A church’s growth and success requires a successful strategy for developing public awareness. We can help you develop that strategy.
- Since the days of Christ, the survival and growth of Christian churches has relied upon developing an in-depth understanding of the needs of issues of the communities they exist within–in fact, much of the New Testament is a history of this process of research and development.
- The heart of a church is the relationship that it develops with its community, as it draws its members together and fosters their relationships with Christ.
- Ask yourself: Do the people in your community know what your organization is, and what it stands for? How much time have you spent examining how you connect with the people around you?
- If your community does not know you, we can help. We believe that the successful branding and marketing of churches and religious organizations requires five crucial elements: (1) awareness, (2) relatability, (3) value, (4) availability, and (5) empathy.
If you want to learn more about what marketing and branding can do for your church or organization, click the tabs to read on.
Branding, marketing and research are integral parts of getting the Word out and bringing people to Christ. And this has been the case since Christ’s time.
Some may find the idea of leveraging advertising strategies to be a cynically modernistic approach to spreading the Gospel. However, the New Testament is in part a history of the development, refinement, and controlled (though not always successfully) dissemination of Christ’s message to the world. Jesus’s disciples were his core team of marketers, circulating throughout innumerable towns and cities to spread the Word to those who were ready for God’s message. Jesus carefully dictated when the news of his presence in a town, his performance of miracles, and other events should be shared with the public (Luke 8:39), and when they should not (Mark 1:43-44).
And even then, they didn’t just rely on word of mouth. The majority of the New Testament is a collection of the letters (epistles) that were written to carefully targeted audiences at various levels of the Church to spread Christianity and clarify its meaning and significance—some letters were directed to a church or community as a whole (Romans, Ephesians), others to mid-level organizers and proselytizers (1 Paul, 2 John), and others still were for the purpose of networking with specific high-level bishops and pastors (1 & 2 Timothy, Philippians). In turn, information distilled from the letters and public commentary responding to these letters was used to improve and refine strategies for finding and bringing people to Christ.
Early Christians used the same approach that most businesses and organizations do now: (1) develop a marketing plan and execute it, (2) gather the intended customers’ feedback, collate it, and analyze it, and (3) use that data analysis to revise and improve the structure and focus of that plan, and then start all over again. In order for your church or organization to successfully reach your community, you must incorporate this data-driven approach to develop an understanding of your neighbors.
We want to help your churches and organizations achieve this connection
The life force of a church is the relationship it builds with its community, and how it draws those within it closer to one another, and to Christ. In fact, it is the purpose of a church—to bring people together “in Christ,” in a shared faith in Jesus and in one another.
But how much time have you spent critically examining how you connect with the people around you? For Christ’s message to capture the attention of those who are ready to listen, that message has to be tailored to relate to the real world challenges and struggles that people deal with every day. The goal of our organization and our products is to help you more effectively engage and maintain the interest of new members, as well as those who are already a part of your base.
We believe that the branding and marketing of churches and religious organizations is built upon five key elements, which you can explore in the next tabs.
1. Awareness of the Identity of Your Organization
Do people in your community know who you are? For people in spiritual need to come through your doors, first they have to know that you exist, and secondly, that your existence has some bearing on their lives. Have you implemented effective public campaigns to get out the word about your organization’s existence, your goals, and your message?
2. Developing Relatable and Relevant Content
It’s important to accurately communicate the ongoing mission and values of your church. But you also have to ensure that the message you deliver contains information that people want and need to hear from you. You and your message have to be relatable and relevant. If you don’t cater to the current needs, concerns, and interests that are of paramount importance to your community right now, then your organization will appear to be aloof and out of touch.
Christ’s message has always been intimately intertwined with the realities of the time and place in which it’s directed. This was true in the beginning, and it is still true today. When the epistles of the New Testament were drafted by Jesus’s disciples and later Christians, they were written in direct response to current issues facing the communities, churches, and individuals to which the letters were addressed. They relied upon what information they could obtain about their audience in order to craft their message.
Just as the case was then, you have to maintain an ongoing and up to date understanding of your community in order to serve it effectively.
3. Providing Tangible Services of Value
Then Peter said in reply [to Jesus], “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” (Matthew 19:27)
What does your church offer to those who join you? In business terms, what is the value that you offer to your customers? Just as the patrons of a restaurant may get up from a table and leave if a waitress fails to appear, people looking for help from you will leave if they don’t find it.
There are a number of ways to make your church’s members feel heard, understood, and valued. Many organizations offer prayer services that specifically address the difficulties that congregants are facing. Others offer counseling services, suicide hotlines, and even financial assistance. Something as basic as a hot meal for those who would otherwise go hungry can prove to be a cornerstone for churches in communities where homelessness and poverty are rampant.
But what makes you different from other organizations in your area? Obviously, as long as the people in your community find one organization or another that is Christ-centered and emphasizes the values of acceptance, faith, and compassion, then that is wonderful. But the more well-attended and funded congregations there are in a given area, the better the needs of that community can be served. Just as a given industry provides better service to customers when there are many alternatives to choose from, those seeking Christ are best-served when they have a large number of organizations to choose from. This allows them to find the product—the path to Christ—that best serves them.
It’s impossible to determine just how many Christian congregations there are in the United States (let alone the world), but survey data suggests that in 2010, there were roughly 338,000 Christ-centered congregations in the US. That is one congregation per 11 square miles in the United States. While this may seem like a staggering number, studies have shown that less than half of the country claims to regularly attend church, a figure which has been consistent for nearly a century. But, numerous studies conducted since the 1990s indicate that even this figure is grossly exaggerated. Historical data shows that self-reported attendance numbers have been consistently double the actual attendance rate. This means that only 20% of the people in the United States are actively involved in organizations that help people build a relationship with Christ.
In short, roughly 338,000 Christian congregations are serving a mere 20% of the 319 million people living in the US in 2015 (a mean average of 190 people per congregation, quite close to the largest current American study’s finding of a mean average of 184 attendees per congregation, and a median of 75). Christian churches and organizations are currently failing to reach 80% of their customer base in the United States—255 million people.
That means 8 out of 10 people are slipping through the cracks. For every person that walks through the door of your church, another 4 remain unfound and unheard. And yet, the members of your organization or church, as a whole, have a unique combination of experiences, interests, and skill sets to draw upon that can allow you to more effectively connect with some of these people than any other organization possibly could. But people in the community have to be able to find you.
4. Being Available When Potential Customers Show Up
Have you ever been curious about a particular business that never seemed to be open? Perhaps it was an old, dusty shop whose dark windows you peered through with curiosity every time you passed it. But, its hours were so erratic and unpredictable that you never quite managed to pass by at the right time. Chances are, you inevitably lost interest in that shop, because the door never happened to be open when you walked by.
Inevitably, people get tired of trying to reach something that is inaccessible. They give up on trying to get a table at a busy restaurant. They give up on calling someone who never picks up the phone. They give up on finding the path that can lead them to Christ.
How accessible are you to the people who happen to pass by your door? Chances are, the door that you need to open for your customers isn’t even on a physical street. Have you created opportunities for people to connect with you through a phone call, an email, a message board, or even a text message? You may very well have pastors, organization leaders, or even laypeople within your congregation who would be excited and passionate about extending the reach of your organization into the many digital mediums that so many people use today.
5. Being Emotionally In-Touch and Connected With Your Audience
We mentioned above that, when churches fail to recognize and respond to the everyday struggles that their community members face, that they are ultimately perceived as out of touch, or even uncaring. This is the exact perception that many churches are failing to address, as mounting piles of evidence clearly show.
A five year study released in 2011 that interviewed people ranging in age from 18 to 29 who had been regular churchgoers in their teens found that:
- A quarter of this population felt that church “demonized everything outside of church”
- 22% felt that church ignored the real world
- More than 30% felt that church services were “boring”
- 30% said that Christianity was “out of step with the scientific world we live in”
And these are the beliefs held by people who have been members of a church community. A large percentage of young Christians are strongly dissatisfied with the service that they are receiving, and the messages that they are hearing. Now, imagine what the opinion of the general public might be. As you might expect and dread, the opinions of the population as a whole are even more dire. In 2007, more than 400 non-Christians and 300 Christians (aged 16 to 29) were surveyed about their perceptions of Christianity:
- 91% of non-Christians and 80% of Christians said that Christianity is anti-gay
- 87% of non-Christians and 52% of Christians said that Christianity is judgmental
- 85% of non-Christians and 47% of Christians felt that Christianity is hypocritical
How can communities of people be brought together through Christ if more than half of Christians believe that their own religion is judgmental, and 9 out of 10 outside the church feel that way as well? Individuals can’t possibly feel heard if they’re afraid to even speak in the first place, for fear of judgment or condemnation. A conversation with Christ, and within a Christ-based community, has to be a two-way dialogue. Don’t assume that your congregation is the exception. How well do you know your audience? And how willing is your audience to place their trust in your hands, their community’s hands, and ultimately, Christ’s hands?