1. Change your signage. People notice change. If it is the same all the time, they stop looking. Then when you have something to announce, they don’t notice it. You don’t have to have a wacky message or pithy saying, but there are plenty of dignified ways of keeping it fresh.
2. Keep your website updated. This keeps getting said, but websites keep not getting updated. If a volunteer doesn’t get it done, hire someone. (If you don’t know who to hire, contact the webmaster of this website.) One article on this subject said that you should at least spend as much money on your website as you do on coffee and donuts for fellowship. You could spend as much time updating it as you do editing your bulletin, because more people might well see the website than the bulletin.
3. Volunteer somewhere, doing something. The community is used to pastors coming in and trying to grow their congregation and impress their people and thus keep their job. If you have some extra time (yes, that was a joke), you could volunteer because people want to know that your congregation wants to be of service to their community and that you want to take the lead in that.
4. Find a group to have coffee with. From town to town, across the land, elderly men (and women), and young people too, get together for coffee in the (early) morning. That is a constant. Do you drink coffee in the morning? Great. You can have some company while you sip.
5. Read your community newspaper(s). Do you enjoy the Wall Street Journal and consider the local paper “a liberal rag”? That’s okay. It is still your community, the community where you’ve been called to preach the gospel. Check the activities, the obituaries, the articles. That way, when somebody in the community talks about what’s in it, they know that you care about what goes on in your community, instead of what goes on somewhere else.
6. Go to activities. You don’t have to spend money. There are historical society meetings, bingo opportunities, community meals, and genuinely interesting things going on at the library. It works better if the activity is something in which you are (somewhat) interested. But if you can be interested in somebody else being interested, then you can attend just about anything that a Christian can attend.
7. Join the local chamber of commerce. If you join the local chamber of commerce, you can go and exchange your business card with folks. Not many clergy do so. I was trained by my bishop to do that and, in one community, word got around that I did and other clergy started to too.
8. Let organizations use your building. The church isn’t a social club. It isn’t a community center either, but that doesn’t mean that the community can’t use it. The more people who feel comfortable walking into the church, the more comfortable they feel walking into the church. Plus the community wants to know that your congregation wants to be of service to the community, so be of service. Is your congregation a cult? Then why might it be appearing like a cult to the community? Maybe because people aren’t allowed inside.
9. Business cards. Have them stocked and ready to go on a daily basis. This is one feature of the professional world that has not gone out of fashion. It connects your face to the place, the place to your emergency contact, your email, your website.
10. Become the chaplain of something. There are plenty of organizations that need chaplains. They may never join your congregation, but you might evangelize them, serve them, minister to them. And that is the point, isn’t it?
11. Have the emergency number readily available to the public. Don’t like getting calls from people looking for money or drunks needing rides? Understandable. Nevertheless, I have noticed that after a while the freeloaders figure out that you don’t own a money tree and the alcoholics learn that you won’t budge until they start to go to A.A. But, after a while, the folks who need a minister learn how to find you. That’s a wonderful, wonderful thing.