Is Church Marketing Right or Wrong?

church jesus signIn my opinion, Church advertising is one of those gray areas. depending on which angle you look at the way some churches advertise, you can make a case for unethical practices or just poor stewardship. The hard part is figuring out if there is a line to draw or even if there should be any boundaries at all. It’s hard for me to determine at what point do we treat the church like a business, or treat it like a family? I mention four questions below that i believe could help us determine some boundaries.

Do we rely on it too much?

How much is too much? Truthfully, I don’t know. I believe that God gave us resources to use as tools to reach people. So, I’m not one of those who believes that we shouldn’t advertise or build church buildings just because you can’t find a verse for it in the New Testament.

I am worried that we rely too much on our advertising to attract others to the city on the hill instead of using the light to attract. What i mean is that our actions should shine a light that reflects Jesus Christ onto the world. Advertising is not bad as long as those who come get some light when they show up. If you use advertising to bring people there, and promos to keep people there, then that’s when i believe we rely on it too much.

Wood, hay, and stubble make can make a lot of light when they are burned, but the fire only lasts for a few moments. On the other hand – gold, silver, & precious stones emit an everlasting glow, and do not decay. How much light would your fellowship have once the flare, and blazes of your promotions burned out? If i say it more directly. . . how much light does your fellowship once the flare of the Sunday performance ends?

Do we spend too much on it?

I realize there is no price limit on how much we should spend to gain 1 soul. But the opposing truth is that if all we had to do was spend money, then i think we would be a lot more successful then we have been. As stewards of God’s kingdom, i think there’s one word to sum up our role – investors. A steward is much more than a person who can keep his master’s possessions safe. A good steward uses wisdom to multiply his master’s wealth.

This is my opinion, but i believe we spend too much money on those who we think are going to deserve God’s grace. We love investing in the middle-class American. If we had to advertise to the poor, then our advertising would be most effective through charitable actions. Advertising to the poor takes a lot of humility, time, and has very little recursive benefits.

One of our struggles as humans is to see the potential that some earthly investments have over others in heaven. That’s why I think most of us are complacent with putting more  money in advertising dollars than in humanitarian efforts. The truth be told, if we wish to advertise Jesus the Christ, find out how Jesus asked us to advertise. And then advertise your advertisement. Make sense? :)

Is Marketing Evanglism?

I don’t think that advertisements need to have a gospel presentation embedded in it. So, maybe this is one of those gray areas. I think the bottom line with advertising is that we should be seeking the lost, or those who need Christian fellowship and accountability. It seems that some churches really lose site of that.

Some churches think their advertising campaign is a PR tool to promote their popularity. It says nothing about Jesus Christ, and when you go to their advertised events, still nothing is said about Jesus Christ. More or less, it’s either a self help seminar, a warm and fuzzy message, or a concert. I think my statement above applies well to this. Find out what Jesus asked us to advertise, then advertise that.

Maybe it’s OK that our goals are strictly for social reasons instead of Gospel reasons? Maybe we can advertise concerts just to break down social barriers – so that people know Christians can have fun as well? Must we always be on the offensive as Christians? I know I am asking a lot of questions, but like i said, there can be a lot of gray areas when it comes to this topic. I don’t think i have this all figured out yet.

What are the pros and cons?

The Pros

1. It spreads awareness – There’s nothing wrong with telling people – this is what we do, and this is where we stand.

2. It nags people – The consistent reminder here and there wouldn’t hurt.

3. You can focus on certain demographics – Targeting age groups and certain cultures is an effective way to communicate that visitors  will feel welcome and comfortable around those who are like them.

The Cons

1. It costs money – According to Center for Church Communication in 2005 “80% of churches spend less than $10,000 on marketing and promotions each year (includes bulletins, newsletters, web sites, mailings, etc.)”. That figure seems lower than i expected. Don’t know how they come up with their numbers.

2. It’s used as bait – Usually you are not going to advertise the penalty of sin, and that we all deserve to burn in hell. More than likely you are going to advertise a concert, some self help sermons, or a pot-luck dinner or something.

Conclusion

I don’t think I’ve come to any solid conclusions here. Like i said, i have questions, and i see a lot of gray areas. I think this is partly because i don’t believe that Church is an event that occurs on Sundays. So, why should we judge how we prepare for that day different than we would any other day. The important thing is that we are a family, but there’s no laws against using business techniques. Bottom line- Christians have a job to do,- we have the liberty to use resources to get the message out- and we should be wise stewards.

Do you have any Pros or Cons that you wish to add to churches spending money on marketing? Do you think i was wrong with my analysis anywhere?

Jared Bartholomew is the author of www.tithing.com. There are over 300 articles written on research and reviews about tithing information.

Posted in Stewardship Tagged with: , , ,
7 comments on “Is Church Marketing Right or Wrong?
  1. Alan Boyer says:

    As a small business coach I’ve discovered that most churches miss the point that their main focus is “marketing God,” “bringing more people to God.” Most churches wait to see who walks in and that misses the whole point of reaching out to those that either don’t even see your church, or even more important may not even want what they see as the image of the church.

    Marketing that truly works is never about you, your products or services, but is, instead, about what the prospect wants or needs. In other words those that are out there trying to sell don’t sell as much as those who are out there trying to find how to help the prospect get what he wants.

    And churches frequently miss that point. If they are out there SELLING, or, as you mentioned, EVANGELISING, you are missing what connects with the MOST people.

    Now don’t get me wrong about what you sell, the Bible, God, Jesus. That’s important, but what starts the relationship with the MOST people out in the world will bring in more than if you go out SELLING what you have. Marketing and sales is about building relationships starting from the prospects wants and needs, building the relationship so that he actually gets a chance to see that what you have is GREAT and ONLY THEN will he be open to learning about what you have.

    Let’s also put this in another perspective. We can marketing to those who already want us and are just looking for the RIGHT CHURCH, which are few, very few, and becoming fewer all of the time. Those are certainly important targets.

    However, there are FAR MORE people out there who either are aware of the church, but not really looking; or those who are totally turned off by the church who could be reached by a different approach.

    When we EVANGELIZE we are SELLING the church before we build the relationship. If we approach those who either aren’t looking, or turned off by the church to help them get what they want (help with problems in their lives, comfort, satisfaction) instead of just trying to sell them, we will connect with 90% of them. Once we develop the relationship THEN they will want to see what we have is GREAT.

    That’s how GREAT marketing really works.

    One major problem is that we’ve been conditioned to think marketing is that pile of junk mail that we throw away as soon as it looks anything like what we perceive as marketing.

    And that’s one of the reasons that people sometimes believe that a church shouldn’t “market.” But that’s not GOOD marketing. That marketing doesn’t really work.

    Only a few, very few, marketing pieces come across your desk that are GREAT. Those are the ones that GRAB you and pull you in, but they then lead you to get to know, like, and trust the marketer.

    Poor marketing PUSHES God out to the masses and people pull back, they see it as JUNK marketing. But GREAT marketing ATTRACTS people in to what you have, AND THEN it develops a relationship where they are ATTRACTED to even more of what you have and that’s when they want to know about what you have, God, Jesus, the Bible, and other benefits you have to share with them.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective on church marketing. Being in the advertising field myself, i can’t simply discount marketing techniques being used for the church either.

      – jared

  2. David Moore says:

    This is a touchy subject. I just uploaded a blog post responding to another blog that I think has this church marketing thing all wrong. As you say, there are some gray areas and there certainly are some bad churches doing it the wrong way. But there are many, many churches doing it right and being stained by those who think ALL church marketing is bad. Like you, if the word marketing is dropped and evangelize or outreach is substituted, is all ok?

  3. Daniel says:

    Often, the debate is muddied by semantical differences. What is ‘marketing’ really? In the context of ‘church’ does it automatically gain a redeemed connotation? It may be helpful to remind ourselves that “church marketing” should not denigrate the dignity of the Body of Christ, nor reduce it to the level of secular marketing. It is a tool for spreading the life-changing Word to as many people as possible. The article is thought-provoking, and David’s comments are helpful

  4. Alan Boyer says:

    Daniel, when you say the debate is muddled. What that means to me is that your initial concept of marketing is about hyping up, carnival type selling and marketing.

    That is your mindset about marketing, but is not even a mindset that even works in marketing. Marketing that works is ALWAYS about what the customer wants and needs rather than what I want to sell.

    Therefore, marketing is always about helping someone get what they want not pushing something down their throat. That puts a totally different connotation on it.

    And when it comes to the church, we were told to go spread the word. That’s marketing. But even when we “spread the word” caution must be used to not go “sell what we have”, the word, God, Christ, or anything like that. It’s still about finding someone who needs help, and then helping him find the way to where his answers are, which is the word, God, Christ.

    So we were told to go spread the word, and I believe that churches today usually wait to see who walks in the door rather than actrively going out there to see who needs their help.
    .-= Alan Boyer´s last blog ..How to Find a Coach — How to Find THE BEST Business Coach =-.

  5. fred says:

    Mr Steward

    Again I ask you please delete my comments on tighthing thank you. As for marketing in the way I see it, most churches are preaching what itching ears want to hear.
    They don’t want to preach gloom and doom, that one day in their life they may have to be beheaded or denie jesus. many believe they will miss this by the rapture, but truely the bible says that no man may buy or sell lest he have the mark. Now think about this no man, it don’t say no man except those that were taken up in the rapture. Jesus said behold I come quickly and my judgements are with me.

    Churches don’t preach this any more.

  6. Fred,
    If you do not want your comments to be seen, then do not comment. I do not delete comments from people unless they are vulgar or defamatory.
    .-= steward´s last blog ..Bible Verses on Spirit Led Giving =-.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*