I think it’s funny when I hear about churches that bash marketing tactics. I’ve yet to find a church that doesn’t use at least a few marketing techniques. Some churches have opted for the sign out front, a bulletin promoting ministries and upcoming events, or an ad in the local newspaper with service times. Other churches have gone even farther with marketing techniques like billboards, radio spots or viral videos. But every church I’ve connected with is, at the very least, hopeful that word-of-mouth marketing will happen when existing members invite their friends and family.
Wherever you land on that continuum and whatever you want to call it, most churches interested in fulfilling the Great Commission want more people to show up on Sunday morning—or for more folks to take the next step in their spiritual journey. So with that goal in mind, here are several marketing mistakes churches often make that you’ll want to avoid as you strive to reach people.
- Promoting your church instead of generating a response. No one really cares that you are First Church Such-and-Such. And, no one really cares what your building looks like. Promote a message series over the church. Promote a conversation over the church. But don’t promote the church or a specific ministry. Others will do that for you if it’s worth promoting.
- Making a promise you can’t keep. The world already thinks churches are filled with hypocrites, so make sure you exceed expectations on everything you say you’ll do. The easiest place to begin is with the guest experience. Are you delivering a welcoming, friendly environment? When someone takes a step to connect to your ministry, make sure your team is ready to follow through.
- Trying to be all things to all people. Yes, we want the world to know Jesus, but who has God put in your world? That’s who you need to reach. And, more specifically, what person within your world are you most likely to reach? Design your ministry to connect with him or her. That means some people may not like your church. That’s OK. God uses different ministries to reach different people.
- Thinking other churches are your competition. We are competing with today’s culture. Other churches are on our team. It doesn’t help if you distinguish yourself from another church. You need to distinguish your message from the world people live in. Clearly communicate why someone should connect with your church instead of spending their time doing a million other things.
- Publicizing programs that compete with one another. More choices create more confusion. You may have lots of great programs, but the more options you provide, the less likely people will be to take a step. I know, it’s counter-intuitive. But you don’t want a situation where your men’s ministry is competing with your discipleship classes that are competing with your home groups that are competing with volunteer opportunities. Figure out what you do well and what God is using to reach people for Jesus—and do that.
The mission we are responsible for is too important for us to get lazy about the message we’re communicating. So ask yourself: Are you getting a response? Can you deliver on your promises? Do you know who you’re trying to reach? Is your message being heard in today’s culture? Are you competing against yourself? All of these issues matter when it comes to making sure your message is truly impacting people’s lives.