When Church Marketing Really Is Bad - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

This report frustrated me earlier today.

As a guy who makes a living in marketing and spends a lot of that time working with ministries and non-profits, I come across people from time-to-time who think that marketing and advertising have no place in the church. What often is the basis for this argument is that marketing and advertising are just ways to manipulate people into buying something. Therefore, shifting those disciplines over to be used in a ministry context is bringing something evil into the church.

The thing is that what these people fail to appreciate is that, like so many things, we can use marketing and advertising well, or we can use it badly. Trying to manipulate someone's mind in such a way that they will buy your product or idea is admittedly underhanded and nothing I would want to be involved with. But conversely, to spend our time thinking about how we best communicate the great news we have is incredibly valuable.

Enter the article that I mentioned at the opening of this post...if you want to talk about bad marketing in the church, here's your example.

When ministry-based organizations allow themselves to be pulled into a low-brow, bottom-of-the-barrel war of words via their marketing and advertising with those of other faiths or who have no faith at all, we waste our time, energy and money on a fruitless endeavor. Why? Because, when we engage in things like this, not only do we not solve the issue, we simply serve to further alienate ourselves from any opportunity to speak with purpose to those who don't know Christ yet.

Do I want Christ taken out of Christmas? Of course not.

Do I think that paying $20,000 a month for a billboard that sinks to the level of the original Athiestic billboard (which is also a disaster) is the way to ensure Christ doesn't get taken out of it is the solution? Absolutely not.

I'd rather see a group take that money and think about how they could do something unique to serve the people coming through the Lincoln Tunnel. I don't know what the needs of that specific area of New York are, but what if that faith-community was to turn those dollars into a tangible work in that area? What if they were to speak into the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every day with a message of hope through some creative campaign of service?

If they were to do that, I guarantee you that they'd be engaging in a marketing and advertisting campaign that would do a lot more to ensure Christ stays in Christmas than the current billboard ever will.