Lessons on Church Marketing

Robb Harrell is a Lutheran Pastor in Florida and he writes a very interesting blog called Praying with Evagrius.  A recent post was on the subject of church marketing and getting your message right.  It is a good read and I recommend it to you


I’m now involved in the Diocese of California Church Growth Program and issues to marketing and communications are front and center as a strategy for getting the church growing again by broadening the base and reaching out to the unchurched and underserved.

But what is the church message? 

Father Robb offers some good advice to consider:

“About once a week or so I get a postcard from some local mega church advertising their programs or sermon series. These programs and sermon series are supposedly meant to meet the needs of the consumer. There is one problem with this approach: I don’t think people really know what their own needs are.

Let me say it one more time with clarity: I don’t think most people know what they need. Yet we have an entire church marketing machine that is based on fulfilling consumer needs. The trickle-down effect of this is that smaller mainline churches feel the need to compete with such efforts as a matter of survival. We begin to ask what people want out of church instead of asking what people need from the church.

I was watching Religion and Ethics Newsweekly a couple of weeks ago when they interviewed Eugene Peterson, who is a retired Presbyterian pastor and prolific author. In the course of the interview, Peterson said, “The minute the church and pastors start saying what do people want and then giving it to them, we betray our calling. We’re called to have people follow Jesus. We’re called to have people learn how to forgive their enemies. We’re called to show people that there is a way of life which has meaning beyond their salary or beyond how good they look.”

I was really struck by the statement. The prophet Jeremiah (as translated by Peterson in The Message) says that, “The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful, a puzzle that no one can figure out.” How can we structure the church on the basis of what the human heart desires when we know that the human heart is capable of deceit? The truth is that this following of Jesus and forgiving of enemies is hard stuff. Who wants to do hard stuff?

Thomas Merton once said that the world is in need of a revolution, one that only Christianity can provide. Churches need to better discern who they are and what their core message happens to be before entering the fray of engagement with the world and culture around them. So often churches become nothing more than a reflection of the culture around them rather than a threat of revolution.”


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