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Reaching out with social media: The ‘Why’ and ‘How’ of Church Marketing

21 May

1383208_93464262While doing some research on church marketing, I’ve come across a surprising number of articles condemning the practice.  To say that I’m shocked about this would be an understatement.  Any church that thinks it can just sit there during the week, then open its doors on the weekend can somehow change the community and throngs of thirsty seekers will eagerly beat a path to the altar, are arrogant beyond words.

The fact is, every church does marketing, whether intentionally or not.  A church who sits idly by, waiting for people to come to them , is marketing the impression that they don’t care enough about people to go out and bring them in.  Conversely, a church that goes too far, and misrepresents their church and their ministry just to get people in the door, is marketing itself as a place that cares more about butts in seats than it does actually reaching the lost.

Regardless of what you do, or do not do as a church, you are marketing.  Doesn’t it then make sense that you do everything in your power to make sure that your church is being represented in the best way possible?

Why should the church focus on marketing?  Because if we don’t focus on it, then we will be misrepresented by it.  Brad Abare and Kevin Hendricks hit it on the head: “Sadly, one of the church’s greatest shortcomings is failure to market itself authentically and effectively. You’ve read the bulletin bloopers. You’ve seen the typos, bad clip art, poor layouts, a sense of superiority. It’s easy to do marketing badly. But there’s also the tendency toward airbrushed perfection, pressed suits and coiffed hair and multicultural pictures that don’t match the Sunday morning reality.”

If the church doesn’t care whether or not words are spelled correctly on a bulletin or on the website, why would anyone assume they care about much else?

“If you are faithful in little things, you will be faithful in large ones. But if you are dishonest in little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities.” Luke 16:10 NLT

This is not just a good rule that we as Christians should live by, but it is a nugget of common sense that even the most devout hater of God can apply to their lives. Meaning: if an unbeliever can’t trust the church to put out grammatically correct and truthfully representative materials, then why would they trust the church with their souls?

I know that it sounds like this is a pretty negative post, but I really want to drive the point home.  A church must make every effort to manage and maintain their appearance in the community, both physically and digitally; because, in the end, we are not representing a church, we are representing God.

Now that we know that the church should be marketing, how do we go about it?  There are so many tools available to churches these days.  Facebook, online blogs, forums, websites, newsletters, podcasts, are just some of the avenues in which a church can get involved and get the Word out.  Let’s look more in-depth at a couple of these options.

Facebook

with over one billion users on Facebook, it is pretty safe to assume that most, if not all of your congregation is on there too.  Creating a fun and interactive Facebook page can be a great way to keep in contact with your members.  Posting frequently can keep people up-to-date on what is happening at the church, provide a forum for prayer requests to be shared, allow people to share their testimonies, and even provide people from outside of your church the ability to catch a glimpse of the community of believers.

But as much as a wee-managed Facebook page can help reach out to church members, a poorly updated and hard to navigate page will deter people, even your own members, from wanting to get involved.

Blogs

I have seen many pastors starting to do this and I think it is a wonderful tool.  It gives the pastor a chance to share what’s on his heart on a regular basis.  My favorite thing to see on a church blog is the transcript of the prior weeks sermon.  It is nice to be able to see what others are preaching about.  I have also used many sermon transcripts for research in some of my writings.  They provide a powerful learning tool.  And a pastor who updates or comments on the blog will be able to keep the message in front of people for the entire week.

Websites

Googling “bad church websites” will give you over four million results.  Needless to say, the church has become synonymous with tacky, poorly done, and just plain bad websites.  Justin Wise breaks down four of the biggest mistakes of church websites:

1. The website is a ghost town.  This is where the basics are left off of the site. e.g. contact information, email address, service times, etc.  They aren’t always left off, sometimes they are just well hidden amongst the plethora of pages one can choose from.

2. The website is an eyesore.  With inexpensive templates and free WordPress programs, there is no excuse to have an unappealing website.

3. The website is a bottleneck.  This occurs when information is difficult to find or lost in the infrastructure of the site.

4. The site in an ‘American Idol’ contest.  I’ll just let Justin say it, “Out of all the foibles we’ve mentioned so far, I think this one might be the most painful. Your living, breathing organizational representation trots out onto the world’s stage, only to get pummeled critics and congregation members alike. Why? Because no one on staff thinks the website is ‘that bad’.”  Well said, Justin, well said.

So what now?  Now you fix it!  If you look, it shouldn’t be too hard to see where the troubles lie.  Most of these programs like Facebook and WordPress are fairly intuitive and can be learned by most people.  If there are neither the time nor resources to do it yourself, there are some people who could do it for you. Outsourcing your writing needs is more economical than hiring a new staff member or taking time away from an administrative assistant just to have them work on something they may, or may not be good at.  In the end, how you deal with these deficiencies is up to you.  But please don’t wait!  Let’s join together in taking pride in how we represent ourselves, our churches, and our God.

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