What Church Marketing is, and is Not.

Church marketing is an intentional communication strategy between a church and their community. It is not slimy or gross, unless you or your church are.

Church leaders have often found the concept of church marketing to be rife with deceit and therefore kind of a disgusting approach to reaching their neighbors. Therefore they abandon their marketing efforts and choose to focus on something like word of mouth advertising or at North Coast Church, a “Come and See” approach. Here’s the thing: it’s all marketing. Everything is church marketing. The way you present the Gospel, the way your church engages their community in their daily lives, the way you disciple your audience and the way they talk with their neighbors; it’s all marketing!

Perhaps the hang-up here isn’t about marketing itself, but instead on a church leader’s inability to understand how to engage with those who are not on the inside. They’ve sent out their direct mail piece about an upcoming community event, they’ve communicated event promotion with their crowd and even told them to bring a friend (if you have to ask, then you’ve already failed), and their church community is gearing up for some big blow out that is going to wow their hopeful audience. Traditional advertising just isn’t going to work well and that fancy-as-flip church postcard won’t connect unless you send out 4-5 rounds of print to the same household.

Yeah, like it or not, that’s your church marketing plan. It’s just not intentional and it sure as heck isn’t effective.

Maybe that’s why church plants are able to reach and engage their audiences better? They come into an area and before they hold their first service, they get to know their neighbor. They speak love and truth into their life and continue to be present with no expectations. Did something along the way change? What happened after launch to flip this intent for the church plant? Was a choice made to focus on services over serving?

Church plants are not the only winners here.

Churches of all sizes consider their crowd before they speak, as they curate safe spaces for learning and discipleship, and as they present their best interpretation of Jesus to their current and prospective audience.But inevitably, something happens along the way that forces churches to forget their roots and reason, and dismiss their agreed upon church marketing strategies. They’re constantly looking for new church marketing ideas or throwing away all of them. It’s either this or that, and not and or both. Real, healthy church growth considers everything they do as church marketing, identifies and embraces their church marketing strategies as a church and leadership team, and does everything through the lens of the current and prospective audience (not just for those on the inside).

As this happens, your church understands that they are as a whole, a church marketing team. More than that, they’re real people doing their best to live like Jesus and present his principles to those who don’t know him yet. This is church marketing… and it isn’t… but it is ???? And it’s they most powerful tools you can adopt.

Successful Church Marketing is Leveraging Proven Platforms

If you are looking for church marketing ideas as a part of a comprehensive and effective marketing strategy, then check out the list we’ve developed based on years of both research and application. Some options can be used as a stand-a-lone event, while others can be developed around church marketing campaigns. There are even digital marketing options that are well within reach for any sized and staffed church in America. You can do this, and we’re here to help.

  • Social Media Channels and Advertisement
  • Google My Business and Free Google Ads for Non-Profits
  • Content Marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Email Marketing tied to your church management software.
  • Online education for exposure and internal audience discipleship.
  • Door-hangers based on your ChMS mailing list (~14% ROI)

Social media is not the best platform your return on investment.

I do want to point out something here that churches choose not to listen to: their social media strategy. Right now, social media is in flux (always is).Platforms like Facebook and Instagram are still the big dogs, but their influence has waned. And while Tik-Tok is king right now, we do not know where it will be in a few years. But here is what we do know: it takes on average 200 followers to receive a positive impression on a post. So if you do not have a massive social media influence, you will not receive a high enough ROI to place an emphasis on any of your social media accounts.

Facebook Ads will help you, but they won’t help you turn an online visitor into an in-person guest. So do you need a church marketing team that focuses on social media? No, and yes. No, your main focus cannot be on social media, and yes, you still need to be active there.

For a better ROI that takes less time and energy, leverage email marketing. It’s simple, cost-effective, a part of your ongoing ChMS ecosystem, and provides built-in accountability and analytics. With an optimized EMS, you can reach your prospective audience with a lead magnet, engage with them through an email, track their progress from a clicked link to an online course, and connect them to their look-a-like audience online and hopefully, in-person.

Position your church for growth by adopting proven processes that enable ministry leaders to focus on people and not projects.

We saw Pastor Rick Warren retire from Saddleback Church recently. One of the most indelible marks he left on churches was his purpose-driven approach to ministry. Not only was this known as intentional discipleship, it was intentional marketing. At Saddleback, there were always clear paths of travel for those on the inside and outside. That’s why their message and mission went further, from Lake Forrest to Irvine and everything in-between). And why it went faster (from church plant to over 25,000 with an online following) in only a few decades.

Here’s where the church marketing application comes in.

You saw the church marketing ideas above. Though not exhaustive, it’s a solid start for those looking for easy wins. You know from Rick Warren and Saddleback that owned and accepted methodologies position churches for success. Why not marry the two and walk into the year planning effective church marketing strategies with intent, instead of passing on church marketing because you think it’s gross and sticking with your traditional advertising of catchy sidewalk sayings plastered on your 1939 monument sign?

Look; some of the fastest-growing churches in America are old school. And sure, Outreach may decide to cover them in their next issue of Fastest-Growing Church in America, but they will never make a big splash. Maybe that is gross, but maybe it’s pragmatic. Old school tends to be rigid and out of touch. New school adopts proven-processes and marries them with their discipleship strategy. These can be easily shared, and frankly, are a whole heck of a lot more attractive. Or maybe I’m off on this whole church marketing thing ????????‍♂️. I mean, stick with your traditional advertising or no advertising and see.

Want some free advise?

Search engines love new and updated content. Focus a large part of your church marketing efforts on creating and distributing content. Add lead magnets and click-funnels into these timely or evergreen pieces. Make sure your content centers around your identified content pillars. Track your content and its users through Google Analytics with goals (or use Fathom Analytics… it’s crazy better). Drop some positive reviews at the end of every post using a post widget and make sure it’s connected to a live link within Google Reviews, and watch as your reach and engagement soar.

You can hire a church advertising agency to tell you what church marketing is, or you can read and relate this information to someone who can immediately implement a few new ideas in alignment with their church brand guide. I mean, I would love to walk you through this on my own, but I think you can make a dent on your often. After you try, if you can’t figure it out, drop me a line and we can talk.