The Dirty Secret of Church Marketing: None of it Works

I’ve spent so much time thinking about the connection between church marketing and growth. Why does so much church marketing seem to not work?

church marketing

Why does so much church marketing seem to not work for so many churches?

Are you wondering why those Facebook ads that you’ve been running for the last few months don’t seem to be translating into people connecting, neither in person nor online? Have you tried multiple flyer drops in your neighborhood and you’re desperately hoping that maybe one person would show up, but it just hasn’t happened? Are you worried about how you can leverage the next big day that’s coming up at your church to see people connect with your church? Did you update your website last year, but it seems like people haven’t even noticed and it hasn’t translated into more guests walking through your church doors? Whether those doors are physical or virtual! Are you doing tons of live video on every platform and at the end of the day, these efforts don’t seem to be translating into lives being changed?

Over the decades I’ve spent so much time thinking about the connection between church marketing and church growth. It goes back to when I was in college. After a History of Christianity class, I remember talking to my professor about what he believed was going on during periods of great revival. There seemed to be two options:

  • One was that the people who were leading in those seasons were more qualified and skilled, which meant they were able to attract larger audiences and ultimately see people connect to Christ. This is a non-satisfactory answer because it feels like it all has to do with people and our own skills rather than a move of God.
  • The other was that maybe God loved people more in those periods of revival and so he moved in a way that ended up seeing tons of people connected with Christ. This is also an unsatisfactory answer because it would mean that God seems to be more interested in certain people, at certain times, and in certain places.

What I am left with is that we as church leaders are responsible for thinking carefully about how we communicate the life-changing message of Christ and invite people to plug into our ministries.

Here’s the dirty secret of church marketing: None of it works.

If you’re looking to market your church by using outbound communication approaches to try to connect with people who have no relationship to your church, chances are that’s not a wise investment of your time or the financial resources associated with these efforts.

Churches that grow have built a system that encourages their people to invite friends to connect with their church, whether that’s in-person or online.

Let’s look at this idea more closely. After years of study and hundreds of interviews with leaders within the fastest growing churches across the country, my deep conviction is that churches that grow have built a series of systems that reinforce an invite culture. These churches don’t see “church marketing” as the core of their strategy. They aren’t trying the latest Facebook ad hack, flyer drop, or some other form of “interruption-based marketing” designed to “convert cold leads” into active parts of their churches.

The fastest-growing churches in the country consistently encourage their people to invite friends and family to be a part of their church. It really is that simple.

Growing churches have an ever-expanding invite culture.

The reason your church marketing isn’t working is it’s got the wrong target. Your communication as a church leader needs to be directed toward the people who are connected to your church and motivate them to invite their friends and family to connect with your church. Until this system is completely developed, fully capitalized on, and worked out, it’s a waste of energy to try to market more broadly.

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Rich Birch
Rich serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. He blogs at UnSeminary.com and is a sought after speaker and consultant on multisite, pastoral productivity and communications.