What's wrong with Church Communication?
This Blog is intended to Educate the Church on tried and proven techniques of not only to get people into their Church, but to keep them comming back. Secondly I hope to Motivate the Church to into taking steps forward in the right direction to effectivly communicate the greatest message ever told. We togeather will expand the Kingdom thus doing a part in Fulfulling of the Great Comission.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Post Modern Christianity: The Future of the Church and Post Modern Ministry in the 21st Century
Monday, May 08, 2006
Saturday, April 08, 2006
Gospel of Judas: Betraying Jesus - Again?
From the onset, let it be known that I am convinced that the spiritual teachings that we now have neatly placed into a handy carrying case (The Bible) are not now, nor have they ever been ALL that was written upon which we could gain insight into God's plan for man. What we have is surely ENOUGH, but I don't believe it's all. That's my personal conviction. You can have yours, too. What we now have as canonized Scripture is the "official" information but we all know that "officials" are often lying when their lips are moving. My personal vote for should-be-canonized Holy Writ would be the book of Enoch. Why omit the information from a man who walked with God for 300 years? But somebody smarter than me gave Enoch the axe.
Throughout the ages, the Powers-that-be have used the Bible as a means for pushing their own agenda, omitting that which did not suit their needs or adding that which supported their doctrine of choice. Rex Lex, it's called; the King is Law or, better put, the Law is King. Some verses have even been omitted from some Bible versions with an explanation. I have my own explanation: the Powers-that-be and their appointed editors didn't have the faith to believe what the verses were declaring.
Editors? Yes, every Biblical version has Editors, people with many impressive letters after their names who are chosen to determine what spiritual food is best for Christians to digest. In the case of the New International Version, for example, my own research has revealed that one of its editors was a lesbian. This might explain why the NIV is so "weak" in its stand against homosexuality. I've also learned that Rupert Murdock of Fortune Magazine fame - once known as Rupert the Red for his stance in favor of Communism - actually owns the copyright to the NIV. Gee, I wonder what agenda HE might be subtly pushing?
Do you catch my drift? We mustn't check our brains at the door where our spirituality is concerned. That rule of thumb must also apply in light of the recent revelation, something called the Gospel of Judas.
Judas, whose name means "Jewish man," was NOT inserted into the Gospels as some sort of "EveryJew" in order to breed anti-Semitic hatred. Judas was apparently a quite common name just as "Jesus" was. The apostle Thaddeus is also known as “Judas, the brother of James,” as well as “Judas, not Iscariot.” The Book of Jude is attributed to a man named Judas, too. Judas Maccabeus, one of the great heroes of Judaism, is one possible reason why so many kids were once tagged with that name. I live in Texas and have met more than my share of kids named Dallas, Austin and Travis.
Here's what the Associated Press had to say about the Gospel of Judas:
AP - For 2,000 years Judas has been reviled for betraying Jesus. Now a newly translated ancient document seeks to tell his side of the story.
The "Gospel of Judas" tells a far different tale from the four gospels in the New Testament. It portrays Judas as a favored disciple who was given special knowledge by Jesus - and who turned him in at Jesus' request.
"You will be cursed by the other generations - and you will come to rule over them," Jesus tells Judas in the document made public Thursday.
The text, one of several ancient documents found in the Egyptian desert in 1970, was preserved and translated by a team of scholars. It was made public in an English translation by the National Geographic Society.
Apparently, these papyrus manuscripts consist of
- a Gnostic codex in Sahidic dialect containing the lost 'Gospel of Judas' known from history only through Saint Irenaeus (c. 140-202 AD), Bishop of Lyon,
- the "First Apocalypse of James"
- the "Epistle of Peter to Philip"...
- the 'Book of Exodus' in Greek...
- 'Letters of Paul' in Sahidic dialect...
- and a 'Mathematical Treatise' in Greek"
...whatever that is.
All these manuscripts are priceless historical documents (I've read the figures of $3,000,000 to $10,000,00 being tossed around in association with these pieces), only comparable to major finds like the Dead-See Scrolls from Qumran. Though some say they belong to mankind and must be publicly preserved and studied, others are being driven by greed and the whole story reads like some kind of dramatic suspense saga that reminds be of the Nicholas Cage thriller, National Treasure or the more recent Tom Hanks flick, The DaVinci Code. The Associated Press wrote that "the journey of the text to Switzerland was "replete with smugglers, black-market antiquities dealers, religious scholars, backstabbing partners and greedy entrepreneurs."
If you're interested, all of this comes from a number of articles on the web site of Michel van Rijn, who monitors the art market. His site is http://www.michelvanrijn.nl/artnews/artnws.htm. A search for 'Gospel of Judas' reveals other details of the negotiations.
MORE EXPERT OPINIONS
The Associated Press reported (3/2/06) that "an expert on ancient Egyptian texts is predicting that the "Gospel of Judas," a manuscript from early Christian times that's nearing release amid widespread interest from scholars, will be a dud in terms of learning anything new about Judas."
That expert is James M. Robinson, considered America's leading expert on such ancient religious texts from Egypt. Robinson is an emeritus professor at Claremont (Calif.) Graduate University, chief editor of religious documents found in 1945 at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, and an international leader among scholars of Coptic manuscripts. He predicts that the text won't offer any insights into the disciple who betrayed Jesus because it's not old enough.
"Does it go back to Judas? No," Robinson told the AP.
The AP story said that the text, in Egypt's Coptic language, dates from the third or fourth century and is a copy of an earlier document. The National Geographic Society, along with other groups, has been studying the "Judas" text.
National Geographic said Thursday it will release its report on the document "within the next few weeks" but didn't specify whether that would come via a book, magazine article or telecast. Robinson has not seen what National Geographic is working on, but assumes it is the same work assailed by Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, the heresy-hound of his day, around A.D. 180.
Here is what I found on the Roberts-Donaldson translation of this section from the pen of St. Irenaeus:"Others again declare that Cain derived his being from the Power above, and acknowledge that Esau, Korah, the Sodomites, and all such persons, are related to themselves. On this account, they add, they have been assailed by the Creator, yet no one of them has suffered injury. For Sophia was in the habit of carrying off that which belonged to her from them to herself. They declare that Judas the traitor was thoroughly acquainted with these things, and that he alone, knowing the truth as no others did, accomplished the mystery of the betrayal; by him all things, both earthly and heavenly, were thus thrown into confusion. They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas."
Irenaeus was saying that the writings he saw came from a "Cainite" Gnostic sect that stood against orthodox Christianity. "They produce a fictitious history of this kind, which they style the Gospel of Judas," Irenaeus wrote in "Against Heresies." He also accused the Cainites of lauding the biblical murderer Cain, the Sodomites and Judas, whom they regarded as the keeper of secret mysteries.
The AP story goes on to say that Robinson admits that the text is valuable to scholars of the second century but dismissed the notion that it'll reveal unknown biblical secrets. He speculated the timing of the release is aimed at capitalizing on interest in the film version of "The DaVinci Code" a fictional tale that centers on a Christian conspiracy to cover up a marriage between Jesus and Mary Magdalene.
"There are a lot of second-, third- and fourth-century gospels attributed to various apostles," Robinson said. "We don't really assume they give us any first century information."
H.C. Puech and Beate Blatz write (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, p. 387): 'Dating: the Gospel of Judas was of course composed before 180, the date at which it is mentioned for the first time by Irenaeus in adv. Haer. If it is in fact a Cainite work, and if this sect - assuming it was an independent Gnostic group - was constituted in part, as has sometimes been asserted, in dependence on the doctrine of Marcion, the apocryphon can scarcely have been composed before the middle of the 2nd century. This would, however, be to build on weak arguments. At most we may be inclined to suspect a date between 130 and 170 or thereabouts."
That's odd. Another so-called "expert" named Charles Hedrick, Missouri State University - and other scholars - are saying the codex was produced in the fourth or fifth century. Hmmm. These dates are derived through radiocarbon dating, a commonly used method to determine the age of archaeological finds. Fool-proof? Not by any means. I recall reading about some chicken bones from dinner the night before that were carbon-dated and the results clearly showed that they came from the Bronze Age or something like that. Tasty!
In every case, the experts seem to agree with Irenaeus that the Gospel of Judas reflects the theological traditions of the Gnostics, a second-century sect, a community that believed true spirituality derived from a self-knowledge, or "gnosis." Figures depicted as sinful in the Old Testament, such as Cain and Esau, were typically lauded under Gnostic theology. Old-time Gnostics believed that true spirituality was derived from knowledge, not the New Age self-knowledge we see being touted today.
For Robinson, the significance of the Gospel of Judas has to do not with first-century history but with second-century mythology. Still, he offered these half-serious reflections in his closing remarks in an interview last month: "Where would Christianity be, if there had been no Judas, and Jesus - instead of dying for our sins on the cross - had died of old age?" he asked. "So: Thank God for Judas? Even the most broadminded among us would call that heresy!"
Then call me a heretic, Professor. Though I won't go so far as to thank God for Judas, I CAN and WILL thank Him that He had a plan and that plan DID call for the shedding of innocent blood for the atonement of sins. Yours, too. Jesus was born to die. If it hadn't been Judas, it would have been somebody else. Besides, it's not about Christianity, the religion; it's about having a relationship with God and how that gruesome death on the cross made that relationship possible. More importantly, it's not so much about HOW Jesus died so much as that he was RAISED from the dead. He could have died a donkey cart accident, so long as his blood was shed, but what matters is that He lived again.
Besides, many prophecies had been fulfilled in the way that Jesus died, including His betrayal by one of His friends. Compare these Old and new Testament verses regarding just a few of those prophecies and you'll be amazed. makes a GREAT Bible study!
Psalms 41:9 to Matthew 26:47-50;
Zechariah 11:12 to Matthew 26:14-15;
Isaiah 50:6 to Matthew 26:67-68;
Isaiah 53:5 to Matthew 27:26;
Isaiah 53:7 to Matthew 27:12-14;
Zechariah 11:13 to Matthew 27:5-7;
Psalm 22:16 to Luke 23:33;
Isaiah 53:12 to Matthew 27:38
This is certain; God had a plan all along and His ways are higher than ours. Isaiah 55:8,9: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts."
THINKING LIKE THE ENEMY
Let's say, for a moment, that you are Lucifer. Not comfortable with that? Ok, let's say that I am the devil incarnate. What ELSE would I do to shake the faith of the Christian world that I haven't already done? My war with you is on several fronts, remember: your flesh, your mind, and your spirit. Satan’s opposition against the church is not a frontal attack, but a subversive attack through intrigue, deception, and trickery. The demons were shocked to discover that Jesus had come in a manger. They were expecting Him to come later, for one final confrontation (Matthew 8:28-29). Satan’s strategy for the present time (until the final conflict) is that of subversive activity. Terrorism, for example. He is presently employing deception and intrigue to trip up the Christian world at large. This is a time of guerilla warfare, of snipers and booby traps, not of frontal attack.
Where the Gospel of Judas is concerned, all I can say is, nice try, devil. He's done this before, maximizing the number of reporters looking for an Eastertime “religious” story to discount Christianity. This is the season when those “Jesus” programs hit their peak all over cable TV. My goodness, the results of the "official" research are to be released after Easter, when Christians around the world traditionally will have marked the official version of Christ's death as told by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Monsignor Walter Brandmuller, president of the Vatican's Committee for Historical Science, calls this "a product of religious fantasy." He said the "Judas" manuscript would not have any impact on church teaching. Seeing as how the Church has already addressed this matter between 1500 and 1900 years ago, it's not surprising that he doesn't think there will be much of an impact.
I'm inclined to agree. Sadly, there will be many who are sitting on the fence or those looking for an excuse that will be swayed by the scientific findings. Yes, there will be those baby Christians - some who've been warming pews for 50 years - who will become confused by the outcome. But any Christian who is well versed in Scripture will not be moved. We can get some insights into one of the primary Christian heresies that has never completely disappeared, and may even perhaps get some personal insights into our own walks with God. This may prove to be a test for you. Just remember what it is that we're reading. Eat the meat and spit out the bones.
JUDAS: FRIEND OR FOE?
William Klassen, author of "Judas: Betrayer or Friend of Jesus?" considers the manuscript an asset to any attempts to rehabilitate Judas' image. "It's important to look at this Gospel of Judas very carefully, because this is evidence that in the late second century, in the time of Irenaeus, there was a group who held up the banner for Judas," he said.
While we're at it, let's discuss the kinder, gentler side of Satan and the love sonnets of Hitler. There will always be those who hold up the banner for that which is blatantly evil. Although Judas cooperates in the arrest of Christ, Hedrick said, the codex does not depict him as a villain.
Hedrick, who saw the Judas papers, agreed with Robinson that the original Gospel of Judas was probably written in Greek in the second century AD. Most scholars agree that the scribal hand used in the Coptic translation would date that text to the fourth or fifth century.
"I don't think it will unsettle the church," Hedrick said in an interview. "I mean we are not talking history here. We know very little about Judas from the New Testament, and some people have even challenged whether Judas was a historical person."
Although Judas cooperates in the arrest of Christ, Hedrick said, the codex does not depict him as a villain. "Judas is not a bad guy in this text," Hedrick said in an interview. "He is the good guy and he is serving God."
Hedrick said the last six pages of the Judas document describe a heavenly scene in which Allogenes (see below) is being tested and tried by Satan, followed by an earthly scene in which Jesus is being watched closely by scribes. At one point Judas is told, "Although you are evil at this place, you are a disciple of Jesus." The last line of the text says, according to Hedrick: "And he [Judas] took money and delivered him [Jesus] over."
So, Hedrick said, "it appears that Judas is working at the behest of God when he betrays Jesus as part of the divine plan." When translations of the Gospel of Judas are released with accompanying commentary, Hedrick does admit that "there will be a lot of sensationalism, but it will dribble out, leaving only the scholars interested."
Church discussions conceivably could revolve around the extent to which New Testament Gospels present events in Jesus' life and passion as ordained from the start. Hardly anything is known about the document's contents "other than a few personages" it names, said Professor Robinson, identifying them as the mythological figure Allogenes (literally, "the stranger") known from some Nag Hammadi texts, and Satan, Jesus and Judas.
THE SO-CALLED GOSPEL OF JUDAS
If you read online, the text placed online at the New York Times website (why their keen interest?), read it with one eyebrow raised...remembering that "Gospel" means "Good News." Then go study your Bible like a good follower of Jesus Christ. We've got work to do.
Thursday, March 30, 2006
Barna Survey Reveals Significant
Growth in Born Again Population
March 27, 2006
(Ventura, CA) – A recent survey by The Barna Group found that more than four out of five Senior Pastors of Protestant churches consider their church to be “evangelical.” While that includes a large share of mainline Protestant churches, the shift in self-perception by churches may help to explain a new revelation from Barna’s most recent national survey. In that study, in which 1003 adults were randomly interviewed from the 48 continental states, the proportion of adults who can be classified as “born again Christians” based upon their beliefs (not based on their adoption of that phrase to describe themselves) was the highest ever measured in the quarter century that Barna has been tracking that measure.
Close to Half Are Born Again
The new research found that 45% of all adults meet the criteria that The Barna Group uses to classify people as “born again.” That number is up from 31% in 1983. The percentage hovered in the 36% to 43% range from 1992 through 2005. The current figure represents the largest single-year increase since 1991-1992.
The increase is largely attributable to a 16-point rise among Baby Boomers since the beginning of the 1990s. With 53% of Boomers currently meeting the born again criteria used by The Barna Group, that generation has now surpassed the percentage of born again adults within the preceding pair of generations, among whom 48% fit the standard. Slightly more than one-third of the younger generations – the Baby Busters and Mosaics – fit the criteria.
Other demographic comparisons indicate that women are 16% more likely than men to be born again. African-Americans are the ethnic group most likely to be born again (59%), while Hispanics were barely half as likely (32%). Residents of the South remain the most committed to Christ (57% were born again), while those in the West (33%) and Northeast (37%) were least committed.
Five Faith Segments
The Barna Group has tracked five distinct faith segments over the years, and the new downloadable report on the faith factors of the U.S. – The State of the Church: 2006 – shows the nature of the change in those categories.
For more information about George Barna’s new report on religious beliefs and behavior,The State of the Church: 2006 click here
Evangelicals, who are born again but also possess each of seven core beliefs that mirror those taught in the Bible, represent 9% of the adult public.
Non-evangelical born again adults – individuals who have made a personal commitment to Christ that remains important in their life and who believe they will go to Heaven after they die because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their savior – constitutes 36% of the adult base. They do not meet the evangelical criteria by virtue of their beliefs related to the seven core biblical perspectives tested in Barna’s surveys.
Notional Christians – people who describe themselves as Christian but do not meet the born again criteria – have declined from 46% in 1991 to 36% today.
Adults who are aligned with faiths other than Christianity, and those who consider themselves to be atheist or agnostic, each comprise less than 10% of the population.
Moving in the Right Direction
The data show that the nation may be moving in the right direction, spiritually, according to researcher George Barna. “The same tracking survey shows us that people’s faith is not at all deep, but at least more people are becoming attuned to the importance of the life, death, resurrection and message of Jesus Christ,” the best-selling commentator on faith and culture explained. “Faith is a progressive journey, so we are hopeful that the recent surge in the number of adults who say they have committed themselves to following Jesus Christ is the first in a series of steps toward maturity in their faith and relationship with Christ.
“The worst thing,” Barna continued, “would be for millions of people to accept Christ as their savior, and then live the remainder of their life as if nothing had changed other than their eternal destiny. The challenge to faith communities, at this point, is to help people realize that you cannot be a follower of Christ by taking the free gift of salvation and then continuing to pursue the same life trajectory as before making that decision. Embracing Christ as your savior is not the end of the story. It’s the very beginning point of a transformed life that centers on constant worship of God, serving other people, investing personal resources in the values of God, deepening their relationship with God every day, and creating families that place God at the center of their shared experience.”
Research Description and Definitions
The data in this report are based on interviews with 1003 adults from across the nation. These telephone surveys were conducted by The Barna Group, during January 2006, based upon a random sample of people 18 years of age and older living within the 48 continental states. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample of adults is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. In the research, the distribution of survey respondents corresponded to the geographic dispersion of the U.S. population. Multiple callbacks were used to increase the probability of including a reliable distribution of qualified individuals.
“Born again Christians” are defined as people who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today and who also indicated they believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they had confessed their sins and had accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “born again.”
“Evangelicals” meet the born again criteria (described above) plus seven other conditions. Those include saying their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”
The Barna Group, Ltd. (which includes its research division, The Barna Research Group) is a privately held, for-profit corporation that conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries. Located in Ventura, California, Barna has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each new, weekly update on the latest research findings from The Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website www.barna.org
© The Barna Group, Ltd, 2006.
Could God use you in Internet Evangelism?
Could God use you in Internet Evangelism?
By Rusty Wright, Probe Ministries
Could God use you to reach people for Christ via the Internet? The answer may surprise you!
I’m no techie!“How could I ever use the Internet to reach people for Christ?” you might wonder. “I’m no techie. I know how to send email and read the news online, but that’s about it.”
I can identify with that. My technical knowledge is limited. For many years, I was even hesitant to use an ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) at the bank, for fear I would do something stupid and it would swallow my card.
Gradually, I overcame my technophobia and began to use computers for word processing. But I used somewhat primitive setups. Only in 1998 did I switch from the rather archaic DOS operating system to Windows because a friend said I should “get with the 90s before the 90s are over!”
What are your talents?We all have talents and abilities. A key to usefulness is making our talents available to God. Your talents may be in building friendships, engaging in conversations, answering questions, inspiring people, or telling stories. God certainly can use those. Here’s a story that may encourage you.
My own interests involve communication, especially relating Christ to secular audiences. Over the years, I’ve written numerous evangelistic articles to help reach nonbelievers. Several years ago, a couple of friends involved in Internet ministry, Keith Seabourn and Allan Beeber, asked me to send them all my articles so they could put them “online.”
I didn’t understand all that meant, but they said it would make the articles available free to people around the globe. That seemed like a good thing.
Keith’s website, Leadership University aimed to collect thousands of articles supporting the validity of Christian faith. Allan’s Evangelism Toolbox became an online “Yellow Pages” (directory) of evangelism resources. They helped introduce me to Internet outreach.
Are you ready for the digital revolution?At a convention in Amsterdam a few years ago, I saw a brochure that said, “The Great Commission is Going Digital; Are You Ready?” That piqued my interest. Maybe God wanted me to focus my energies on Internet Evangelism.
The brochure spoke of the then-fledgling Internet Evangelism Coalition. I started to hang out with these folks – wonderful people – and to learn from them. I began to write more for the web and various articles appeared online.
Another friend encouraged me to do a Google search on my name. I was amazed to see page after page of my articles on websites that I had never heard of!
I also discovered a number of other “Rusty Wrights” including …
- a platform tennis player
- a university professor
- a football coach
- a singer
- a rodeo cowboy
- a racecar driver
- a cruise ship captain
- a convict
This seemed almost too good to be true. What a potential for spreading Good News!
A simple prayerIn August 2003, while jogging one morning, I felt impressed to pray that within a year, I would be aware of 100 websites that had used my articles. (At the time, I was aware of 43.) There wasn’t an audible “voice from heaven” or handwriting on the sidewalk; just a strong inner impression that I should pray this.
A year later, I learned of the 100th site that had used this material. Some sites published the articles and others linked to them. The articles appeared in several languages: English, Spanish, Albanian, Croatian, Hungarian, Italian, and Polish. People just kept translating and posting them. It seemed beyond my control or ability. God gets the glory for this.
A surprising number of the sites were not Christian. For instance, one site linked to a version of the article Elvis Has Left the Building which traces fascination with Elvis Presley and its spiritual implications. An Argentine medical school website published a translation of One Minute After Death, about near-death experiences.
Some secular newspaper sites ran material. Personal websites and “blogs” (web logs) linked to articles. I did not contact all these websites, asking them to use my articles. Many content managers simply found the articles on the web and used them.
God’s sense of humorI even found one article link on a porn site.
I should clarify. The evangelistic article is entitled Dynamic Sex: Unlocking the Secret to Love. It presents a biblical perspective on sex and love but is written to grab and hold the attention of non-Christians. And no, I did not discover this link by surfing porn sites! I typed the article title into Google. I do pray that many websurfers who go to that site looking for pornography will find Jesus. God has a sense of humor!
Again, God gets all the glory for this. If you have interest, many of these seeker- and skeptic-friendly articles are at Probe Ministries.
What can you do?Internet evangelism offers you a dazzling array of possibilities to communicate Christ. Writing articles is just one method. You may want to interact with unbelievers in a chat room, correspond via email, communicate on a blog, design your own website, pray for and/or support web outreach financially.
You can also encourage your church or Christian group to participate in ‘Internet Evangelism Day’. This international focus day program helps Christians learn more about the potential of the Web for outreach. Their www.InternetEvangelismDay.com site explains how to create a short focus program to include in church services or other activities.
The important thing is to ask God what He would have you do. As Mary told the servants in John 2:5, “Whatever He [Jesus] says to you, do it.”
Ask God to enlarge your borders. He did it for Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10).
Rusty Wright is an author, syndicated columnist and university lecturer with Probe.org who has spoken on six continents. He holds Bachelor of Science (psychology) and Master of Theology degrees from Duke and Oxford Universities, respectively. www.probe.org/Rusty Copyright © Rusty Wright 2004. Permission granted to re-use this article in print.
Copyright © Rusty Wright 2004. Permission granted to re-use this article in print.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Our Church Is Doing Fine Without A Website
Why Have a Site?
Many people ask us, "Why should my church have a Web site?" It’s a good question in these times when everything seems to be "dot com" and when people are looking for spiritual answers.
Americans today are more devoted to seeking spiritual enlightenment than at any previous time in the 20th century. However, church attendance is slumping and reaching all-time lows. Thousands of seekers feel alienated from the traditional church and are turning elsewhere to find relevance, meaning and spiritual connection.
The Internet is shaping Christianity in ways few people in the traditional church would have imagined. Millions of people are meeting online to pray, to discuss their faith in chat rooms, to seek spiritual guidance and to study the Bible. Churches need to respond to these growing needs.
Simply stated, having a Web site benefits a church in three main ways:
- It helps enhance your existing local ministry, providing many ways to support your church body;
- It dramatically extends the scope of your ministry by building relationships with people and organizations outside your immediate locale;
- It can effectively communicate the Gospel to grow the Kingdom.
- Greatly assist those persons searching for a church to visit or for a church home. Many people’s first impression of a church is no longer the building and grounds, but the church’s Web site. Providing overviews of your services, directions to your church, and easy ways to contact you are a few of the many ways to grow your church.
- Improve communications with your staff and church family. Quickly communicate with your staff and body (not having to rely on 8:00 to 5:00 office hours).
- Potentially save money by eliminating or greatly reducing mailings; place information on your site or send it by email.
- Change or edit church information without the expense and hassle of reprinting a brochure, promotional piece or other material.
- Present a vivid history of your church. If your ministry or building has a rich history, preserve and communicate it with multimedia.
- Make it easy for new attenders to get integrated into the church body. Provide a listing of Frequently Asked Questions, guidelines on facility use, or policies often referred to.
- Enhance your messages each week by providing a sermon outline in advance so members may prepare and pray specifically for you. Post a completed outline after your service for shut-ins, those who were traveling or otherwise could not attend.
- Support the work of your committees, departments and classes by providing special online areas for them to communicate without having to meet together.
- Broaden the influence of your ministry by fostering relationships with like-minded ministries or community organizations. Similarly, strengthen ties with your denomination’s churches and official structure through online resources.
- Support your congregation’s Christian walk by offering daily online devotionals or material from countless good online Christian resources.
- Encourage and support your missionaries. Not only easily communicate with them around the world, but also provide a way for them to instantly share their progress, prayer requests or other information with their church family.
- Provide an efficient way to respond to prayer requests and share them with others as appropriate.
- Offer a terrific method for communicating your volunteer needs around the church and a response mechanism, as well.
- Introduce the Gospel to those persons who may never feel comfortable walking into a church. Present more in-depth information than normally can be shared through casual conversation.
- Always be "open." Your church’s site will be accessible 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Better appeal to today’s youth and young adults by using a medium important to them, the Internet.
If you would like to ask questions, get more information or start your Web site, we will be glad to assist you. All Media Studios is committed to helping churches and ministries best use the Internet for Kingdom purposes. There are several ways to contact us:
Web site: http://www.allmediastudios.com
Monday, March 27, 2006
Marketing - From The Ground Up
Marketing and Outreach - An excerpt from Church Marketing from the Ground Up
This is a long, but important tutorial. The marketing tutorial is an excerpt written by Brett Andrews (a church planter and founding Director of Church Marketing Solutions) and Tim Stephens (a church planter). The outreach materials are taken from Church Planting Solutions online launch plan management system (Converge).
How would Jesus market the church? Does it work? Is it necessary? Is it biblical, or is it fighting the battle with weapons of the world? Is it worth my time? Is it worth the expense? Is it too high risk? What if we spend $10,000 and no one responds? What kind of person comes to church because of a card in the mail?
Marketing the church demands time, thought, planning, and coordination. It’s expensive and risky. Wouldn’t it be more spiritual—and easier—to kneel and pray three hours a day and accept the people God sends?
Journey Christian Church (located in Tampa, Florida) had been meeting for several weeks when we had our first "Discover Journey" class in the fall of 1999. Thirty adults had showed up for our first class. They were each asked, "How did you hear about Journey?" Over twenty of the thirty people there responded that they had received a card in the mail. Of those thirty people, twenty-six had not been to church for at least two years, over twenty had not been to church regularly for at least ten years, and many had never attended church.
Could a series of four mass mailings of cards really have sparked hundreds of people with no church affiliation to show up one Sunday? In the first three months of Journey Christian Church’s existence, over forty people were baptized. Almost all of them came to Journey because they received a card in the mail.
What is Marketing?
Mention marketing of the church to a group of Christians and you’re likely to stir up a lively, if not, heated debate. Read the following email received by Church Marketing Solutions1:
"I'm a Christian, and I'm offended by your business. First, can you see Jesus "marketing the church"? Second, you do it to make yourself money. You are the Hophni and Phineas of the 21st century. Shame on you."
For some, marketing the church is associated with shady practices involving selling, exchanging money, and making profits. Consider the following definition2:
Marketing n. The exchange of goods for an agreed sum of money. The commercial functions involved in transferring goods from producer to consumer.
To add fuel to the fire, consider John 2:14-15 where we see Jesus’ response to businessmen who turned the temple courts into a profit making market (business)3:
"In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!""
What is at the heart of Jesus’ strong response? Is it the fact that these men were opportunistic? Being opportunistic is not the problem; their motivation behind the opportunity is the problem. Unfortunately, their motive was making money and had little to do with God’s agenda.
Church marketing is all about building bridges to lost people so they can hear the gospel message. This is why, among the Christian community, church planters and new churches have been the most willing to accept church marketing. Without a doubt, marketing is one of the most important steps a new church plant can take in communicating the Good News of Jesus Christ with the culture in which it lives.
Setting the Stage
According to research by Thom Rainer, "most Americans have never been invited to church—never. Yet, 82% indicate that they would be at least ‘somewhat likely’ to attend if invited."4
Most experts on reaching people for Christ agree that the most effective form of evangelism is friendship evangelism. The purpose of new church marketing isn’t to stick a card in someone’s hand and expect they will want a relationship with Christ and then to be baptized a week later. Effective marketing opens the door to a possible relationship. It connects a church with people who need to be pastored before they realize they need pastoring.
Everyone is spiritually restless until they connect with God. When crisis or life-transition exposes the restlessness, where will the unchurched person turn? They will probably reach out to the church that’s been pastoring them from a safe distance.
If the most effective means of reaching lost people is through personal invitation, how do marketing techniques such as mass mailings continue to make such an impact? Simply this: the purpose of every marketing touch is to make it easier for Christians to start a spiritual conversation with their neighbors. Church events that address children, marriage, or finances, for example, attract individuals to church who might otherwise not attend a Sunday service. When postcards go out, ask your launch team to pray as well as to ask their friends or co-workers if they saw the cards in the mail. Often, people with no other connection with the church will receive a series of cards, and later will begin a conversation with someone connected with the church. The bridge for a spiritual conversation has already been constructed, making it less intimidating for the newcomer to take the next step.
A shortsighted philosophy that focuses on getting people in the door on Sunday morning is doomed from the start. The goal is to help people cooperate with the Great Commission. Make it easier for your members to share their faith. Effective marketing allows believers more opportunities to start conversations with spiritual seekers God puts in their path.
Marketing is not Optional
Every church markets. In his letter to Titus, Paul instructs Christians to conduct themselves "so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive."5 Everything the church does makes the teachings of Jesus either more or less attractive. Some market intentionally, while others market unwittingly. Some market a message they want people to hear. Some market a message that pushes people away. Do you have a church sign? If yes, then you are marketing. What about a logo, newsletter, meeting space, or even a worship service? Each is a marketing tool. Marketing may not be the primary motivation or objective of all you do, but everything you do markets the church.
For instance, what images do these church names conjure—Adventure Church, Journey, The Meeting Place, The Well, ForeFront? Or maybe Boring Christian Church, Holy Spirit Church, Apostolic Church, Covenant Church, The Chosen Church? Get the point? At New Life Christian Church (located in Centreville, Virginia), people sometimes say, "I saw your name, and that’s what I need—new life." From the moment the church selects a name, everything the church does either helps people take a step closer to Jesus or creates a barrier for the gospel.
For most church planters lying awake nights thinking of ways to reach their community, pragmatism trumps theoretical hair-splitting. When planting a new church, the pressing question almost always is, "How can we reach more people as fast and as effectively as possible?"
How does it work?
When we asked the question, "How did you first hear about Journey," we expected a slew of different responses. We found as we asked questions, people admitted they had heard about Journey multiple times over the previous few months through various and multiple mediums.
Charlie and Edie Gonzalez, for example, were two individuals at our first Discover Journey class. Both were divorced, but had remarried each other 18 years earlier. Charlie was a manger at a local bread distributor, while Edie helped run a daycare. Together, they had two kids in high school, and each had children from their previous marriages. Charlie was a Cuban American and rode motorcycles on weekends. Edie liked to spend time with the kids and rode with Charlie on occasions. They were both raised Catholic, but had not been to church since getting married.
When asked how they heard about Journey, each credited the cards the received in the mail. But as we asked further questions, they quickly admitted they had heard about Journey many times over the last few months. Their daughter danced at the high school where we had sponsored a show. Their son played football, and we had bought an advertisement on the back page of his program. They had each seen several of our television ads in the weeks prior to the launch of the church. In addition, they had received at least one flier and had seen our slides in a local movie theater. Overall, we had "touched" the Gonzalez family ten times.
Many marketing experts propose that it takes, "Six to stick." A consumer needs to be touched at least six times before he or she considers buying a product. At Journey, we believe it takes even more "touches" for unchurched and irreligious people to consider giving church a chance.
The strategy included a several month detailed plan as we tried to establish identity in north Tampa. We studied and researched our context intensely in order to understand how our target group thought, shopped, and what their felt-needs were. Before you spend money on advertising or brainstorming, hire a graphic artist, or start designing logos on napkins, please do the hard, but rewarding work of developing a new church marketing plan.
Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of the Guerilla Marketing series of books6, suggests you begin with a simple marketing plan. "The plan has only seven sentences. It should be that brief because you’ll be forced to focus on your objectives and tactics and because brief marketing plans should be easy to understand when read by your employees or partners." I suggest that churches state marketing intentions in 5 sentences, especially since competition is not a factor.
At Journey, we followed five steps designed to help us "touch" our target group as many times as possible.
1. Define who you are and who you want to be (branding). Church marketing isn’t business marketing. If a margarine maker over-promises and under-delivers, your trust in that company won’t be significantly impacted. You may even buy their product if it’s on sale next week. However, if a church makes promises and then doesn’t deliver, its integrity is at stake in the eye of the newcomer, and he or she may never return. Obviously, integrity expectations for those selling butter and toasters differs dramatically from expectations for churches—and justifiably so.
Integrity in church marketing means honestly representing who you are. If your children’s ministry stinks, don’t quote parents saying it’s the nation’s best. If your worship team is just this side of senior citizenship, then don’t produce radio spots proclaiming Britney Spears-style worship. When who you proclaim to be matches who you really are, it builds credibility and honors God. Misleading expectations, however, leave the first-timer disappointed, with little chance of a return visit.
Who has God called and gifted you to be? No church reaches everybody. No other church can reach the people you are created to reach as effectively as you. Each church has a unique personality. Some churches are great at creative communication. Some have more than their share of rock musicians. Some set the pace with children or students’ ministries. Others model fine arts ministry. But no church does everything great. In fact, great churches discover what they do well and celebrate these strengths in the way they market their church, trusting God will connect them with His people.
As a church discovers who God has called and equipped them to be, three basic marketing questions emerge:
1. Who are we?
2. Who are we best at reaching?
3. How do we connect who we are with the felt needs of those we are reaching?
2. Make an exhaustive list of methods you think can "touch" your target group over the three months prior to the launch of the new church. Our list for Journey Church included:
Adopting a litter free road and getting our name on a street sign.
Sponsoring a parenting seminar at the local high school.
Hiring a graphic artist to design a logo and stationary.
Buying pre and post movie slides at the two local theaters.
Buying an ad in the high school football program.
Inviting the community to a local park special event sponsored by our church.
Sponsoring a Habitat home.
Partnering with local media in donating time and supplies to the needy.
Having a user-friendly, informational website.
Buying banners to hang at our office and other available sites.
Sponsoring a high school drama presentation.
Getting Chick-fil-A to hand out Journey fliers to all customers.
Giving away thousands of Journey pens.
Providing t-shirts to friends and acquaintances that work at Borders, Starbucks, and other public places.
Paying teens to put "Discover Journey Church" bumper stickers on their cars.
Sending a mass mailing to everyone in our 5-mile radius.
Passing out business cards at bars, restaurants, and other public places.
Placing small ads in homeowners associations’ newsletters.
Giving out water and squirt bottles at parades, parties, and other public events.
Renting a billboard for three months.
Having Papa John’s give out fliers to all customers.
Advertising via cable television.
Putting door hangers on every home and car in our target area.
Setting out A-frame signs each weekend at key intersections.
Passing out fliers at Home Depot, Target, Wal-Mart, and other frequented retail stores.
Writing personal letters to all homes within a one-mile radius of our meeting place.
Placing classified ads in non-traditional newspapers.
Securing newspapers ads in traditional papers.
Renting exhibit or booth space at fairs or carnivals.
Hand out fliers at Tampa Bay Bucs games.
This list is not exhaustive, but it was a starting point for us.
3. Contextualize your idea. Not every idea at Journey Christian Church was valid for our demographic and target group. And some great ideas will not work in your context. We cut our list from hundreds of ideas to fifty that we thought would be effective in our area.
4. Prioritize your ideas. Most church planters today do a mass mailing. In recent years, it has proven to be the most efficient method to repeatedly touch your target group. In our experience a four-card mailing to 30,000 homes will likely result in at least 150 first-time guests to your new church. So, for most church planters, mass mailing is the most important idea. After that, the effectiveness of other marketing techniques varies greatly depending on your context, style, purpose, and budget.
Don’t just try some ideas. Try lots of ideas. Church planting veteran John Wasem says, "Don’t put all your marketing eggs in one basket." Remember, the marketing rule of thumb—"It takes six to stick." A consumer needs at least six touches before he or she considers a product. For irreligious people, it may demand more than that. So, give it time. Years may pass before the new church fully realizes the harvest of its first outreach events and cards. But, with God’s involvement, the harvest is sure. God is the Hound of Heaven, pursing people on the run. He is a sending God, and He expects to be reconciled with lost people. When God prepares a heart, and the church’s marketing touches reach that person repeatedly over a period of time, it creates an opening for potential relationship. One attendee later commented on his decision to attend Journey, "I kept hearing about this church in all these different ways, and I knew I just had to check it out."
5. Weigh the financial costs. Until this point, every idea should be valid without regard to cost. But at some point, you must do a cost benefit analysis. It is important to know your budget. Contact a financial specialist for guidance. I recommend Church Marketing Solutions. You can spend dozens of hours getting quotes and trying to contract all the vendors yourself, or you can let a specialist do the work and deliver a great product at an unbelievable cost.
Church planters realize quickly that advertising can be very expensive. But hopefully, you also realize effective and efficient marketing can be done using few traditional means of advertising. With literally billions of dollars being spent each year by American industries, customers have become desensitized to most advertising. For example, although Budweiser is rewarded prestigious awards year after year by advertising agencies, their market share is decreasing annually. Comical advertising does not always correlate to effective marketing. Even memorable advertising does not often yield increased profits for companies. Interestingly enough, one of America’s fastest growing and most recognizable companies, Krispy Kreme, does not advertise.
The best form of marketing is saturation marketing. "Six to stick" is not just a catchy slogan. Touching people as many times as possible in as many ways as possible eventually brings people to church, many for the first time. Saturation marketing is an inexpensive way to reach people.
A front-page article in a major newspaper costs nothing. On the other hand, a back page ad on a weekend in that same major newspaper costs thousands of dollars. Spending time creating press releases, cold calling media outlets, and handing out flyers at concerts and sporting events will cost your new or established church almost little or nothing, but if you are able to create a buzz among influential people, your marketing plan has produced its desired results with little cost.
Your marketing plan will probably include some traditional advertising. Those ads may fit well into your plan and might help create the synergy you desire when starting a new church. Your ads may have a primary purpose of drawing attention among influential people. When we started the church in Tampa, we used cable television advertising. I thought the ads were great. They brought a few folks to the church, but more importantly, the local newspapers, including the Tampa Tribune, noticed the ads. They were looking for a human-interest story, and they called us. Because of networking like this, more people came to Journey Church because of newspaper articles than did people who came as a direct result of our advertising.
Most church planters I know budget between $15,000 and $50,000 on marketing. To some of you, these numbers seem outrageous. To those of you who have worked in the corporate world, these numbers may seem ridiculously low. Regardless of your perspective, most church planters in America spend approximately 10%-20% of their first year budgets on marketing. The percentage will almost certainly decline after the first year, but should not be drastically reduced.
A word of caution—the more money you budget for a new church marketing plan, the more research will be required to spend it efficiently. For example, in Tampa radio advertising on a couple popular radio stations seemed to be the most effective means of reaching our target group. Yet, the average spot on a radio station costs $80 per thirty second commercial if you buy a bundle of slots. To run a similar spot on VH1, MTV, CNBC, Lifetime, Discovery, and other channels often costs less than $10 per spot when buying in volume. Therefore, we had to determine if the radio ads were worth at least eight times as much as the cable television ads. If you are going to spend thousands of dollars on radio advertising, first consider if you can achieve better saturation of your context for fewer dollars in a different medium.
Some Final Essentials
Do a contextualization study using demographics and surveys to fully understand the people you are trying to reach. Based on this study, develop a new church marketing plan that will serve as a guide to all outreach activities.
Establish a fully functional web site as soon as possible. List it on all advertising materials. An initial web presence can be established quickly and inexpensively. Your web site will help people feel comfortable visiting your church.
Design a logo that communicates an image of who you seek to be.
Design a high quality, "first touch" color brochure that communicates who you are to the unchurched people in your community.
Design high-quality, color business cards for the primary purpose of drawing people to your web site. Give them to everyone you meet.
Seek to have name recognition within your target area before sending out your final direct marketing campaign (The effectiveness of your startup mailing campaign will be better if you already have a positive image in the community.).
Proactively determine what image you are seeking to establish in the community, and use outreach events and marketing to build this identity and image.
Use multiple touches. The "Six to Stick" philosophy is solid and not as difficult to achieve as it first appears.
Brainstorm a list of every possible marketing touch that you can think of (i.e. direct mail cards, posters, web site links, flyers, newspaper ads, newsletters, A-frame signs, invitation letters mailed to the community, yellow pages, giveaways, banners, etc.). Identify at least 50 possibilities.
Determine which types of marketing touches are already being used effectively in your target area.
Grab the low hanging fruit (cheap and easy touches—there are more than you think).
Prioritize the list of possible marketing touches in light of your budget and your understanding of effectiveness.
Avoid whiplash. Maintain consistency of message by using the same branding on your different touches.
Get a non-profit, bulk mail permit early. If you wait too long, it will cost you additional money.
Find people in your church (or in your launch group) with marketing experience, and get their help.
Negotiate the lowest possible prices, recalling that there is considerable margin in areas such as yellow page ads.
Candidly consider whether you are ready to deliver what you promise.
Your marketing and outreach strategies are inseparable. Use every outreach event as an opportunity to get multiple marketing touches into the community.
Stick with it. The harvest takes time. Marketing is a long-term investment. Repetition is essential. Be persistent.
Steve and Laura were living life to the fullest. Each had a great job that paid well. They had a four thousand square foot house, a dog, and two happy children. They were members of various country clubs and fitness centers and vacationed regularly at ski resorts throughout the country. Life was unfolding nicely, but Steve and Laura had little use for church.
Then during one doctor’s appointment Steve was diagnosed, after a series of tests, with a brain tumor. God got Steve and Laura’s attention. They became interested in spiritual things and remembered receiving post cards from a new church. Laura remembered seeing banners outside a school on Sunday morning identifying the church’s location. Steve and Laura showed up for church one Sunday morning, found Jesus, were baptized into Christ, and experienced the love of that community of faith.
Six months later Steve died. His funeral was a celebration of Steve’s graduation into a Christ-filled eternity. Where would Steve and Laura have been without the church marketing of one new church that cared enough to reach their community through a marketing plan? Marketing is all about reaching people like Steve and Laura. There are millions of individuals and families in all walks of life still out there waiting to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ. Don’t they deserve to be reached through a well thought out, creative marketing plan or whatever else it takes to communicate Christ? We believe they do.
Endnotes for Marketing
 For more information on Church Marketing Solutions and a closer look at what people are saying about church marketing, visit Church Marketing Solution’s website at www.church-marketing.com.
 Definition found at www.dictionary.com, 2002.
 All Scripture quotations are taken from the New International Version of the Holy Bible unless otherwise noted.
 Thom Rainer quote available in an article by Albert Mohler, The Unchurched Next Door: A New Look at the Challenge, found on crosswalk.com, 2003.
 Titus 2:10.
 Jay Conrad Levinson, Guerilla Marketing for Free (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003), 12-13.
 Church Marketing Solutions is easily the best source for information today from trends to demographics to cost analyses available to all churches. Church Marketing Solutions helps churches deliver high quality marketing at the lowest possible costs. So, before you spend a penny on marketing, contact them at www.church-marketing.com. For example, with their help, you can produce a series of postcards designed, printed, delivered, and mailed for less than most other organizations. They use only the best printers in the country and have relationships with some of the best mail houses. Also, Church Marketing Solutions was started by church planters to help other church planters be more effective. Let them help you.
Outreach events are great opportunities for establishing name recognition in the community and starting conversations with people in the community.
Outreach events take on many shapes and sizes. The list of possible events is far larger than the actual number that can be conducted. It is important to prioritize the events and identify a strategy that will provide the greatest impact for the limited resources available. It starts with identifying possible events and setting an expectation for how many events you will do (e.g. 2 events per month on the 3 months prior to launch). Also, some events target specific neighborhoods while others target entire towns. Consider at least 3 different type of events (a) Local neighborhood - a specific neighborhood - cookouts, etc., (b) Community - a community or entire development - concerts, small carnivals, seminars, (c) Regional - entire town - large scale events that draw from an entire region. Local neighborhood events are less expensive and take less time to plan. Regional are more expensive with more planning. Regional reach far more people and get more free publicity. Consider a mix of different types.
An outreach strategy and a marketing strategy are closely linked. Each outreach event is an opportunity for marketing. In most cases, a new church can get at least 3-5 positive name touches to the local community where the event is being conducted (e.g. flyers, signs, newsletters, invitations, etc.). An outreach strategy should be closely coordinated with the new church's marketing strategy.
One of the biggest mistakes that new churches make is not aggressively using outreach events to establish name recognition in the community. Too many church planters rely on marketing to establish name recognition. Outreach events are far more effective at branding when used in conjunction with marketing. Ask this simply question 'how will we establish broad name recognition in the community BEFORE our pre-launch direct mail campaign?' DO NOT RELY ON MARKETING FOR NAME RECOGNITION.
A new church will do far more outreach events by setting an expectation for a specific number of events and then scheduling them 3-6 months in advance of when they will happen. Churches that do not set specific expectations for the number of events rarely do more than 2 or 3 events. Churches that proactively plan events often do 5-10 (or more) events. Positive name recognition will be directly linked to the number and type of events that you do.
Outreach events provide great venues for 'booking' your worship band in the community. People love music. Get people out to events and then get them asking 'what kind of church does an event like this and has a band like this? My parents church did not have music like this!'
Outreach events provide great opportunities for partnering with other community organizations. In some cases, churches can co-sponsor an event or take on a specific responsibility at an already established and known event. For example, some churches have taken the lead responsibility for children's games and programming at large annual community events. In other cases, churches have volunteered their worship band to play for free at community events. There are many possibilities if you simply think innovatively and look for opportunities. Developing a written plan forces the discipline of looking for innovative ways to get into the community.
The list of possible outreach/service events is far larger than a new church can actually accomplish. It is relatively easy to make a list of over 200 different outreach/service opportunities. You will need a filter through which you decide what events to actually accomplish. Here are a few considerations in developing your filter:
- Understanding of your target demographic and their felt needs - For example, if your target is young families with children, Bingo nights is probably not the right answer.
- Understanding of what other churches and organizations are already doing (establishing a Niche) - Don't try to duplicate what is already being done well
- Understanding of the Brand/Reputation you are trying to establish - You will become known to your community as the [FILL IN THE BLANK] church. Outreach events will shape how people brand you. You may be known as a fun church, a legalistic church, a service oriented church, or something else; but you will have a reputation. Use outreach events to build that reputation.
- Size or reach of event - There are at least 3 different categories of events:
- Local Neighborhood Events - These events are very simple and can be done with minimal planning and cost (less than $200 each). They will usually impact 50 or less people at a time. For example, a backyard BBQ is a very easy event that every staff member and launch team member should be willing to plan and host. These events provide the opportunity for very personal invitations to friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. In summary, these are small, more intimate events that are easy to plan and can/should be done locally by each staff member and launch team member.
- Community Events - These events require more planning or cost (up to $1000) and will likely impact 25-250 people. For example, a community concert hosted at a local park should attract over 100 people with minimal planning and cost (especially if the church band plays). Another example is a parenting seminar on a Saturday morning featuring a special speaker and hosted in a local day care facility. Marketing/promotion for these events is more extensive than for neighborhood events and includes flyers, signs, newsletter ads, invitations sent home with kids, etc.
- Regional Events - These events are very large events which have the ability to impact hundreds or thousands of people. These events require a great deal of planning and/or cost (in excess of $1000). For example, a city wide carnival featuring free games, food, pony rides, clowns/mascots, face-painting, and multiple inflatable rides/amusements. These events receive maximum publicity and marketing including flyers, signs, newspaper ads, newsletter ads, direct mail, radio or other mass means (free public service announcements), etc. The best regional events involve partnering with local civic and community organizations including elected politicians.
These are examples only intended to help the Church Planter understand that some events are quickly and easily held with little effort and others take a great deal of time and/or effort. Obviously there is a trade off: you can do 10 neighborhood events for each regional event. However, you will get 10x as many people and name recognition with a regional event as you will with a local neighborhood event. Church Planters are encouraged to plan a balanced mix of these different size events. For example, a Church Planter may plan one large regional event the weekend before the grand opening Sunday. In the three months prior to launch Sunday, the planter may do one community event each month. In addition to these community and regional events, the planter may challenge his launch team to each take ownership for local neighborhood events.
The outcome of 1-4 above is a filter through which a Church Planter decides what events to accomplish during the pre-natal phase.
Most church planters get to opening day and wish they had done more outreach events. There are two approaches that can be taken to scheduling outreach events:
- 6-12 months before opening day, the church planter establishes an expectation for accomplishing a specific number and type of outreach events (e.g. planter decides 7 months before launch to do 2 Regional Events and 1 Community Event per month in each of the 4 months leading up to launch, and at least 15 local neighborhood events. The planter then puts the events on the calendar 6-12 months before opening day. Most of the events will end up happening (or some kind of event in their place --- in many cases, the scheduled event becomes a placeholder for an event, not necessarily the specific event envisioned 6-12 months before launch)
- The Church planter does not schedule specific events until days or weeks before they are accomplished. This approach, taken by over 99% of church planters, will result in very few events being accomplished. The church planter will become consumed in all the other details of getting a church started and will keep putting off outreach events.
Things that get measured get done. A church planter who schedules 10 events is more likely to actually conduct 7 events than a church planter who doesn't schedule any events. Church name recognition in the community at launch is strongly dependent on the number of outreach and service events conducted in the 6 months prior to launch. Church planters who fail to set demanding expectations for the number of events often end up not doing many events. The Church Planter should determine his expectations for the number of events to conduct. Church Planting Solutions strongly recommends that one to two major events be conducted per month in the four months prior to launch (1.5 major events per month over 4 months = 6 major events -- this is consistent with the marketing philosophy of 'six to stick'). The Church Planter may also set an expectation for every staff person or every family on the launch team to host at least one level 3 event. At a minimum, the Church Planter should determine the total number of events to be conducted in the six months prior to launch.
Marketing - the Bible calls it Evanglisim
Marketing - How does it apply to the church?
Mention marketing of the church to a group of Christians and your likely to stir up a lively, if not, heated debate. Consider the following feedback one Christian organization received from a visitor to their web site:
I'm a Christian, and I'm offended by your business. First, can you see Jesus "marketing the church"? Second, you do it to make yourself money. You are the Hophni and Phineas of the 21st century. Shame on you.
Actually, we see Jesus marketing His message throughout His public ministry. How can level headed people see an issue so differently? Could it start with our understanding of what marketing is and how it applies to the church?
In this section, we will look at several “business” definitions of marketing and consider why elements of these definitions are difficult for Christians to embrace. We will consider whether being opportunistic in reaching lost people when our motives are pure is biblical. Finally, we will present the Church Marketing Institute’s definition of church marketing.
Marketing: Opportunity Balanced with Pure Motives?
For some people, marketing the church is associated with shady practices involving selling, exchanging money, and making profits. Consider the following definitions:
mar·ket n. A public gathering held for buying and selling merchandise. A place where goods are offered for sale. The opportunity to buy or sell.
mar·ket·ing n. The act or process of buying and selling in a market. The exchange of goods for an agreed sum of money. The commercial functions involved in transferring goods from producer to consumer.
These definitions focus on buying and selling goods and services. The idea of “selling” our faith makes all Christians uncomfortable. Our salvation is not something to be bought or sold, but instead comes through grace. As long as the idea of marketing the church is associated with buying or selling one’s faith, there will always be problems (we will see later that church marketing is not about selling faith).
To add fuel to the fire, consider John 2:14-17 where we see Jesus’ response to businessmen who turned the temple courts into a profit making market (business):
“In the temple courts he found men selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple area, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. To those who sold doves he said, "Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father's house into a market!" His disciples remembered that it is written: "Zeal for your house will consume me."”
What is at the heart of Jesus’ strong response? Is it the fact that these men were opportunistic (i.e. selling is all about location, location, location and these men rationalized that what better location than where many people come everyday? Even little children learn at a young age that you locate lemonade stands where the people are)? Being opportunistic is not the problem; their motivation behind the opportunity is the problem.
What if these men were passionate about God and were setting up tables each day in the temple court to give away free literature about God or to talk with people about God? They are still taking advantage of the opportunity, but their motives are pure and focused on reaching lost people. Unfortunately, their motive was making money and had little to do with God.
Opportunity balanced with pure motives to reach lost people is a model we see throughout Jesus’ public ministry and the Apostle Paul’s ministry. Consider what Paul says in 1 Cor 9:18 – 22:
“What then is my reward? Just this: that in preaching the gospel I may offer it free of charge, and so not make use of my rights in preaching it. Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.”
We see the picture of a man with extremely pure motives. A man with a passion for God who did whatever it took, including seizing worldly opportunities, to reach lost people with the gospel message.
Church marketing is all about building bridges to lost people so that they can hear the gospel message. This includes seizing opportunities to reach people that would otherwise not hear the gospel message. The foundation of marketing in the church must rest on pure motives; a passion for God and a passion to do whatever it takes to reach lost people.
Do we really believe that God’s heart aches for lost people and that His ultimate sacrifice is worthy of us doing “whatever it takes” to reach lost people? If so, why are we so reluctant to use marketing to reach people with the gospel message? In many cases, the answer lies in our misunderstanding of what “marketing the church” means!
Digging Deeper: Making Sense of it All
Before moving on to a definition of church marketing, let’s look at two more business definitions of marketing:
The process of planning and executing the conception, pricing, promotion, and distribution of ideas, good, and services to create exchanges that satisfy individual and organizational objectives.
American Marketing Association
Marketing activities and strategies result in making products available that satisfy customers while making profits for the companies that offer those products. The marketing process includes all of the following:
· Discovering what product, service, or idea customers want
· Producing a product with the appropriate features and quality
· Pricing the product correctly
· Promoting the product; spreading the word about why customers should buy it.
· Selling and delivering the product into the hands of the customer
Online Women’s Business Center
Sound like a foreign language? If we move beyond the jargon, there are several concepts that are common to the traditional “business” definition of marketing. Specifically, marketing is a process that involves the following:
· Products and services
· Money and profit (buying and selling)
· Producers and consumers (businesses and customers)
· Production of goods and services (including determination of what goods and services to produce)
· Distribution of goods and services
We can see why the traditional definitions of marketing appear to breakdown when applied to the church (which also explains why many people are uncomfortable with the idea of marketing the church). Let’s take a deeper look at each of these elements of the marketing process to discern how they do and do not apply to the church.
Products and services: Microsoft makes software, Chevrolet makes cars, H&R Block offers tax services and CNN provides news. Non-profits and for-profits alike offer at least one product or service. So how about the church? The answer should be as obvious as it is for Microsoft and Chevrolet. Unfortunately, many people struggle with the answer. We need look no further than the great commission in Matthew 28:18-20 where Jesus said:
"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."
The mission of the church is to make and build up disciples. More specifically, the church exists to lead people into a growing relationship with God. Can a person be a disciple without a personal and growing relationship with God? Our product is all about relationships; relationships with God, lost people, and other believers. God frequently uses relationships between people to initiate relationships with Himself. The primary product of the church is relationships. The means to this end is love.
In most organizations, the product (and its features) changes based on the needs of the consumer. In the church, the product (relationships) remains fixed and has not changed in over 2000 years.
Profit: Most organizations, including the church, exist to make a profit. The difference between organizations is in how profits are measured. Most organizations measure profit in monetary forms. Not in the church. We measure profit in terms of reaching lost people (making disciples) and in seeing ever increasing maturity in faith by believers.
Pricing and cost: Most organizations set pricing by what people are willing to pay. Supply and demand drive our economy. The same product can have differing prices based on geographic locations and seasons. Not in the church. Our pricing is set by God. Christ paid the price to enable all men to be reconciled to God. Our price of admission is life changing commitment. Commitment that comes from believing that Jesus is God’s Son, repenting of our sins (turning from our current sinful lifestyle and striving to live a life worthy of our new calling), and committing our lives to the Lordship of Jesus. We express this commitment through baptism and changed behaviors. God has set the price the same for all men.
Promotion: Promotion is all about building awareness of a product. In most organizations, the goal of promotion is to persuade people that their felt needs can be satisfied through the purchase of a product. In the church, the goal of promotion is to enable more people to hear the gospel message so that the Holy Spirit can convict them that the product is worth the cost. Promotion is a key step in the marketing process because it involves connecting people with a product.
Product or Service
Cars, computers, news, etc.
Managers are accountable to owners for performance.
New Believers and Maturity
Each Christian is accountable to God for results.
Pricing and Cost
Determining what people are willing to pay for the product. Cost/price is variable and depends on what people are willing to pay.
Price/cost has already been set by God and is unchanging.
The Business Itself
All Christians through the power and work of the
Anyone willing to pay the cost
Anyone willing to pay the cost
Awareness of product.
Persuade people that their felt need for the product is worth the cost.
Awareness of product.
Enable more people to hear the gospel message so that the Holy Spirit can convict them that the product will satisfy their real needs.
Determining the product features and benefits that people want and how best to convince them to pay the cost
Determining how best to cooperate with God in reaching lost people. Seizing opportunities to build bridges that expose people to the gospel
Producing the physical product or service. Product service is complete at the time it is delivered to the consumer.
Production never ends. Our relationships continually grow. There is not a specific point in time where the product (relationships) is finished
Connecting consumers with products at the producers place of business
Our place of business is everywhere. Relationships have no physical boundaries.
A New Paradigm: Church Marketing
As illustrated above, the concept of marketing in the church is radically different from marketing in the business world. In most organizations outside the church, the product changes based on the needs of consumers. Price is determined based on what people are willing to pay. Profit is measured in monetary terms. Promotion is aimed at persuading people their felt needs will be satisfied by purchasing the product.
In the church, the product (relationships) is fixed and has remained unchanged for over 2000 years. Price is also fixed and is determined by God. Price is not measured in money, but by commitment. Profit is measured in terms of souls won for Christ. Promotion is aimed at enabling as many people as possible to hear the gospel message, and, through hearing, to allow the Holy Spirit to convict them that the church’s product will satisfy their real needs.
Based on the above, I personally define church marketing as follows:
Church marketing - The process of communicating the features and benefits of the Church's product (relationships) in a compelling manner that helps people take their next step in pursuing the Church's product (relationships).
Key points include:
· Marketing is a process
· Marketing is communication
· The church’s product is relationships
· The goal of church marketing is to help people take next steps in pursuing God