What should churches do about marketing and advertising? Some believe the church should not use “Madison Avenue” techniques. But what does God think about marketing and advertising?
In Mark 1:1-8 we find John the Baptist “advertising” the coming of Messiah.
The ancient prophets all “advertised” coming events, including the arrival of the awaited Messiah. Jesus Himself said, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house (Matthew 5:15).
The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
You might say, “the heavens advertise for God.”
No matter how good your product is, you have to let others know about it, whether it’s a church service, a missions’ event, special event, a banquet, or whatever!
Suppose we decided to have a church conference and then not let anybody know about it because we didn’t want to use “Madison Avenue” techniques? I used to hear that from older ministers when I was just a young pastor. “Oh, I’d never use those Madison Avenue techniques!”
Well, I happen to believe that God created the concept of advertising. Madison Avenue stole the techniques from God. God creates / Satan perverts. The words “publish,” “proclaim,” “preach,” and “prophesy” all have their roots in the same word as “advertising.”
Marketing and advertising are not the same.
A good marketing plan is all-inclusive, involving everyone on the team. It is designed to create a desirable image or concept of your church in the minds of the community. Marketing includes branding—being consistent in your look: church signage, brochures, web design and upkeep, print media, radio, and television.
Advertising is narrower and spotlights specific events.
For example, one summer we offered a free small book to everyone on our mailing list. The little book included advertising for our church. Our investment: $1800. Our return: An increase in weekly offerings by $2332 per week; $10,000 per month.
One particular year we declared October and November as “Harvest Time.” We strategically made 30-second radio spots and advertised in local shopping guides using personal testimonies.
Our investment: $3000. Our return: Attendance went up by an average of 103 per week, and the offerings went up by an additional $4000 per week. That was about $32,000 increase over the two-month Harvest period.
The best advertising shows the reader a benefit. If you only advertise an event, you are not getting the best advantage from your advertising dollars, and probably will be ignored by the public.
Everybody is thinking, “What’s in it for me?” So when you design your advertising, always ask, “Does this tell the reader or listener how they will benefit from the product, service, or event?” Good advertising is not just information, but motivation.
In our early years, we advertised a weeklong healing school. We did not advertise on the religious pages of the newspaper, only the local, inexpensive shopping guides.
150 people attended (half were not from our church, and about forty or so were un-churched or not yet born again).
A local television news program heard about it and featured us on their “Health Beat” program at no cost to us.
The results: A famous, well-known businessman in town attended the healing school and was miraculously healed of multiple sclerosis. Several were saved, and others were healed too. Seven new families joined the church as a result of that weeklong school.
Our advertising investment was $400, and our offerings went up by over $100 a week.
I found that the best advertising is to provide your members with brochures and literature to hand out to their friends. 80% will come to an event because a friend or family member invited them. So make sure the lion share of your advertising budget goes to providing your members with handouts, videos, and other advertising tools.
The next methods are direct mail marketing and web marketing. We still need to do both. We have the web generation and the print generation to reach. Some of today’s social media can take your event viral.
The more you advertise a good product, the more it works in your favor. The more you advertise a bad product, the more damages you incur. In other words, if you advertise a friendly church you better be super friendly, or the advertising will damage you more than help you. That’s why everyone should be on board for the church marketing/advertising campaign.
Three books I often recommend to pastors
If Jesus had a forerunner, you need one too. That forerunner is called advertising.
Now, get ready for the shock. I believe a church marketing budget (which includes advertising and communication) should be between 10 – 12% of the entire budget.
When I served as pastor in Lansing, I produced a daily “Pastor’s Minute” radio broadcast airing on a few of the secular radio stations. I gave a one-minute, upbeat message every day.
I enjoyed an audience of over 150,000 listeners. I kept the “Pastor’s Minute” as soft advertising, designed to make our church a household name. When un-churched people think of a church, when they face a crisis, they think of only one church—Mount Hope Church. Day after day, they felt they had a relationship with me because I came to them every day with another bite-sized, upbeat, encouraging word from the Lord.
The people in our city called us, “The church with all the flags,” because of the fifty international flags flying in our driveway, representing world missions. So…I always used that as a tagline on the radio. I would close with something like this: “Thanks for listening. I’m Pastor Dave Williams, and I’d love to meet you at Mount Hope Church—the come as you are church, west of the Lansing Mall on Creyts Road at Michigan Avenue – the church with all the flags!”
You can have a great thing going, but, if you don’t tell anyone about it, your success will only be minimal. Don’t light a light and then hide it under a basket. Let the light shine for Jesus!