I’ll admit it. I don’t like to talk about marketing in the context of ministry. In an ideal world, students and parents are paying attention to my clever announcements and sharing this information with other students and parents. The problem is there’s nothing ideal about our world! Instead of lamenting, let’s just do better at marketing our youth ministries.
Below is my list of six youth ministry marketing tips. I’m a little upside-down in my thinking, so I like to start with the end in mind:
6. Follow up strategically. While planning your event, include some strategic thinking about how you’ll follow up the event. For simple outreach events and weekly program attendance, a short text message to new students may be enough. For events with a spiritual focus, an email with specific “next steps” may be a better option. For added effect, consider an actual follow-up letter.
5. Follow up quickly. Students coming off a great time at event #1 are more likely to sign up for event #2 if they get an invitation a few hours after event #1 versus a few days before event #2. If this feels overwhelming, ask a few parents to help you. Get your follow-up spiel to a few parent volunteers a few days before the event, then send them a picture of your sign-in/registration sheet as the event is getting started. How impactful would it be for a student to get a “Thanks for coming!” text as they’re heading home from the event?! THAT’s good youth ministry marketing!
4. Collect the right information. For a long time in my ministry, I used the same registration form for every event – from two-week international mission trips to Friday night after-game parties, I believed all registration forms were created equally. Some really smart folks taught me that I should only collect information that I’ll actually use in a reasonable time. The bottom line: only collect information that I’ll actually use in following up with students and families.
3. Share information in lots of ways. Some folks check email several times a minute, others spend more time on social media than email, still others prefer information on paper so they can put it on the refrigerator. When it’s time to share event information, don’t miss out on any segment of your audience by limiting your communication to one mode. If this feels overwhelming, ask a few parents or other volunteers to help you. You’ll improve your communication AND diffuse potential conflict. THAT’s good youth ministry marketing!
2. Share at the right time. Not every parent plans their family’s calendar months in advance. But for those who do, you’ll frustrate them by not sharing info in a timely manner. My general rule of thumb: let the length of the event determine your schedule; every day of an event is at least one month of lead time. Examples: For a two-day retreat, give parents at least two months of notice. For a game night, one month is probably enough. For your biggest events like camp or a mission trip, give the dates out a full year in advance.
1. Share the right information. You’ve heard the acronym, K.I.S.S. or “keep it simple, stupid.” It doesn’t apply more than in the sharing of information about upcoming programs and events. You can’t go wrong by answering, “who,” what,” “when,” “where,” “how,” and even “why.” If nothing else, it’ll help you plan better by asking and answering those questions.
You may need to tweak your planning process to add another layer of purpose, but your approach to youth ministry marketing may be the difference in students slipping through the cracks and students finding their place in the Kingdom of God and in your youth group.