Want More Visitors? It Has to Get Personal

The best method and timing for outreach … and the one essential ingredient.

Should We Knock on Doors?

Opinions of door-to-door visitation, which in the minds of many has fallen on hard times, were split in the 2008 survey. Around a quarter of Americans (24 percent) were at least somewhat willing to receive information about a local church in this way, while 31 percent said a visit to their door would be at least somewhat effective in getting them or others to visit a church. Though the activity of neighborhood canvassing is not totally outmoded, it still does not reach to the effectiveness of personal relationships with the unchurched.

How Do People Learn More About God?

Our 2008 survey also sought to determine what action Americans take when they want more information about God. One-third would read the Bible, 19 percent would attend a church service and 10 percent would seek out a Christian friend with whom to talk. One percent would check out the website of a local church, while less than one percent would utilize an anonymous chat room or online community.

Though the numbers are low, personal contact still outweighs impersonal mediums.

When Are People Most Receptive?

How to effectively approach people about matters of faith is important to consider, but so is when to do so.

The same 2008 survey revealed that 47 percent of adult Americans are more open to considering matters of faith during the Christmas season than at any other time. At 38 percent, Easter was the same as the number who were open following a major national crisis like the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Thirty-four percent were open after a natural disaster, and the birth of a child caused 28 percent to be open to considering matters of faith. Personal crisis is an opportunity for personal ministry to occur.

Bottom Line: Keep It Personal

The survey results teach us that no means of spreading the word about Christ or His church is more effective than personal communication. In short, leaving printed literature for a waiter or waitress is less effective than speaking directly to him or her.

People still respond to the things of God, when the things of God are viewed by us as important enough to talk about. Followers of Christ cannot simply believe that it is important to share Christ—we must actually share Christ.


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This article originally appeared in the March/April 2011 Outreach.

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Ed Stetzer

Ed Stetzer is the editor-in-chief of Outreach magazine, host of the Stetzer ChurchLeaders Podcast, and a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as executive director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches, trained pastors and church planters on six continents, and has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He currently serves as interim teaching pastor of Calvary Church in New York City and teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Naperville, Illinois.

He is also regional director for Lausanne North America, and is frequently cited in, interviewed by and writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. He is the founding editor of The Gospel Project, and his national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates.