Relationships are instrumental to opportunity
Networking tends to be a poorly represented tool for churches. We often think of networking as a thing for businesses and NGOs rather than a means to gain opportunities for growth for the local church. One of the most important resources I have learned to value while at Hillsong is relationship. Relationships are instrumental to opportunity and are the basis of influence. It is far more likely that people will take you at your word if they know who you are. The more someone knows you the more they are willing to listen and therefore respond.
Have you tried throwing out ads on radio or doing a direct mailer to generate interest about your church and seen little to no results? Chances are the reason for the poor results is a lack of public relationship. General public needs to know who you are before you can invite them to the party so to speak. The most valuable information you can use in promotion is not statistics, but awareness of where you stand with the public. By being aware of that stance you can then effectively strategize ways to move up the latter of relationship and in so doing, the latter of influence.
Building Public Relations from Nothing
Starting out with no PR can be tough and slow going, but it’s not impossible. By going to public events that fit your target audience and just being intentional to network can be a start. Make it a goal to meet at least 30 people, get 5 contacts and go for coffee with a few of the people you meet at each event. Although you may not have any professional need from these contacts you are building relationships and physically representing your church in the community you are trying to reach. Once people start to know who you are, you build credibility out of relationships, which in turn gives you a better response for those less personal church growth efforts.
Is there an easier way?
A church is a community, and a community is formed out of relationships. Although relationships take time and effort, they make a church what it is. Although I could point to many marketing campaign strategies that might work, you will be far more confident in getting results if there is a foundation to launch off of. Even so, you don’t have to be the only person going to events to network and promote the church. Hopefully you have a team. That team can engage with your local community as well, giving this slow going process momentum. Doing the math, if you have a team of 5 people and every week you all talk briefly about the church to 30 people then in a month you have promoted to 600 people. In one quarter that would be 1,800 people that have heard about your church from a person they now have some sort of relationship with.