I attended a conference last year and sat in a workshop for church marketing.
Throughout the entire workshop, there was an uneasy feeling within me. It wasn’t the speaker. He was great. And throughout the conference, I attended his workshops the most.
But, I guess I just never felt comfortable with marketing and the church. Especially the way he was telling us how his church does it, and how their model can benefit our marketing. Maybe it made me feel uneasy because I’m not into business and marketing, or maybe because the whole talk of marketing made us, as a church, more business-like than I ever want to think.
He recommended, suggested, declared that 10% of the budget should be used for marketing and advertising. Billboards, ads, commercials, so forth. He said that we should try to network out to newspapers and reporters so that when some religious issue arises, the journalists knows who to contact for a Christian perspective. He told us to think of creative ways to advertise.
And the whole time I’m thinking to myself… 10% of the budget, just to get the word out? That 10% of the budget could be put to better use… like helping the poor.

There’s a church here in Costa Mesa that I’ve been trying to attend (never can find the time). But I have yet to see any advertisement from them. They don’t have ads, commercials, billboards or any other signage except for the one in front of the building they use (at least I haven’t seen any ads.)
But, I know of them. Because there’s just a buzz, a feeling from the people I run into. I first heard about this church through my wife’s workplace. The church donated bicycles to various places (including my wife’s shelter) for the kids. I’ve met members of the church at Starbucks and other coffee places and struck up conversations with them. They are genuinely excited about their church and their church’s mission and how their church is going about their mission. The person that did my taxes went to that church, and when he found out I was a pastor, we spent half an hour talking about church, and he couldn’t be more excited to share the type of ministries that his church does (he was lay-leader for a motorcycle ministry) and how they have spread the Gospel to people he thought would never respond to the name of Jesus. The members of the church are genuinely excited for their ministries and for Jesus.

10% of the budget? Maybe they do that. But you know, when the church acts right, acts like a church, I believe the Gospel becomes… irresistible. Or interesting to people around us. When we truly live out our mission, there’s something unique and grace just draws people to Christ. And it creates excitement for people who are involved in the mission of Christ and it excites people like me, who hear about people deeply involved in the mission of Jesus. At least that’s what I believe.
I don’t think money and marketing is necessary.
I think personal invitations, word of mouth and actions of faith will always be far more irresistible than something seen on a piece of paper, no matter how big of a size that paper may be.

8 thoughts on “Buzz…

  1. I am a professional marketer and I agree wholeheartedly with your post. I have always felt uneasy when a church wanted to use my services. When I think about how Jesus and the Apostles did marketing, it sounds closer to the story you told of the people delivering personal messages. Although word-of-mouth is a form of marketing it is not as expensive and impersonal as posters and commercials. I believe the best church marketing is getting out to the people and ministering to the poor, the troubled, the lost… So, your post is dead on and confirms something that has been troubling me lately.

    With that said I have to say that I do agree with the idea of printing small business cards with the church address, contact info, and website info that people can give out with a personal invitation. I like the idea of a blog or website too, they can provide more information to reinforce the personal conversations and provide a way for people to feed their growth in Christ. The cards and the website can all be done very inexpensively and will be nowhere near 10% of most church budgets. So, now I will advise my church clients to better stewards of their budgets and use their congregation as their marketing vehicle and let the body of Christ deliver a message of love and grace. Many won’t listen because they have been to conferences like you attended, but at least I can get it off my conscious.

  2. I’m also a professional marketer. First of all, donating a bunch of bikes to a shelter can be considered marketing. It generates press and talk. Corporations also use this technique. Ever buy a container of Yoplait with a pink cap?

    Second, isn’t evangelism one of the church’s jobs? How do you expect to bring more people to Jesus if you don’t tell anyone about Him?

    If trendy television ads don’t sit well with you, they aren’t a good idea for your church. This does not, however, mean you shouldn’t allocate a portion of your budget for marketing. If 10% makes you nervous, go with 8%. Setting this money aside in your budget is a way of saying “evangelism is important to us.”

  3. Stacy, great points, but Josephs is saying that marketing is necessary, but in the form of word-of-mouth and that he doesn’t see a need to pay for that or mass advertising. You don’t have to take a money bag with you to evangelize. Yet, today it’s hard to do anything with absolutely no cash investment.

    If there is a set aside for a marketing budget, what do you think it should be used for when many of the mainstream marketing tactics are not desired by the church? How do you calculate the percentage used for a marketing budget? How do you justify setting aside a certain percentage without stating the results expected for that percentage?

    I would love to hear your thoughts on this. I am shifting my recommended church marketing tactics to more of a personal nature through word-of-mouth, social networking, and publicity (giving away bikes…). I want to be able to show churches how to budget for marketing. To say to churches, based on your goals you need to spend this much on these items to get these results and we will do this to measure our success at achieving the desired results. The main point is, I want to help churches be good stewards of the money they have, so justifying what money is used for in marketing will be a cornerstone of the marketing strategy.

    Maybe this isn’t the best venue for this discussion, especially without Joseph chiming in, but if something good comes of it to the benefit of the Kingdom, maybe it is.

  4. Websites, business cards, they are necessary…
    but when did evangelism and money ever have to go together?

    We can tell people about Jesus, but we don’t have to go through the media to do so.
    How can we transform the community, without being involved in the community?

    Sure, giving bicycles is a form of publicity… but they were doing it out of their hearts, and not to get people to notice them. We don’t go help the poor and at the same time, contact the newspapers to know what we’re doing…

    I personally view evangelism and marketing as two different worlds…

  5. Hello Joseph. I agree with you. It doesn’t have to cost a thing to evangelize. I do think that delivering the message is a form of advertising and promotion, hence it fits within the definition of marketing. But, you don’t have to use all of the costly media tactics to deliver the message.

    I also believe that if you have a large scale effort to help the poor, you can alert the media to employ their help to get the people to the event. You don’t have to boast about what you are doing, but you can at least let the media know its happening and give them the purpose, date, time and location. So the purpose of the media alert would not be publicity for the organization, but to get more people to the event so you can help as many people as you can.

    Thanks again for the post. It has helped me reform my position and strategy for church marketing.

  6. I think in the end, the best “marketer” is God. It’s cliche, I know, but whose better? Do people lack faith in what God can do?….or maybe people aren’t seeing results because God wants them to do something different?

    In the end, God knows more people than we do and He knows the people that would “fit” best at a certain church. There’s a biblical blueprint in how to gain more people, Acts 2:42-47, cruising with each other everyday, devoting themselves to the word and prayer everyday, having things in common (which is probably Christ) and so on. It says in the end that they didn’t add numbers, but rather God did. “And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

    Don’t think it works? It’s been working for us…because God said it would… just my two cents.

  7. Big D, well spoken. Am I to take it that you believe we are to do nothing and rely on our Faith alone to add numbers to the Church? I know God is the best at everything, he is the author of creation. But, do you think God wants us to live on faith alone with no action on our part? In Acts 3 they marketed, evangelized, healed, ministered…they got out amongst unbelievers. I am not saying that I disagree with you, because you offered a piece of the puzzle I am looking for. I just believe that we have to get out and deliver the gospel to non-believers and not just fellowship with Christians.

    What I am really wondering now is how to better state my position. I have helped churches with mainstream marketing and I feel there is a way that I can consult them to show them that they don’t have to spend the money in this manner. I am not a pastor or minister so they look to me for marketing advice not theology and I am looking for a way to present my position in terms that don’t come off like I’m preaching to them.

    You don’t know how much this is helping me. Thanks to everyone commenting.

  8. Maybe you didn’t like the way the message was delivered, but whether you budget for it or not, you need marketing!

    Do you want people to know about the services/ministries that your church provides? That is marketing!

    Want people to talk about what a great speaker and message your minister delivers regularly? That is marketing!

    When you want to hand out literature that tells about your church or denomination? That too is marketing!

    By and large, marketing costs some sort of out of pocket fees. Whether it is a weekly ad in the paper listing your church/services in the church directory or perhaps doing something more involved.

    At the end of the day, there are alot of churches who are trying their best to highlight the services/ministries they provide. If you are not able to market in some shape or form, how are you going to seperate your church from the others?

    Let me ask you, does it make a difference to you what church someone attends? Or do you want them to attend yours? Because if they do attend yours, your budget to meet the needs or your community and elsewhere will probably enlarge.

    How will someone find out what a great chldrens program, outreach, or myriad of other services that churches provide in general and your church in particular?

    The approach might not have resonated and may have been delivered more with a glove than a hammer, but it should be received in the same manner as some Sunday messages from your minister are. You don’t always agree with them, but in the end, you know they will make you (or your church) better.

    Thanks for listening!

    John Panico

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