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Wow.  It has been 91 days since my last post on this blog, and you know what?  I still do not have any new ideas about what to write about.  I have been thinking every day for the past 91 days about what to write on this blog, and I have gotten nothing, nadda, zilch.  And that makes me really sad.  I have enjoyed writing this blog, but maybe I just have nothing left to say on the subject.

Marketing and the church is a hard subject to discuss because there are many ways to do it wrong and there are many opinions on how much marketing is wrong.  It think that church marketing is a very real subject that churches need to invest time and thought into and maybe even money.

I still believe in church marketing, but I don’t know what else to say about it.

Do you have any ideas to get me rolling?  Any topics you’d like to talk about?  I am, as always, open to suggestions.

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I recently read a book titled “Pinfluence:  the complete guide to marketing your business with Pinterest” written by Beth Hayden.  For the past few weeks I had been playing with ideas in my head about whether or not I thought Pinterest would be a good tool for churches to use to enhance their content marketing strategies.  When I saw this book I thought it would help me figure it out.

These interesting statistics about Pinterest were in the Introduction of the book:

  • Pinterest reached its 10 million user mark faster than any other social media site in history
  • In January 2012 Pinterest drove more traffic to websites and blogs than YouTube, Google+ and LinkedIn combined

Now, if your church is trying to reach people, it seems just from these statistics that this would be the way to do it.  In Pinfluence, Hayden writes, “Done authentically and well, Pinterest marketing can be a powerful source of traffic to your website and can help you build an incredible community of followers and superfans who loyally support everything you do.”  I know that for me personally I follow several blogs now that I would have never heard of in the first place if not for Pinterest.

Pinterest is another way to get people interested and talking about your church.  Many companies will post contact from their blogs to Pinterest to funnel people back to their websites or blogs.  Another thing companies will do is pin things that they believe their target market will be interested in.

I can see Pinterest working for a church if

1-they have a specific target audience they are trying to reach
2-the church has a certain personality they want affiliated with them
3-the church publishes a lot of their own original content

Otherwise, I am still torn on the applicable ways a church can use Pinterest.
What do you think?  Would Pinterest be a good marketing tool for churches?

Hello Everyone!

As you can tell I go through writing fits.  I’ll do a really good job for a few days and then it seems I fail for a few months.  Every day I think, “I really want to write something for my blog today.”  And then I sit around, for a few hours, trying to think of something to write about.  Today started out as one of those days and then it hit me.

At Christmastime I think it is really easy to get sucked into the consumerism and “I Need” syndrome.  I love to give people the best gifts I can, which can be hard when you are on a tight budget.  And as much as I do not like to admit this, sometimes buying gifts can get to be depressing.  When that happens I realize how skewed my viewpoint is.  I think that this is especially easy for churches to do.  When your church is deep into the holidays it is hard to realize how far you have fallen from the true meaning of the season.

I would tend to think that December is one of the high points for churches doing marketing, but maybe, like gift giving, they are doing it for the wrong reason.  When you start a marketing campaign around the holidays it is important to have specific goals to focus on, so when you start to get dragged deeper into gimmicks and hype you can look back and say, “look from where we have fallen from.”

There have been several times already this December (and it is only the fourth) that I have had to take a step back and say, “Wait, why am I doing this?”  Here is an example:  I am in charge of the children’s Christmas program this Christmas, which is happening this coming Sunday.  I have been freaking out for about a month now about everything being perfect.  Saturday night it hit me, why do I want this to be perfect?  The answers I came up with:  I do not want people to be disappointed or think it was bad, I do not want the kids to be embarrassed about it, and I’m a perfectionist.  That’s when I stepped back and whacked myself in the head and said, “Really Lauren, those are your reasons?”  I was struck with how selfish I had been and with how I totally missed the point of this Christmas program.  Since then whenever I get stressed or feel myself getting dragged down I just ask myself, “Lauren, why are you doing this children’s program?”  And then I reply to myself, “For the glory of God.”  It has been amazing how much that has changed my attitude.

I think we, the church, need to continually ask ourselves, why are we doing this, and if the answer is not “For the glory of God.”  Then stop it, drop it immediately, and either pick it up with the right attitude or leave it laying on the ground.  I think this is especially true around the holidays when the whole reason for celebration is God’s glory.

You may be wondering why it has been almost 4 months since I have written anything.

And it’s because I am just plain worn out.

In the last four months I have

1-started and ended a job and started a new one.  You are now looking at Milligan College’s newest Financial Aid Counselor
2-I have become the youth leader at my church and have been busy with Sunday school, youth group, lock-ins, and now the children’s Christmas program coming up in December.
3-My husband has started seminary, so that has been a shift with him being in school and I’m not.
4-I have been reading a lot of fiction and not a lot of church books.

Frankly, I just have not known what to write about.

Now that I am at a smaller church, I am seeing what church marketing works, and does not work, on a smaller population.  My father has also just become the Church Administrator at a church in Lexington, Kentucky and he also has to find out what marketing works for their church in particular.

I think that it is important to remember that Church Marketing is not a formula which can be stuck to for every single church.  What works at the church I am attending, of 60 or so people is not going to work for the church my Dad is serving at, with attendance of around eight or nine hundred.

For example, at my church during our announcement time, which yes, I do consider as part of marketing, (you’re getting your event out there right?) we read all the upcoming events and even have time for the people in the pews to shout out any other announcements.  Now for us, that works.  But if they tried to do that at my Dad’s church, that would be chaotic and would probably take a half hour just to get through the announcements.

Church marketing efforts need to be tailored to the people that you are trying to serve.  If a congregation communicates largely with text messages, Twitter, and Facebook, I’m not going to print off flyers to hand out or even mail to them.  It’s about reaching people where they are and making the message best fit how they want to receive it.

“People see it as too worldly or gimmicky for the church to be marketing itself. But most of the same people who say it is sacrilegious also expect their church to have a website, a listing in the phone book or an ad in the phone book. To me, this is marketing.”

-John Mayer, executive director of City Vision, an organization that tracks religious demographics.

I recently read an article given to me by my Consumer Behavior professor.  The article came from Marketing News, a publication of the American Marketing Association.  This article was title “Brand Apostles” and was published May 15, 2006, so it is a little out of date but still relevant to what is happening today.  The article focused on two Chicago mega-churches, Salem Baptist Church of Chicago and Willow Creek Community Church, the populations of these churches being 23,890 and 20,000 respectively.  These two churches have taken basic business marketing strategies and applied them to their churches.

“It is brand strategy at its most elemental, in which the brand (the church) makes a promise (the sense of community) to its consumers (the congregation) through both emotional benefits (“I feel good about being in this church”) and functional benefits (“The mission of this church fits my lifestyle well”).”  In my class we discussed how we felt about these churches appealing to the values of people in order to get them to come to church.  I do not see anything wrong with this approach since a person’s values are essential to them, and the gospel itself draws from those values, so God must be the perfect marketer in that sense.

In the last thirteen years (at the time of the article), there was a 92% increase in the number of unchurched Americans.  These churches were drawing on the needs of these people looking for a place that was user-friendly, essentially where the “customer” comes first.  These churches have several different ways of making these people feel more at home.  Willow Creek has a full-service coffee shop, a children’s play area, choices two dozen workshops, a fully digital info kiosk, and the ability to watch service on plasma tvs.  Salem also have ways of being seen as more user-friendly: three regulation size basketball courts, a concession stand, several classes on different topics, a welcome team, a membership department, and age appropriate ministries.  The idea in itself of becoming more user-friendly is not a bad one, the church simply needs to examine the heart behind those additions.

Now this is where the problem comes in for me.  Cally Parkinson, Director of Communication Services at Willow Creek said in this article, “We have a strong strategy for managing the brand.  The power of the brand is the promise: contemporary, non threatening, you can be anonymous.  You will be challenged, but it won’t be painful.”  Now here’s my question, what good is a challenge if you won’t grow from it?  And how do you expect to grow if it won’t be painful?  As I was saying in a previous blog, Kyle Idleman discussed in his book “not a fan” that churches have become fan generators, and I think this is the perfect example of that.

I do not have a problem with a church using business principles in a way that fits the mission and vision of the church.  I do not want the church to become a business and lose its focus.  Churches must remain kingdom-focused above all else.  This article was eye opening into what some churches are becoming.  It is fine for a church to work on its brand.  “A brand is much more than a logo, a symbol, a sign or device, or simply the result of clever advertising. It helps to communicate value and create and deliver that value. Branding is a promise of value for customers. It helps to attract and, if it is true and accurate, keep customers. It provides an extra element of understanding or meaning, for customers as they form opinions and make purchase decisions from a variety of competing offerings.”  A church must be and have a brand, and they must be able to communicate that effectively.  In order for a church to get new “brand loyal followers” they must market, but above all they cannot lose their kingdom focus in this endeavor.

It’s been a while since I have blogged.  Not because I have not had things to say but more because I have just been so busy.  In the past three weeks I moved home, got married, went on a honeymoon, moved to Tennessee, took my husband to the ER, and started classes.  I finally got some time to sit and write.

I just finished this great book called Branded by Tim Sinclair.  It was all about how to market Jesus.  Sinclair presented many fresh ideas.  In the introduction he stated that the book was not to be used as an answer book but rather to challenge and begin thinking about these ideas.

I really enjoyed the book and the fresh perspective.  I would definitely recommend it to everyone.  Sinclair is a very entertaining author.  I wanted to present some of his thoughts and begin discussing them.  He made some very good points that I think we need to be aware of.

When I first told my coworkers that I was going to college to study marketing and that I wanted to eventually work in a church, one of them replied, “Oh, so you’re going to a Christian college to learn how to lie.”  Sinclair realizes that many people will be hesitant to the idea that we should be marketing Jesus, since the term “marketing” presents negative connotations to many people.  He makes the comparison, however, that marketing Jesus is much like evangelism.  The definition of marketing is: “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.”  Sinclair stated that a good definition of evangelism is: “the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing Jesus.”  I was glad that he made that point.  We need to remember the reasons and motives behind our evangelism/marketing.

Another point that Sinclair made that my husband and I talked about was the idea that “lack of competition breeds laziness.  Laziness breeds apathy.  And eventually, apathy breeds disaster.”  For a long time Christians haven’t had any obvious competition, and now we do.  Think about it, we’ve gotten lazy.  “Coke wouldn’t taste as good without Pepsi.”  Are we evangelizing like we are in competition?

Sinclair spent a chapter talking about how we try to change a persons lifestyle before we attempt to change their heart and their beliefs.  Sinclair states that “Christians often try to change a person’s culture rather than let God change their heart.  We try to force others to act like us, with the hope that they’ll eventually believe like us.”  Wow, how true is that.  We are often too scared to deal with the heart and beliefs that we just try to deal with the outside.

I really like one analogy that Sinclair used to describe what Christianity has become.  He described religion and all the choices like a cereal aisle.  There are many varieties of cereal and many boxes they come in.  The religion aisle also has many choices like Methodist, Buddhist, Scientology and so on.  “Christians have put themselves in a boring box.”  We’re just a plain box holding something great, but all everyone else is seeing is a plain box next to Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  At least that is what we are showing everyone.  Isn’t Jesus better than a boring box?

In the last chapter of the book, Sinclair poses a series of “What if” questions to challenge us and to think about and question.  Those questions gave me a lot to think about and I’d like to pass on a few to you to think about.

1. What if we spent a week with our family in Honduras or Haiti instead of Orlando or the Ozarks?
2. What if we didn’t write our tithe checks this week?
*What if, instead we gave it to the homeless (*=my insertions)
3. What if we went to the bar one Saturday night per month with our friends?
*It is one thing to always invite our friends to our church where we are comfortable.  It is another thing to go to them where they are comfortable.
4. What if we started Grubby Sunday at church?
5. What if we removed the signs in front of our church?
*Then we would have to advertise our own church and communicate with everyone what it was about and when they should come.  It would be completely our responsibility.
6. What if we chose not to pray before meals or bedtime?
*Then our prayers would become authentic
7. What if our churches gave coffee and doughnuts to a shelter each week instead of to the congregation?
8. What if we didn’t read our Bibles ever day?
*What if we spent that time to physically help someone or to literally be the hands and feet of God?
9. What if every church in America was open to the public seven days a week?
10. What if we decided to become homeless for a weekend?

What do you think?  Have we gotten lazy?  It is too late to change?

 

Well, since I’ve never blogged before this should be an adventure.

I have always been passionate about marketing.  I always thought I would work at a business and have profound ideas about selling products.  That was until someone asked me, “how does working in marketing really contribute to the kingdom of God?”

Um..I don’t know.

So then I started researching a lot about Church Marketing.  I’m still majoring in marketing, but I try to view them through the lens of seeing the church grow.  It’s hard to focus on something that doesn’t really exist . . . there are like three books written about church marketing.  I am excited about searching and growing myself in my search for and thoughts about how the church can grow and mature through marketing.

How do you market (sell) the church without making the church sell-out?

Church marketing is vital to any part of a church.  We do it without really thinking about it.  A church will not grow if it is not reaching out through marketing to reach out to the community.