sunday morning messages on our site each week. We have people watching from all over the country, as well as Asia, Denmark, Germany, Canada, Mexico, South America, Japan, and many other countries.

    What’s been more impacting, however, is the fact that a few months ago, we started broadcasting our services on a local ABC television affiliate, Saturday nights at 11:30 p.m. (right about the time that SNL starts to suck). I cannot tell you the massive response we’ve gotten from this, and we have people call in every week wanting to know more about our church as a result. We encourage people to find a church that’s right for them if they’re not in this area.

    The way our pastor presents the gospel is infused with 2 essential things — humor and practicality. We recently did an entire series dedicated to the blended family (to our knowledge the first one done anywhere), and we’re about to wrap one up on betrayal. Our next series is going to be a study/expose on the film “The Secret”. God is leading us to answer the needs of our community, and that’s the biggest reason why people respond.

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  • Tracy McKirk
    July 17, 2007

    Great story.. I am amazed to see a church promoting its service like a corporation.

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  • Chris Allen
    September 25, 2007

    Don’t be stupid. That is why the church fails… because we fail to realize that it is our responsibility to make an effort to promote God and His ideals. Why should a corporation be allowed to promote their product, but we can’t even promote a place that promotes God. I’m sick of wineing Christians talking about how much they know about this and that and the other. Put a sock in it and realize that the goal isn’t to promote a building, it’s to promote what’s going on inside. I love it when there’s thousands gathered to worship and learn and fellowship!!! It is so fun – but the first step is to actually let people know what is going on and to convince them it’s worth it to be there. That there is something about this whole church thing beyond passing the offering plate or singing hymns. I just want to see people changed; and sometimes it’s nice simply to show up with people like me who get together to rock the house! And you have to admit that it is more fun with 5000 people than 50 – for me, and for someone who may not have much of a Christian background. So let’s get the word out like the big corporations do!!! Why the heck not!!!

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  • Tim Knutson
    October 2, 2007

    I actually just took over a church that has been struggling for years with growth, attendance and lack of zeal for the gospel.
    I am also a coffee roaster and small business man. I realized that I did and do everything with the business to promote it and tell people about it, because I believe it is the best. The Lord showed me that I need to install that same process into His church. He is the CEO and I am the COO (Chief Operations Officer). There is nothing wrong with promoting your church as long as you not some wimpy, fly by night church that doesn’t bring the hard truth and tender gospel to the people.
    Our world changes everyday and we are the children of the ‘creator’! He can create in us very ‘creative’ and innovative ways to reach the lost. Don’t be critical of others and don’t be stupid either. There’s a fine line.

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  • Mike
    October 26, 2007

    I love playing with statistics. 277% of 30 makes a total attendance of 68, of 50 yields 138. And there’s no indication of the total online population.
    That said, an extra 40-70 actively seeking individuals (who have already made a substantive connection online) should get a significantly higher conversion rate than a door-to-door first-response program developed 40 years ago (sorry Gina, but EE really is that old!).
    I’d love to know whether they were able to provide substantive outreach on the website. I have a friend who holds “cyber church” on his myspace page, and the trackback comments show he’s REACHING a segment of the population that’s discontented with shirt&tie Christianity.

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  • john
    October 30, 2007


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  • I am glad to hear you say that this will not work for everyone. I agree it was a great thing for this church. That brings me to the whole church marketing thing in the first place.
    Advertising is different than marketing. Marketing is discovering who your target audiance is. I think churches really do a bad job of this in general.

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