November 16, 2008 Tony Morgan

Why Churches Should Stop Marketing

Last week I voiced my opinion that churches should stop marketing. Here’s why. It’s not about your marketing.

One of the reasons why I hate it when other churches try to mimic NewSpring’s success is that they try to copy the tactics instead of the core objective. Yes, we use marketing techniques at NewSpring from time to time. If you think marketing is the key to ministry growth, though, you’ve missed the point completely.

The objective is to help people enter into a relationship with Jesus and take steps in their walk with Christ. When life change happens, people talk. When people talk, more people show up. The main reason why new people visit NewSpring Church is because a friend invited them to attend. People invite their friends because they have a reason to invite their friends. I know. That’s a little simplistic. But, honestly, we’ve overcomplicated things a bit.

Our hearts are pure. We want more people to be in a relationship with Jesus. We want more people to attend our services. We want more people to participate in our classes. We want to see more people engaged in home groups. We want more students to show up. We want more people to attend the big event. Just so you know, I happen to be in the camp that thinks more is better when it comes to people hearing our message.

My concern, though, is that we jump to marketing tactics too quickly. We think if we’re going to get a crowd, we need to market it more. That’s lazy thinking. Marketing is the easy way out. More marketing doesn’t make for more people. At least I hope not.

Part of my fear, frankly, is that our marketing may actually work. If we haven’t asked the right questions first, the people who show up may find that we’re not really smoking what we’re selling. We, the church, end up looking like hypocrites. We’re marketing one thing but people are experiencing something completely different.

That’s why I think churches should stop marketing. No, maybe not forever. Maybe not even beyond your next ministry team meeting. I think it would be healthy, though, for you to take marketing tactics completely off the table for a moment and ask some challenging questions. Those questions might include:

  • If we stopped marketing, what would we have to change for people to invite their friends?
  • If we stopped marketing, would the environment make people want to come back?
  • If we stopped marketing, would the conversation be relevant to people’s lives?
  • If we stopped marketing, would the relationships keep people connected?
  • If we stopped marketing, would the next step be obvious?
  • If we stopped marketing, would people still believe in and be excited about our “brand”?
  • If we stopped marketing, might we actually help remove some of the noise from people’s lives?
  • If we stopped marketing, would we get a better response when we start using marketing tactics?
  • If we stopped marketing, are we more likely to be sensitive to God’s leading?

The point here is that we’re trying to fix the problem by playing the marketing card. Direct mail won’t fix your problem. Billboards won’t fix your problem. Neither will platform announcements or bulletin ads or bumper stickers. At some point marketing may be a good option, but until you answer the right questions, marketing could be what’s preventing your success.

If your church has stopped growing, marketing is not your solution. If you have stopped seeing life change, marketing is not the answer.

That’s why marketing is evil. It gets in the way of churches facing the real issues that need to be addressed. In my mind, anything that keeps the church from being the church needs to be challenged.

And that’s why I believe churches should stop marketing.

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Tony Morgan

Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group, For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and
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