Churches are used to preaching the Gospel, but far too many churches do too little to preach to the community about why people should visit for Sunday morning worship or myriad other activities throughout the week.
That was the lesson provided by the Rev. Junius Dotson of Wichita’s Saint Mark United Methodist Church and Tosca Medlock Lee, of The Myriad Group, which is based in Texas. The two presenters shared tips for marketing local churches to their communities during a meeting of the Great Plains Conference’s New Church Development team May 26 in Salina, Kansas.
“We cannot disciple empty seats,” said Dotson, who shared how his church markets everything from annual events to Sunday worship services. “We have to ask how we are adding value to their lives. It’s not a money problem. It’s an idea problem.”
Medlock Lee and Dotson focused on principles for effective marketing and communication. While the seminar was provided for church planters, Medlock Lee stressed the importance of using the principles for new and established churches. Here are some of the key points:
Determine Your Target Audience
Dotson said marketing is a form of evangelism, and he pointed to Mark 4:4-9, which tells the parable of the sower of seeds.
“Are we trying to reach everyone? Yes,” Dotson said. “But to best use our marketing dollars, we try to reach out to those with an affinity for what we’re doing – our preaching, our worship style and our church.”
Develop a Marketing Budget
“Everyone wants to know what will it cost?” said Medlock Lee. “Every church is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach.”
Medlock Lee said it is important for churches to recognize marketing is an investment in missions, not just an expense. And she reminded the audience that you usually only get what you pay for.
“The marketing budget should be a priority, not an afterthought,” Medlock Lee said.
In general, Medlock Lee said, churches should plan to use 10 percent to 15 percent of their budgets on marketing.
Dotson put it bluntly: “If people aren’t visiting your church, it really doesn’t matter what you have going on there.”
Use 21st Century Tools
Dotson said Saint Mark uses social media such as Facebook and Twitter, radio, some television and print advertising to showcase special events at his church. That doesn’t mean Wichita residents hear radio ads about Saint Mark every day, but rather in bursts, such as when the church has a special event coming up on the calendar. In that case, the church purchases advertising in the weeks and days leading up to the event and then may not have other ads in that medium until the next event, such as Easter or community events, come up again.
Medlock Lee said it’s important to treat the church as though it were a franchise.
“You don’t want to damage the perception,” she said. “it’s a reflection on what people think about your church. It’s important to be consistent.”
That means designing a logo and sticking with it, using color schemes that match well and sticking to a style sheet for fonts, graphics and slogans or vision statements, which can be particularly helpful as the conclusion to radio or television advertisements.
Forge Relationships with the Local Media
Reporters are busy people. Editors have many pieces of information coming into them on a daily basis. So it’s important to develop strong relationships so they are more likely to either cover your event or your topic of choice, or they will publish press releases the local church provides.
Provide photos whenever possible, and make the church’s leadership available to talk to reporters so the information can be as accurate as possible.
Develop a Marketing Plan
Medlock Lee said a church’s marketing plan should have a timeline and should have as much effort put into it as a plan for ministry. Set goals. Determine how to put thoughts into action to meet those goals. And set deadlines for each phase of the plan.
This is where budgeting is important and where it’s crucial to get the right church leaders on board to help execute the plan.
And remember to be patient.
“it’s a plan,” Dotson said. “It’s not going to happen overnight.
Medlock Lee said following these tips is a good way for churches to reach out into the community and to start helping make disciples for Jesus Christ.
“It’s not necessarily a ‘build it and they will come’ kind of situation,” Medlock Lee said.
Todd Seifert is director of communications for the Great Plains Conference. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.