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How to Grow a Church Plant with Facebook

We had the chance to meet the Causely team while at Exponential East a few weeks ago. They did something pretty cool using Facebook that yielded amazing exposure for the conference. We asked them to tell us more about the event, the results, and how a church plant especially may be able to put this into practice.

Everyone’s looking for more buzz on social media. This is especially true for church plants. You’re new to the area, no one knows about you (yet), your budget really shouldn’t even be called a “budget,” and there sits social media in the sunset, like a beautifully ripe field waiting to be harvested. Or something like that.

But how do you take advantage of such an opportunity? Which tools should you use? Where is your money best invested? Spoiler alert: Not on mailers.

Word of Mouth Isn’t What It Used to Be

One thing we can all agree on is that the best way to grow your church is through friends telling friends. Word of mouth has always been the best way to grow anything simply because people are more likely to respond to something that’s recommended by someone they trust. If you’re looking for someone to take the next step, trust is key. The problem most churches face in their outreach efforts is that they’re attempting to build trust from the wrong end. Catchy tag-lines, well-designed flyers, and cool logos are all great things—but they do little to build trust. The reason most of these promotional materials end up in the trash can is they’re targeted at people who don’t know you or trust you (yet).

The best way to build trust with a group you don’t know is to put your message in the hands of people who have already built it: Their friends. Not only will you spend less money on materials that get thrown away, but you’ll also see real results. Nothing is more powerful than a friend telling a friend.

Overcoming the Awkwardness

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Friends telling friends is great, but it doesn’t scale.

It’s awkward and intimidating for a lot of people, and their circle of friends is small at best. And yes, you’re right. Those are real problems that thousands of pleading pastors have faced for years. But what if there was a different way? What if we could bypass all of the awkwardness and intimidation and reach thousands of friends every weekend? It’s as easy as asking your church to check-in. On Facebook, that is.

When your church community is excited about checking in on Facebook, everybody wins. With each check-in, they’re telling 200-500 friends about how awesome their church is. Even a small group of people checking in every weekend puts you in front of literally thousands of people. And the best part? They’re hearing about you from someone they trust. Talk about scaling.

But how do you get your community excited about checking in? Beg, plead…threaten? No, those are all terrible ideas. The best way is to offer an incentive to do something good with every check- in, like supporting a great cause your community cares about. This way, instead of begging for a check-in, you’re asking them to help your church provide for people in need. If every check-in goes towards helping people in need, three things happen: Your church increases its investment in global missions, lots of people start checking in, and lots of people hear about your church.

Why not use your marketing budget to do good?

Exponential Conference: A Case Study

Let’s take Exponential as an example. For those not familiar with Exponential, it is one of the largest gatherings of church planters globally, drawing nearly 5,000 planters together each year. This year at Exponential East in Tampa, every Facebook check-in during the conference provided real help to real people in need.

At every main session, the cause for the day was announced and people were encouraged to check-in on Facebook. On the first day, every check-in provided a gallon of clean water to a child in need, with hot meals for kids provided on the second and third days. The response was overwhelming! There were over 2,200 check-ins, which helped provide 819 gallons of clean water and 280 hot meals to kids in need over a 3-day-period.

In addition to helping people in need, all those Facebook check-ins helped Exponential reach hundreds of thousands of people on social media. Since Facebook check-ins are typically seen by nearly 200 friends, they’re a great way to scale friend-to-friend recommendations.

Here are some highlights:

  • Over 400,000 people heard about Exponential from friends on Facebook
  • A 6,757% increase in Facebook engagement (the number of people liking, sharing, and interacting with Facebook posts)
  • Nearly 400 new likes
  • A 556% increase in the number of people who saw posts from Exponential’s Facebook page

Check out the video below for how this actually looked at the conference:

400,000 People Reached in 3 Days

Think about that first stat for a moment and how it applies to growing your church plant: 400,000 people reached. In 3 days. What would it typically cost to generate that much exposure? Direct mail would cost tens of thousands of dollars; display advertising would be well into the thousands. And those channels don’t even leverage friend-to-friend recommendations; they’re just plain advertisements…

Hopefully, the Exponential example is helping you as a church planter to connect the dots for your plant’s own opportunity on social media and showing you how our program can help. Leveraging friend to friend recommendations through Facebook check-ins drives engagement and engagement drives attendance. When thousands of your congregation’s friends are hearing about your church each week, not only will your social media reach grow, your church will also.

It’s clear that people who hear about your church from a friend are far more likely to take the next step than people who get something in the mail or hear your radio spot. So maybe it’s time to leverage those friend to friend connections on social media. Maybe instead of just sending people out each week, you should ask them to check-in.