One of my favorite apps on my phone is Flixster, which lets me view upcoming movies and trailers. More importantly, before I make the decision on whether to watch the movie, I look at the Rotten Tomatoes score, a percentage of how many other users liked the movie. More than the critical reviews, I know that if other users like the movie, I probably will too.
Why is this important for the church? Because 92% of people trust recommendations from friends and family above all other forms of advertising, up 18% since 2007. Online consumer reviews are the second most trusted source of brand information with a 70% trust rating, up 15% since 2008. Television ads were trusted by only 47%, down 24% since 2009 (Nielsen, April 2012).
I’ve worked at churches before I that I wouldn’t have attended if I wasn’t employed by them. How many of my friends did I invite there? None. A church can have a ton of formal advertising, but word of mouth trumps it every time. Growing a church is a lot simpler than pastors and theologians make it out to be. The number one way to grow your church in today’s society is to create a church environment that your members enjoy enough that they’ll naturally tell their circle of influence about it, and to create a culture where your members have the mindset to reach out (as opposed to simply reaching in).
We’ve seen this play out at Mt Vernon. Over the past year and a half that I’ve been pastor, 99% of our growth have been family and friends of existing members. Virtually every time our staff discusses a new guest, we discuss the close friend or family member who brought them. Why? Because people trust recommendations of family and friends above all other forms of advertising. A member loves our church enough to bring her mom, who brings her close friend, who tells everyone at work. We’ve grown roughly 20% over the past year, with no formal advertising, no mass mailers, no door-to-door campaigns. It’s simply word of mouth.
The winds of culture are changing. We can continue to fight against it, or find a way to harness the power of it to see the Kingdom advance.
QUESTION: What is your church’s Rotten Tomatoes score? (It’s more important than you think)