Wait...A church marketing itself? Yes. I believe that, in today's environment, churches need to market themselves.
So, let's take a look at how they can do just that.
With today's tech-savvy public, church "shopping" is done differently. Twenty-five years ago, if I wanted to know more about a church, I'd call to find out when the services were, attend, and then MAYBE come back. Now, when someone church shops, they find the church's website. Keeping a vital, updated, informational website is paramount to engaging those who wish to find out more and possibly attend a service. Websites are also a communication tool for current members to find out about events, staff information, and the online monthly newsletter or weekly bulletin.
Having a website is vital, but it requires someone to manage it, and might be inflexible. To complement
their websites, many churches today use social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Here's what you can do with each:
Facebook: have a church page where all events are listed, photographs from church events are posted, and any kind of inspirational meme that you find interesting. Have a page for various groups and/or ministries, such as the music ministry, or the youth group, so that you can post specific information to those pages as well. Finally, have pages for the pastor or pastoral staff so they can post inspirational quotes or scripture.
Twitter: this might be specifically for youth programs, or if you have a preschool onsite, so you can communicate changes or post quick updates without having to wait for people to view the Facebook page or pages.
Banners out in the front of church property can advertise services times, upcoming events such as
Christmas services, or Easter services, Vacation Bible School - you get the idea. Keep the copy simple so it can be read by cars driving by at 40-50 MPH! For onsite banners, think of them as seasonal, and use retractable banners that can be pulled up, and then stored after services are over.
direct mail + email marketing
Direct mail is still the best way to communicate about your church or religious organization, and should be used for all special events. Mailings should be sent not just to the congregation, but to anyone who's visited and provided their address to you. Again, focus on the "big" events, but also send out mailers just to let the area know you're around. For those who have provided their email, use that tool as well, tying it to events on your website. Some churches find email marketing too intrusive, however, so consult your church's leadership to determine whether email is a good tool or not.
There are small print companies that specialize in church newsletters, with templates, and then offer advertising space in the back for ads, which in some cases can cover the cost of the printing. Some churches mail their newsletters; others just leave them at the church to be picked up. Be sure to have your printed newsletter available as a downloadable PDF on the website.
Churches these days have to compete with so much, from family soccer games to other churches in the area. Having an effective marketing plan can boost attendance. While the goal is NOT to generate revenue or enhance sales, the goal is to reach people with the message that the church wishes to share with the community.
by John Prothero