Brian Beauford, executive pastor at Grace Church south of Boston, joins Meagan for a conversation that can help churches of any size reach new people in the post COVID world.
Guest: Brian Beauford
Brian helped plant Grace Church in 2005 and has helped it plant six autonomous churches and grow Grace Church into multiple locations with 2400 in weekly attendance. Brian is also the founder of several ministry-minded ventures and has a passion for helping busy pastors grow themselves, their teams, and their church. Brian writes about leadership, strategy, systems, and growth at www.MinistryLibrary.com.
Pulling Business Practices Into the Church World to Create Webinar Wednesdays
For most churches, the summer season presents prime opportunities for reaching and inviting new people into their church. When the COVID-19 pandemic reached America’s shores in the spring, it became clear that summer outreach strategies would have to change in the church world.
Brian, who has one foot in the business world and one foot in the church world, decided to try something he has seen work for years in business: using webinars to reach new people and engage a fresh audience.
How often should you have a webinar?
With so much noise in the digital space and the ease with which you can post new content, knowing how often to do something like a webinar is tricky.
When everything first went online, Grace Church offered its webinar every Wednesday until July. Now they host a webinar once a month to ensure they provide high value with each topic.
Brian also breaks down Grace Church’s outreach funnel.
First, they attend a community event, which in the online space has become their Webinar Wednesdays.
The second would be what Brian calls a Bridge Event. Before COVID made meeting in person near impossible, they hosted “Bridge Events” at their church. Now they host online seminars as a follow up to the webinar.
Finally, the goal is to get people plugged into church or tune into a Sunday live stream.
Check out Brian’s slide deck for their online strategy.
Who is the ideal webinar attendee?
The audience for your webinar should ideally be people who have no affiliation with your church, somebody whose attendance to an online event wouldn’t have interacted with your church before.
Grace Church got people in the community to attend the webinars by running Facebook ads to people within 25 miles of the church who did not like their Facebook page.
If you decide to use a strategy like Brian’s and need help following up with first-time online visitors, our Follow Up Course is a great resource.
Deciding which topics to cover
Webinars differ from typical outreach events because it’s not as simple as catering Chick Fil A at the local park. Choosing a topic that is enticing to someone who hasn’t been to your church before can make or break who registers and shows up.
Brian and his staff at Grace say they get many different ideas from a check-in survey they send to their members every month. The answers they get help drive their sermon series, drive outreach events, and drive a lot of what they do at the church. So they took that and decided to make webinars about the things their members said they were struggling with.
Moving People From Webinar Attendees to Church Members
Whether it’s the church world or the business world, webinars are about creating engagement. They broadly cover a topic with the hope of moving people down the “funnel” to raving fans or loyal members.
At Grace Church, a webinar is a one-time event that hits on a felt need. So for topics like talking to your kids about racism, the one-time webinar leads into a seminar, a four to six-week Zoom call meeting that will hopefully lead to regular involvement with the church.
Defining Success Is a Moving Target
For something as fickle as creating online engagement defining success can’t be measured by the number of people who attend the webinar itself.
Grace Church just opened up live in-person services two weeks ago, so they’re still trying to figure out who moves from webinars to Sunday services.
Brian does know that they’ve had over 800 people sign up for their different webinars since the beginning of COVID, and the vast majority of those previously had no affiliation with the church.
Using Webinars For Outreach Is Here to Stay
The global pandemic has created a lot of trends that are only temporary. Discerning which ones are temporary and which ones are permanent has been the hard part for many churches.
Using webinars as a strategic form of outreach is a permanent one. 30, 40, 50% of churchgoers that went in-person pre-COVID still aren't comfortable meeting in person. Brian himself thinks online is where most initial touchpoints will happen between the community and the church. He went as far as to say that there’s no way someone will get invited by a friend and just show up anymore.
That’s why Grace’s new primary outreach tool is its webinars.
To quickly implement webinars as a systematic outreach tool in your church, our eBook Streamline can give you all of the guidance you need.
Or, for a more in-depth approach, take our Systems Course so you can build a sustainable online outreach practice in your church.
Brian’s Online Outreach Strategy
Quotes from Episode 2.2
“We want them to know about Grace Church and create engagement in the middle of the funnel. The seminar is really to promote engagement where we can have a discussion back and forth.” – Brian Beauford.
“I think online is now where the first time visitors are going to attend first. There's no way you're going to get invited by a friend and just show up now.” -Brian Beauford.
“I love the idea that we can provide value and content outside of a sermon series. That the church can speak into different aspects of our community's lives and provide value outside of whatever your sermon looks like on the weekends when there's more to do throughout the week.” – Meagan Ranson.
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