This approach to ministry may be one of the most neglected opportunities to get guests connected to your church.
I refer to it as “the side door.” In order to define it adequately, let me briefly define the metaphor of the three “doors” of a church.
- The front door: when guests come directly to the church, typically for a worship service. It can also refer to the addition of members to the church.
- The back door: when people leave the church through decreased attendance, dropout, transferring to another church, relocation, or death.
- The side door: when guests attend an event of a church, or are served by a ministry of the church, that does not require them to come to the physical facilities of the church.
The types of side door ministries are endless. Some examples are dental ministries, wild game dinners, water breaks for marathon runners, movie nights, and many others. The idea is to provide an opportunity to reach people who may be very reticent to enter the front door of the church.
I am currently offering a free webinar on the three doors of the church, and I have been fascinated with the interest in the side door. Apparently, many church leaders are not strategically planning side door ministries, and some are not doing them at all.
Most of the questions we have received deal with the mechanics of the side door. Simply stated, how can churches do side door ministries effectively? Allow me to share four critical steps:
- Decide what side door ministry best fits your community. A wild game dinner will typically be effective in areas where there are many who enjoy hunting and fishing. An area with an abundance of children may prefer a family movie night.
- Make sure the church is not invisible. While the purpose of the side door is to connect with those who are reticent to come to church, it does not mean you should not provide some information on the church. The best rule is to be informative but not pushy.
- Have some method to gather contact information. I know one church that used a drawing for a nice gift as their approach. They asked guests to complete a card with a name and an email for the drawing card. They assured everyone they would receive only one email as a follow-up unless the guest requested more information.
- Follow up. Do not attempt a side door ministry unless you have a clear follow up plan in place. Side door efforts without follow up decrease their effectiveness significantly.
Though I only have anecdotal information, I see about one of seven side door contacts eventually entering the front door in the first year of their contact. Imagine what that could mean for your church if you connected with 700 people in a year. Approximately 100 of those would visit your church within a year.
Let me hear from you about the side door in your church.