Church Marketing: More Than Church Signs

Church Marketing: More Than Church Signs
(Reach Out in New Ways)
By Josh Whitehead


Outreach depends on messages that speak to the audience.

My wife and I enjoy reading church signs. One of our favorite road-trip memories is belly-laughing while trying not to wake the sleeping babies behind us. We had just seen a church sign that read, “God only answers knee-mail.” Who thinks of these quips? While they are full of truth and sometimes eye-catching to Christians, how are they perceived by the non-churched in our communities? For instance, does a sign reading, “Don’t be God’s weakest link” scream, “Come inside and worship with us!”? Or how about, “Always remember that Hell is uncool,” “Call 911: This church is on fire” or “Come early for a good seat in the back”? (Please send me any others that you have seen.) Although there were likely good intentions behind the signs, the intended audience or the message presented were probably never considered.

Marketing as a form of outreach has continued to grow as churches look for new and creative ways to get the message of Christ into the world. More and more churches are using creativity in their weekly messages, Web sites and overall approach to ministry in the 21st century. However, to avoid missed opportunities and making common mistakes in marketing, let’s look at some things to consider as your church develops a plan to reach out to your community. …

Consider the intended audience and message.

Two years ago, our church began a campaign to invite the unchurched to be a part of our worship experiences. Our church was founded on reaching out to non-Christians, helping them connect with Christ and ultimately grow in their walk with Him. As we considered advertising to reach new people, I realized something: Our options were unlimited. Through a friend, God led me to begin a relationship with Jad – a local advertising representative for a radio station. At that point in time, Jad would consider himself unchurched. As I explained that we were trying to reach people ages 25-35 with children, he responded, “So, you’re trying to reach me.” He led us to really analyze our intended audience and message. Then, he showed us how we could reach that group in our local market. Although we could have advertised on some more expensive, well-known stations, we chose the station that hit our intended audience demographically with the appropriate message – it was a classic rock station.

Remember the primary rules of marketing.

There are some rules in marketing that must be followed when beginning an advertising campaign. The two greatest things to consider outside of your intended audience and message are frequency and reach. Advertisers looking out for your best interest will never let you have a frequency (the number of times you touch a person) that falls below three.
Many times, campaigns focus solely upon the reach (the maximum number of people that you can touch in a given market). Churches often fall prey here because reach is usually less expensive. However, without frequency and reach working together, your message will be lost within the clutter of other messages. One note: remember to ask lots of questions about cable advertising. Cable companies rarely talk about frequency – it is difficult to achieve because they have so many different stations. They often talk about the number of spots only, which is not always useful, even though it is less expensive.

Look for mediums that others are not using.

I recently sat in a meeting that evaluated the effectiveness of using theater advertising for our church. In the past, we’ve used radio, television and billboard as the primary means of getting our message out. The agent had some great insight into advertising in 2008. This is an election year, and many people get tired of the negative political commercials on television – often opting to go to the movies instead. Historically, movie theaters see an increase in attendance during election years. Also, don’t forget this is supposed to be a blockbuster movie season in the summer and fall. The theater closest to our church averages 110,000 to 140,000 people each month – many of them in the same audience that we are trying to reach. As such, we are considering pre-show advertising in our local theater this fall.

Advertising agencies can be a great help, even though they often get a bad rap.

In our first year, we budgeted $95,000 to get the message out via advertising – for those who do not know, that is really nothing! If it weren’t for Jad, I would have wasted a lot of that money and time trying to learn the world of advertising. If you really have a desire to get the message of Christ out through ads, consider using an agency. The agency we use has been a significant part of our effectiveness in ’08. They can buy media spots for less than we can because they buy in bulk for all of their clients together. However, because churches are nonprofits, most firms will pass a portion of those savings along to the church by charging less, and many mediums will throw in extra advertising to nonprofits. The bottom line is to get some professional help as you consider making this type of investment.

Prepare for the negative and focus on the positive.

The first week that we began advertising in our area, everyone was mad. Non-Christians didn’t think a church should be able to advertise on a secular station, and Christians were mad because they believed we were saying our church was better than theirs (should they have been listening to classic rock? Ha!). Overall, I fielded about 75 calls or e-mails that first week, and then it stopped. Now, I get to hear stories about people who come to our church because they saw a billboard or heard a commercial, and their lives were transformed by the radical love of Christ.

Jesus was very clear in Acts 1:8 that His plan is for believers to tell the world about Christ. We work to equip every believer to do that. At the same time, we know there are people out there looking for something in life that can make a difference – and they can find it in our weekend services as they are introduced to Christ.
No matter what your thoughts are about marketing or advertising, consider new ways to impact the lives of those that do not know Him in your community. Never forget: Our culture responds to advertising.

Josh Whitehead is the executive pastor at Faith Promise Church in Knoxville, Tenn. Faith Promise is a fast-growing, hyper-contemporary church led by Chris Stephens.

From: web site. June 2008