Your church faces an ongoing challenge – how do you continually encourage guests to visit – particularly those with no prior exposure to church? Without guests, your church will not grow. Between the workplace and children’s activities, families are busier, and it seems harder to get people’s attention.
A few churches can generate guests with little effort (mostly due to location or size), but for most of us, it takes a more strategic approach. That approach usually includes advertising.
Here are ten guiding principles, adapted from a new manual co-authored with Eric Ramsey, to consider as you get started:
1. Advertising does not replace evangelism, but it can enhance the effectiveness of evangelism. Many churches have deferred to marketing as their evangelism strategy. This transfers the responsibility of the Great Commission from your people’s mouths to your church’s mailers. Instead, marketing should energize both corporate and personal evangelism.
2. Evangelism is about relationships. The best evangelism takes place when people are on a journey with Christians in a local church. Outreach advertising helps bring more people into relationship with the church so they can hear the claims of Christ in the context of believers living out their faith.
3. The interested unchurched are not offended by outreach through marketing if it is honest, authentic, and excellent. It is those who are interested that are the most fruitful for outreach – not those who are hostile.
4. Outreach advertising does take into account the felt needs of people. However, it must lead them to their real and deepest needs if it is to be biblically appropriate.
5. Outreach advertising itself does not need to present the plan of salvation in order to assist in bringing people to faith in Christ. However, the strategy must ultimately include a presentation of the gospel and incorporation into a local church.
6. Marketing a dying or dysfunctional church is dishonest unless you say it is dying and dysfunctional or if the problem is fixed.
7. Outreach advertising must be integrated with a broader outreach strategy. Mobilizing a church with advertising without empowering them with a passion and tools for evangelism will leave everyone frustrated. Advertising must be integrated with a broader outreach strategy.
8. Outreach advertising is a tool (like a parking lot, chairs, gymnasium, etc.) that is useful for sharing Christ. Evangelism is a commandment that can couple with advertising for effective outreach.
9. Your church needs a comprehensive outreach plan to use every available means to tell every accessible person God’s redemptive story.
10. Excellent, creative, effective communication, aimed at a specific audience, is modeled by Jesus Christ and taught throughout the New Testament.
Often a church fails to identify and understand the people they are trying to reach. Their advertising then does not work – causing some churches to shy away from advertising because it appears ineffective. However, a well-planned strategy works. I’ve use it again and again (including generating 60 new guests at our new church just three weeks ago).
An advertising campaign will not change anyone’s spiritual life. The goal is to not replace personal evangelism, but to introduce people to your church and then to Jesus Christ. Advertising helps us tell the message of the church and the Christ of the church.