Here are five questions to ask about your church marketing to make sure it’s not falling prey to worldly marketing techniques, but rather honoring God and those he’s called us to reach.
1. Is it truthful?
As people who “rejoice in the truth” this may seem obvious, but there are many temptations to lie or exaggerate (which is still lying). For example, if you are running an event you may be tempted to create a sense of urgency by saying, “Hurry, tickets are selling fast!” You may hope and pray that tickets will sell fast, but unless they are actually selling quickly, this isn’t true. Creating a false sense of urgency is manipulative and deceitful. Likewise, if your church has 200 people on Christmas Day, but the weekly average is 40 attendees, you can’t write on your website “We are a vibrant community of 200 people” because when a visitor turns up at church and sees the reality, what impact will this have on them?
2. Does it tell the whole truth?
It can be tempting to leave out important information. For example, if your church is hosting a community lunch that will include a short gospel presentation, the invitations need to communicate this fact. Luring people in with a lunch, only to surprise them with a gospel presentation, is deceptive and communicates that the lunch was simply a means of getting them in the building (rather than a genuine act of love).
3. Does it overpromise?
This is a bold claim by a pastor on a church website: “I can promise a warm welcome if you visit us on a Sunday.” This is an excellent goal but one that is impossible to promise. Despite the pastor’s best efforts and fervent prayers, a visitor’s experience at the church can be entirely unpredictable. What happens if someone arrives and doesn’t receive a warm welcome? This well-intentioned but flawed promise may dilute the believability of gospel promises.
4. Does it serve?
Christians look out for the interests of others. We don’t ask, “What will be easiest and best for me?” but rather, “How can I serve the needs of others?” This has many different and very practical applications. For example:
- Avoiding jargon that only makes sense to people who attend your church or are familiar with your ministry.
- Carefully considering and then providing the information people are looking for on your website.
- Using the language(s) that people in your community speak.
- Removing annoying pop-ups from your website.
- Providing people with advanced notice to events in order to avoid last-minute invitations that require others to scramble.
5. Does it appeal to selfish gain?
Christian marketing must not turn back to the way we once lived—a life characterized by selfish desires. This excludes tactics such as:
- “Come to church and get a free gift!”
- “Sign up now to go into the drawing to win an iPad!”
- “Sponsor a child and get a VeggieTales DVD!”
This is challenging in a world where we have grown accustomed to responding to self-serving messages. To run a marketing campaign that says “Sign up now and go into the drawing for someone else to receive an iPad” doesn’t get us excited in quite the same way as when we could be the recipients. But then again, the gospel calls us to be driven first and foremost not by what “works” but by what is pleasing to “him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Steven Kryger manages event strategy and performance for Katoomba Christian Convention, and is the founder of CommunicateJesus.com, where this article was first published.