When Mark North walked into the church main office, Elder Vernon Baker sat hunched over the computer with a look of irritation on his face. “Oh, come on!” The white haired pastor said under his breath. He clicked on first one option, then another as he searched for the correct menu. Finally he broke into a grin. “Got it!” Two more clicks and the printer in the corner came to life and began to print addresses on label sheets.
“Got what?” Mark said, standing behind him. Brother Baker looked up.
“Mark! Good to see you. I was just getting the labels ready for tomorrow morning. I’m having several church ladies come over to stuff and stamp invitations to our revival with Brother Morris next week. Hoping for a great turnout.”
Mark stood beside Pastor Baker watching the laser printer spit out one sheet of addresses after another. Mark reached over to a stack of revival flyers sitting on the desk. The full-color brochures announced “Endtime Holy Spirit Outpouring!” in large letters with a photo of an evangelist praying with several people during the altar call. A second stack was a personal letter from Brother Baker printed on church letterhead inviting everyone to “Experience the Power of Pentecost” at the upcoming weekend services.
Mark nodded his head approvingly. “Looks good! Where are you getting your addresses from?”
“From our computer prospect file,” Brother Baker answered. “We have over two thousand names and addresses that have had contact with our church in some way. We use this database for mail outs five or six times a year. All of our new converts come from this database.”
“No kidding?” Mark answered in surprise. “Every one of them? How’s that?”
“Well, we enter in all of our first time guests into the prospect file. Remember what I told you? 100% of your new converts come from your church guests. But we add lots of other addresses from various church ministries.”
“Such as?” Mark asked, eyebrows arched.
“Well, all our bus parents are in this database. When we go door knocking and find someone that expresses interest, we will add them also. At least once a year we ask all our church members to submit the names of family, friend and co-workers to whom they have been witnessing and who they feel would be open to getting church invitations in the mail. We also get names and addresses from our annual block party. We get some contacts from street evangelism and lots of places. We also make sure all backsliders are in our database too.”
“That’s so cool!” Mark exclaimed. “And you have two thousand address?”
“Ah, let’s see,” Elder Baker replied, studying the computer screen. “2,348 to be exact.”
“Do you use them for anything besides mailing out invitations?”
“Well, when we enter the name and address into the computer, we also enter in the name of the person that gave us that contact. We also enter in what event or activity resulted in the contact. And we always put in the date. This information allows us to do several things. First, if the contact came to the Easter drama, we always send an extra mailing or two to all who have attended a drama before. Secondly, several times a year we print out the names that are associated with our church members. For example, if you have provided us with two dozen different names over the years of people you brought to church or contacts you made while involved in some church evangelism event, we will then print out that list for you and ask if you could possibly contact them again for a personal invitation. Finally, the date allows us to filter older address from newer ones so we can adjust the size of the mailing to fit our budget. With this program we can ask for only those guests that have attended our Christmas program during the past two years. So instead of a 2,300 piece mailing, we are only doing about a seven hundred piece mailing.”
“Impressive! But doesn’t this get awfully expensive?” Mark asked.
“Well, most of our mailings are sent with our not-for-profit bulk rate permit. This allows us to send out a letter for less than twenty cents. That’s what the ladies will be doing tomorrow – putting on labels and sorting them by zip code and bundling them according to postal requirements for bulk mailing. But at least once a year we send out an invitation to everyone in our database by regular first-class. This way we get address correction when they move. If they have no forwarding address, it comes back to us and we delete them from the database.”
Mark nodded his head thoughtfully. “How long have you been doing this?”
“For years. Before computers we used an old metal address plate system. But as soon as office computers became available, we got rid of that clunker. It was a real mess. We have been doing bulk mailings for over thirty years now. The reason is simple: It works. Do you know why?”
Mark grinned widely. “No, but I’m hoping you will tell me.”
“Most people come to God because of a crisis in their lives. Something happens – a death in the family, financial troubles, divorce, someone gets seriously ill – you name it. It’s during these times that people feel a need of God. Mark, I can’t tell you the number of times that people have told me that it was during their crisis that they received a flyer in the mail that reminded them of the church they had visited, sometimes many years before. Now they needed spiritual help; now they needed God. So they end up coming to church and going to the altar and God fills them with His Spirit. Our mailing list allows us to keep in touch with our vast number of contacts over an extended period of time. Almost one hundred percent of our new converts come from this database. The only exceptions are those that receive the Spirit the first time they visit with us. But they end up in the database as new members. We also have all our church members in here so I can send out special reminders and announcements.”
“Okay, Elder. You have convinced me. I’m going home and get this started for my church too. I just have one request.”
Elder Baker raised an eyebrow. “And that would be?”
“Could you copy your address on a disk for me so I can get started, because we sure could use some good contacts?”
Mark ducked as the elder pastor tossed a wad of paper at him.
* * *
What truly is the key to Apostolic church growth? Ask that question of fifty pastors or church leaders and you will most likely receive fifty assorted answers. Many would reply that prayer and fasting is the key. Others will place their hope in developing a loving Christian atmosphere. Some will claim that only strong, anointed preaching will bring results. Or perhaps a good outreach program of some kind. The list could be endless: Home Bible studies, attractive buildings, door knocking, mass crusades, revival meetings, and more. All have a good element of truth. But all can’t be the real, single key to growth. Is there such a thing?
Yes! There is a central element within all revivals since the Day of Pentecost. The common characteristic of all growing churches is people. God has chosen the vehicle of humankind to carry the Gospel truth. Without people, not only would there be no one to bring the truth, but there is no one to receive it either.
Well, of course people make churches grow. That’s obvious! But wait a minute. Stop and think. There are some very important implications to this most obvious of observations. It really isn’t things, like buses or buildings. It isn’t even actions, like preaching and prayer – although you will never have true revival and growth without them. It’s dedicated saints, believing God, spending time in prayer, willing to plant the Gospel seed, witnessing to friends, inviting family, teaching home Bible studies – that enables a church to see growth and revival. True evangelism is not a program, it is a result.
The church has been often paralleled to a mighty force of salesmen who are seeking people to “buy the truth and sell it not.” Any good salesman will tell you that the key to sales success is good contacts – people who are interested in what you have to offer. For a church, these are simply called “prospects.” A prospect is a non-Christian of whom one or more persons within your church know in some way. They may be family, friend, work associates, acquaintances, or neighbors. They may know them casually or intimately. But regardless, there is sonic kind of personal relationship. All current research proves that, of those who accepted truth, the vast majority – over 90% – were contacted as the result of a relationship bridge. So it stands to reason that if a church wishes to grow, it is here that it should focus its evangelistic efforts. To grow, a church needs prospects.
What to Do With Prospects
You can find prospects everywhere. We will find them behind barriers of racial, social, and economic discrimination. We will find them behind barriers of prison, hospital, rest home, and ghetto – areas that many Christians seem reluctant to penetrate. Yet, somehow our attitudes must change. Like William Booth, we must also cry, “Some wish to live in the sound of chapel bell, but give me a rescue mission, ten yards from hell.” We must adopt the attitude of D. L. Moody when he wrote, “I see every person as though he had a huge “L” in the midst of his forehead. I consider him lost until I know he is saved.”
You can build your church prospect file from church service visitors, individuals attending church socials and programs, door knocking, and church members family and friends. But when your prospect list begins to grow and the names are overflowing your card file, what then?
1. Visit them – The most effective way to reach people is with a personal visit. Prospects names are put on visitation cards and the family is personally invited to church. If the opportunity presents itself, the Home Bible Study ministry is explained and a study is set up.
2. Place the prospect on the church mailing list – With bulk mailing rates a church can send out monthly bulletins, revival announcements, letters of invitation, Home Bible Study promotions, and many other items into the prospects home on a regular basis.
3. Telephone them – A simple, low key phone call to invite your prospects to a special program or service is an easy way to turn a name into a visitor.
4. Get a Home Bible Study – All contact with prospects should have two goals in mind: getting them out to church and getting them in a Home Bible Study.
5. Enroll the adults in Sunday school – Use the concept of “Enroll to Grow” to pre-enroll the prospect right on their door step. For more information contact the UPCI Sunday School Division.
6. Involve the children in Bus Ministry – Whether the parents enroll in Sunday school or not, have the children become a part of your bus, van, or car ministry.
The purpose of a tree (the church) is to bare fruit. That is the very essence of its existence. But it must be noted that the tree does not eat the fruit itself. Rather, the fruit is given away to a lost and hungry world. Within all fruit are seeds, capable of growing yet another tree. True, not every seed that falls will grow. Nevertheless, we understand that the more seeds that are sown, the more trees you will have. A church becomes a New Testament church when it is more interested in: helping than in being helped; loving than in being loved; giving than being given to; fasting than being fed; and meeting needs than having needs met.
This article “Computer Database Prospect File” by Tim Massengale was excerpted from: The Three Legged Stool. Revival Research Publishing. January 2012. Used by permission. It may be used for study & research purposes only.