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Three Building Blocks of Church Marketing & Communication
By: Benjaman Hubbard

Modern Christian churches have a lot on their minds. There's spreading the Gospel, of course, which should go without saying, and then there's keeping the message relevant, as well as empowering the congregation, the building and maintenance, vehicles, special programs, missions, church plants, interpretive dance. It's a lot to consider. However, none of these things even exist without solving the age-old dilemma of how to put people into pews in the first place. In the space-age 21st century in which we live, this is proving to be an increasingly difficult task for churches to take on, thanks to modern communication and the fact that most towns have more churches than streetlights. Perhaps that's an exaggeration, but, you've got to admit, modern Christians have a lot of choices when it comes to where to settle down, hear the Word, take on their work, and, ahem, give their tithes and offerings.

It is for this reason that pastoral teams should take the time to give legitimate thought to an effective marketing mix for their church. I'm not supposed to say "marketing," am I? My mistake…promotional mix. Let's be honest, to remain alive, a church must market itself, just as a business would, or it's going to lose people to the next building down the street. The mix has to be relevant to the community, and it has to be fresh, exciting, and even fun or it's probably going to be overlooked. Yes, it's a little controversial to some to say that you're marketing your church, but that's what happening each time you broadcast a service via television or radio, each time you host an event within your community, and even when you hang that new sign out front with a clever quip like, "Honk if you love Jesus. Text while driving if you want to meet Him." Like a business, your identity must be well-established, and your message must remain consistent; otherwise, both will be lost in the general ruckus of daily life.

Church marketing is a broad topic so, rather than attempt to cover it all, we'll touch on three essential building blocks to a modern promotional mix and what, arguably, churches seem to get wrong most often: branding, web design, and the use of social networking (or lack thereof). Often, these jobs are passed along to church volunteers or some random teenager with a cell phone (that kid must be savvy, right?), which is a dreadful mistake. Remember, these tasks are the core of your church's public identity, so they need to be taken seriously. Think of it on these terms—would you trust marriage counseling to just any member of the church, or would you rather utilize a professional?

The core of the promotional mix is the branding of the church's identity. Think logo, color schemes, hallmark scriptures, and so on. It's essential to associate your church's name with its mission, neighborhood, etc. while setting elements, such as colors and graphic logos, in stone so that they're easily recognized and remembered by both members and potential members alike. Church leaders often get off track here by either by ignoring branding all together or by oversimplifying the process and winding up with lackluster work. Even churches that are established should take some time to consider their branding and how it's being received by their community to ensure that they're not being overlooked by potential members.

Once an identity is established, or re-established, the next logical step is to invest in the creation of a website. The majority of people who'll consider visiting your church will first visit your website to explore childcare options, service times, the history of the church and pastoral staff, and your belief structure, among other things. If your church website is in shambles, or is just poorly designed and difficult to navigate, you've lost those people. There are simply too many worship options for the average person to take the time to call a church directly or visit without some previous research, and do you blame them? Would you buy an item from a website that was poorly designed or generally difficult to use?

Often, particularly if the members of your congregation are middle-aged or younger, a presence on the social networking site Facebook can be quite important. Yes, there are other social networking tools out there and, eventually, something will come along and knock Facebook down a notch or two, but it hasn't happened yet. For now, the creation of a Facebook fan page for your church, your church's youth group, small groups, events, and so on is an excellent tool, as it allows the rapid exchange of information among fans, as well as a platform for your church to reinforce your message to regular attendees and reach others who may not attend regularly, or at all, on their terms. Although getting started on Facebook is as easy as signing up and sharing your posts, it's possible to customize the Facebook experience with a personalized landing page, tabs, etc. that can (and should) coordinate with your website. Typically, the average Facebook user doesn't have the technical or design skills to accomplish this task; however, even if handled by a professional creative agency, a project of this type shouldn't be cost-prohibitive.

Church marketing is an exceptionally broad topic. We've covered three logical first steps to creating an identity for your church and getting that identity in front of your community, but volumes can be written on topics such as the power of word of mouth marketing, effectively marketing via a television ministry, and many others. It's important to note, however, that, often, an effective mix for one church will not be worth anything to the next, but the three elements discussed in this article are constants in the world of modern marketing and communications. Therefore, it's essential to not ignore their importance and to invest properly in doing them right.

Benjaman Hubbard is co-principal of The Village Marketing Group, www.thevillagemg.com.









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