How important is it to market the local church? Should we even use the word ‘marketing’ and the church together? Why does it make people uncomfortable?
The idea of marketing the church is uncomfortable for people, perhaps, because they may feel that they are selling the faith or peddling Christianity. But in a real sense, marketing is no different than outreach. When we reach out to people, we are making them aware of the church’s presence. We are letting them know what the church's purpose is to do in the community, and more than that, we are letting them know that there is a God who loves them very much.
People need to know that there is a place that cares for them and can offer them hope for a life beyond what this world offers. Marketing the church isn’t about selling something that people don’t need. It is about offering them someone who can set them free as well as a community of people who will be their family.
Marketing is about getting the message out in a way that connects with people’s hearts. It is to convey to them that there are people who care and a place full of spiritual and physical resources that will help them to fulfill their destiny and purpose in life.
Too often, churches go unnoticed in their community. I remember speaking with people at a nearby shopping center within sight of our church campus. I asked them what they thought the building in the distance was. Of course, it was our church sanctuary. However, most of the people I spoke with had no idea and almost all of the people questioned lived within a two-mile radius of the church. We determined that we needed to become more known in our area so we put a strategy in place that has helped over the years.
Today, more than ever, we need a strategy that reaches out to people wherever they may be. There are tools available to us to reach these people - tools like social media, Facebook, a website, a blog site, community mailers, etc. We just need to be willing and aggressive! People need to know where you are and what you have to say.
Every church is different and every community has its uniqueness. Perhaps it would be wise as a leader to sit down with your team and plan out some additional things that can help. For example, prayerfully plan a calendar with monthly or quarterly events that you can promote to the community. You can take advantage of Easter and Christmas, of course. But consider other things in between. You may schedule a Spring Celebration; Summer Bible School for children; or a Fall Festival in Autumn. Mother’s Day and Father’s Day are also good times to engage the community. Design these events with the unchurched in mind and be sure to budget accordingly. Though each community is unique, some common things appeal to most.
In addition to calendaring events, there is also a need to be hospitable. Make sure you are prepared for new people. When guests show up, they need to be welcomed and treated lovingly. They need to be assisted with their children and guided on how to navigate the campus, especially the areas where their children will be.
A church marketing strategy isn’t only external to the church, but it is also an internal work as well. Once people find you and attend, they need to feel like this is the place for them. It should become a place where they connect with authentic disciples of Christ who truly care for them. They need to not only hear the gospel message but also see it in action in the lives of those who will receive them.
It is important to have a church marketing strategy and if you don’t like the word ‘marketing’, use the word ‘outreach’. Whatever way you want to communicate it, the important thing is that we make it known to the community around us that there is a place that lifts Christ up and we are convinced that if He be lifted up, He will draw people to Himself. Our call is to co-labor with Christ as did the early disciples in making Christ known. May we see His church grow all to the glory of God!