Keys to Target Grouping

By Dan Vis
May 18, 2020
Comments: 31

As our focus this month is largely on ministry development, I pulled this article out from the archives to help with one of the most important aspects of this: target grouping. If you are not sure where to focus your ministry efforts, this article may just help!

One essential key to building an effective ministry is what I call Target Grouping. That is just a fancy way of saying ministries should specialize based on a clear sense of who they are trying to reach.

If you have a passion to reach homeless people, artists, members of a specific cult, homeschooler kids, or men interested in prophecy--then you have a clear target group. Each of those represent a distinct set of people. When your goal is to reach everyone, the target group is necessarily vague, and that lack of clarity will adversely impact your success.

In today's article I'd like to share three reasons why target grouping is important, and four keys to choosing the best target group from the countless possible alternatives. And then I'll close with a suggestion about what to do with your target group once you have identified it. Enjoy!

Why Target Group

Unfortunately, we live in a media saturated world and everyone has their shields up to screen out as much of that noise as possible. That means it is getting harder and harder to reach people with your message. If you are serious about wanting to get your offer in front of people, you need to target group.

Here's why it makes a difference:

1. It's more cost-effective
Marketing can be expensive, and no church can afford to throw money away by advertising to people who aren't interested in your offer. By having a clear target group, you can work to ensure the closest possible alignment between how you advertise, and the audience you want to reach.

Suppose for example you want to use the radio to advertise a seminar on biblical archaeology. You will probably get a better response advertising on a Christian station than a station playing rock music. Granted, some people who listen to rock might be interested in biblical archaeology, but an audience listening to a Christian station will probably have a higher percentage of people interested in that topic.

Assuming the approximate cost per listener is equal, the same amount of money will tend to attract more people on a station with an audience that is closely aligned to your offer.

2. It sparks creative ideas
There's something about narrowing down your target group that sparks ideas for innovative approaches. In fact, I suspect there's a direct correlation between how focused your ministry is and your potential for creativity.

Suppose you had a community service center that gave away clothes for free. While you may be happy to give those garments to anyone who comes by, your target group is actually low income individuals. Recognizing that quickly sparks all kinds of ideas about how to promote your service.

How about reaching out to soup kitchens, homeless shelters, and public housing areas, in your community. Or perhaps the office for unemployment or for food stamps. Some of these may be happy to spread word about your service. Being specific about who you want to reach enables you to be creative in how you reach them.

3. It speaks their language
Knowing your audience allows you to use words, images, and testimonies that connect with them. In general, a message that doesn't appear to be aimed at us "personally" gets discounted in a single glance. But if it appears to be talking to us directly, we'll be inclined to give it a more careful second look.

Suppose a person has just been diagnosed with adult onset diabetes. They may encounter dozens of general advertisements about health, but nothing catches their attention, and they make little or no impression. Then suddenly the stumble on to a poster asking the question:

"Have you just been diagnosed with diabetes?"

The question leaps into their consciousness, and they can't help but stop to read more--because it connects with them. In other words, it's easier to advertise a cooking school that offers heart friendly or weight loss recipes, than it is to advertise a general cooking school with no special focus. Advertising works best when it speaks our language.

Choosing a Target Group

So how do you choose a target group? If you are already involved in some ministry, it may just be a question of identifying who you are already reaching, and finding ways to be a bit more intentional in your efforts. But if you are wanting to start some new ministry, defining your target group early on is a vital first step.

In choosing a target group, I recommend considering at least four factors:

1. Choose a large group
Try to pick a group that is fairly sizable. Specific doesn't have to mean tiny. Bird watching is no more specific than bug watching, but it's almost certainly a much larger group. The goal is not to pick a small group, but to pick a distinct group.

2. Choose a group with common needs
Try to choose a group with obvious needs, as needs represent open doors for ministry. Choosing to reach the people in your apartment complex, may be specific, but that group probably has rather diverse needs. In contrast, international students at the local university probably have a common need for conversational English classes.

3. Choose a group you can help
While it is possible to serve a group you know little about, it's generally better to pick a group you know well. If you are an expert in some field and can use your expertise to give real help to some group, your ministry has a far greater chance of success.

4. Choose a group that motivates you
Last but not least, choose a group you have a burden to reach. In fact, this may be the most important criteria, because a strong internal motivation helps keep a person on track through the thick and thin of ministry. If God calls you to reach some group, He can help you find those people, discern their needs, and give them lasting solutions. But only if you are committed to reaching them!

So those are the four keys to identifying a target group: consider its size, if it has a common need, if you have resources to help, and most of all, do you have a passion to reach that group?

Getting Strategic

What do you do once you have identified a specific target group? Begin building a ministry strategy that guides people in that group to Christ. Think of it as a process, that draws them step by step, from where they are to where you would like to see them.

That process will need to include multiple steps. Our Unleashed Ministry Model identifies 7 core components every ministry should incorporate into its ministry plan. Even one or two missing components can severely limit the success of a ministry. Fortunately, none are excessively difficult to build. There are easy options for every component.

Having a clear target group is the first step however. That is what enables you to adapt and customize each ministry component for your specific group: the fliers, the gifts, the newsletter, the courses, the lectures, the small groups, everything! Find ways to tweak each component to ensure optimal success.

To quote an old chinese proverb, "he who aims at nothing is sure to hit it." That is, success in ministry requires you to first identify who you want to reach...


Why is learning to focus on specific target groups so important in ministry? What kinds of possibilities does it open? How does generality impact effectiveness? Are the outreach ministries you are involved in highly targeted? How could they become more focused? Share a thought in the comment below...

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Posted by Dan Vis on 05/22/20  
You're welcome Carol. I think we can make our ministries a lot more effective if we just apply a bit of strategic thinking to them. All the best!
Posted by Carol on 05/22/20  
I found your suggestionDan to be very helpful. Thank you.   
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/18/20  
That's great Minnie! Hope it stimulates lot's of good strategic ideas, and greatly improves your ministry effectiveness...
Posted by Minnie Whittaker on 05/18/20  
I’m glad I read this article. This is most helpful. And it certain will be implemented in our Congregation!
Thank you for this information.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/15/19  
Great! Glad these ideas clicked with you Floride!
Posted by Floride Leonce on 09/14/19  
That sounds great, Dan. I like your suggestions.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/13/19  
I had a feeling that was the case Berith. My guess is there is a way to make it a real win-win for your fellowship and for the restaurant. The restaurant provides real leads, and those who eat there get additional value. It's the perfect setup! You just have to be strategic about making sure you find the best way to do both: transition leads, provide positive value... All the best!
Posted by Berith Bermejo on 09/13/19  
Thanks for the ideas, Dan! These are great. The owner is part of the fellowship. That's why we get to use the place for Sabbath worship because it's closed on Saturdays.Will have to talk with him about the possibilities. :-)
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/13/19  
Sounds like some great ideas Berith, and definitely lot's of great possibilities. I think actually sitting down and mapping out each of the seven components in detail might help.

If the restaurant is supportive of your church plant, you might be able to implement some kind of rewards program, where they get a 10% discount on their next meal for signing up or something. Your team could run that and send regular health tips or whatever. But finding a great way to tap into that traffic would be huge. It's even better if you can get the wives to sign up... Just thinking out loud.

If this is your focus, or at least one area of focus, your target group is actually much more precise: health conscious people that eat at that restaurant! :)
Posted by Berith Bermejo on 09/13/19  
While I'm not very clear on what to call our target, health-conscious people might be a good start. Recently, our fellowship decided to use the restaurant (Health 100) where we have Sabbath services in to gather more interests, with the permission of the owner of course. There are a couple of literature evangelists (colporteurs) in the group who will have a corner to display books and possibly get contact info and addresses of people who come to the restaurant for healthier food options. While they offer health books and the like, they can also go visit the interests and get to know them better. We also plan to have a health or family focused lecture at least one Sabbath afternoon a month, and invite the contacts we got to those events. It's not yet a complete Unleashed Ministry but thinking of ways to get more steps in place. :)
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/11/19  
Great questions Floride. It's harder to reach affluent communities, because they don't have as many obvious needs. But you can try things like SAT/ACT test preparation classes, or landscaping classes, or whatever. They have needs, you just have to research what those needs are.

Your compassion day sounded interesting, but unless you can capture contact info to take things to the next step in the relationship, it probably wouldn't lead to much.

As for the evangelistic meetings, yes we want to reach everyone, but that doesn't mean every church has to reach everyone. I think you will have far better success targeting people in your own ethnic group for many reasons.

If someone else comes, that's great. We accept and welcome anyone. But when you send out fliers, try to use images and language that will resonate with your target audience. And mail them to targeted locations. The more focused, the better the results.
Posted by Floride Leonce on 09/10/19  
My church is in an affluent community and it's very hard to reach out to people. We tried to reach out to people who live in the projects in nearby communities once we were having a Health Day, it wasn't successful because those people thought we were too far off. Once we had a Compassion Day and went to give flowers to people on the streets, they looked at us like we didn't know what we were doing. It didn't really go well that some Haitians were reaching out to a mostly White community.

When we have evangelistic meetings, we're not on the same page in terms of whom to invite. Some of us think that, because we're Haitians, we shoud only reach out to Haitians. But others think we should include all people regardless of their nationalities or ethnic backgrounds.

They put n emphasis on the Great Commission, when Jesus mentions "all nations". Is that too broad or should Haitians be the specific target?
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/10/19  
That sounds like a great opportunity if you can figure out a way to capitalize on that Carole. Hope you can come up with something creative!

We do want to reach everyone Nicole, but marketing gets expensive if it's not focused. You might get better results if you spent that same money on building several small unleashed ministries (as described in our Unleashed course) and then use those ministries to get people to the meetings. You will probably reach many more people, and for those who don't come, or don't make decisions, you can maintain connections through those various ministries.

It's great to want to reach everyone, but we need to be more strategic because we only have limited time and money available...
Posted by Nicole Wall on 09/10/19  
My church is hosting a few evangelistic meetings in November and I remember during board meeting someone asking who the target audience was. The answer given was everyone. I had this instant feeling of being overwhelmed. How do you target everyone? You can't. They finally narrowed it down to your friends but I still believe that might be too broad. I believe that having too broad of a reach can limit your outreach. In regards to the meetings at my church I'm less likely to invite someone because I don't know what exactly to expect from the meetings. I'll post information to Facebook but I probably won't personally invite anyone.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 09/09/19  
Our church is located across from our hospital. Therefore we have an edge on having health seminars, to encourage our community and members within.
Thank you for giving step by step process to a successful ministry.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/09/19  
That's a very powerful target group Valerie. Now it's just putting all the pieces together to begin ministering to them in some way. Be sure to sign up for Unleashed for a quick overview of the process! :) And all the best in your ministry plans...
Posted by Valerie Wise Burrell on 09/09/19  
Praise the Lord! This message is what I needed. I have a vision for helping women with children who are recovering from addiction. This helped me to review what I have in place already: a target group, focus on the possibilities, refine and most importantly, believe in the impact on the individual families and the community. Finally, reinforce the passion I have now and have always had for this population group. I solicit your prayers that God can use me for His purpose in this project.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/21/18  
Ah, the tortoise and the hare. Seems like that concept has been coming up a bit lately, hasn't it? Our fall Breakout Memory Challenge is coming soon!
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 09/21/18  
I know - the tortoise! :-) That reptile is beginning to seem like a very special one in my eyes! The epitome of perseverance and continuing in well doing! :-)
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/18/18  
Thanks Fiona! Appreciate the encouragement. :) Everyday, we just keep moving forward one small step at a time...
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 09/18/18  
One more comment - I love the picture used for the article.
Posted by Fiona van Wyk on 09/18/18  
I appreciated the reading, Dan - and giggled at the comparison between bird and bug watching! :-D

All your comparisons are helpful in helping me to understand the focus of each point. Thank you for that. I appreciate the clarity in this reading, and in the classes here on FAST. It is so much easier to grasp principles to put them into practice, when things are spelled out clearly how to do them.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/14/18  
Not sure what you mean by "renegade" Barbara, but excited to hear you have some ideas and that you are excited. :) Lot's of possibilities in this area for sure. The need is everywhere, the solution not so much. But even if we don't have a foolproof physical cure, we do have foolproof spiritual cure!
Posted by Barbara Davis on 09/13/18  
This is very helpful! I now have my target audience and catch question: "Have you just been diagnosed with cancer?" From past experience, this is going to be a challenge at our local church, as I am a bit of a renegade, because I believe there is more than one way to skin a cat, so to speak, as it pertains to health and faith. This is going to be exciting! Cannot wait to see where God leads in this one. It is personally very near and dear to my heart. I have been wanting to share what I have been learning and experiencing, and also have a positive support group that is based on better hope, and not about losing hair and feeling sick. :)
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/11/18  
Yep, that's all important Carole. Defining your target group first enables you to start asking all those questions and begin developing a strategic ministry plan! And yes, it is quite an adventure... :)
Posted by Carole Bliss on 09/11/18  
Once we are sure of what group to focus on, we need to study how to reach this group.
What can we do to be of interest to them? We are they at, at the present time?
Talking to the people about what is important to them. Getting their input.
In the end, all will be blessed, and have grown from this adventure.

Posted by Dan Vis on 09/10/18  
You're welcome Narelle. If your target group helps you to specialize your ministry, you've got the right idea! Looking forward to seeing what you came up with in Worker Tools!
Posted by Narelle Coyte on 09/10/18  
Thankyou for Keys for your target group and your posting on the 9/10/18 (lol its already the 11th of september here.... ) as I was thinking last week my target group was perhaps not a target group. But now I feel edified that I was indeed on the right track. So thanks for sharing and thankyou for being God's bond servant
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/10/18  
Good question, Susan. Originally our intended audience was believers everywhere--very vague. Now we're focusing in on it. Right now our target group is someone just like you. :)

That's still the primary means of growth for us RG. Glad someone shared about us with you. I wonder how many other people have never heard of FAST though, that we could be reaching if we used some other approach to get the word out...
Posted by RG on 09/10/18  
By word of mouth. That is how I found it.
Posted by Susan on 09/10/18  
Very helpful! And makes so much sense! Now I cannot help but wonder—what is the specific target group of FAST?

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