Advertising Your Church Has Changed!

Advertising Your Church Has Changed!
It Hasn’t “All Been Done.” Cutting-Edge Ideas Still Exist
By Ken Godevenos, MBA, CCP, CHRP


These days, one thing is for sure: people are advertising their churches. Go online and you’ll find more than 10 pages listing websites on how to do it. One site adamantly opposes church marketing and makes a case for the best promotion being a community of believers living the way it should. On the other hand, one church in Snellville, Ga., is using a giant sign advertising free gas to draw people in.

This reminded me of the old “Certs” commercials. As two people fight over whether or not the product is a candy or a breath mint, the announcer says “Stop! You’re both right — it’s two mints in one.” The moral of the story is this: you must live as a community of Christ-followers and advertise your church.

Think Beyond the Norm

For years, churches have been taking out small ads in local papers advertising Sunday services. House drop-offs advertising special seasonal services have also worked. More recently, many churches have offered their Net-surfing seekers elaborate websites. But there remain some cutting-edge ideas that aren’t being used enough: You Tube (or its equivalent), complete with video. You’ll be surprised what can be done. If it’s still online, check out the “I’m a Christ Follower” Mac vs. PC parody at for a great example (shown above).

Sand advertising and other unique locale marketing. Churches situated near beaches can advertise with large “sand billboards.” Additionally, there’s “footprint advertising,” which is done with imprinted beach sandals. Every step your adherents take on the beach leaves a message. Other churches can make the same impact with flower or garden advertising space if they’re near parks that allow sponsorship for their maintenance. Be creative!

Try-vertising. This real-world product placement strategy is done by integrating your goods and services into daily life in a relevant way. Consumers can make up their minds based on their experience, not your message. Let’s look to Nike Shoes in Europe as an example. Nike used “trial vans,” each contained more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. Reps took the vans to strategic spots (popular running paths and athletic events) and let people try out their shoes.

“What if churches had trial vans?” asks Kent Shaffer, writer and founder of Shaffer concludes that a church could feed its live or pre-recorded services to trial vans with big-screen TVs, and then show up at strategic places on Sunday mornings where lots of non-churchgoers gather. They could experience church and decide for themselves. If this sounds like a good idea, Shaffer points out that much thought and consideration should be given to the ‘look’ of the vans, the people representing the church, the literature being handed out, and which service is broadcast. You’ll also need to research permission and legal requirements.

Lifestyle advertising. Traditional advertising doesn’t cut through all the ad clutter in our world, and radical, experimental advertising is often too risky for its cost. As a result, some church leaders have found relationships to be the most effective way to reach people.
This entails helping a person in need. While this is best done through silent promotion in the way you and your people live, “how you live” can also be referred to in your actual advertising. The Salvation Army has done this for years. Your church doing it might well provide a new way of connecting to many in your area.

Go to your target group. Sounds simple, right? It is, but many church leaders miss the point. If you’re trying to reach college students, advertise in college newspapers. If you want to reach musicians, advertise in their local magazines. Get creative, and use advertising designers who know your target group.

Three Cautions

1. Advertising your church should never be at the expense of another church or denomination. While it’s a great idea in itself, in the You Tube video referred to earlier, the church delivering the advertisement would definitely hurt the cause of Christ if it was one of just two churches in town.

Never claim you’re the best, or the greatest, or the biggest, or any other “est.” Don’t even imply that you’re “better” than other churches. Have your spiritual, Christ-like head on when being creative in advertising.

2. Deliver what you advertise. The success of your advertising is only as good as the sampling of your real product.

3. While advertising needs to be entertaining, your substance is more important. We all need to be creative in how we get people to experience church and learn about Christianity and Christ.

But when it comes to delivering the truth, people don’t get to heaven on entertainment — they need to be given the water that quenches spiritual thirst. And ultimately, they need to receive the solid food to live the life Christ intended for them, including the trials and tribulations. There’s nothing entertaining about that.

Ken Godevenos has served on and/or chaired several church boards. He is a human resources and church consultant, mediator and executive director of SCA International (

From: web site. June 2009