Bill Easum and I are working on an ebook called Church Turnaround. In one section, we talk about getting noticed by the community. Far too many churches that have been in existence for any length of time have become invisible to the community. If you’re going to turn your church around, you’ll have to be intentional in getting people’s attention.
Back in 1995 , I was pastor of a small church in Loganville, Georgia. The church was on a major thoroughfare between Athens and Atlanta (the famous “Atlanta Highway” the B-52s sang about), but the building sat down an embankment that made it a bit hard to see. We had a circular driveway and the church was located about 100 yards from an intersection with a stoplight. Several thousand cars passed by our property every single day and no one seemed to notice us.
I got a hare-brained idea. I went to the board and asked if they would fund a public coffee ministry on Monday mornings. I warned them that it might not bring in a flood of new members directly, but it would get us noticed. They agreed to pay and pray for it, and I got ready for something completely different.
On the next Monday morning (and every Monday morning for the next 18 months or so), I rose at 4:30AM and headed to the church. I dragged a big sandwich board sign out to the Gulf Station that sat at the intersection and set it up announcing “Coffee and a Blessing. Next Driveway on the Left.” Then I set up a coffee table in the circular driveway and put a table lamp on it, brewed a pot of coffee, and donned my alb and stole (hey, it was 1995!). I stood at my post from 5 :30AM until 7:30 AM and waved at everyone in every car as they passed. On the first morning, four people stopped for coffee and I gave each one a “blessing card” and a cup of coffee. My daughter, on her way to high school, saw me, pulled into the driveway, leapt out of the car and yelled something like “Are you crazy?!?!”
Crazy like a fox, I suppose. After I’d been waving and serving coffee and blessing cards for a six or eight weeks, I called the local newspaper, the Monroe Tribune, and gave them an anonymous tip … “Did you know there’s some crazy guy standing outside of Loganville Christian Church every Monday morning at six?” They confessed they didn’t know, but they’d find out and let their readers know. I ended up on the front page of the county paper with a lovely color photo (see illustration). Two weeks later, the Atlanta Journal and Constitution called me and wanted to stop by. And before it was all over, in February 1996 the Coffee and a Blessing ministry was featured on Good Morning America, live with Charlie Gibson doing the interview.
When I moved to Kansas a year later, I looked back on the ministry and weighed the results. First, Loganville Christian Church was a nearly a household name in town. And over the nearly two years of waving and coffee and blessings through summers’ heat, thunderstorms, and yes … even one morning of snow … of the hundreds who stopped for coffee, only two of them ever visited. But from the first week we saw an increasing number of first-time visitors and returning visitors who got involved in the church because they’d “seen” the pastor waving at them on Monday mornings. We were no longer the invisible church on the Atlanta Highway.
Question: Tell us, what are some of the great ideas you’ve had or heard to increase a church’s visibility? Share your favorites in the Comments section below.