Screen shot 2009-11-18 at 1.34.18 PMSeveral weeks ago I wrote this post asking if others have taken a bigger than normal attendance hit in October. The overwhelming response was “YES!” Of the dozen of people I heard from, all but one or two saw a decrease. Several indicated that October was not usually a down month and for those who usually saw a decrease in October, this year’s decrease was significant.

So, we’ve hit our problem head on. People get sick and there isn’t usually a lot you can do about it. They’ll get better and they’ll come back. However, at Gateway we’re reaching a demographic of people who might easily get into a habit of not coming due to sickness and have trouble getting back into that rhythm of coming once all is well again. It’s just the people we’re targeting. So here’s what we’ve done.

1. Phone call and email blitz. In Fellowship One, I ran this report. It essentially told me who my regular kids were and which ones were missing in October. It told me what the last service/room/date they attended. I had Fellowship One modify the form to give me cell numbers and email addresses of both moms and dads. We then sent this information on to our small group leaders and room leaders to call all the families that have been missing. The good news is that their absences has been for reason we expected… sickness.

2. Create some holiday momentum. Our Children’s Ministry has always been a selling point for our families. Generally the kids really love Kids Quest. We felt we just needed to remind the families and kids and do something a little special to get them interested in coming back soon. So we announced something we’re calling “Crazy Countdown to Christmas.” Essentially it’s some crazy Christmas fun wrapped around some fun Christmas styled games, five weeks of “crazy sock contests” and a great angle tree-like outreach to families in need in our community.

3. Promotion. Now that we have identified who is missing and why they’re missing and something new and fun to promote, we’re exhausting all our avenues of communication to get the word out. Kids don’t want to miss Kids Quest this holiday season. First we designed this postcard. I’ve got about 2000 cards to distribute to every child who attends the next few weeks. In addition, I’ve mailed this postcard to any child who has attended Gateway two or more times in the past 6 months. I really would have liked to sent this to every kid, but I didn’t have the budget for that. In addition, we have an email blitz this week, sending an email to the parents of every child who’s attended Gateway this last year letting them know about our Crazy Christmas Countdown.

So, we’ll see what happens. This campaign really isn’t very outward focused. it’s more of an effort to reconnect with those who have disconnected due to the flu. Again, there isn’t much we can do about the flu. If families are sick, we really don’t want them back (yet). However, this might help us recapture those who’ve gotten out of the habit.

The question I’m asking myself is, “how do we measure success?” We know that in October we were down 6% from last year where normally we are up 12-15%. Again, so many people are still battling the flu, we may not know the degree of success. Our attendance could go back up on it’s own even without these efforts. However, we’ll take a look at the numbers and see if we can determine anything that stands out.