I begin discuss the idea of church marketing with a sense of fear and trepidation. After all, this is the Church we’re talking about—the Body of Christ. This is holy ground. Serious stuff. The last thing I wanted to do was treat the gospel like a product, because it clearly is not. When I first began writing, I wondered if I was venturing onto dangerous ground. Honestly, it was a little scary to think about.

As I wrestled with this, I decided to go to scripture. I ended up in Matthew 25, the parable of the talents. Jesus tells the story of a master who was clearly pleased with the servant who invested money wisely. But he was more than a little upset at the servant who did not even try to produce a positive return. Here’s how the Message paraphrases the master’s reaction in Matthew 25:26-30:

"The master was furious. 'That's a terrible way to live! It's criminal to live cautiously like that! If you knew I was after the best, why did you do less than the least? The least you could have done would have been to invest the sum with the bankers, where at least I would have gotten a little interest.

"'Take the thousand and give it to the one who risked the most. And get rid of this "play-it-safe" who won't go out on a limb. Throw him out into utter darkness.'”

Whoa, that’s pretty strong! Apparently God’s idea of stewardship is not just being careful with how much money we spend. He actually expects us to be smart and produce a positive return. That’s what this is all about—stewardship. It’s about churches using their time, talent and resources as intelligently as possible so they can achieve maximum productivity and reach more people. It’s about being smart.

I am a big believer in the local church. I believe local churches are living, breathing communities God has designed for the purpose of helping, teaching and encouraging people. But sadly, I have seen so many churches actually do more harm than good with their marketing efforts. It grieves me to see churches waste their time—and God’s money—when they really don’t need to. So I eventually came to the conclusion that not only was it OK to develop this subject, but I had to do it. I don’t want to run the risk of being a “play-it-safe” who gets thrown into utter darkness. I don’t want to be one who commits the criminal act of living cautiously. By God’s grace I have had some amazing experiences and learned invaluable lessons.

Let me be clear on what this is: This is a business strategy for churches. I have worked with local churches for many years, and one thing has become apparent: While the purpose of church is ministry, a church cannot thrive without following smart business principles and practices. Whether you are a pastor, a church staff member, a lay leader or simply a concerned church member, you have probably noticed the disparity among churches and their ability to grow.

While some churches see steady growth, others seem stuck at a certain size for years. What’s the magic ingredient that makes some churches more successful from a numeric growth perspective? The answer has nothing to do with magic. In fact, it most likely has little to do with the pastor’s ability to teach or the quality of the music. It has been my experience that church growth is typically more impacted by issues of leadership and business expertise. But unfortunately, most seminaries and Bible colleges do a much better job of preparing pastors to preach and teach than to lead and manage.

This is not comprehensive leadership and business teaching; rather it’s a how-to manual focused on several of the most important business concepts for churches: positioning, branding and marketing. It is my hope that you’ll learn some valuable information and be inspired and motivated along the way.

But since this is a business-oriented strategy for churches, I realize it’s not for everyone. In fact, here are a few questions to help you determine whether this information is for you:

  1. Are you satis?ed with the number of people your church is currently reaching?
  2. Do you believe the people in your community have the correct and full perception of what your church really offers them?
  3. Do you believe your church hits the mark on exhibiting excellence as a representative of Christ?
  4. Are you satis?ed with the results you are getting from past or current marketing efforts?
  5. Are you satis?ed with the “return on investment” for the dollars you are spending on church growth and/or marketing?
  6. Are you easily offended by the use of business terms and concepts in the context of the local church?
  7. Are you con?dent that you or someone on your team has a comprehensive understanding of branding and marketing best practices?
  8. Are you opposed to learning new concepts and motivating others on your team to do the same?

If you answered “no” to more than a few of these questions, these articles are right for you, and I believe it will bene?t you greatly. In other articles, I will introduce you to a step-by-step guide to branding and marketing. I hope that as you implement these principles and strategies they will have a positive impact on your church.

The BrandSmart Group
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