Is church marketing dead?

James Dalman at Church Communications Pro posted an interesting blog article asking Is church marketing dead?  He concludes that it is:

Church marketing is dying. Throwing a slick advertising piece or website at the public isn’t going to cut it much longer. The church of tomorrow will require more than a campaign. It will require investing personally and hanging out in people’s jacked up lives.

My thoughts…

I just happend to spend some time yesterday at the Exponential Conference (AKA 2008 National New Chuch Conference) in Orlando.  And I can tell you that there were dozens of companies with exhibits there offering services to help brand and market new churches.  So, if church marketing is dying there are a lot of people who don’t know it yet.

I agree with James that generally speaking that over-the-top, hype marketing is not as effective as it used to be.  I’m not talking specifically about church marketing but marketing in general.  All of us have been subjected to so much marketing in our lifetimes that we are skeptical, even cynical of everything.  In response, people are looking for authenticity.  We want things that are real not just phoney packaging.

There is still a need for churches to reach out to people in their community and so I don’t think church marketing is dying, but I do think church marketing is evolving…

First, I think each church has to have an identity of its own and know what it is.  Every church is different.  Every church has different priorities and a different culture.  There are a lot of churches today that are simply trying to copy other churches or trying to copy parts of a lot of different churches and they really don’t know who they are.  It kind of reminds me of American Idol – some of the singers seem to change week to week mimicing the original artist of the song they’re singing while others know who they are and “make each song their own.” 

Second, I think that now more than ever it’s important that the way a church portrays itself on brochures, postcards, its website, etc lines up with reality.  You can’t say you’re a church that accepts people as they are if gossip and judgementalism are a part of your church culture.  You can’t call yourself a church that is relevant to people’s lives if there are taboo subjects your church won’t address.

(Added 1:00 PM) And I would add that church marketing, whether online or offline, can never replace personal evangelism.  Church marketing simply allows a church to cast a wider net – to connect with people who are outside of the relational circles of its members and attenders.

 

About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

One Comment

  • Thanks for the mention! I agree with the two points of your post and churches do need to reach out in their community, but marketing alone isn't going to cut it, and the way some churches are doing it now repulses unchurched people even more.

    I know there are a lot of branding and marketing companies now who offer their services to churches, but in five years or less, most of them will be gone for various reasons. Many churches who are now ready to make the marketing "2.0" leap are entering the laggard phase of church marketing and it's almost too late. I am not saying that they shouldn't develop a great website, brochure, or connect cards but the landscape has already changed.

    I've watched these church fads come and go (and the companies who try to capitalize on them)and it's time to rethink how church people who are really serious about their faith can effectively connect to the people in their community…and hype and extravagant experiences aren't going to do it anymore.

    That's just my two cents though. 🙂

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