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Pastors Who are Uncomfortable Marketing the Church

The classic problem with believing there’s no universal standard of truth, is that it can’t actually be lived out.  The concept of “what’s right is what’s right for you personally,” sounds good, but then you can’t really condemn murder, or say that child molestation is wrong.  If everything’s relative, then what’s your standard for judging?  Actually living out your convictions is the challenge.  Oddly enough, I find a similar question with pastors or ministry leaders who criticize branding or marketing.  They usually believe branding or marketing has no place in the church, and we should avoid it at all costs.

The problem is, they can’t really live it out.  For instance, they don’t mind it so much when it’s time for publishers to sell their books, or the church bookstore promotes their latest teaching series on CD.  I lived in a city where a prominent pastor publicly criticized other local pastors for marketing their church, or using media in outreach.

But guess what?  A few years later he got a book deal, and shortly thereafter had the opportunity to go on television.  Guess what else?  He suddenly became strangely silent on the issues of media and marketing.

My response to these pastors critical about marketing is to challenge them to publish their next book without a cover design – just a plain black cover with a plain title printed on it.  Then don’t mention it (that’s marketing after all), don’t let the publisher take out a magazine ad, and don’t allow it promoted online.

Nobody likes “hype,” but you have to tell your story if you’re going to get a hearing. Marketing doesn’t change anyone’s life, but it opens the door to that possibility. No matter how great your message, when it comes to evangelism, if no one’s listening, you’ve failed.

Living out your convictions.  Yeah, that’s the challenge.

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9 Comments

  1. I would ask pastors who feel that there should be no branding or marketing whether they have a sign on their church building or their telephone number listed in the yellow pages. That is marketing in its most basic form.

  2. Dear God I love Phil Cooke. Don’t always agree with everything he says, and I’m ok with that, but posts like today keep me coming back for more. GO GET’EM PHIL!

  3. To choose not to market/brand your church is to choose to market/brand your church. We can’t get away from it and ignoring it won’t make it go away. Great post… thanks.

  4. I think it’s the other aspects of marketing-as-practiced that turns people off: the idea of customers, the focus on felt needs, the emphasis on presentation versus substance.

  5. Agreed, Phil. The problem is that some Pastors/Churches market their church a little too well, and it turns people off. Not just church people (who feel they’ve overdone it), but non-church people (who typically don’t like churches anyway, and this is just one more excuse).

    But that can’t and shouldn’t stop churches from using resources that are available. Especially when they’re as inexpensive as they are today using Social Media.

  6. Phil, this is the first time I’ve read one of your posts. I must say it was way overdue. I’m a big advocate of church marketing done right. It’s the “right” part that many of us seem to disagree with. I did several blog posts a few months ago when I came across a particular blog post that I felt missed the point completely. What I settled on was that we must look at the motive of the marketer. And if a church or ministry is changing lives, leadig people to Christ, if would be a sin NOT to tell others. And isn’t that what marketing really is…just telling others your story.

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