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Does Your Church Advertising Work?

d-MinOutBox-DoesYour Istockphoto-Rafal PlechowskiThree reasons why it probably doesn’t

While driving home from a family vacation, we passed a billboard for a church that read: “The church for people who don’t like church.”

As I continued to drive, I started thinking about it. I’ve seen many variations on this campaign across the country. So why does it always bother me when I see ads like these? 

First, a disclaimer: I’m a marketing guy. I am not really a church marketing guy. But as a believer who happens to do advertising and marketing for a living, I often pay attention to church marketing.

Does your church advertising work?

Perhaps you think there’s room to improve it, or you’re on the verge of giving up on church advertising completely. Before you do anything drastic, consider these three reasons why I think most church advertising (like the campaign I saw on vacation) simply doesn’t work.

1. It doesn’t resonate with as many people as you might think.When churches run ads like this one, I think they assume it appeals to most of the people in their community—after all, the majority of the local community is not in church; therefore, the majority of the community must not like church. But this logic is flawed. It takes energy and effort to experience something and then decide you dislike it. Most people don’t dislike church. It’s worse than that: They couldn’t care less about church. They’re completely indifferent, and this advertising doesn’t speak to them at all.

2. It beats up on an already damaged brand—the church.If you think of the Church (with a capital C) as a brand, we can all agree that the brand is in bad shape. But the answer is not to run an ad campaign that distances your church from other churches. In fact, I believe this approach probably hurts your church more than it helps. Remember, the majority of your community is indifferent. As a result, they don’t care enough to take time to understand the nuances between your church and the church down the street. So any time we speak of the church—with or without a capital C—we should seek to build it up. There isn’t a megachurch on the planet with an advertising budget large enough to completely separate themselves from the larger brand of the Church in the eyes of a public that doesn’t care.

3. It doesn’t speak to many people on an emotional level. All effective advertising speaks to people on an emotional level. As a marketing professional, I know this can sometimes be difficult to do—especially when my client is selling something boring, like a technical thingamajig to a purchasing manager.

When I think about the church—the Great Commission, the power of the gospel, the stories of changed lives—that is a story just teeming with energy. It has the power to connect with people at an emotional level. So why on earth do we throw away advertising dollars with ads that compare our church to most other churches, when most people don’t care about church?

When pastors and church leaders see billboard concepts like my example above, it speaks to them at an emotional level. You love your church. You are passionate about what you want to accomplish in your community and are understandably excited to share how different you are. But remember, the majority of the people who drive past your billboard aren’t looking for a better church. They don’t think they need church.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re selling something most people don’t think they need (like church), then focus your marketing on why they need it!

Adapted with permission from

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