Church Public Relations
By Paul A. Murray
Public relations makes all the effort put into leading, staffing, financing and building a church that is really worthwhile. A church can do correctly all that, and fail to let the public know about out it and the church will not be growing and effective. Public relations is the process of relating to people what is happening in a positive manner that will encourage participation. Public relations involves two major components. First, one must understand the program. This involves fact finding and determining what a church is and its strengths and weaknesses. Second, planning a program of communication that will inform and encourage. This will involve the use of media and techniques.
Public relations is important to the church world today. Pastors and church workers need to know about public relations and marketing. Churches that only hang up a sign that gives the name of the church and the time of services are not reaching many people. Public relations helps the church go to the highways and hedges and compel the people to come in. Public relations is concerned with communicating with those inside and outside of the church. It is a means of channeling information in a positive manner designed to produce involvement.
Jesus said to His disciples, “Go into all the world, and make the good news known to every creature.” The word “preach” is used in that verse in the King James translation, but the concept idea is to communicate the Gospel or make the Gospel known. One way this can be done is through church public relations. The major task of public relations is to make Christ known. In fact, public relations can be defined as “making friends for Christ and His Church.” One writer even took the abbreviation, P.R., and said it could stand for “Proclaim the Redeemer.”
In all public relations, the church should be careful and see to it that Christ is glorified. Two Scripture passages might help to keep the entire subject in proper perspective. First in Matthew 5:16 “Let your light so shine, that men see Jesus.” Then in 2 Corinthians 4:5, “We preach not ourselves, but Jesus.” Public relations should focus on making Jesus known and accepted. Churches have not done the job they could be doing in this important area.
In fact, many pastors and churches have not taken advantage of the methods of publicity afforded them to carry the news message of the work of Christ to thousands, even to millions, at once. It is the opinion of this writer that this lack of publicity is not so much a lack of desire. It is, rather, insufficient knowledge of how to go about it and perhaps a shortage of funds to pay for it. The shortage of funds is not within the scope of this section, but the church should not allow insufficient knowledge of how to go about it to prevent him from getting out the Good News.
Definition and description
A good definition of public relation is understanding and evaluating the church program, and communicating to those inside and outside the church to gain their understanding and acceptance of the program. This definition shows the progressive steps for establishing a church public relations program.
Understand the programs
At the very beginning, the programs of the church must be understood. This involves becoming familiar with every organization and ministry within the church. A basic part of developing understanding would be to learn the basic objectives or purposes of each ministry or program of the church. What are they seeking to accomplish? This is what needs to be communicated in public relations. It also asks members to state why they joined, and why they attend that particular church. This gives the kind of information needed to do public relations.
Evaluate the programs
After becoming familiar with all the church programs, the next step would be to evaluate them. Public relations does not want to inform the public of any weaknesses Apostolic Witness program leaders this information.
Public relations does not want to deceive the public by communicating something untrue. The public relations program seeks to find the strengths of all the church programs and major on making these strengths known. The publicity should always accent the positives. If the church has an outstanding music ministry, then feature the music in the publicity. In evaluating the programs, a number of questions need to be asked. What are the strengths? What are the bragging points? Why do people work in this ministry? Why do people attend this program?
What are positive ways this program improves the community? Do people join this church because of this program? Questions like these will give good public relations material.
Identify the publics
A public or audience is a group of persons who have common interests and needs and could belong together under certain circumstances or situations. Churches have two major categories of publics: those inside and those outside. Many smaller publics are a part of these two major ones.
Publics inside the church would include:
* Leadership with separate categories for deacons, Sunday School workers, bus workers, ushers, choir members,
* Active members
* Inactive members
* Nonmembers attending
* Family members of attendees
* Age groups with separate categories for children, youth, young married, retired, college students, singles
Publics outside the church would include:
* Christians in the community but not members of a local church
* People who do not profess to be Christians
* Members of other churches
* Other churches
* Businesses near the church
* Governmental agencies
* Communication media
Determining the media
Determine which media to use to communicate the message in the most efficient and effective manner. There are many ways of doing public relations: direct mail, radio and television news and advertising, newspaper news and advertising, Internet, signs and billboards, pulpit announcements and many others. A combination of several media will best communicate an important message. Both the message and the public must be considered in determining the vehicle of communication.
Who will prepare the message to be communicated? Of course. the pastor is ultimately responsible for all the programs of a church, including the public relations program. However, because of the many duties he has, he can delegate the responsibility for public relations. Very few churches are large enough to hire a full-time public relations director. That would appear to be an ideal solution.
There are at least three other alternatives. First, the task may be assigned to a committee. Some recommend establishing a public relations committee to carry out this responsibility. In many churches this will not be effective. A second solution is to assign public relations to a staff member. If a staff member has expertise in public relations, and if he or she is willing to publicize all the programs of the church, this can be a good solution. Third, a layman could serve as a volunteer public relations director. If a professional public relations person is in the church., he or she maybe willing to offer ability and expertise to serve the Lord. This can be an excellent solution if that person can be kept informed.