Members of the Gillette Church in Wyoming handed out 3×5 cards to almost 400 neighbors last spring with the offer of a free Mother’s Day portrait to advertise their Mother’s Day sermon. On Sabbath, 6 people visited the church to hear the sermon and get the free portrait. While that’s a good number of visitors for a church with 79 members on the books, something even more astounding happened.

At the church board meeting, the marketing manager for the church said she had paid to boost the Mother’s Day advertisement on Facebook. She paid $15 and clicked the “Boost” button. Not knowing what would happen, she listed “Christian,” “Bible” and “religion” as tag words for people in the area.

When she checked Facebook after the sermon, 363 people had watched it on Facebook. About a week later, 1,200 had watched it–all for $15.

The church went “live” on Facebook a year ago. From the first day, they had about 100 people following them. Since this beginning, Gillette pastor Chuck Gadway frequently receives messages asking to be put on the church’s prayer list. “You’re my pastor,” they say, even though the messages come from places like India, Utah, Texas and Florida.

While in Florida to do the homily for his father’s memorial service, a group of people told Gadway they listen to him every week, having been introduced to him on Facebook by his father. They also think of him as their pastor.

“When I get up to speak on Sabbath, I’m not speaking to 50 or 60 people,” Gadway says. “There’s a whole congregation out there I try to recognize.” Gadway is intentional about using names from his online listeners and making sure they know he’s speaking to them, too.

One week, a glitch prevented the church from posting the sermon video. “Where’s the video?” one man asked several times. “This is my church. You’re my pastor. I need this video.” He considers himself a Seventh-day Adventist, Gadway explains.

Members are working to replicate this experience in each of Gadway’s five churches. The Father’s Day barbecue in Gillette, was advertised in the same way as the Mother’s Day sermon. Gadway is preparing his members for an influx of people into the church. “If they start coming, are we prepared?” he asks them.

His churches have grown by 49 baptisms in the two years Gadway has been pastoring in Wyoming. The 258 members in his district of churches could grow dramatically–all due to a providential $15.