Today I am teaching a session at a pastor's conference about social media. While those two topics don't seem to fit, I can assure you that they do.
I am using the framework from a book called The Dragonfly Effect. The bottom line is to help the pastors use storytelling as the center of their marketing strategy.
Wait a minute. Marketing the church? You bet. Marketing Jesus? Even more important.
I'm not talking about traditional marketing, but with the massive numbers of people leaving the church, there is clearly some major image building that needs to occur.
The fact is that the church gets a really bad rap. I don't know how many times I have heard people say, "I don't like religion.". Well guess what? I don't either.
What I do like is hearing about the amazing changes that occur in people's life (my own included) when they step out of the driver's seat and let God take his rightful place as "Maker".
So, I am wondering what would happen if church websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter pages and the like contained some of these amazing stories.
In John, chapter 9 we find the story of the man who had been blind from birth. The church leaders of the day (the Pharisees) were questioning him after Jesus had healed him by rubbing mud on his eyes on the Sabbath. Of course, he immediately told everyone that he could see. The Pharisees chose to focus on the fact that the incident (as if it had been a bad thing) had happened on the Sabbath.
Rather than getting into an argument about whether Jesus was a sinner for doing such a thing, he simply said "Once I was blind and now I see.". That sums it all up. That is story telling at its finest.
What if the navigation on your church website began with Life Changing Stories in our Church?
I am challenging church leaders and webmasters to join me in the John 9:25 project to do just that.
Have your people tell their stories. Share them with one another and in fact, with the world.
Do it on your websites, in your blogs, on your Facebook page.
It could be as simple as having a picture and a short tag line "once I was......", or it could be full stories or even short video interviews.
The point is to FOCUS on what Jesus has done. You have to start by talking about the darkness before people can appreciate the light. There is power in sharing your story transparently and openly. In vulnerability there is strength.
NOTE: For sensitive stories, if you want to preserve the individual's anonymity, simply use the facts about the person (a 21 year old college student or a young wife), versus naming names, so as to protect them from any harm that might come from full disclosure.
Next, you need to GRAB THEIR ATTENTION. This is the discussion of the light that has come into your life since your encounter with the Creator of the Universe. It is the contrast that helps people see their own situation in a different light.
Then you need to ENGAGE them. In this part of the Dragonfly Effect model, you need to help people relate and even think about whether they have the same need or whether they know someone that does.
Lastly, encourage them to TAKE ACTION. Remind them that it was an encounter with the living God that brought about the seismic change.
Then at the end of each story, put a link to the page on your site with your address and service times and a link to get driving directions. Make it compelling with pictures from your services and any special events.
And make it easy for them to come. If they need a ride, provide a link to request one, getting their email address, their phone number and their home address. Assure them that it will remain private. And then mobilize your church to make their visit happen, calling them the night before to remind them what time someone will be there. Have a team that rotates through as the "pick up team".
If you take me up on the challenge, please comment here and let me know the results of the shift in marketing and what you are seeing, even from your own people within the church.