It’s frustrating. 

You see a problem that your church is facing, but you also see a significant opportunity to address it. More than that, the solution you have in mind is not just Biblically sound, and you sense that the Holy Spirit is guiding you in this direction.

So, you craft a powerful sermon. With exegetical prowess and passionate arguments, you share how your church community can face this issue head-on.

A few weeks later, you bring this up with your church staff. Some don’t remember the sermon. Others don’t understand the problem at hand. Others disagree with your proposed solution.

What went wrong?

Once Isn’t Enough

A great sermon, or even a sermon series, is essential to inspiring change in your church. It can help you as a leader articulate your vision. It can help you revisit the Scriptures to understand how God could work situations like yours. It may inspire a few key leaders who hear the sermon to join you in your quest.

But even the most powerful vision-casting sermon is limited. Many of your key leaders may be volunteering with children’s ministry or other things that take them out of the Sanctuary. Others might be out of town altogether. 

Some may hear you, but not understand your sense of urgency. Others may hear you and not be convinced. Still others might just not be listening at all!

The truth is that no single vision-casting moment is enough to inspire change. What can you do to help ensure that your church leadership and the broader congregation understand and eventually share your vision?

While there are many, often complicated, elements to casting a vision that inspires change, one simple element that gets overlooked is repetition.

The Rule of Seven Touches

To better understand why some ideas take root and others get lost, it helps to look to the world of Marketing. Marketers are in the business of inspiring people to change their behaviors by adopting new ideas, habits, and, yes, by purchasing products. To do so, marketers rely on a common rule of thumb: it takes seven touches to make a sale. 

As church leaders, terms like “marketing” or “selling” may rub you the wrong way. It brings up images of disingenuous con artists trying to trick people into wasting hard-earned money. But marketing, at its best, can also be understood as helping people connect with the tools and resources they need to accomplish their hopes and dreams. For church leaders, this includes connecting them to a vision for their life as a Christian and the kind of church community where they can invest their lives.

“Seven Touches” is the idea that before anyone chooses to make a purchase, they need seven positive, meaningful interactions first. 

Once you know this, you understand many of the experiences you have had in modern North American life. Have you ever seen an ad on television, perhaps for a brand of soda or an insurance company, that was funny but didn’t say much about the product? Have you ever wondered why some brands will sponsor events or even purchase sports stadiums? None of these specific interactions will cause you to stop what you are doing and purchase a specific item. But they are there, in the back of your mind, when you want a drink out of a vending machine or need a new insurance plan to cover your car.

Which is why one sermon isn’t going to be enough.

Here is an example of how you might plan for seven (or more) touches to reach the people in your congregation.

  1. Sermon Series: Plan a series of lessons rooting your vision for change in the Scriptures. As you do this, coming up with a title, and key visuals that you can use in additional “touches” will help.
  2. Email follow up: Send follow up emails that link to recordings of your sermon series, and allow you to address additional ideas and details that weren’t a part of the sermon.
  3. Video clips on social media: Craft short video clips, either within your sermon or separately, that tell stories which connect emotionally to your vision for the congregation.
  4. Testimonials on Social Media: Don’t rely on your own words. Collect stories from church or community members that illustrate the change you hope to see take place. Share these on social media, either as video or a picture with a written testimonial.
  5. Stakeholder Meetings: Some people will jump right on board, others will need to hear more. Take time to gather key stakeholders to share your vision in more depth.
  6. Physical reminders: In a recent Fresh Expressions podcast, Sue Nelson-Kibbey tells the story of a church whose members created prayer stations in their homes to remind them to ask God for “breakthrough” in their lives and in the church. Consider what kind of physical reminders you could provide to help this vision be in front of your church members.
  7. Personal follow-up: While public speaking and social media are key to vision casting, nothing beats a personal interaction. Although it could be taxing, schedule one-on-one meetings when you can, and when you can’t, send text messages and even hand written notes.

Change is Too Important to Leave Up to Chance

Today, most local churches are desperately in need of change. Across North America, church attendance is in decline. New churches are being planted, but they can’t keep up with the need for vibrant congregations. Many established churches are aging and struggle to reach both their neighbors and the next generation.

That’s why, if you have a vision you believe will change your congregation for the better, you need a clearly thought out plan for how you will communicate it. As you plan, keep the seven touches in mind.

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Chris Morton
About the Author

Chris Morton

Chris is the Director of Strategic Initiatives and Communications, working across the organization to help get new projects off the ground and into the world. He guides our online publishing, email, social media and other digital communications. Chris helped plant Austin Mustard Seed, serving for five years as Community Developer. He also works with several other non-profits and businesses to tell their story with content and social media. A graduate of Fuller Theological Seminary's M.A. in Global Leadership, Chris lives in Austin, Texas with Laura, Micah, Phoebe and Dot.