Marketing the Church

A few minutes with me after the mail comes to my office will convince you of what I think of the majority of direct marketing directed at the church.

Before throwing most of it in the trash I read some of the one-liner zingers attempting to convince the church pastor or administrator to consider their product. After throwing (I do mean throwing) most of it in the trash I make way to my mini-fridge in my office for a bottled water, cold, refreshing, soothing.

Dear church marketing agents, publishing houses, mission agencies… etc,
Please stop treating this church the same way the pizza house treats me. I don’t mind it when the pizza house attracts me with high gloss photos of pizza. I get it, you are in a highly competitive arena with churches on limited budgets, but we are the bride of Christ, the church.

Today I just thought I would open up the discussion pipeline and hear what others think about what feels like a direct way to snag the attention of every distracted, discouraged pastor walking back to his office from the mail box desperate to be a pastor of a leading church.

(The pastor’s duty is not to be a ‘leading’ pastor of a ‘leading’ church, his duty is to obey the Lord.)

PizzaHere are a few that came out of the mail box this week. Some from unknown sources, some from familiar sources, all equally directed at the church (primarily the pastor) that their offer will solve all of his desires to be a ‘leading’ pastor of a ‘leading’ church. I’ll start with a positive one that I pulled back out of the trash can.

ANY TWO LARGE PIZZAS $20 (I think this one can be useful.)

“A church cannot develop an excellent evangelism strategy without planning far in advance.”


Specific things pastors do to lead on mission:

  • They have a Vibrant Vision – Evangelistic pastors have an exciting vision they continually keep in front of the congregation. You’ll find it printed in all their documents, plastered on the walls, set in stone and talked about from the pulpit. It’s not something written in an obscure document no one sees.
  • They have a Simple Strategy – You won’t find complexity in an evangelistic church but you will find strategy. They know how they are moving people from point A to point B. They know what they are doing to reach people for Christ and move them into a discipling relationship. And again … it is simple.
  • They create a Contagious Culture – Honestly, in most of these churches, you can feel it when you walk through the door. There’s something different. They aren’t striving to “create a culture,” rather, they are striving to “be the culture”


(publication website) is a library of discussion-driven studies that you can customize to equip small groups of any shape and size to be environments of discipleship.

Find the Bible Study you need, enhanced by video from teachers you trust.

I don’t fault anyone for having a product, idea, experience, or desire to share what has been helpful in their circumstance. I get how effective direct marketing campaigns can be. There is a reason companies mail post cards, mailers, emails, with high gloss, flashy product. People are buying what they are offering. I really do get why it’s done in the consumer world. I’m just get a bit irritated when it comes to treating the church the same way.

Disclaimer: I don’t think the hard working employee doing the job they were hired to do is at fault in these organizations who market the church. I look primarily to the executive driven pastor, publishing house executives and research departments.

Oh, don’t get me wrong; I’ve been part of the problem in my early days of ministry under a spell as though I have to offer a ‘product’ that is an alternative to the world.

Pastor, minister, if I can encourage you at all in this matter I would like to. You and I have an important duty, we have been charged with the responsibility to put Christ, and Him crucified in front of all people and trust that God will draw all men to Himself. When we quit putting our trust in men and obey our charge and protect this trust we have been given from being littered with consumerism we can be content to press in, regardless.

Press in to Jesus, my dear friend, press in.


  • Bennett Sanderson

    January 20, 2016 at 3:31 PM Reply

    Funny. I received the same small group mail today. I saw your headline and dug this one out of the trash to turn a critical eye on it. Then I read you post and saw that it was the same piece of mail. I found this one to be very understated compared to some from other publishers, conferences, etc. This one doesn’t seem to over-promise too much. One line struck me as humorous, “…now includes video from trusted Christian teachers…” as if their previously included videos were from untrustworthy teachers!

    I didn’t get the other piece you quoted from, but I’ve seen many similar ones. It is very bothersome to see manipulative marketing techniques. This one plays on our fears of missing out (What are other, “better”, churches doing that mine is not?), and it presents three points as if they have some easy, newly-discovered recipe. Of course a good church needs vision, strategy and culture. That describes any organization centered around a singular mission.

    Another kind that bothers me is what I get from para-church organizations seeking donations for URGENT NEEDS!!! PEOPLE ARE DYING!! That seems really close to saying, “If you don’t want people to die, give us money now.” But maybe they’re right. Maybe by throwing all this mail away I am sinning by omission and dooming my church to being non-vibrant, having a complex strategy and emanating a repulsive culture.

    • Paul

      January 20, 2016 at 3:48 PM Reply

      The Pony Express gets to Northern Idaho as fast as it does to Southern Idaho.

      The line about ‘trusted’ leaders struck me too as if the ones God has put in the local church are untrustworthy. I don’t like the phone marketers who want to convince me that their “NetFlix” style of resources will increase our presence or the online giving agency who promises that their product will increase giving by as much as 20%.

      It’s not that I don’t think any of these groups have good products, I just really don’t like how they treat the church and pastor by dangling a carrot out for us.

      I’m being too critical to include that one in my disdain for the over the top marketing pieces that we get on a regular basis.

      I’ll keep that Papa John’s coupon and we’ll go get pizza some time.

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