Market Your Church Wisely
- Whitney Hopler Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2006 22 Feb
Like all pastors with a passion to reach their communities for Christ, you want your church to grow. But if your hard work still isn’t bringing many new people through your church’s doors, you probably need to work on your marketing.
Marketing isn’t just for corporate business. At its core, marketing transcends commercial use. Marketing is simply managing people’s perceptions. And it is just as important for your church to do that as it is for any company, because smart marketing leads to successful growth.
Here’s how you can market your church wisely:
Broaden your perspective. Understand that marketing affects every aspect of your church, from its name and ministry style to its services and building. Know that marketing covers much more than just your church’s advertising efforts; it incorporates the sum total of how people experience and think about your church. Realize that marketing comes from knowing how people perceive your church today, having a vision for how you would like them to perceive you, and making decisive changes in your way of doing and communicating things so people will ultimately perceive your church as you desire.
Sit in the congregation’s seats. Try to envision how people perceive your church right now so you can use that information to develop your marketing plan. Remember that Jesus adjusted His topics and preaching style to fit His audience. He met people where they were and spoke on their level so they could understand clearly, yet also inspired them to rise to the next level. Imagine that you’re experiencing your church for the first time. Consider what visitors might think about topics such as: the concept of church in general, your denomination, your church’s name, location, Website, worship style, ministry style, ministry focus, vocabulary, signage, décor, doctrine, your church’s history, printed materials, leadership team, greeters, children’s and youth ministries, etc. Write down how you think visitors would think and feel about your church. Then write down how you want them to think and feel about it. Compare notes with others on your leadership team. As you discuss issues, be respectful of each other, being careful not to place blame but to work positively together toward common goals.
Get to know your target audience. Discover as much as you can about the people in your community. Study demographic data about local residents to find lifestyle patterns and trends. Spend time with people in your area regularly, observing them in public places and building friendships with a variety of people who live around you but don’t attend church. Get to know their needs, hopes, joys, and struggles. Engage with them in their element, around what’s important to them (not just what’s important to you). Learn how to speak their language so you can make your church relevant to them and connect both personally and spiritually to them. Then, consider the crowd your church is currently reaching: Does it reflect your community? Think about which lifestyle categories of people your church is most adept at reaching.
Make visitors feel welcome. Communicate to visitors that you’re well prepared for them. Make your Website easy to use, state your service times on your sign, and clearly indicate where various places are inside your church (such as where visitors should drop off their children). Design the service so that it’s inviting and not intimidating to the unchurched. Try to make visitors feel as if they fit in. Let them know what to expect from the experience. Design your message and choose songs to be relevant and powerful for people at all spiritual levels. Teach like Jesus taught, through practical illustrations aimed to help people understand the message. Be sensitive to those who may not understand certain spiritual concepts; explain everything thoroughly.
Motivate members to invite friends. Remember that most visitors will come to your church at the invitation of your members. Understand that your current members are walking billboards for your church in the community; if they live out their faith well and speak positively about your church, people will be drawn to visit. Encourage your members to openly and regularly share their concerns about your church, and work to resolve problems so they’ll feel comfortable inviting people to visit.
Create value. Strive to make attending your church such a valuable experience that it distinguishably enhances people’s lives. Try to make it more valuable to them than spending their time somewhere else on Sunday morning (or whenever you hold your worship services). Work to make church so worthwhile for people that they feel as if they’re missing something valuable if they stay home or choose an alternative activity.
Develop an atmosphere that fosters growth. Pay close attention to how closely you and other leaders in the church are walking with God. Keep in mind that people should be able to recognize that the Holy Spirit is active in your lives and in your church – it’s the cornerstone of the atmosphere you create. Instill a vision into all staff and volunteers of the type of church they’re part of and the atmosphere they should deliberately create for visitors. Inspire everyone to do their best to give each visitor the best experience they possibly can. At every service, communicate clearly what the steps are along the journey of progressing in maturity at your church. (For example: attendance, salvation experience, growth groups, membership, leadership class, volunteering, full-time staff.) Encourage people regularly to move up to the next level. Strive to create worship experiences that challenge believers, yet also make them walk away wishing that their unsaved friends had been there.
Understand the difference between true and felt needs. Realize that unless you can connect with people on the level they feel they need, you can’t introduce them to their real need. For example, people might feel that there’s something missing in their lives, that they have questions in need of answers, or that their kids need to be in church to learn good morals. But their true need is for a saving relationship with Christ. If you help meet their felt needs, over time, they can discover their true need and begin a relationship with Christ.
Create a brand. Plan strategically to create a church brand – a consistent perception over time in the minds of people who encounter your church. Try to anticipate people’s questions about who your congregation is and where you’re going, then answer them in advance through your brand. When making decisions, always consider your brand. When promoting your church, vividly communicate your church’s brand. Filter your decisions and your communication through your brand. Regularly ask yourself, “Is this consistent with who we’ve defined ourselves to be, as God led us?” Use graphic design to convey the essence of your church’s brand through printed promotional materials and your Website. Strive to provoke a pre-defined response in people who see the design.
Visualize the future. Ask God to help you and your leadership team picture your church next year, two years from now, and in five years. Discuss the vision, reach agreement on it, and let it fuel your church’s passion and direction. Whenever you’re considering how to spend time, energy, and money in the future, remind yourself of your church’s vision and make choices in light of that and your church’s brand. Meet with your leadership team regularly to stay on track and make adjustments as God gives you all fresh insights.
Adapted from Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth, copyright 2006 by Richard L. Reising. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Mich., www.bakerpublishinggroup.com.
Richard L. Reising is a recognized authority on church marketing and branding. He is founder and president of Artistry Marketing Concepts LLC, an organization based in Dallas, Texas, that helps churches and ministries make wise use of marketing, design, and technology. He has helped thousands of ministries in the United States and worldwide through speaking engagements, training seminars, and consulting services. To find out more about ChurchMarketing 101 seminars and other resources, visit www.churchmarketing101.com. For information about other marketing services, visit Reising’s company site at www.artistrymarketing.com.