church marketing pastors marketing christianA little while back I had coffee with a local pastor. As I told him about my passion for business and marketing, his eyes practically sparkled. He told me that he thought of his job as marketing too, basically trying to persuade people to come to church. I felt an immediate negative reaction to his philosophy but I really couldn’t figure out why.

Marketing is Too Dirty For the Church

Later, as I thought about it, my reaction was very natural. The problem is that most ‘marketing’ is synonymous with tricking people to buy something they didn’t really want in the first place. Marketing isn’t really honest.

When we practice marketing in the Church, are we really doing anything different? We are covertly tricking people with bright lights and loud rock music. We are entertaining them, giving them the trappings of the world and watering down the message to make it easier to swallow.

That’s marketing; that’s tricking people.

Church = Business?

I think the problem is that pastors are seeing their churches more like a business. I’m not convinced that it’s not a conscious mental shift, but it’s certainly there. Look for any church that talks about weekly numbers, or focuses a lot on tithing, and you will see this Transactional Mindset taking hold.

Church = Cultivating Relationships

Instead, churches and their pastors should embrace the new paradigms in marketing, which is really anti-marketing. It focuses on relationships, not transactions; on connecting with people instead of tricking them. It focuses on telling stories and helping others do the same.

Pastors, Don’t Fall into a Transactional Mindset

Transactional Mindsets see people as numbers, focusing only on metrics at the expense of relationships. When pastors talk and worry about tithes, about attendance numbers, about the number of people in certain programs, or how many are taking part in the recent outreach, they are focusing on the wrong thing. They are transactionally minded, when they should be relationally minded. If you focus on the relationship, the numbers will take care of themselves.

For most pastors, the culmination of the relationship with a member is in service. The member has committed to the body and shows his or her love through serving. Here are some tips to help that process along:

  1. Identify gifts and talents – This more than anything is important, simply because most people just don’t know what they are good at. If you help the people in the church identify what they were made to do and encourage them to continue in it, you will see your church transformed for the better.
  2. Train in the field, helping them use their talents – It’s one thing to know your talents, it’s something else entirely to use them practically. Book learning and classes can be important, but experiential knowledge sticks with you for the long run.
  3. Connect them to a group within the larger group – There’s a nasty habit, taken from public schooling, to group people by age and geography. Instead try connecting people based on passions and interests, maybe even talents. When you get someone with passion and talent serving to their best ability, everyone is lifted up.

Also, don’t simply have people serve at the church building. I’m sure that will work as a beginning training ground but you will stifle their imaginations and before they know it, they are living a boring story. And they will leave.

If you want people to stay and grow in churches, move away from the numbers and focus instead on the relationships.