Market Directly to Everyone You Want to Come
I’ve been a part of lots of outreach events. For my first five years in ministry I often had good turn outs, but the turn out was always a little disappointing or very expensive. I recall a Super Bowl party at a local place with go karts, miniature golf, and video games getting a huge turn-out, but the church paid $10 or $15 per person to subsidize the ticket costs.
Likewise, mass marketing with mail-outs, newspaper ads, and now Facebook and MySpace ads can get the word out in big way. Unfortunately, those methods can easily cause you to spend just as much on marketing as you do the event itself.
The method we used to do to promote our events was to simply stack up all our students with a bunch of invitations and tell them to invite their friends. This is great for getting students involved and helping students point their friends towards the church.
There are a few problems with it though.
1) It assumes your students have non-Christian friends
They often don’t have many.
2) It assumes they will invite non-Christian friends
They often only invite their churched friends.
3) It assumes they know how to effectively invite someone to an event
They often don’t. I watched a student invite someone to our Christmas party with the mechanical bull. She didn’t mention any of the exciting stuff. She just said, “Wanna come to a church event.” Her unchurched friend interpreted this as, “Wanna go to church with me.”
4) Only having students invite friends limits your reach to your students friends
My student ministry only has about 5 students any given school. If each student has 10 friends, we can only reach 55 students at a school of 500.
What’s the Alternative?
The alternative is to do whatever you have to do to get a flyer in the hand of every single person you want to attend the event. Of course, it’s much easier to say that than to do it.
1) Ask the Schools to Pass-out Flyers
Never in a million years did it occur to me to ask the schools to pass out flyers. Then when I was planning my Christmas party, a guy named Todd Boyum asked if I’d asked the schools to pass out flyers. I hadn’t. So he sent them an email. They gladly agreed to pass out flyers at both middle schools. They would have been ok with passing them out in the high school, but the high schoolers have a bad tendency of throwing flyers on the ground. That was the only reason they wouldn’t pass them out.
When we did the egg drop, we once again asked the schools to pass out flyers. 5 out of 7 schools passed out our flyers. One of those schools only turned us down because they had a competing event that day. With the cost of printing flyers and an hour of driving around town I was able to invite 2,500 students to an event.
2) Pass Out Flyers at a School Lunch
This one can get you in trouble. If you want to maintain good repoir with the school or you’re not comfortable getting kicked out of a school, ask for permission before hand (in which case they’ll probably tell you “No.”).
With that said, go to a school lunch and walk table to table passing out flyers. After you hit a couple tables kids will start asking you what you’re doing. If you know what you’re doing, you can even get complete strangers to start running around the room passing out flyers. I went to a sixth grade lunch and nearly started a riot within 10 minutes…then the principle asked me not to pass out flyers anymore.
3) Pass Out Flyers at Athletic Games, Plays, and Whatever Else is Going
Put flyers under every single cars windshield wipers. Make sure your flyer will catch their eye, and your event has something which they actually care about.
4) Find a Student Who has NO Problem Plastering Posters Everywhere
For my Christmas party I did virtually no promotion to the local high school, but 100 high schoolers showed up to the event. Why? One student took a stack of flyers to his high school and covered the building in them.
To get huge numbers, you have to be the person to invite huge numbers of people. If your schools will work with you, it’s real easy to get a crowd. If they won’t, you have to be a bit more creative and do a lot more work. You have to do whatever it takes to get a flyer in the hand of every single person you want to show up.