Marketing is a word that churches often shy away from, largely because they don’t wish to be seen as “selling” Christianity. However, effective church marketing doesn’t have to be manipulative or peddling. In fact, if you’re seeking new ways to add members to your church, marketing is a powerful tool that can help your ministry succeed.
In the context of faith, marketing can help you communicate a clear message to the right people — connecting the dots between your church and who it serves. Think of church marketing as a tool that helps get interested visitors in the door. Faith and salvation are choices people will make later in their journeys as they learn, worship, and connect with God.
When you advertise your church, you offer people a place to explore a need they already have — it’s their choice whether or not to respond. We hope this post equips you with the information you need to create an effective, successful church marketing plan that will help draw new people to your church.
Why Market Your Church?
More than 80% of churches are in decline or plateauing in membership. Ministry is not just about nurturing the faith of your existing members. It also means seeking out the unchurched and helping them find their way to Christ. But, how can they find you if they don’t know where you are?
Having a building to gather and worship in is often not enough in today’s culture where people’s schedules and attention spans are maxed out. In Mark 16:15, Jesus calls his disciples to “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” When you mail a postcard, put up a sign, send your members out with invite cards or door hangers, or post on social media, you are spreading the gospel to your community. You are sowing seeds of hope that may someday come to fruition when new members in your church commit their lives to Christ.
Here are the three elements of effective church marketing:
1. Build a Dynamic Church Marketing Team
It’s not realistic to expect a single person to take on the task of church marketing alone. If they try, they’ll probably end up frustrated, stretched too thin, and exhausted. Your church is likely filled with members eager to serve Christ by supporting your marketing endeavors with their unique skills and talents. All you have to do is ask!
Try these tips for gathering and motivating an outstanding church marketing team:
- Cast the vision and call for volunteers from your congregation at the beginning or end of service. Always make sure your presentation on expanding your church’s marketing strategy is exciting and inspiring. Help interested members understand they will be a vital part of ministering to to the unchurched and helping them discover and build a relationship with Christ. If they understand the importance of effective church marketing, they are far more likely to stick with it!
- Hand out a simple questionnaire to your volunteers. Here are a few sample questions you can ask: How much time would you like to commit to this project? What are your unique strengths and skills? What is the best way to motivate you and reward you for a job well done? These questions give you an understanding of each volunteer’s limitations. They’ll also help you learn skills they can contribute and offer insight into motivating and rewarding them for their time. This will help you balance expectations, manage time, and avoid burning out your team.
- Praise and thank your team as often as possible. This is the key to a successful strategy and to retaining your volunteers. Volunteer work is something many people do in addition to their jobs and family needs. Motivate your team by showing them that their time is making a difference. Share updates about your efforts at the beginning of service to inform other members and inspire them to get involved as well. Remember to regularly thank your volunteers and compliment their work. It’s amazing how valuable and inspiring a simple
“thank you” can be!
2. Create a Ministry Marketing Plan
The success of your marketing efforts relies heavily on creating a strategic plan in advance of your outreach. Like retailers, your marketing can be broken down into quarters or seasons to make the work easier to plan and execute.
Your plan should include:
Budget: How much will you spend on your marketing outreach in the year ahead? How will you allocate your funds?
Calendar: How many events and activities will you host this year?
Tools: What tools will you use to market your church?
Budget is a foundational element of an effective church marketing plan. It’s important to commit an adequate amount of funding to your efforts in order to see positive returns on your investment (i.e. visitors coming through your doors).
Marketing can help your church go from invisible to visible in your community. For the best return on your investment, focus on creating unforgettable campaigns that have the same look and feel across every area, from direct mail postcards to the banners outside your church.
Determine at least five campaigns or efforts to factor into your annual spending. Below are some suggestions for segmenting your campaigns. Here are a few seasonal examples:
- January and February – New Years/ Valentine’s Day
- March and April – Easter
- May – Mother’s Day
- June and July – VBS/Summer
- August and September – Back to Church
- October – Harvest
- November and December – Advent/Christmas
At the end of each campaign, perform a thorough assessment of your efforts and the results they bring in. Did one tool work better than others for getting visitors to your door? Which events saw the highest attendance? By tracking your successes, you can keep your budget focused on the actions that work, saving time and money.
Calendar of Events
Once you’ve determined your various campaigns, you need to decide on events for your outreach. Events are a great opportunity to engage your community beyond your Sunday sermons. They help people connect with you, understand your message, and become involved with your church. Here are a few ideas for outreach events:
Holiday/Celebration Sermon Series
- Mother’s Day
- Guest Speaker or Special Event
- Potluck BBQ/Picnic
- Vacation Bible School/Kid’s Camps
- Movie Nights
- Coat drives
- Community clean-up
- Shelter support
- Back-to-School Drive
- Parents’ Night Out
- Harvest Festival/Halloween Alternative
A portion of your overall budget should be applied to the tools you use for your outreach efforts. These are the methods you’ll use to advertise your events and make your church known to your community. It’s important to invest in a multi-touch approach that reaches your audience in several different areas of their lives. Make sure that your message and design are consistent across every piece. For example, your direct mail postcards and Invite Cards should have the same look and feel as your church posters and bulletins — this helps create a cohesive campaign.
It’s important not to put all your eggs in one basket! Using a multi-touch approach means people are more likely to remember and respond to your invitations. Here are several helpful tools you can use together:
- Postcards. Direct mail is one of the most effective church marketing tools available. It helps you easily reach people in your area and invite them to visit your church. More than 85% of people check their mail each day, which means they are highly likely to see your church postcard. Best practices for postcards include adding a map, service times, contact information, and the offer of a gift.
- InviteCards. Providing your church members with invite tools empowers them to easily share about your church with their friends, families, and neighbors. According to Christianity Today, 67% of people say that they would be receptive to a personal invite from their family and 63% would be receptive to an invite from an acquaintance.
- Banners & Signs. Indoor and outdoor banners and signs inform passerby and members of upcoming events and get your church noticed.
- Digital Media. Social media, church websites, and email marketing are all tools you can use to share your event.
Remember, you probably won’t get high response rates from using a single channel. Effective church marketing requires using multiple methods over a period of time to keep your church top of mind.
Once your ministry marketing plan is established, it’s time to focus on the importance of helping visitors become new members.
3. Make a Lasting Impression and Turn Visitors into Members
You’ve built an amazing church marketing team and followed your strategic outreach plan, but effective church marketing doesn’t end there! It’s time to make a great first impression on the new visitors who will be coming to your events and services. Did you know that 91% of visitors will not return if you don’t have a strategy in place for turning guests into members? Assimilation is a critical component of church growth. The way you treat guests in their initial visit will have a significant impact on their future decisions to attend your church. Here’s what you can do:
The First Visit:
Greet every new visitor!
Attending a new church can be intimidating, so it’s important to make people feel at home the moment they walk through the door. Create a team of greeters who know how to be friendly, but not overbearing. Pick volunteers who have a knack for reading people and knowing which visitors are hoping to stay low profile and get a feel for the church, and which are ready to jump right in and get involved.
Hand out new visitor cards.
Ask your new visitors to fill out cards with their name, address, phone number, email, and other pertinent information such as what they are seeking from a church. You can use this information to invite them to future events and to check in with them post-visit.
Give them a gift.
Give each new visitor a gift to show your appreciation for their time. Books are a great option. Depending on the time of year, you can select books that align with the season: a Christmas devotional in the winter, an Easter scripture book in the spring, etc. Consider creating a welcome packet with informational brochures, coffee mugs, coupons for coffee, or even small gift cards to local businesses. Gifts create positive associations with your church and can serve as a physical reminder of your hospitality after guests go home.
Coffee and snacks may seem like a simple offering, but they allow guests to linger and chat before and after the service and get to know your members. In addition to making guests feel at home, they’ll create connections that can’t be beat when it comes to building relationships because they develop naturally through fellowship.
The Follow Up:
The days following the first visit are critical to connecting with your visitors. Because the key is to make every contact personal, don’t use form letters or rely solely on electronic communication. Follow these steps for reaching out to your recent visitors after they have attended an event or service.
- Have the pastor send a personal thank you email the next day.
- Make a welcome call the following evening after the event or service.
- Mail out a thank you card with a personal message the first week.
- Send out an email at the end of the week inviting them to the next service or event.
- Text your visitor after two weeks to check in.
Other Tips for Creating a Great First Impression
- Host a monthly new visitor welcome lunch.
- Have a new visitor booth where you can share important information and hand out welcome gifts.
- Make sure your church is always clean and inviting.
- Put visitors on your email and mailing lists.
- Offer another thank you gift for repeat visitors: books, ornaments, gift cards, etc.
Final Thoughts on Effective Church Marketing
In conclusion, effective church marketing is a powerful way to help you increase your outreach and minister to your community. Marketing helps you let people know that your church is available to help them with questions they may have about God and faith. With a dynamic team, a strategic plan, and a great first impression, you can help connect unchurched people with the hope and truth of Christ’s love.
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