grow a healthy church


Fuel Church Growth with Email Devotionals to Reach the Dechurched

email devotionals

One disastrous result of the Covid pandemic is the drift away from church by thousands of believers.

During that horrible season, Christians gave up on church even if they didn’t give up on Christ. It became too hard and going back didn’t present as a viable option.

Across the globe, I think millions of disconnected followers of Christ lost the habit of church attendance. They now fill their Sundays with other activities.

This presents a unique challenge and opportunity for pastors who want to grow a healthy church.

By focusing on reaching the dechurched, we can bridge the gap between those who have left the church and the hope and transformation found in Christ.

Reach Dechurched People Through Email Devotionals

I recently read a Twitter thread from Patrick Miller who is a pastor, author, and commentator on culture and technology. He has a newsletter, podcast, and more.

He talked about reaching dechurched people through email devotionals.

It piqued my interest because I’ve built an engaged following of hundreds of people through email. And I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to get churches to try a similar method.

Miller outlined a step-by-step method to use email to fuel church growth and reach these wandering souls.

email devotionals

I’ve taken his method and adapted it with insights from what I’ve discovered over the last 15 years of blogging and building an engaged email list of hundreds of people.

How do Email Devotionals Work?

Email devotionals aimed at believers who have stopped attending church are designed to engage people in a simple, non-intrusive manner. It requires an initial focus of work and then becomes an automated process that requires little maintenance.

Not many churches are using it and it remains a foreign concept to many church leaders.

I ran a poll in the GaHC Facebook group and was not surprised to find very few leaders had even heard of the concept.

Email marketing is rarely used in churches

Church Growth Through Email Outreach

In this digital age, reaching people with the gospel requires innovative approaches.

Many pastors tell me about the challenge of moving people from a community program, say playgroup, into a church community.

It’s a refrain I hear repeatedly from pastors.

People will attend a program at your church but will never come to a Sunday service. The bridge doesn’t exist.

I think we are using 20th-century methods to try and reach 21st-century people.

It’s beyond time to try a new way. This method may help churches that are stuck and have stopped growing.

I think email devotionals are a key way to reach dechurched Christians.

The Power of Email Devotionals

Your church can discover the power of email devotionals to connect with the dechurched and invite them into a relationship with Jesus.

Miller says email devotionals serve as a digital faith-defibrillator, reaching people who have walked away from church.

Email devotionals can connect with people who have grown distant from the church. They provide a gentle invitation to reconnect with Christ, offering spiritual encouragement, practical insights, and a sense of community.

These emails position your church as engaged with and interested in the needs of the community.

Here’s how you can do it, and why I think every church should consider this strategy.

email devotionals

Creating Your Email Devotional Strategy

1 Create a Team

Recruit a team of people who are passionate about reaching the community and growing the church.

It will help if they have skills in writing or technology but not essential as they can learn or recruit others.

This gives you another opportunity to develop emerging leaders in your church.

2 Tap your Local Missions Budget

Allocate a budget of $1000 – $2000 to cover expenses such as copyediting, graphic design, and email marketing software.

If you don’t have room in your budget consider taking a special offering or approaching a few members who are passionate about growing your church.

3 Define Your Target Audience

Who do you want to reach?

And don’t say, everyone.

Aiming at your entire community never works. Think individuals, not groups.

Craft a detailed description of the individuals you want to reach. This could be an overwhelmed dad of teenagers, an anxious middle-aged single woman, or an isolated grandparent.

Write a bullet point description of each person you want to reach.

Remember, if you aim at everyone you will reach no one.

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4 Brainstorm Devotional Topics

Choose topics that resonate with your target audience.

Consider topics linked with the calendar – advent, Easter, New Year’s resolutions, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day.

Think about practical issues like parenting, singleness, financial stress, and work pressures or emotional topics like worry, loneliness or grief.

Don’t ignore transcendent topics like prayer, Bible, meditation, and spirituality.

5 Write Your Devotions

Aim for 10 – 20 devotionals, each between 400-600 words. Use content from your regular Sunday preaching.

Write with your target audience in mind, using language, stories, and applications that address their specific needs.

Use people on your team or your church to write them. Spread the load. Use ChatGPT to get you moving but ensure you edit thoroughly any AI written content.

6. Craft Engaging Subject Lines

Craft snappy subject lines that grab attention, provoke curiosity, and make people want to open the email. Use emojis or intrigue to stand out in a crowded inbox.

Google ‘engaging email subject lines’ and discover the world of marketing that exists to cause people to open emails.

ChaGPT can craft good subject lines.

7. Include a Call to Action

At the end of each devotional, include a clear call to action.

This could be a link to a sermon, a YouTube short, a Facebook post, a quiz, or a longer article on your website.

Save the invite to church for the footer.

In the initial stages, you’re after engagement not attendance.

8. Hire a Copy Editor

Invest in a professional copy editor to ensure your devotionals are polished and error-free. Sloppy work will not impact people. Try Fiverr | Freelance services marketplace.

8. Choose an Email Marketing Platform

You will need an email marketing platform that can handle automated email sequences.

These are set-and-forget machines that serve day and night and once set only require tweaking.

They help you collect contacts, create landing pages, schedule newsletters, and automate email workflows.

I’ve used Active Campaign for years to automate my email campaigns.

Check out ConvertKit, a cost-effective option that allows you to engage with your community. A simpler and well-known alternative is MailChimp.

The key is to use a program that includes automated sequences. This will save you time and allow you to build a relationship with everyone who signs up for your email devotionals.

9. Automate your Emails

Spend time automating your email responses. I recommend you hire someone to do this. Your investment will pay off over time.

I’ve used Bumper Leads to help me with automating Active Campaign emails. I highly recommend them.

This part of the process requires expertise and it is pretty much set and forgotten once it is set up.

Make sure your emails are well-branded,  mobile-responsive, and easy to read.

email devotionals

10. Create a Landing Page

Build a simple landing page where people can sign up for your devotionals.

Ask your web developer to do this or use AI tools to build a simple landing page.

11. Invest in Graphic Design

There are two ways to go with graphic design.

Free and simple Canva which is a tool I use regularly. Otherwise, go to Fiverr and hire a graphic designer.

Design well-branded headers for your emails, your landing page, and your Facebook ads to enhance their appeal.

12. Run Targeted Facebook Ads

Use Facebook’s targeting features to reach people in your local area who fit your target demographic.

Start with small budgets and experiment with different ad copy to optimize your results.

Get your team to investigate the best way to do this whether it’s through an agency or tapping into the talent in your church.

The ads will point only to your landing page as you are endeavoring to get them onto your list.

13. Switch the Subscribers to your Weekly Newsletter

Once the person has been through the sequence of your 20 devotionals add them to your church’s weekly newsletter.

Now you may need to adjust your church’s newsletter content because of your wider audience but you can test that and see what works.

14. Invest Time and Effort

Expect to invest 25+ hours of your time to set up an email devotionals strategy. Don’t go it alone. Set up a team and tackle as a group.

15. Play the Long Game

I think this strategy will work if you play the long game. It’s a slow burn and is a 21st-century way to reach the community.

It takes some left-field thinking and some administration skills however it will pay off in the long run.

Let me finish with a controversial statement – I think this will have more impact on church growth than a range of other unproductive, time-consuming endeavors.

church growth

Pastor, is your church positioned for growth?

Evaluate your growth potential with a simple 3 min quiz. Get personalized results with actionable solutions.

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John is a wellspring of information, experience and advice in all things church. His responses were often out of the box of what's been said before.
Ps Christie Blaikie
Oasis Church

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