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Hal Seed on Widening the Front Door of Your Church

Hal Seed on Widening the Front Door of Your Church



Hal_Seed_podcastHello, everyone! Thanks for listening in to the unSeminary podcast. Today I’m honored to have Hal Seed from New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is a church with five campuses that is doing a lot of great stuff and reaching their community with a big impact. It was first planted 23 years ago in Oceanside, California, which has a large military community.

Each year New Song loses about 30% of its community due to military relocation, so they learned quickly that they needed to constantly have things that attract new people through their doors. Listen in as Hal shares a few tips about widening the front door of your church with “three elevated excuses for bringing people to church.”

Bring in people with high felt need campaigns. //New Song holds attractional campaigns each year which are a focused time of 4-6 weeks on a high felt need topic. Hal recommends holding a churchwide campaign 2 or 3 times a year based on topics such as family, purpose-driven lives, marriage, and more. Creating events based on topics like these generate interest because everyone is looking for tips on these areas of their lives.

One-time can’t-miss events. // Wow Weekends are special weekend events in which New Song hosts a special guest speaker. These guest speakers are people such as Michael Franzese, a former mafia boss who was the eighth most wanted person in America, or Scott Rigsby, a parapalegic triathlete who ran in the Ironman. These events are a one-time shot to hear these people speak and create a great excuse to invite new people to your church. Even if you’re a smaller church and can’t afford the big name speakers, you can still find other “wow” guests at lower rates that will create interest in your community.

Bring back missing members with special weekends. // A few years ago, Hal noticed that a lot of people would drop out of church during the summer. He wanted to create a way to bring those people back in, so they sent out letters and texts to absentee members inviting them back to church with the note that the upcoming weekend would be a special service. This gave them a 15% bump in attendance. They started doing this each year. This lead to the creation of a national holiday called National Back to Church Sunday sponsored by Outreach Inc. Lifeway Books also picked up on it and helped spread the word. Now churches across the country participate in this holiday.

What would be the appeal to come back? // There are already several excuses to invite people to church—Easter Sunday, Christmas, Mother’s Day—but that doesn’t always draw them back in. A one-time event is a great reason to motivate people to actually come. Hey, if you don’t see it this Sunday, you miss it! When visitors come to your church for special events, you want to create a reason for them to come back again. Use your big events as a spin off into special sermons or other events on those topics to keep the interest up. Sell the next event at the current event. Getting even one or two families coming back after these events makes it all worthwhile.

You can learn more about New Song at their website

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Episode Highlights

00:37 // Rich introduces Hal and welcomes him to the show.

01:27 // Hal gives us a flavor of his church and tells us about First the Kingdom.

03:22 // Hal talks about ‘the three elevated excuses’ for inviting people to church.

06:26 // Hal talks about the impact of Attractional Campaigns.

08:43 // Hal talks about Wow Weekends.

09:42 // Rich tells us about Delegate Sunday at his church.

11:01 // Hal gives examples of how he builds momentum within his church.

13:33 // Hal explains what their ‘capture strategy’ is.

14:07 // Hal talks about Comeback Events and National Back to Church Sunday.

16:04 // Hal talks about I Love My Church Weekend and the impact of giving away T-shirts.

18:06 // Rich highlights the specific times of year where it’s easier to build positive momentum and growth in the church.

19:53 // Hal offers website and contact information.

Episode Transcript

Rich – Well hey everybody, welcome to the unSeminary podcast. My name’s Rich, the host here of the show and I’m just so glad that you’ve decided to tune us in. I know that you’re probably having a busy week, a lot going on at your church and we’re just thankful that you would take some time out to spend some time in this conversation today.

Today it’s our honor to have Hal Seed with us, from New Song Community Church in Vista California. Hal welcome to the show, we’re so glad you’re with us today.

Hal – Thanks Rich, it’s great to be with you.

Rich – For folks that don’t know New Song, you’re a five campus church, plus you have this really kind of innovative Spanish community, a growing church making an impact in your community. If you’re not following New Song this is one of those churches you should be and listen to how they’re doing some great stuff.

One of the interesting things about New Song from a distance that I’ve noticed, it seems like your church has had a unique ability to generate all kinds of ministries or organizations that have impact on other churches; folks like Sermon Central, Outreach, Outreach Inc. CCB Church Community Builder, Dynamic Church Planting International and a bunch more. There seems like something is up at New Song, so why don’t you tell us a little bit about New Song?

Hal – Yeah so we planted the church 23 years ago and I live in Vista Rich, but actually the church is in Oceanside.

Rich – Yes right, sorry about that.

Hal – Which is just the north end of Santiago County, just south of the Marine Corps Base here. So we have hundreds of Marines that are part of our church.

Rich – Right.

Hal – I’ve learned a lot from them over the years. So we’re kind of a military church but more civilians than military but a lot of military folks and they’re pretty easy to lead to Jesus because they know that they could be in harm’s way soon.

Rich – Interesting.

Hal – Yeah, last year we averaged seeing five and a half people a day come to Christ.

Rich – Wow that’s incredible. Like 15 hundred over the year kind of thing?

Hal – 2059.

Rich – Oh my goodness, praise God, that’s incredible.

Hal – Yeah.

Rich – That’s amazing.

Hal – Only half of them were local. We do a lot of mission’s trips, it’s one of the groups that you didn’t mention that we started called First the Kingdom, it trains people in personal evangelism. So we crossed the border into Tijuana or Ensenada which is a lot less threatening for people to go into a cross cultural situation and show their faith for the first time. So a thousand of those two thousand came to Christ on short-term, just weekend mission’s trips and a thousand here in Oceanside.

Rich – That’s incredible. Well you know you live in, I think the most blessed climate in the world, everybody says that, Oceanside’s incredible. I on the other hand, living in New Jersey, I think is on the opposite end of the blessing, you know spectrum. So this is great. One of the things I love about New Song, just as a distant fan, someone looking on watching you, is your church seems to be, even just the evidence of that, seeing a thousand people locally and another thousand people in kind of international missions experiences, taking steps closer to Jesus, you seem to have done a great job of creating a wide front door, a place where people, regardless of their spiritual background, can connect to what your church is doing. I’d love to dig into that a little bit.

Hal – Yeah.

Rich – What are you using or what is God using in your church to see that happen?

Hal – Yeah, well we’ve figured out, sort of I guess I’d say led by the spirit. I was going to say stumbled onto, but over the years, what we call three elevated excuses for inviting people to church. We’ve got to have a wide front door, because we’re going to lose 30% of our audience every year because the Marine Corps is going to deploy them elsewhere.

Rich – Right.

Hal – So we’ve got to have a really big front door because we have an unpreventably large back door.

Rich – Right.

Hal – So our three elevated excuses to get people in are what we call Attractional Events or Campaigns, Wow Weekends and Comeback Events.

Rich – Okay.

Hal – An Attractional Campaign, we learned this from Rick Warren, is a focused time, a four to six weeks on a high felt need topic, like Rick did the book The Purposed Driven Life, everybody wants to know about purpose. So two or sometimes three times a year we’ll do a church wide campaign where we’ll mail out postcards, we’ll start ramping up by asking everyone who’s not in a small group to get in a group, we’ll ask them to start inviting their friends, we’ll give them business invitational cards, to something that’s highly attractional.

So Rick wrote his book in 2003, we looked at it in 2005. We’re so enamored of it. I wrote a book called The God Questions, because everybody has questions about God. So we used that book and then the next year I did something on End Times called Future History and the year after that I tried a Bible series, I did The Book of Jonah and just because people were fired up, they invited friends. Then we did a series on family, which is another broad topic.

So the thing about an Attractional Series is it gets everybody involved and it’s easy to invite a friend because it’s something they would want. Everybody wants their marriage to be better, if they’re married, or for their family to better, better parenting. So you pick a broad topic like that and the most strategic times for us to do those are in the fall and then like the third week of January.

Rich – Okay.

Hal – Those are the two times of year when people start thinking about new things. So they put their kids in school and they’re open to doing something in the fall. Like right now we’re doing a series called I Love Sundays, which is all about the pace of life.

Rich – Yep.

Hal – Everyone’s stressed about their pace of life, so when a friend invites them to come to get their pace straightened up, “Well maybe I’ll check out the church,” that’s a good time to do that. You can’t really start before, like the third week of January on another one because you can’t rally people and get them excited.

Rich – Right.

Hal – So you start talking right after Christmas about, “Here’s what we’re doing there,” and again it gets everybody aligned.

Rich – Yeah very cool. Let’s dig into that a little bit. How much before an Attractional Campaign like that are you communicating to your people, “Hey this is coming,” is this like a few weeks out, months out? Obviously it sounds like it’s fitting into your rhythm of like, one in the fall, one in that January timeframe.

Hal – Yeah, one in the winter, yeah. Well women’s groups, our goal is get all of our groups to do the campaign.

Rich – Okay.

Hal – A great campaign has sermons on one topic that has a discussion on the same topic in your small group and readings during the week so you’re all focused.

Rich – Yeah.

Hal – Our women tend to be planned way in advance with a K. Arthur series or Beth Moore or something. So we’ve got to tell them a year in advance, “Hey this is coming,” and quite often they’ll say, “I’m sorry I love Beth Moore too much, but I’ll get into a group with my husband just for that period of time.”

Rich – Okay very cool.

Hal – So we’re trying to communicate a year out to certain groups, but then you’ve got to be at least eight or ten weeks out to recruit good small group leaders. You start talking to people you want to start a group, who maybe haven’t done a group, six or eight or ten weeks out and then we begin, well…

So we’re in I Love Sundays and I probably talked about it starting in the spring, just occasionally because I’m thinking about it, I’ve already read the book and…

Rich – [Inaudible 00:07:19] a little bit.

Hal – That’s the right word yeah, but really formally about four or five weeks out we’re going to start putting business card invitations in the program and saying, “These are not for you, they are to invite your friend. We’d like you to sign them for a small group and start thinking about who you want to invite to church and to your small group.”

So the ramp up is really important and what we discovered is, if you do them every year, your people begin to get used to that and know, “Oh yeah that’s…” So they’re more responsive year by year.

Rich – Right.

Hal – We grew by 6% when we did the Purpose Driven Life, 10% when we did The God Questions, 17% when we did Future History.

Rich – Wow.

Hal – Then 25% when we did, we released a movie in 2010 called To Save a Life, so we build an entire campaign around that called To Save a Family and family is the most compelling need.

Now when I say we grew by that, there’s the surge and [Inaudible 00:08:15].

Rich – Yes.

Hal – So probably three months after that we weren’t still up 25% but we were significantly up.

Rich – Absolutely.

Hal – That’s our main gig, we think that events don’t lead to life change nor people enfolding into church, but a process does. So the whole thing about an Attractional Campaign or series is, it’s multi-weeks which is more of a process, it gets people in the habit of coming.

Our second elevated excuse though is an event we call Wow Weekends.

Rich – Right tell us about that.

Hal – So a couple of years ago I invited Michael Franzese to come and speak at our church.

Rich – Yes we had him speak at our church as well.

Hal – There you go and when you tell people, “We’re going to have a former Mafia boss, who was one of the most wanted people in America come and speak at our church,” they go, “Wow.”

Rich – Yes.

Hal – Well that’s a really easy excuse to invite people to church.

Rich – Right.

Hal – You know, you’ve got a wow if people say, “Wow.”

Rich – Yeah.

Hal – We had Scott Rigsby, he’s a paraplegic triathlete, come to speak. So it was a real easy ask for athletes, particularly triathletes and high school cross country teams. “You’re having who? I haven’t heard of him but he ran The Iron Man with no legs? Wow.”

Rich – Yes.

Hal – So that’s a one-time deal and you’ve got only one shot.

Rich – Right.

Hal – So we try and tie those to a high felt need, maybe even Attractional Series, immediately. So we say, “Hey and next week we’re starting this.”

Rich – Right, actually this weekend at our church we’re doing Delegate Sunday, very similar to Wow Weekend. We have, in New Jersey, a former New York giant coming to do his deal.

Hal – Ah yes.

Rich – It’s that same idea.

Hal – Yes.

Rich – For us, we want to target the guys in our community.

Hal – Yes.

Rich – There’s a lot of guys that’ll sit and watch football Sunday afternoons but they may not necessarily come to church. So we’re trying to say, “Well I’ll go and hear that guy, he’s an interesting dude, I’ll hear what he has to day.” Very cool.

Hal – And every community has some of those guys even if you can’t afford the $5 thousand guy. When we were small I brought in a Jay Schroeder, this is 20 years ago. Jay was a former all pro quarter back that people don’t remember now, but he was only 10 years retired then and we had a whole bunch of guys show up and because Jay was local, he’d been in the NFL, he wasn’t asking $15 thousand, we paid him, I don’t know, maybe $3 or $4 or $5 hundred, which is a sacrifice.

Rich – Yes.

Hal – But if you even get one family that sticks over the next year they’re going to give you that money back.

Rich – Yeah by a long shot. Now how on those Wow Weekends, what are you doing to kind of use that to build momentum? So you’re obviously going into it, you’re promoting it, you’re getting a bit of a bump, how are you trying to capture that and see some people return? What does that look like coming out of Wow Weekends?

Hal – Yeah well again you never want to start with, “Well we’re just going to try and get people in once,” we’re going to try and get them back. So what would be the appeal to come back?

Two years ago I brought in a former Palestinian terrorist who had become a Christian and now runs an orphanage in Israel for both Palestinian and Jewish kids. So we said, “So the kind of person that would come and hear him is sort of interested in politics and world events.” So then I did a series on Islam and world religions after that in the hopes that they’d come back.

Rich – Right.

Hal – Also you work of your assimilation channels of, you want to call guests, you want to send them an email Monday morning and you want to write them a personal note. So you’re trying real hard to connect but at that event you sell the next event.

Rich – Right.

Hal – I’ve never been part of them but I’m told that service clubs like Kiwanis and Rotary, which they fine you if you don’t show up the next week, they still spend 30% of each meeting selling the next meeting to you.

Rich – Right.

Hal – So when we have a high profile guest like that, we want to somehow help people to know what else we have to offer them and what I’m doing next week. The ideal Wow Weekend is not simply to have the football player preach, but to interview him because then your pastor has enough stage time that people can say, “You know, I came to hear him but that guy is pretty cool as well. Maybe we’ll come back and hear him next week. He said he’s doing a series on family and honey we want our family to be better, maybe we should come back for that.”

Rich – Absolutely, we’ve done the same thing on these weekends, where we’ll have our lead guy end up coaching or doing interview with whoever we end up bringing in, Michael Franzese, whoever it ends up we’ve brought in in the past and that I think is critical to the piece. You don’t, sometimes on those weekends, sometimes people see special guests as like, “Oh that’s an opportunity for whoever speaks normally to have the Sunday off.”

Hal – Yeah and they go someplace else.

Rich – And go someplace else. If you’re a multi-site church the temptation can be like, “Hey maybe they should go to one of our campuses and shake hands there,” or whatever. No, no, no, don’t miss the opportunity.

I think the other critical piece just to underline what you’re saying there is that some churches miss, on a weekend like this, it’s as important to think about what you’re follow up is, what’s the next step coming out of this?

Hal – Yes.

Rich – That this is not, there isn’t kind of a magic bullet, a bunch of people are going to show up, you have to build it as a part of what you’re doing, so that you’re building momentum towards it.

Hal – We call that a capture strategy. How are you going to capture those guests and get them into the flow of your church? Like for us, when we do our vacation Bible School, which is kind of churchy word, so we call it Kids’ Camp.

Rich – Yes.

Hal – We conclude Kids’ Camp with a Saturday night worship service that profiles the church. So we get the parents to come in because we say, “Hey your kids are going to sing and they’ll get awards,” and then I do a ten minute message on how to be a great parent and what our church has to offer you.

Rich – Right.

Hal – That’s a capture strategy. We don’t want them just to come, we want them to come back.

Rich – Right, absolutely. Now you mentioned earlier there was a third strategy.

Hal – Yeah.

Rich – What is that third strategy?

Hal – The third one is what we call Comeback Events.

Rich – Yeah.

Hal – Years ago I said, “This is California, people are casual.” I said to our staff, “I’ve noticed that some people drop out during the summer, we need an excuse to get them back.” So we did a thing where we just put a name to it called Back to Church Sunday. All we did for that was say, “Hey you should come back this weekend if you haven’t been for a while.” I think we texted the people and emailed them.

Rich – Yeah.

Hal – I don’t even know whether we sent a letter but it was just to our own people and said, “This weekend is a special weekend, everybody come,” and we had like a 12% or 15% bump.

Well we did that again the next year and you mentioned that we started some organizations. My best friend is Scott Evans, he’s the founder of Outreach, because he was my founding associate pastor, so Scott said, “If this worked here maybe it’ll work elsewhere, why don’t we brand a national holiday?”

So there’s now this holiday called National Back to Church Sunday sponsored by Outreach Inc. LifeWay Books picked up on it as well. It was just last weekend and 30 thousand churches around the country did National Back to Church Sunday. We did it and we experienced, I don’t know, a 15% to 20% bump. Last year Scott told me his 26 thousand churches that participated experienced, I think it was a 21% bump, because again it’s an elevated excuse.

Rich – Yes.

Hal – The key to this is, there are 52 great excuses to invite a friend to church but some Sundays are better excuses than others. Like Easter is an elevated excuse on its own, but what you want to do is create four or five of those in your church on your own, like an Attractional Series or a Comeback Event or a Wow Weekend where it’s got broad appeal but, “If you don’t come this weekend you’ll miss it.”

Rich – Yes.

Hal – That’s the virtue. My friend can come any weekend which means he comes no weekend, but because we’re doing this, he shows up.

So our first one is National Back to Church Sunday, then a few years ago I visited Perry Noble at New Spring and they got this thing going on with giving away T-shirts. He said, “We have never given away a T-shirt where it wasn’t record attendance.” So I noticed he and Craig Rochelle and some other were doing this I Love My Church and I thought, “Well if that’s working, if the Holy Spirit is honoring that elsewhere, maybe he would honor that here,” and really that’s all that church growth is right? It’s finding out what the Holy Spirit is honoring elsewhere and thinking, “Maybe he would honor that here too.”

So we printed up T-shirts and we gave then to our staff at Christmas. So people started saying, “Where do I get a shirt like that?” “Well if you come the second Sunday of January you’ll get a free T-shirt, it’s I Love My Church Weekend and so that’s our second time when we get people back because we’ll print two thousand T-shirts and give them away and you think, “Oh can you afford that?” Well again, if you get just two or three new families coming back or you re-assimilate families who weren’t there and the goodwill.

The first time we did I Love My Church weekend, we didn’t actually have a bump, but the next Sunday we did because we’d given things to people so they felt better about us and I think more of our regulars came back and they were excited and invited their friends.

So that was three years ago and in the last two years now people go, “Wow we got a free T-shirt, we’re coming.”

Rich – Yes.

Hal – So I guess that’s not something, no unchurch guy goes, “I’m going to get a shirt that says I Love My Church, I’ll come,” but it brings back your people and it builds enthusiasm with them and I Love My Church Sunday is all about vision casting for the coming year, so it’s a great way to start your year off. You can’t really do it the first weekend of the year because again you’ve got to give people a chance to hear that it’s coming.

Rich – Yep.

Hal – But we do that the second weekend and then we’ll launch an Attractional Campaign out of that with the goodwill that we’ve built.

Rich – Well you are dropping all kinds of value bombs today, I hope people are writing down all kinds of notes here, because you’ve provided some really practical tactics here. I think that’s fantastic.

I know for us, we talk about big days, that there are three or four big days, similar language from Perry Noble at Newspring as well. For us, the way we articulate it, this may be helpful for folks, is there are certain times during the year where two incredible things happen. The first is our people are more likely to invite their friends. So people are more likely to invite their friends at Christmas, Easter, in the fall, in the new year, they’re more willing to do that but that’s not the only thing. The second thing is their friends are more likely to come. For whatever reason, if you can get those two lined up together and the kind of positive momentum that can happen there, you’ll start to see growth at your church.

I used to be of the mindset and I’ve said this before in past podcasts, where every weekend is the same, every weekend needs to be, all 52 need to be incredible and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a first time guest, and that’s true, I’m not saying that’s not true. But the reality of it is, there are times that are just more likely that people are going to respond and come. So we don’t want to miss those opportunities, we don’t want to squander those, we want to do what we can to leverage those to see people take steps closer to our church and ultimately closer to Jesus. So that’s exciting.

Just kind of as we wrap up, is there anything else you’d love to share with people around widening the front door of their church?

Hal – Well I think you teach a lot of these things. You’ve got to have good greeters at the door who welcome but not accost.

Rich – Yes.

Hal – It’s helpful if you have greeters in the parking lot, even if you’re a small church. So before you open your front door you want to make sure you have a good first impression.

Rich – Definitely.

Hal – Your greeter should have a breath mint or something.

Rich – Yes.

Hal – So take care of those, details do matter.

Rich – Definitely.

Hal – I guess the other thing I’d mention is I love helping pastors, which is why about ten years ago I started a website called

Rich – Yes.

Hal – So if they want stuff like this, I do a blog once a week or so. It’s high content and hopefully helpful to people.

Rich – Absolutely, I would highly recommend people to drop by to see that. If they want to get in touch with the church how can they do that as well, what’s the best way for them to learn more about New Song as well?

Hal – Well is our website, or they can pick up the phone and call and the number’s there.

Rich – Right.

Hal – We love helping churches.

Rich – Great, well Hal, I really appreciate you being on the show today. Thank you so much for taking time out. It’s always great to talk to somebody in California, so thank you for being on the show today.

Hal – Great, thank you Rich, come and visit us some time.


1 Comment

  1. Rich this was one of the best, most practical podcasts you have produced. This was SO helpful. I will be showing it to my staff and my board. I will definitely implement a lot of what Hal shared. THANK YOU!


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