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Monday, April 17, 2006

The Competitive Market of the Church

Compete''The United Methodist Church is advertising.  'The United Church of Christ is advertising. They're losing membership and are asking themselves how to get new crowds out there. It's a competitive market and they're reading the writing on the wall.''

--Pastor Bill Schroeder of The Chapel in Sandusky, OH on how mainline churches are feeling the pinch from growing relevant, contemporary churches.  (From The Morning Journal)

My question... do they think advertising will really do the trick?  I think one of the reasons many churches are growing is that they have a life-changing message... something that many mainlines have lost over the years.

I've heard some people say here at MMI that gaining a crowd is easy.  They say that when blasting growing churches for having a 'watered down' message.  However, I've never quite seen this to be the case.  If it was, it seems that we would have a lot more large, watered-down churches.  Instead; it seems that we have many small churches who have lost their first love and message; while others are really taking off because they are offering hope.  Every church is different, to be sure... but I wonder... what really do some of the mainlines hope to gain by their advertising?  More numbers?  Stability?  A reverse of trends?

Just thinking aloud,


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April 17, 2006 in Outreach and Evangelism | Permalink

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What do you base your conclusions on? Do you travel to these churches and spend time evaluating them? Just curious

Posted by: Pastor B | Apr 17, 2006 12:03:37 PM

Ford and Chevy advertise all the time. One is number one in this or that every other week. You either like one or the other. Advertising doesn't really trip anyone’s trigger until you come up with a new and exciting product, sure it is the same old name and all, but give the people a more exciting reason to try our "new" ride!

Very few churches in my area ever advertise and the attendance shows. We have had a new minister in a church about 15 miles away and the buzz and honeymoon has been terrific, word of mouth and just rejuvenated souls have promoted the work. It doesn't hurt that the new pastor can really communicate with the people either.

I have been considering some kind of campaign to draw people to the doors, but haven't come up with one a contemporary conservative church would be able to handle (few workers) I guess I need more involvement and less advertisement(?).

With about 30 churches within 30 miles from the center city, it isn't too hard to see the masses jumping from one disgruntled membership to another, but with limited $$ for travel and time effectiveness on everyone’s mind.... your help here guys... Jay

Posted by: Jay Gainer | Apr 17, 2006 12:08:05 PM

I see those ads and frankly I feel, dare I say it, jealous that our congregation and denomination are not as creative in presenting our message of Jesus Christ. (my denomination's creativity is a whole another issue) Marketing from my stand point is simply allowing people to know who we are and what we have offer. It can be done by word of mouth or by sophisticated media campaigns. I do not think advertising will do it alone but it seems to make it easier for you to have the opportunity. If you do advertise and people come but had best have something to back up your words.

Posted by: Kent | Apr 17, 2006 12:20:28 PM

Advertising may get some people in the door, but it certainly won't keep them. Only the product will do that. Ford and Chevy are great examples, and probably a pretty good metaphor for the church. (Thinking on my seat here - sometimes dangerous!) Generally, I think people buy Fords and Chevies because of the influence of their parents...just like I'm "basically baptist" because that's the tradition in which I grew up. And I've favored Ford because that's what I grew up with. So the best Chevy commercial may tweak my interest, but it won't convince me to buy a Chevy, especially if I'm not shopping for a car.

In the same way, a church's advertising won't get me in the door of a church too different from what I grew up with, especially if I'm not shopping for a church. When I *am* looking for a church, an ad may get me in the door, but it's what I find when I get there that will keep me coming back.

Posted by: Randy Ehle | Apr 17, 2006 12:22:19 PM

I have to admit, I kind of chuckled on reading this. I live in Houston and the past few weeks I've wanted to throw something at the TV because the few times I had a chance to watch there would be obnoxious commercials from Second Baptist for yesterday's Resurrection Day Extravagance at Minute Maid Park. Claiming they were putting the Easter bunny out of business and giving him a complex (complete with Ed Young Sr. counseling said bunny reclining on a shrink's couch using the words "it's just not about you!") these ads were obviously targeted at existing Christians in what seemed like a ploy to "lure" them away from their own congregation to a "true" worship experience with thousands of other believers at the baseball park. I'm not saying that's what the intent was but it sure seemed to be imo. Between the Second Baptist commercials and the Osteen ministry commercials (and Ford, Toyato, Nissian, etc.) when I would see a UMC bit I heaved a sigh of relief- they actually had some content worth watching! Based on what I saw advertised, I'd rather head over to Chapelwood United Methodist (which has a great "ministry" on a "secular" radio station with ads that aren't ads and they are known in the community for their hard work with substance abusers and not because they include that in their ads) than either of the two mega churches advertising their brains out with catch phrases and gimmicks.

I agree with Randy, when it comes right down to it the advertisements aren't what grow a church, sometimes they may help other times they may hinder, but it's what one finds in the midst of the community that will bring them back. The greatest marketing strategy? A living Gospel, sincere hearts, truth, and love. No need to spend millions.

Sometimes I wonder though if the mega churches are really growing or, in Rick Warren's words, "stealing sheep." What are these mainline churches thinking? I don't know, but I bet they read some mega-pastors book to arrive at that conclusion.

Do you think the mainlines should just roll over and admit defeat? What about the ones (individual churches) that are still clinging to the truth? I must admit, for someone a part of an emergent church, I am much more attracted to the social gospel of the UMC than I am to the legalism that stands out in my mind from the SBC yet I'm am theologically conservative. After having heard for so long that mainline's hardly preached the Gospel any more I decided to find out for myself and I discovered something very different, but that's just my experience. Good grief, long comment, sorry.

Posted by: Jessica | Apr 17, 2006 12:57:09 PM

A marketing campaign can put people in the seats once. But they are not likely to stick unless they gain a sense of connectedness to the church, and quickly. That has to come through personal relationships within the congregation. Small groups are a really good way to get people connected, but I’m sure there must be others.

Posted by: Chris Cree | Apr 17, 2006 1:08:01 PM

Churches turn to advertising, because advertising is a great way to communicate . . . not because of the competitive market of the church.

By using simple pictures and using simple thoughts, it can communicate straight out to the residence where they are located. But the Yellow Pages directory is best for local residence and families looking for a church in the area where they are located.

Many of the ideas come from Christians working professionally in media. The church advertising network can advertise upcoming special events and guest speakers. Churches have come up with ad campaigns in newspapers and on TV networks to erase the weak and effeminate image many people have of Christ -- and to attract people to their worship services.

Serving and come to serve. To get Jesus and the nature of Jesus talked about in the community is a very important aspect of evangelism.

Posted by: Jack Salley | Apr 17, 2006 1:31:24 PM

Mark Cahill in a meassage to a Joshua conference said" since when did we need anything but the cross to draw people to Jesus"

Posted by: Franklin Reeves | May 2, 2006 11:36:13 AM

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