What is Church Marketing? Is it Biblical? Is it for all Churches? Is your Church doing about it?
In my over 25 years experience helping churches grow their congregations with "marketing", I have come up with my definition of what church marketing is—or at least what I believe it should be:
“Church marketing is the action of spreading or promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the use of various types of communication, media, or strategies to capture attention, engage, educate, and finally persuade people to take action.” John Squiric
Anyone who has ever been on a blind date or interviewed for a job understands the impact of first impressions. It is not that we consciously decide to accept or reject someone because of their appearance, but it happens nonetheless. God even had to warn the prophet Samuel to ignore his first impressions when looking for the next king of Israel. “People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). God knew David’s heart. And He also knew that we as people cannot see beyond the outward appearance. It happens with every meeting, and it happens quickly.
Just how long does it take for someone to form an opinion about us? A few minutes? A few seconds? Less. In a study first published in 2006, psychologists discovered that people often form lasting inferences about others in just 100 milliseconds.[i] That’s less time than it took you to read the word milliseconds! And in the study, those inferences correlated highly with judgments participants formed without time constraints. The only thing time afforded was greater confidence that the judgment was correct. First impressions form in the blink of an eye and rarely change with time.
What does this mean for the church? It suggests that the way your church presents (or “markets”) itself is incredibly important. And if you have a desire to bring people who are far from the Lord into His Kingdom, then you need to be doing all you can to connect with them on a level that will resonate with them. For good or bad, the first impression our churches give will form a lasting judgment that will either draw people to Jesus or push them away.
Having worked with hundreds of churches over the last decade, it still amazes me how many believe that they “don’t do marketing.” They think of church marketing negatively, and some even hold it is unbiblical. And to believe others, marketing is a tool of the enemy himself! But this could not be further from the truth. I think where churches get twisted on the idea of church marketing is simply the word itself: “marketing.”
Rev. Daniel Webster may have said it best when he stated, “Any religion that believes in evangelism at its core believes in marketing.”[ii] This statement shows us what church marketing is and what it is not. The chief objection I often hear regarding using marketing is that church leaders do not want to use deceptive practices, false promises, or cheesy offers to get people into the church. And with this, I agree wholeheartedly. But church marketing is something else entirely.
If you don’t think that your church is involved in marketing, think again. Every church does its share of marketing, whether or not they realize it. Consider these questions.
· Does your church have a building?
· Does your church put out any signs or banners?
· Does your church have a parking lot?
· Does your church have a social media presence (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)?
· Does your church have a website?
· Do any of your members ever invite friends or family to church?
· Do you have a worship team?
· Does your church leadership wear clothes during the message?
If you answered yes to any of the above, then you are involved in church marketing. Yes, really. It is that simple. From the moment people browse your website or social media, drive onto your parking lot, or walk into your building, they are forming impressions about you. And everything from the music you sing, to the sermon you preach, and even the clothes you wear, along with every other aspect of your service on Sunday morning, combines in a way that will persuade them to take action—one way or the other.
And everyone is marketing. As Zig Ziglar famously said, “Everyone is in sales. Maybe you don’t hold the title of a salesperson, but if the business you are in requires you to deal with people, you, my friend, are in sales.” We might just as well replace the word sales with the word marketing. The truth is the same. You may object to the word “marketing,” but all of us are involved in marketing our church to those with whom we come in contact.
We in the church have been given a mandate. Jesus commanded His followers: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Mat 28:19-20). How can we say we take this Great Commission seriously if we are not doing everything we can to reach the lost, lonely, and hurting of our communities and beyond?
Jesus’ command tells us to go out, and we must. But this is not to the exclusion of those who live next door to our churches. Our first and most immediate mission field comprises our neighbors. Without effective evangelism and marketing, the nonbelievers around us will continue to do the same things they do every other Sunday—avoid church because they think it has nothing to offer them.
The Apostle Paul hinted at the need to consider the impressions we give off when he stated, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor 9:22b). Paul never compromised the message about Jesus, but he did carefully consider his audience and package his message (and himself) in a way that would draw people to the Lord, not push them away.
I hope that after reading this book and seeing the many biblical examples of how effective marketing works, you will learn to use it to grow your church, reach out, and bring more people into God’s Kingdom. It will not matter what type of marketing vehicle you ultimately use: print, e-mail, social media, word-of-mouth, or something not yet invented at the time of the writing of this book. These biblical principles will apply every time and with whatever method you choose as your means of reaching the lost and inviting them to church.
If you call yourself a church, or if you evangelize in any way, the truth is, you are marketing. Even if you claim you don’t do marketing, that is a form of marketing. You are merely saying that your church is the church that does not reach out to its community and has closed doors. Everything your church says, does, and even more importantly, what others say about your church, is marketing and leaving an impression. Why not make an impression that will be inviting to your local community?
The fall of the local church will not be poor preaching, bad music, or even bad marketing. The fall of the local church will be apathy and irrelevance. How sad it must be for God to hear the words, “I didn’t even know that the church was there.”
Instead of fighting a philosophy of church marketing we disagree with, why not subscribe to a new definition of church marketing that reads like this: “Church marketing is the action of spreading or promoting the Gospel of Jesus Christ through the use of various types of communication, media, or strategies to capture attention, engage, educate, and finally persuade people to take action."
Taken from Marketing Like God: Developing & Implementing a Biblical Marketing Strategy for Church Growth.
Available on Amazon i] Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov, “First Impressions,” Psychological Science 17, no. 7 (July 1, 2006): 592-598. [ii] Elaine Jarvik, “Getting the Good Word Out,” DesertNews.com, September 25, 2004, accessed September 14, 2018, https://www.desertnews.com/article/595093653/Getting-the-good-word-out.html.