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Marketing Your Church to the Community

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For those sharing the vision of reaching out with welcoming arms and a welcoming message, Marketing Your Church to the Community stands ready to help. Written clearly, concisely, and entertainingly, this guide will:

* Arm you ...

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Abingdon Press & The Church of the Resurrection Ministry Guides are the #1 choice for recruiting, motivating, and developing lay leadership for specialized ministries from A to Z.

For those sharing the vision of reaching out with welcoming arms and a welcoming message, Marketing Your Church to the Community stands ready to help. Written clearly, concisely, and entertainingly, this guide will:

* Arm you with ideas for getting your message right
* Direct you through the marketing options maze
* Help you keep your cool--while getting everything done

Each guide in the Abingdon Press & The Church of the Resurrection Ministry Guides is user-friendly, encouraging, and full of ideas that can be put into use right away--even on a limited budget or no budget at all!

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Adam Hamilton is senior pastor of The United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, one of the fastest growing, most highly visible churches in the country. The Church Report named Hamilton’s congregation the most influential mainline church in America, and he preached at the National Prayer Service as part of the presidential inauguration festivities in 2013. Hamilton is the best-selling and award-winning author of The Journey, The Way, 24 Hours that Changed the World, Enough, When Christians Get it Wrong, and Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White, all published by Abingdon Press.
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First Chapter

Marketing Your Church to the Community

By Adam Hamilton

Abingdon Press

Copyright © 2007 The United Methodist Publishing House
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-687-33508-4

Chapter One

Getting the Message Right

Have you ever gone to a restaurant that you knew nothing about other than the fact that it was a restaurant? Probably not. Before going to a restaurant to eat, you would likely want to know what the cuisine is—French, American, Italian, seafood, pizza, or burgers; maybe what the price range is; whether it is a good place for kids or something about its reputation.

Consider your options.

Restaurant A is, well, a restaurant and that's all you know about it.

Restaurant B is a casual, family-friendly place that serves burgers, steaks, and seafood, but is particularly proud of its pasta dishes. This restaurant is moderately priced and has been in business at the same location since 1951.

Now, you might not be interested in Restaurant B because what you really have a taste for is Mexican food. Or perhaps you are planning an anniversary dinner and the last thing you want is a bunch of kids at the next table. But at least you'll know before making the mistake of showing up at Restaurant B's door. And, if you do have kids, Restaurant B could be perfect for what you have in mind—less expense and more variety. On the other hand, you may never even consider Restaurant A simply because you don't know anything about it.

So what does all this have to do with churches? If people know nothing more about your church other than the fact that it is a church, visitors aren't likely to show up at your door. If you are hoping to have a steady stream of new people showing up on Sunday morning, it only makes sense that you'll be more successful if people know in advance what is important to you and what they can expect from your worship service.

Yes, we are talking about building awareness for your church, and if you aren't making a concerted effort to do this, you are either so well-known in your community that you don't need to tell people who you are or you are missing an opportunity to connect with people, create a growing, vibrant church, and help those in your community who don't attend church to find a place where they can begin their journey of faith.

By now you may be thinking, "Oh, no. Newspapers, radio, television. It takes a lot of money to advertise!" However, building awareness is nothing more than helping people understand who you are. And, there are opportunities to reach people with your message no matter what your budget. But before we get to those options, you need to consider what your message is going to be. What is it that you want people to know about your church that is likely to make them want to visit?

This chapter is designed to help you think through this important question because it costs no more to get the message right, and getting it wrong can be expensive in terms of wasted dollars, wasted time, and wasted effort. However, before you can start thinking about the message, you need to wrestle with defining who you are as a church and then what types of people will most likely be attracted to you.

Defining Who You Are


When professional product marketers set out to develop an advertising campaign, they start by fully understanding their product. For marketers, it's not enough to know what their product is. They want to know what their product does or doesn't do, what it does well and doesn't do well, what makes it unique or special, why people buy it, where they buy it, how they use it, and what they do when they don't have it. Just as marketers need to know their product, churches need to do the same. Your church must go through the hard work of defining its place and its role.

Why do people attend your church and what keeps them coming back? Is it the senior pastor? The children's or youth programs? Your tenets as a church? Your friendly atmosphere and your members? Your service times and location? Learn what people like and dislike (be honest) about your church, how people would describe it, and where your church fits into your community's landscape.

How do product marketers get answers to their questions? They do consumer research. They might do quantitative surveys involving hundreds—even thousands—of people. Or, focus groups where they will bring in eight to ten people as a group and ask them to talk about their product. Or, they might do one-on-ones, in which they bring people in one at a time to ask them questions. If these things work for marketers, why not use them for your church? The church embodies the most-needed product, so why not use the best means available to get its message disseminated?


I'm not suggesting that you need to survey hundreds of people. But, you can survey your members and visitors in person, by mail, by e-mail, or by a questionnaire inserted in your worship bulletin. You can hold a forum with your church council or board of elders. You can ask your staff for their views—they usually have a pretty good feel for what makes your church tick. Or, better still, you can do a combination of these things and get a broader cross section of opinion.

Positioning Statement (Mission Statement)

Ultimately, you want to take all of the information that you have gathered and use it to create what marketers call a Positioning Statement. You may prefer to call it a Mission Statement. A mission statement is a clear articulation of who you are, what is important to you, and where you are going as a church. It is a statement that all parts of the church-pastors, staff, members—understand and agree with. This is because everything that the church does should support the church's mission. I'd be surprised if you haven't already done some of this and have a pretty good idea why people are worshiping with you.

At The Church of the Resurrection, our mission statement is as follows:

To build a Christian community where non-religious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians.

In Darien, Illinois there is a church of slightly over a hundred members with a focus of building bridges to the urban community, so they define their mission specifically:

We are a ministry seeking to present the age-old truths of Christianity in a culturally relevant way, especially as they relate to people who have given up on church and/or God.

In both cases, you can pretty quickly understand what is important to each church and what it is trying to be. Importantly, each statement also defines how the church wants to present itself from a marketing perspective.

However, your mission statement is not necessarily the message you want to communicate to those who don't know you. Typically, a mission statement will be too long, sometimes a little dry, and it may not be the first thing that you would want to tell someone about your church. For example, I believe that "To build a Christian community where nonreligious and nominally religious people are becoming deeply committed Christians" is a wonderful expression of who we are at The Church of the Resurrection and what we are trying to be. It's been the focus of everything that we have done at Resurrection since day one. However, it is a pretty complicated idea to share with someone who doesn't know our church. I wouldn't want to write a print ad that tried to communicate that thought and suspect that, if we did, the ad would be less than memorable.

Your mission statement also may not factor in an important part of message creation—defining whom you want to reach with your message. However, your message should spring from your mission statement and reflect it. I'll offer a suggestion on how to make that happen shortly, but first, if you don't have a mission statement, spend the time to develop one. You won't regret it. It will help you focus on what you are trying to accomplish as a church, and it will become a measuring stick for all that you do.

Next, with your mission statement in hand I'd ask that you consider whom you want to reach.

Identifying Whom You Want to Reach

There are two important reasons for having a description of those in your community that you think you have the best opportunity to attract with your message. First, while it would be ideal to talk to everyone in your community, doing that is probably not practical or affordable. Instead, you want to place your efforts toward those you stand the best chance of attracting. Second, by knowing who your best prospects are, you can tailor your message—or speak more directly—to those people.

Marketers define in detail the people they want to reach to ensure that their message is not only reaching the right people but also is delivering the most compelling message for that group in the right language and the right tone. For example, when Kellogg's advertises Froot Loops®, the company wants to talk to kids about the cereal's great taste and how much fun it is to eat using language that kids will respond to. Call it "kid speak." But if the company is advertising Special K®, it wants to talk to women about nutrition and how the cereal can be part of a healthy diet. The advertising would not use kid jargon. Seems pretty obvious, doesn't it?

Target Definition

So, how do you define your target audience? Marketers start by defining their target demographically. This could include hard information like age, income, occupation, marital status, and residence. However, marketers go beyond this and define their target psychographically. That is, they want to get inside their target's head and know what is important to him or her and what the attitudes are when it comes to the company's product.

Marketers frequently use their current customers as the best indicators of what their target looks like and what is on their minds. You can do the same. In fact, you probably already know the demographics of your congregation. And, from the research you did in developing your mission statement, you should also already know how your congregation feels about the church, what these people value in a church, whether they attended church in the past, and what it is about your church that attracted them. You need this information when you begin to craft your message.

At The Church of the Resurrection, we define our target as being:

People who live within easy driving distance from the church. They are likely to be in the 30 to 50 age group and could be single, married, or married with children. They currently don't attend church and may have little or no faith. However, they feel something is missing in their lives and think that maybe going to church would be a good thing. But they can't explain why. Therefore, going to church hasn't been a priority for them.

This target definition provides some hard information about age, marital status, and geography. But more importantly, it tells us something about where our target is in relation to church and faith. This definition becomes critical information for creating a message that talks to them in ways that they will respond to.

Articulating Your Message

Now comes the tough part. Armed with a good understanding of who you are and want to be—your mission statement—and a good sense for whom you want to reach—your target audience—you are ready to develop your message. Marketers would call this their Selling Proposition, but Message sounds a little more "church-like."

One main idea

There are, no doubt, so many things you would like to tell a potential visitor about your church that the temptation is to try to tell them everything in the hopes that something will hit a responsive chord. To avoid this temptation, marketers will focus on the ONE MAIN IDEA that they think is the most compelling reason someone should buy their product. It's the one net impression that they would like their target to take away from their advertising. This doesn't mean that you can only tell your target one thing. In fact, you may want to give them a bunch of information about your church. And that can be okay. But, and this is a big BUT, everything that you tell them should support the ONE MAIN IDEA. (If you sense that I think this one main idea thing is important, it is.)

To help in identifying that one main idea, marketers will write a Creative Strategy. Another way of saying it is Message Strategy. Creative strategies come in many forms, but the one that I have had the greatest success with begins with a statement describing the target's current mind-set and behavior as a result of that mind-set. These are both based on the target definition. It finishes with what you would like the target to believe about you and the action you would like to have the target take based on that desired belief. Your message is what will move the target from the current belief to the desired belief.

Message Strategy

The purpose for going through this exercise is that it forces you to really think about the people you want to reach out to and attract and then identify the main reason you can give them for considering your church.

At The Church of the Resurrection, our message strategy looks like this.

The message is our ONE MAIN IDEA.

Supporting the Message

There is one more piece to this exercise. Remember when I said that you could include a bunch of information as long as it all supported the one main idea or message? We call this information our support for why the message is believable. The idea is that if you can't support the claim in your message, it won't be believable. At Resurrection, we believe there are a number of reasons we can make a difference in people's lives:

• Relevant sermons.

• Passionate worship.

• Opportunities to learn more about Christianity.

• Opportunities to meet others like me.

• Opportunities to give back to my community and help others.

I would like to think that the Resurrection message strategy is unique to The Church of the Resurrection and that if a hundred churches all wrote their own message strategy, no two strategies would be the same. This is because the message strategy should be a reflection of each church's mission statement and target audience—a reflection of what makes each church unique.

I can almost guarantee that if you take the time to thoughtfully craft your mission statement, your target definition, and your message strategy, your communications efforts will be more focused, do a better job of presenting who you are as a church, and talk more directly to the people whom you have the best opportunity to attract.

One way to think about the message strategy is simply that it is the public face you want to present to people. It is how you want people to view you. At The Church of the Resurrection, we want people to see us as a church that is making a difference in people's lives. Given this, we want all of our external communications or contacts with people to be consistent with our message strategy.


Excerpted from Marketing Your Church to the Community by Adam Hamilton Copyright © 2007 by The United Methodist Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Abingdon Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2007

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    As a marketing professional working with a church on a volunteer basis, this book provided a quick read for our team to help everyone speak the same language and understand the basic concepts. The simplicity of this book made it a quick read which all were willing to do. No one needed a textbook, just a quick way to align secular marketing concepts with 'church language' jump start out team. It also offered some practical tips to help the team be more externally focused on the marketing mix, rather than 'navel-gazing'. It was a HUGE help!

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