A Biblical Precedent for Effective Church Marketing!
I have worked for years to help pastors get God’s message out, and without fail, I’ve heard the same pushback: “I thought it was up to God to grow the church?” Often, this would be followed by a recitation of 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” And while it is the Holy Spirit who is actively working to draw people to Himself, I cannot help but notice that throughout Scripture, the Lord uses people to accomplish His will. And that almost always involves work on their part.
Surely God could have rebuilt the wall around Jerusalem Himself. Instead, He used Nehemiah to do the job. And He could have gone Himself to call Israel to repentance, but instead, He used Isaiah. God could have built and marketed the church all by Himself, but instead, He used a variety of gifted people. As Paul wrote, “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors, and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11). So then, there is no disputing that it is our responsibility to build up and grow the local church, utilizing a variety of tools and gifts. And marketing should be part of every toolbox for effective ministry.
The Four Steps of Effective Marketing
Like any good recipe, marketing also has a specific process that must be followed to be effective. It is a simple four-step marketing process used by Madison Avenue marketing gurus and the neighborhood pizza parlor. This process was used by God almost 3,500 years ago to mobilize Moses, and when church leaders learn to use the same process to reach people, they find it works quite well.
1. Capture the Audience’s Attention
Before you can offer solutions, services, or products—or in the case of a ministry, before you can invite someone to church or share the Gospel of Jesus Christ—you must first capture the attention of your audience. If you fail at this crucial first step, the entire process fails.
Our lives are inundated with information that vies for our attention. In 2012, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, measured Americans’ exposure to media and found that, on average, each person is exposed to almost 12 hours of information per person per day. Broken down, it represents over 100,000 words and 34 gigabytes—that’s for each person every single day, and it includes information coming from television, the internet,
computer games, and other media sources. And that number grows every year.[i] If your message is going to stand out, it must first capture attention in a crowded environment of information, or your message is going nowhere.
God dramatically demonstrates this principle in Exodus 3:1-3. He had a mission for Moses, but first, He needed Moses’ attention. Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law, the priest of Midian, and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
No one will walk past an attention-getting message like that. A bush on fire but not being consumed stands out above everything else. God grabbed Moses’ attention. And the Lord would use this method again and again throughout the ages to capture His audience’s attention. Every miracle done by Moses, Elijah, Elisha, Jesus, and the Apostles would authenticate the messenger who brought it and grab the eyes and ears of all who witnessed it. Without attention, a message cannot be heard.
2. Engage Your Audience
Anyone who has ever spoken publicly, or made a presentation in school, or had to wow a client at work, knows that getting attention is vital, but keeping attention and engaging the audience demands just as much creativity and energy, and it is where most people fail. Once the attention-grabbing moment is over, many prospective customers or potential church members check out, reverting to whatever had their attention before. They quickly lose interest, and they quickly forget the moment.
Once you have attention, you must keep it long enough to interest them in what you have to say beyond the headline or attention-grabber. It is the difference between merely noticing an advertisement and taking notice. When someone notices, you’ve gained their attention. When they take notice, you’ve engaged their will and can help them make decisions.
Back at the burning bush, there is no denying that God had Moses’ attention. But notice how the Lord then engaged Moses: “When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, ‘Moses! Moses!’ And Moses said, ‘Here I am.’” With a simple call, God readied Moses to listen to whatever it was He had to tell him.
3. Educate Your Audience
It’s at this point in the marketing process where you present the benefits of your product or service and guarantee its effectiveness in improving the life of the prospect. As a pastor, it is in this step where you must make sure you reinforce the need. Then you present your church as the best solution to meet that need.
You can probably remember viewing an ad for a product you felt no need for when you first noticed it. Yet after sixty seconds, you discovered that you couldn’t live without it. That’s effective marketing! However, if advertisers had not captured and held your attention long
enough, they would not have been able to establish that need and pitch their solution for you to accept. The order of the marketing process is essential.
God followed this same process with Moses at the burning bush. In Exodus 3:5-9, the Lord educated Moses about His identity and the reason for the sudden encounter.
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face because he was afraid to look at God. The Lord said, “I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey—the home of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites. And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them.”
Moses learned who grabbed his attention and why. You can imagine how open Moses was to do whatever God would ask of him after that, even if he might initially have been a bit reluctant.
At this final step, marketers urge their audience to “Do this,” “Do that,” “Buy now,” “Call today,” “Learn more,” “Get info,” “Download now,” or any number of commands. If they have done their job correctly, they will have captured the attention of the audience, engaged them long enough to educate them on the benefits, and then created a need to use the product or service. If they have done everything right, it is at this point where the prospect is ready to take a bite. All he or she needs is a way to respond—a call-to-action.
As we know from reading the story, Moses was fully prepared by God to respond. The Lord had done a remarkable job at this point, and Moses was ready. Notice the call-to-action in Exodus 3:10, “So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.” Simple. Straightforward. Clear.
There should be no guessing in your church marketing endeavors. You should be able to look at any marketing campaign you are working on, or your team brings to you, and
ask four simple questions to know if it has a chance to be successful. Effective marketing is a scientific—and I would argue, a biblical process that cannot be left to chance or to guess. All effective marketing, no matter the vehicle, follows a four-step process. Failing to use these steps limits the success of your marketing. Using them out of order will also limit your response.
Taken from Marketing Like God: Developing & Implementing a Biblical Marketing Strategy for Church Growth.
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[i] Roger Bohn and James E. Short, "Info Capacity | Measuring Consumer Information," International Journal of Communication 6 (April 2012): 21.