Can church marketing ever work? Does it only ever suck? Can a church only ever really focus their marketing efforts on the right audience? What should the message be? These questions have been rattling around my brain recently as we have been developing our own external marketing on a new project. Here are some of the thoughts that may help you in your own marketing to your broader community.
1. People will never be convinced to come to church by your marketing efforts alone
Marketing pithy slogans and statements will never in itself endear your church to your local community. That age for most urban centres has passed. Most people who don’t go to church have all kinds of preconceptions about religion and especially the Church in general. Marketing can be used to support your outreach efforts but it shouldn’t be an end in itself.
2. Don’t use scripture to prove your marketing point
Seriously. You may attract other Christians, but you are never going to convince the average Joe and get them to say”oh look, there’s some scripture, I better attend this church.” Nope, not going to happen. They probably don’t even know it’s scripture.
3. ‘Clever’ almost always never works
Ever seen the sign ‘What is missing in ch_ _ch? u r. For a start, that isn’t clever and it won’t work. To be honest I haven’t seen any marketing that is trying to be witty, sharp, insightful, thought-provoking actually work. People are looking for genuine answers to big questions with many layers of personal and spiritual complexity and they cannot be answered into a reductionist slogan.
4. Talk about your community
The church isn’t a building or an institution, it’s the people or community of God who are the church. Yet, for many of those who don’t go to church, in their minds ‘the church’ is something you attend. The church is an institution, not a vital, living breathing group of people. Does your audience know what is going on in your community? How?
5. Explain how you serve your broader community
Is your church doing anything in the community that they need to know about? I’m amazed that the incredible acts of service that so many Christians make to the public social good yet disappear into history unmentioned because no-one thought it was important. Christians make a very substantial contribution to the community. Share with them what you do. You may just redefine some preconceptions of your church with those stories.
6. Never, ever make people feel guilty
Here’s another bad message that I saw on a church sign ‘Staying in bed shouting oh God! Does not constitute going to church.’ Pleassssseeee. We all have enough guilt, without the not very clever attempt at humour and guilting us to attend church. Most people have enough baggage as it is, they don’t need your help.
7. Tell stories
Let your community tell the stories. How they have been changed, transformed, healed, made whole, set free from addictions. Record them, blog about them, video their stories, get those stories out there on social media. News travels fast on social networks.
8. Use Public Relations
The very word ‘public relations’ conjures all sorts of bad stereotypes. Most churches are very shy of the media and reporters. But your local newspaper may be your strength in telling your stories in your local community.
I wrote seven practical tips around using public relations as a communications strategy well a while back. Read it here.
9. Your community is your best ‘marketing strategy’
I’m a bit passionate about this idea. Your community is your best ‘marketing strategy’. Nothing can further the cause of the local church than the community of the local church. How you live your lives out is the best marketing message you could ever wish for. I wrote about it here, it is probably one of my favourite ever posts.
10. Social media is a game changer
Now everyone is a publisher and can share the story of their local church. The ability to reach your community has never been so easy. Imagine how your congregation would tell the story of your church through their own eyes and share it with their friends.
Now that is authentic. Real. Personal.
For my friends who don’t go to church
I realise that you may have seen this post in my feed and felt a bit put out. I want you to know that you are not a target, or a project to aim at. Churches like any other organisation need marketing to authentically tell their story in a crowded and noisy world. That is why I wrote this post. I know that you don’t like to be bible bashed. Honestly, neither do I. But I do believe that the church has a good story to tell and I love helping my community tell it.
Marketing isn’t the answer to growing your church. Marketing can help you tell your church’s story in a noisy world where people are bombarded with marketing messages every single day. Good marketing will support you, rather than take away from your outreach efforts, but it should never be the sum total of your outreach efforts.
What church marketing have you seen that works?