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- What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.
- re-Branding on Momentum
Have you ever wondered why some churches have existed without an ounce of growth for ten years, where in the same community other churches have multiplied over 10 times within 12 months? Have you ever questioned why?
The mystery of church growth has eluded us far too long.
Many church leaders have struggled with issues of growth for years. They have tried a multitude of promotional strategies, from door hangers to giving prizes for bringing visitors, and, unfortunately, these attempts have had little to no effect over time. Even worse, by promoting a church that was not seeing internal success, many have actually hurt their long-term opportunities for growth.
Church leaders, if your congregants are not actively inviting people there are reasons why. If your visitors are not staying, there are reasons why. These are considerable problems, but have hope—there are solutions. Sometimes little changes can bring about big results—and sometimes these changes can happen very quickly.
The Foundation for Church Growth
The greatest challenges to effective church marketing come well before anything is printed or placed in cyberspace. Those challenges are what I call pre-marketing.
Pre-marketing deals with preparing a church inwardly, long before strategic advertising or promotions take place. Its basis is found in our ability to relate to our communities and alleviate the enormous gap that generally exists between church culture and the world. In spiritual ways different is good; however culturally it can be devastating.
Please understand that there is no suggestion here to compromise the Gospel or suppress the ministry of God’s Spirit. The presence of God and a strong scriptural foundation are prerequisites to any move of God in our churches. I am suggesting that we must focus our efforts on being simple enough to be understood and powerful enough to change lives.
Jesus understood this principle. He spent a good portion of His ministry fellowshipping with sinners. He understood how they thought and acted. He spoke in parables to help them comprehend spiritual things. He invested time into their lives—recognizing what they thought they needed and what they really needed. Jesus ministered to both. That’s the essence of good marketing—knowing what makes people tick. The time it takes to learn this is our investment into our communities.
Connecting with Our Communities
Unfortunately, in most American churches, we have created somewhat of our own Christian counter-culture. We tend to speak in “Christianese,” which leaves visitors thoroughly confused. We are vying for the attention of a generation of media-saturated nonchurch-goers who are accustomed to being communicated to in an extremely well-planned, professional way. Yet, we are at-large poor planners and unprofessional implementers.
How can we relate to this group of people—who represent the primary avenue for healthy church growth and the heartbeat of the Great Commission—if we do not know how they think and understand the language that they speak?
“And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law,” 1Cor 9:20. The profoundness of what Paul is saying is that in order to reach people we have to adapt our lives and our approach to them—understanding how they think, communicate and perceive things. It is impossible to relate to someone without adapting our communication to his/her understanding.
The ability to relate to our communities and church growth goes hand in hand. When a ministry can successfully relate to the people in its congregation, the church-goers will be willing to invite others because they know it will relate to those they invite.
Marketing from the Inside Out
Effective church marketing starts from the inside and moves out. Churches need to develop a plan that will ignite them internally, before they begin to promote externally. Once your church is lit up on the inside, the right marketing strategies will help your church explode into the community. No matter what stage your church is in, successful outreach begins with putting a finger on the pulse of your community.
I asked a young friend how he was enjoying his church and he admitted that he loved it, but was bothered by the fact that the church wasn’t growing. I asked him why it wasn’t growing and he acted bewildered and said, “I have no idea.”
“Yes, you do.” I challenged him, “You know why it’s not growing.” After a silence, I asked, “When was the last time you invited someone?”
“Well, it’s been a long time,” he said ashamedly.
“Why don’t you invite people?”
He shuffled his feet and said, “I don’t know.”
“Yes, you do,” I said. “The same reason that you don’t invite people is the same reason that your church is not growing.”
It might be simple. A congregant might be embarrassed about the church decorations, the woman who shouts from the back of the church, or feel ashamed that the pastor tells jokes about his wife. The harder it is to invite people, the more challenging church growth is.
You see, I knew my friend loved God and wanted others to experience Christ’s love. The unfortunate fact is that most people are not intimidated about being Christians, they are intimidated to invite people to their church.
This brings up one of the basic foundations of pre-marketing and the springboard to church growth: the easy invite. If an invitation is hard to make, for whatever reason, fewer people will be invited. The battle for growth is first fought in the heart of the church-goer who wants to better the lives of those around him/her. This is actually the desire of the vast majority of church-goers.
By analyzing the temptations and challenges associated with inviting people to church, we found the following to be true. If a church-goer can answer these 5 questions positively, then inviting friends and family will be not only easy it will become a lifestyle. The church will explode with growth!
- Will my friend feel welcome?
Inviting—The atmosphere, nomenclature and style of service should be comfortable and non-intimidating to the un-churched
- Can I feel confident that I know how the service will turn out?
Consistent—People need to know what to expect, because they will invite accordingly
- Will my friend get something out of it?
Relevant—The songs and message should be understandable and applicable for people at all spiritual levels
- Will my friend understand it?
Simple—Jesus taught through practical illustrations
- Will anything that could seem strange to the non-church-goer be explained through Scripture?
Sensitive—Scriptural actions should be carried out with clarity and considerate explanation
Most of what stymies church growth in America relates to these fundamental issues. Be honest. Diagnose it. Pray over it. Be willing to change. Once you see substantial growth occurring through your congregation inviting people, you can then start advertising. Until you do, you are not ready to invite the masses!