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Church Growth - The Power of Word of Mouth

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/23/2006 | Religion
Romans 10:14 tells us: "How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?"

One of God's great purposes for Christians and the Church is to reach the lost - it is the Great Commission and it is true that people need a preacher to hear the word but also often there is also a further step which is to get them in the door to hear the preacher.

Often there may be many churches within an area but few of the residences have any idea what the church stands for or what style of worship it has - in fact very little about the church at all. This article will look at what we can learn from the science of viral marketing and "word of mouth" and how they can be applied to church growth.

Traditionalists may argue that marketing is not required within churches and sometimes you get the impression that there is the impression that if you build it they shall come. The Bible says that "I will build my church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it" but I believe that God uses God's people and their skills to build the church.

It has been said that the early disciples were fairly slow witted and they didn't require marketing to build the church and look at the size of it now.

Consider for a moment though that momentous day described in Acts where there were thousands of people gathered for the Festival of Pentacost from all over the Roman Empire - Parthia, Media, Elam, Mesopotamia, Judea, Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia and many more.

From heaven comes a sound like violent wind rushing and a group of people speaking in other languages. People were amazed, astonished and bewildered as Jews from every nation heard them speaking in their native language. This was the start of an international, multinational church and it gives us an important lesson.

What is one of the most powerful forms of marketing? It is word of mouth marketing. What are you most likely to be influenced by - a recommendation in a magazine or a recommendation from a trusted friend?

We can see how powerful this concept is by taking a look at a fairly modern technology called Skype which allows you to speak to people on other computers or call people on a home phone from your computer. At present the website shows the number of downloads for this application as 221,303,752. Much of this growth has been due to word of mouth.

One very telling question that can be asked of a congregation is this. "Would you be happy to invite friends and acquaintances to this church?". If there are reasons why they wouldn't then those are very likely to be elements of the church that are stopping the church from growing. Also get people to put themselves in the shoes of somebody who has not attended a church before visiting the church before.

I think a good analogy for marketing and the church is like that of a car salesman. The purpose of marketing is to get the person looking for a car into the showroom then it is up to the salesman to do the job of selling the car. So consideration of member retention is another important aspect.

So coming back to Word of Mouth and Viral Marketing here are some questions to consider:

What has your church done that is buzzworthy (generates buzz) or newsworthy?

If your church is doing things of significance then are people finding out about it?
Are members inviting other people to the church?
When people visit the church do they go away with a positive impression and tell other people?
Do you gather feedback from members and visitors to improve your church?
How are people finding out about your church? Are they receiving a consistent positive message or is most of the information gleaned from gossip and hearsay?

To do something buzzworthy often means to go against tradition and do something unexpected - something that can tap into the psyche of the everyday populace and stir up positive emotions. Do some brainstorming and be creative.

The motto "If you always do what you've always done you'll always get what you've always got" is a good one.