What Actually Works?
To many, the word “marketing” when attached to ministry can feel a little misaligned or even inappropriate. Shouldn’t we stay humble and let God bring people to our ministry? Though those things are certainly true, it’s also important to be clear about who you are and what’s going on within the ministry so people know what to expect — and what’s unique about your ministry.
The same applies to youth ministry. While spending loads of money on extravagant events or flashy marketing might not be the best practice, utilizing the tools you have at your disposal in a responsible and savvy way can be a great asset. There are a few strategies to keep in mind when getting the word out about your youth ministry:
- Plan ahead. More lead time for an event, lesson series, Bible study, etc. means less stress for your staff and volunteers, and it also means you have plenty of time to make it known to the community. It also communicates professionalism and a sense of certainty to parents and youth so they know if an event is mentioned or something is posted online, it’s they can plan on it actually happening. A good rule of thumb is to plan a year ahead. Consider the past year and what events or significant happenings you’d like to do again or replicate with a slight update for the coming year. Once the basics of the calendar is mapped out, considering church calendar and seasonal alignment, you can work backward and determine how best to communicate about it to the community.
- Ask students to help. Who knows students better than students? The youth in your group know what kinds of channels they use for communication, what kind of events or studies they’d be most interested in, even what content they’d respond best to. Get them involved! Not only does it give them a sense of ownership over the ministry and empower them to own their faith in a new way, it helps leadership be more effective in reaching more students. Youth can make their own videos to promote events, come up with ideas for service projects and provide valuable insight adults simply can’t. Often, rather than trying too hard to be “relevant” and missing the mark or coming off as inauthentic, simply asking the youth you’re trying to reach is the way to be successful.
- Streamline communications. Parents and youth don’t need seven different channels of communication from the youth group or ministry they’re a part of. An e-newsletter, a Facebook page, an Instagram account, a text blast, blog posts — it’s easy to get bogged down thinking we need to have content on all the available platforms. Along with input from parents and youth, streamline the methods of communication your ministry uses. By doing so you can better ensure the details and content communicated are aligned across the board and make sure your audience is not confused about where to get the most up-to-date information.
- Be consistent. Once you decide which channels you want to use for communications and marketing, be sure you are consistent in keeping them up to date. It’s important that your community knows information posted or sent is still relevant and accurate when they visit a source like a website or Facebook page. If content has not been updated in a few weeks or months, it can invalidate the available information in the reader’s mind, assuming the site or channel has been abandoned and something may have changed since then. Being consistent also prompts greater engagement and excitement about the ministry, which leads to more consistent involvement from youth and parents and can prompt growth.
By keeping these marketing tactics in mind, your youth ministry can be much more effective in reaching the next generation for Jesus.