From ancient times, when the image of an ichthys drawn in the sand served as an invitation for people to gather in worship, marketing has played a significant role in the life of the church.
The ichthys — two intersecting arcs that resemble the profile of a fish — is still a sign of Christianity today, but marketing efforts are more sophisticated. From the paper bulletin, outdoor signage and websites to onscreen announcements and social media, churches use a variety of methods to reach both members and prospective members. But is it time to reconsider your marketing plan and add some new elements?
Knowing what kind of communications will work best for your church depends on your goals, your audience and your resources. If you’re wondering whether a reboot is in order, begin with an audit of current efforts. Once you’ve identified what you’re doing well and where gaps exist, you can integrate new tactics into your outreach. Consider some of the ideas below to take your marketing to the next level.
Enhanced website content
Your website is your MVP for staying connected with members and providing information for visitors and seekers, and churches are one of the richest sources of content imaginable. But is your website stagnant? If you haven’t added new forms of content and functionality people expect these days, your message might not be getting out. Think about:
- Establishing a blog. From Scripture, to stories of impact, to features about individual members, a blog reflects your community and offers a reason for people to visit your site on a regular basis.
- Posting videos of your sermons – or livestreaming Sunday services.
- Posting videos of classes, activities and events.
- Creating interactive content — questions, games, polls and surveys (see below for more on the last two).
- Including the ability to comment on posts, articles and other content.
- Adding an online giving form or page.
Segmented email newsletters
For most churches, an email newsletter is akin to sharing bulletin information in a more modern format. For larger churches with varied demographics, more sophisticated email marketing approaches such as segmentation can personalize that outreach with highly effective results. Why send people information they aren’t interested in? Developing newsletters for young adults, families, seniors and others will show people that you’re interested in meeting their individual needs, and that may connect them more strongly to your church.
New forms of social media
Think about social media like the coffee and donut room. It’s where organic conversations thrive. But Facebook and Twitter are relatively old, as social media goes, especially if you’re seeking to be relevant to your younger members. To reach them, you need to participate in conversations happening on Instagram and Snapchat — and stay ahead of the curve going forward.
In the U.S., 95% of adults have a cell phone. Among the 18-29 demographic, that number is 100% (you read that right). It’s 99% for the 30-49 set, 97% for ages 50-64, and 80% for adults over 65.1 It’s not hard to see why text messaging capabilities are so vital. Success hinges on ensuring that people have opted in to receive texts and that the information is bite-sized and of immediate relevance – for example, texting weather-related cancellations or special event reminders.
Polls and surveys
In ministry, polls and surveys are not only a good way to gain feedback from members and visitors, but also to send a message that your church is working to meet the needs of its community. This is a deceptively simple and low-cost effort, particularly compared to the tremendous value it offers. Begin with resources such as Survey Monkey, which will guide you through the process and are free to a certain number of respondents.
As you’re reviewing and revising your plan to grow and nurture an engaged community, consider how each platform could strengthen your e-Giving. For example, you could make a request for donations to a specific ministry in your Sunday bulletin.
Or you can do so in a blog post and include a ‘give’ button linked to an electronic contribution form, space on the page for comments from those who have benefitted from the ministry, and the ability to share via email and social media.
The first is traditional, could require a checkbook, and would be seen only by those in the congregation on any given Sunday. The second is dynamic, urgent and communal – much like the very communities we’re working to cultivate.