The Big Questions: Launch Attendance (Part 3 of 4)
by Rebecca Burtram
Listening to the experiences of other planters was particularly helpful to us as we prepared to launch Redemption Church Charlottesville. It helped us to understand the variety that exists within the planting world. It also gave us the opportunity to assess what might be most effective for us in the process of planting based on our community, our strengths, and our weaknesses.
This four-week series addresses the four biggest questions I had leading up to the launch:
- How do you raise enough money to plant a church?
- How do you build a team?
- How many people will show up to the launch?
- How many people will come back after the launch?
Question 3: How many people will show up to the launch?
We have all seen the feature stories of churches that launch with over 350 people in attendance. There are also the stories of churches that launch with about 50 people. How, then, can you know what to expect on launch Sunday?
We went into launch Sunday thinking we could end up with anywhere between 150 to 300 people. These numbers were based on the number of people on our team (about 40), the family and friends that planned to visit from out of town (25-30), the number of personal invitees we had heard back from (25-30), and the statistics given to us about the effectiveness of mailers, Google Ads, and Facebook Ads (50-200).
We were realistically planning for the low end of our range. However, we knew the high numbers were possible based on typical statistics for advertising effectiveness. We had 125 people at launch.
Although this is a solid number, I was mildly disappointed. It made me wonder how we had miscalculated. However, one thing is sure: God did not miscalculate. He brought in exactly the right people.
The first place to begin when estimating your launch number is with your team. Get a firm count from your team on who can be there to serve on the first Sunday. Because we launched on Easter Sunday, we had a few team members that were not available. However, everyone else was not going to miss it for the world. For them, everything had been building up to this day.
Your next firm numbers are your family and friends. How many of your family and friends have made plans to travel to be with you for launch Sunday? Don’t be afraid to ask people to come a little distance to support you. A solid crowd dynamic is important, and it is a huge blessing to see those who are praying for you and cheering for you in the crowd.
Highly Likely Numbers
From here the numbers get less firm with each step. Who did your team members invite? Who did you invite?
Five weeks prior to launch we began to challenge our team to invite to launch Sunday. Five weeks out, we shared a story of someone we personally invited, and we asked the team to make a list of 4 families or friends they would invite. We then asked them to pray over those lists.
Each consecutive week, we gave each team member only one or two invite cards and challenged them to invite someone from their lists. We shared positive stories of those we were inviting in order to help encourage our team in the wins.
The personal invitation is by far the most effective invitation. It is wise to be strategic in teaching your team to invite guests to launch Sunday and beyond.
This is where our numbers fell through. We were spot on in our estimates for the first two areas. Our estimates from advertising, although based on statistics, were not accurate.
Our biggest advertising investment went into a mailer. EVERYONE we talked to said you have to do a mailer and that it is the most return for your money. This might be true for most. It was not true for our launch city on our launch date.
We spent $8,400 on a 50,000-piece mailer. The estimate we were quoted for our area is a .25% to .50% return rate. That means we were looking at 125-250 coming to launch from the mailer alone. We had our doubts, so we estimated we would see 50 people come from the mailer.
We had one, yes… one family indicated on their connect card that they came because of the mailer. Because we knew who was there from the launch team, friends, family, and personal invitations, and because of responses on our connect cards, we could confidently say we had about 10 people that might have come from the mailer.
Since launch Sunday, we have had two or three other families indicate that the mailer influenced their decision to come.
I believe the mailer was less effective because we launched on Easter Sunday. Three other established churches in town sent out mailers at the same time we did. Ours was the largest piece in the mail, and possibly the most graphically appealing, but it was still just another church advertising for Easter.
Another factor that might have limited our response rate is the area itself. According to the 2010 census, only 25.1% of our county's populations claim any type of religious adherence (this includes all faiths). Of the 3,144 counties in America, Albemarle county ranks 154th in lowest religious adherence. A piece of mail advertising a church opening in our city just doesn’t have the same draw as a mailer advertising a new restaurant.
Facebook has been our most effective and cheapest advertising tool. We had, and continue to have, many people mark Facebook as one of the ways they heard about our church. We post frequently to our page; our team posts about their own excitement and shares links from our page; we pay for Facebook ads; and we signed up for Reach.
We also paid to be the first thing that pops up on Google for about two months leading up to the launch. Leading up to the launch, we coordinated our website, Facebook, and mailer to have the same tagline of “You belong.”
We put a lot of time and resources into our marketing, and we believe that even if it didn’t quite bring in the numbers we had hoped for on launch Sunday, it has planted the seed for future growth, and the people it did bring in matter immensely.
The Numbers That Matter Most
As our mentor, Patrick Grach, says, “We count people because people count.” Each number is a story and a life that God is working in. The most exciting part about planting a church for us has not been how big we are but how big of a change we have seen God make in the lives of those to whom he has given us the honor to minister.
Pray and plan for your launch Sunday. God is going to do big things through your launch.
Rebecca Burtram and her husband, Jonathan, are church-planting pastors at Redemption Church in Charlottesville, VA. They have been married for 13 years, and they are the parents of three children, ages 12, 10, and 8.
Rebecca graduated with top honors from Evangel University with a B.A. in Spanish Education and English. She also holds an English M.A. from the State University of New York at Cortland. Presently, she teaches Spanish at Albemarle High School, but her dream is to make writing and speaking her full time career. She blogs at rebeccaburtram.com and writes a weekly post for tworiversblog.com.
If you would like to write for the CMN Wives Blog, contact Rebecca at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are always looking for new contributors.