Church Marketing Matters

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The subject of church marketing gets some interesting reactions from people.  The whole concept causes some people to protest.  It might be along the lines: “Jesus is the King of King and the Lord of Lords.  He is not trendy.  He is not a corporation.  He should be worshipped not marketed.”

I understand that sentiment, but any given church that wants to reach people for Jesus needs to let those people know that they exist.  In the 1992 the US researcher George Barna wrote a book called Church Marketing.  I read it a long time ago and I can still remember him making this point: If your church has a sign out the front of its premises then like it or not you are engaged in church marketing.  The question then is are you going to do it well or not?

Some critics of church marketing have written a book that alleges we are selling out the church by entertaining these ideas.  The book has a glossy cover, a well designed and clever graphic on the front and a foreword by a well known minister.  So that pretty much shows you what the authors really believe about marketing.

The fact is that most local churches are an organisation.  Yes they are part of the bride of Christ, they are the family of God, they are a royal priesthood of people filled with the Holy Spirit.  But none of that stops a local church from being an organisation as well.  The exception is probably a house church which would not even have a sign out the front, and would rely 100% on word of mouth to let people know about it.

If a local church is reaching out to those who don’t know Christ in their community then they will have to let those people know about their existence.  If that church is in a Western nation in the 21st century then those people that they are trying to reach live in a consumer culture.  That’s not their fault, and that’s not a problem.  But if a person in that culture is considering attending an event at a church then they will quite possibly be put off if their gut reaction is, “looks dodgy”.

Of course this is a separate issue to whether the person dislikes the message of the church.  If they hear the gospel proclaimed with clarity and respond by thinking “that’s rubbish” then no amount of marketing will help.  Marketing is irrelevant at that point.

But what about a person who is open to the message of the gospel?  If that person lives in a consumer culture then they will intuitively discount coming to an event, church service or program which looks and feels shoddy or unsuited to them.

So if you are going to reach people who live in a consumer culture then you have a choice.  You can either say we have the gospel, we don’t care about how our organisation looks to those we are trying to reach.  Or you can say we will let nothing stand in the way of people hearing the gospel.  We will do everything possible so that the gospel and the gospel alone is what people react to.

Don’t think that by paying attention to marketing that I am talking about professional multi media displays and slick advertising.  I’m talking about things that affect every church.  Is the church building well presented?  What quality of coffee is available after the service?  Are the toilets clean?  Do you use the sort of font that attracts your target demographic in your printed materials?  Getting these things right is not only the province of wealthy, large churches.  But if you get all of these decisions wrong people who otherwise would be drawn to Jesus will intuitively think “I don’t like it here.  I don’t want to come back.”  And they will have that reaction because of poor marketing, not because they don’t want to follow Jesus.

In my mind poor church marketing borders on being sinful.  God has appointed us to go and bear fruit.  If you live in a Western country then you are called to be fruitful in a consumer culture.  If people who are interested in the gospel are turned away by poor marketing of the church then we will have to give an account to God for that.  I think pointing out to the Lord that we were theologically pure won’t cut it.  He wants fruit.

John

PS I found the picture attached to this post on a blog that has a terrific collection of funny and peculiar church signs.  Nice work Travis Agnew – check it out here.

3 Comments to “Church Marketing Matters”

  1. Between me and my husband we’ve owned more MP3 players over the years than I can count, including Sansas, iRivers, iPods (classic & touch), the Ibiza Rhapsody, etc. But, the last few years I’ve settled down to one line of players. Why? Because I was happy to discover how well-designed and fun to use the underappreciated (and widely mocked) Zunes are.

  2. Hi John I am reminded of 2 Peter 1;5. With all diligence add to our faith virtue/excellence. In honor of our Father let’s strive for excellence in the workplace,in our homes,in our relationships and as ambassadors for Christ.
    Blessings brother.

  3. As part of a house Church we reach out, as you say, by direct contact, though I am not convinced we do the right thing limiting to that, but we haven’t worked out what else we should do. My issue with marketing is that those who pay for the campaign want people to attend “their” congregation. Market the Good News and let Paraclete lead people to whatever assembly suits their needs. Go beyond parochial to global. Rejoice that your marketing got somebody into the congregation across the street. Empire building turns me all the way off.
    By the way, I wondered what difference the right kind of baptismal font would make in marketing, until I twigged that you meant the print font of the brochure/ad. Thought a little humour might help…

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