How many people in your neighborhood have ever heard of your church? For many of us, the answer is few. But how can we expect to make a real impact on our communities if 90 percent of the people that we hope to impact don’t even know that our churches exist. Are you looking to make a difference in your community? Start by answering these four questions:
1. What is your ministry target area?
One of the most effective steps that a church can take is clearly defining the area that you are looking to reach. I meet a lot of church planters that are planning to be a “regional church.” What they often mean is that they will allow anyone from anywhere to join them. I am not encouraging you to turn people away, but am suggesting that you have at least clearly thought through your ministry focus. Targeting a specific area makes your goal of starting a church and reaching a community specific and manageable. Steps toward defining your ministry target area include:
- Considering natural boundaries that exist in your context
- Learning commuting patterns
- Understanding neighborhood demographics
In some communities, people frequently drive long distances to shop or dine out. In other communities, people stay and live in a more specific area. The key principle is to target a specific and manageable ministry area. How big should a ministry target area be? This depends on context. In a rural setting with low population density your target area may be much larger than in an urban setting where there are many more people per square mile. Focusing on a smaller area, however, is almost always better than a larger area.
2. How many people are in your ministry target area?
Essential to a clearly defined target area is an understanding of population density. Steps toward this goal include:
- Knowing how many people live in your target area
- Learning How many churches exist in the area
- Understanding the percentage of people committed to a church in your area
What is the right amount of people for a target area? This also depends on your context. If you are a smaller church or church plant, a target area of 500,000 people is probably far too large. You are much more likely to be known and impact your community with a smaller ministry target.
3. Who are the people in your ministry target area?
We can all spot the differences between a rural farmer and a wall-street business man. In most of our contexts things are not quite that clear. Do you live in a city or neighborhood where people commute everyday? What businesses or industries affect your area? Are people more educated or less educated? What are income levels like? How do people in your target area spend their money? What do they do with their children during the day? Thinking through these kinds of questions will assist you in understanding who the people in your context, what is important to them, and how to most effectively reach them.
But these first three steps are not enough for people to know that your church exists. So the final question is:
4. What are you going to do to get the word out?
Now that you have:
Defined a target area, determined how many people live in your target area, and understand who the people are in your target area, what you are going to do to continuously let people know that you exist to serve them? You are not limited to a costly advertising campaign. There are dozens of ways to get the word out. Figuring this out is why you get paid the small bucks. Shouldn’t your goal be for everyone in your target area to know that you exist?
Keep in mind that these four steps apply both to church plants and existing churches. Investing time to walk through them just might launch your church into a wealth of new ministry opportunities.