Your church may be a community that offers so much of what the world needs: love, peace, belonging, truth.
If that’s the case, you may be left wondering, why aren’t more young people coming to my church?
The answer may be more practical than you think.
In fact, in my 26 years as a Christian and 29 years as a marketer, I have seen one common pattern among (the many) churches that don’t grow.
They just don’t communicate well at scale. They also see “marketing” as a dirty word.
The good news? Those are just mindsets that can be easily changed. We need to realize that marketing doesn’t just belong in church. It’s essential to church.
In the following article, I’ll explain what marketing actually is, and show you the 5 biggest marketing mistakes that prevent church growth.
If you understand these principles, you’ll avoid wasting your time and money on bad marketing. Instead, you’ll learn to reach outside of the four walls of your church, and reach more young people with the Gospel.
Why Marketing Belongs in Churches
How would you define marketing? A collection of ads? Social media? Or worse–pushing an agenda, or trying to “make a sale”?
Here’s the truth.
At its best, marketing is value communicated at scale. It’s telling as many people as possible about something that will improve their lives.
Is there anything more valuable than the Gospel?
Isn’t our charge from God to spread the Gospel until the ends of the earth?
How is that for scale? If we liberate the word “marketing” from the stigma and reframe it to its original intent, we’ll see that marketing is all over the Bible. In fact, the Apostles are undoubtably the most brilliant marketers in history.
However, it was still up to them as God’s chosen messengers to choose strategies and approaches.
So, how did a small group of provincial Jewish men change the world? What can we learn from their marketing strategies?
We’ll explore the answer to this question in a series of blog posts. But we’ll start by looking at 5 common mistakes most churches make that prevent them from growing–and how to stop making these mistakes and start reaching out to others more effectively.
5 Marketing Mistakes That Most Churches Make
Churches of every denomination, size, and demographic make these mistakes when it comes to marketing.
These mistakes are pervasive. But they’re fixable. With the right approach, any church can not only stop making these errors, but start a new approach to help them reach more people with the Gospel.
(Be warned! I’m not going to sugarcoat these problems…and don’t be surprised if you’re making every single mistake on this list).
1. Your Website and Social Media are Confusing and Unremarkable
Most church websites look exactly alike. They have too much text, they communicate information that isn’t immediately interesting to visitors, and many of them look like they were made in the early 2000’s.
Even if you created your website last year, it’s worth asking–does my website stand out from the rest?
Humans are hardwired for cognitive evaluation. We’re constantly making decisions about what’s in front of us. You don’t have a lot of time or space to convince an online visitor that you’re worth their time or attention.
In fact, you have 6 seconds to capture the attention of a website visitor.
And you have 3 seconds to capture the attention of a social media user.
If your website and social media accounts don’t immediately draw in visitors, you’ve lost your opportunity. It’s that simple.
2. You Come Across as Self-Focused
Imagine you go to a party and meet someone who does nothing but talk about themselves. Chances are, you’re going to spend most of your time trying to escape that person.
Unfortunately, that also applies to your church.
If your website and social media accounts do nothing but communicate who you are and what you care about, you’re not going to draw in new visitors. Facts like location and meeting times may be important to include–but they’re not necessarily going to drive new growth (especially from young people).
Whether they know it or not, website visitors and social media users are asking some key questions when they evaluate your church.
Will I fit in?
Are the people happy?
Are there other church members like me?
Will my kids have a place at the church?
If your branding, photos, and text don’t answer these questions, you’re missing a chance to show people that your community can meet their needs and give them a sense of belonging.
3. You Don’t Contribute to the Conversation
Churches should be participating in cultural conversations.
This is especially important for young people, who are currently asking questions about justice, sexuality, mental health, gender roles, community, the universality of truth, and other topics. The church has a place to speak into these conversations.
There are also timeless questions that the church should seek to answer–about forging your own path, about love, about intergenerational relationships.
To show people that you are engaging in these conversations, you can display sermon series videos, testimonials, or even an “About Us” page that lets people know that you are involved in important cultural conversations.
4. You’re Not Offering a Map to the Promise Land
The best conversations are those that leave the other person feeling enlightened, challenged, and even activated to make change. Why? Because you’ve given them a map.
This especially applies to young people, who need guidance and wisdom on how to live well. In fact, the Book of Proverbs is an entire portion of the Bible devoted to instructing young people in the ways of wisdom.
How does this apply to church marketing? You need to give people steps to take.
That might look like:
- Giving simple instructions for how to get plugged into church
- Showing a video testimonial of someone that has gone through a discipleship program
- Defining the “growth path” of your church, which may include getting into the Word, baptism, discipleship, service, and missions
Be creative in how you give people the map towards a richer, fuller life in Jesus.
5. You’re Not (Yet) Recognizable
Gaining recognition or an effective reputation certainly can’t be achieved overnight. However, it’s an important–even critical–part of church.
Jesus and the Apostles didn’t start out with large crowds. Instead, they went to places where conversations were happening and ideas were being exchanged. Whether it was the synagogue, the marketplace, or the riverside, they were present and engaging with outsiders.
Then they communicated with conviction, creativity, and even strategy.
If this is what the Apostles did, why don’t we do the same?
We can offer people value before they ever walk through the doors of our church. When done well, social media, blog content, a great website, and podcasts give potential visitors a good reason to come to church.
- Look at marketing for what it is (a way to escalate and expand the value of your church and the Gospel)
- See marketing in the Bible (it’s all over the New Testament)
- Take ancient wisdom and apply it (use marketing principles that you learn online, in your messaging, in your social media, and more)
If you don’t cure your aversion to marketing, you’ll never reach your potential.
If you see value and would like help with the marketing for your church, please reach out to me at email@example.com. We have helped churches all over the world with their marketing with great results. Learn more here.
I highly encourage you to take a look at our Transformative Marketing Course. It’s designed as both a paradigm shift guidance for your entire team and includes very practical how to’s for church marketing. It also includes a completely free church website template. Click here for the Transformative Church Marketing Course.