On today’s Tech Help for Churches: Email Lists for Your Church
Perhaps it can be argued which is more effective, email or text messaging to get the word out, but there’s no argument that email is a great way to do it. What’s surprising is how few churches have email lists and of the ones who have them, how few actually use them well.
Today, let’s talk about some ideas for building an email list and how to use them to further your mission as a church.
First, you should realize that just as a few people have spoiled the idea of hopping into a business to use the restroom, so a few spammers have ruined the idea of email marketing by sending ads for viagra and porn to every email address they can find. As a result, you can’t just copy a bunch of emails into the “BCC” field of your Gmail account and expect to be delivered with no problems. Sure, that might work for 10 email addresses, but not 100, and definitely not 10,000. You need to use an email marketing provider.
I use MailChimp because at the time I signed up, they allowed you to get up to 2,000 addresses in your database and send up to 10,000 emails a month for free. Other options are Aweber (which I hear great things about) and ConstantContact, among others. These companies provide the mechanisms for building a list, and distributing email to it. They range in prices, so check which would work best for your needs before you sign up.
Next, create a signup page. For your congregation, make a short-link and put it in your bulletin, announce it, etc. and tell them that you’ll be using their email for announcements and similar purposes. If you want to add a weekly word from the pastor or something else, that’s fine, too. Just keep them short and make sure you don’t, under any circumstances, force peope to download a PDF to get your newsletter. This should be short content that doesn’t require clicks unless it leads to a page with a longer article.
As people sign up, they’ll get an email asking them to click to subscribe. This is called a “double opt-in” and it insures that people on your list want to be there.
Now, in addition to your newsletters, you have a powerful way to alert people to last-minute changes. Church is closed because of snow? Send a quick email to let people know. On Monday, there’s a tornado in a neighboring town? Send an email asking people to drop off a case of bottled water at church on Tuesday and you’ll deliver them Wednesday morning. You can quickly help people instead of waiting for the midweek service or all the way until next weekend.
I also want you to create another list. Let’s, just between us, call it the “outreach list.” I want this be content that would be helpful to local people.
While the other list was helpful to church members, I want this newsletter to be much more general, but targeted to the people that you’d like to come to your church. I know you want everyone to come, but let’s keep this specific. You can always add more lists later, so pick a demographic like young parents, teens, people new to the community, recovering addicts, seniors, etc. I’d pick a demographic that your church is already good at serving.
Now, create a free resource to give to them. I don’t know what it is, but it should be helpful to the people you’re trying to reach. Let’s say you’re looking to help young families. Why not develop a list of family-friendly activities that either repeat every year or you could do each year. We’re trying to make something that doesn’t need to be updated often.
Follow local people on twitter or advertise on FaceBook and offer those who follow you back this “free gift” if they sign up for your free newsletter. I’d phrase it like, “Thanks for following me; here’s a gift. (Link here.)”
Write a couple of paragraphs each week with content to help them out. For parents, maybe you’d give parenting tips or links to useful articles (that you don’t need to have written). Feel free to include that this resource is a gift to them from your church, but don’t pressure them to visit. This is just a gift.
Maybe 1-3 times a year, you might invite them to church (Christmas and Easter), but make it a low-pressure, “if you’re looking for a church to go to on Christmas Eve, our services are at 4 and 6 pm” kind of invitation.
You want to build gratitude before you ask for them to come. You’re just trying to get on the list of churches that they might want to try. Right now, it’s probably the largest church in the area, the church they pass on the way to work, and maybe another one. You want to be the other one and be associated with helpfulness and love.
Do that and I bet you get more and more people to visit. Getting them to stay is something else.
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