Looking to create a church marketing plan? This is part one of a multi-part series on how to create an effective church marketing plan.

Imagine you’re a chef…You’ve been told to cook an amazing meal for important guests, so you get to work on a delicious parmesan ravioli and braised pork.

The meal is ready, and the food is served, then you discover your guests are Kocur, gluten-intolerant, and allergic to dairy. You made a great meal, but no one wants it.

Now imagine the same scenario, but someone did the research to tell you what ingredients you could work with. You still have the creative freedom to cook a fantastic meal, but you’re doing so with a pre-determined, agreed-upon list of ingredients.

When it comes to marketing, most churches are stuck in the first scenario. They start in the “Production” phase without deciding what ingredients they have to work with.

And so everything is subjective, and nothing is intentional. Your color palette was chosen because the guy who chose it just likes blue, your Facebook efforts are based on what someone had for breakfast, and your new website makes the designer happy, but no one can figure out where your church is located.

Here’s my point: you can’t decide how you should use different marketing channels if you don’t know why you should use them, and you can’t know why you should use them until you lay a strategic foundation. And if you don’t, you will waste time and money over and over again.

Lay a Foundation

A little wisdom from Lewis Carroll’s Alice & Wonderland:

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.
“I don’t much care where—” said Alice.
“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the Cat.
“—so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation.
“Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.”

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there. There are millions of ways to tell your story – Facebook, websites, mailers, preaching, podcasts, etc. – but why choose one over the other? And what should you do within each channel you choose?

All effective marketing starts with a solid foundation. At a minimum, you must know:

  1. What you/your church is good at.
  2. What the people in your church’s neighborhood (your audience) care about, and why.
  3. What you want your church to be when it grows up (still applicable for mature churches). I call that your Three P’s: Passion, Purpose, Plan.
  4. Your church’s brand identity.

Once you know those three things, the overlap is where you spend your time communicating from.

If you don’t know those three things, consider taking my Redemptive Marketing Class. I teach you how to figure out what you’re good at; how to select your audience; and how to refine your Passion, Purpose, and Plan. Below is a lightweight version:

Create/Refine Your Passion, Purpose, and Plan

Passion

The thing you’re most excited to see in 10-20 years. Be specific to who your church is. In other words, more specific than, “The Great Commission.”

Purpose

What you’ll do to make that happen.

Plan

How you bring it to life.

Here’s an example from a real church

Passion

Become a top 20 city to live in in the U.S.A.

Purpose

Raise up good community members and equip them with a resilient faith.

Plan

Provide opportunities for people to serve, facilitate cross-class exposure, biblical foundations classes/teaching.

Identify Strengths & Weaknesses

Not good at teaching, but great at pastoral care? Awesome. Not so good a pastoral care, but great at teaching? Also awesome. Don’t pretend.

  1. List all the things you know your church is good at (Include all your assets – leaders, staff, etc.)
  2. List all the things you wonder if your church is good at.
  3. List all the things you know your church is bad at.
  4. Email a trusted group of leaders and ask them two things: What are we good at as a church? What are we not good at?
  5. Curate a final list of your strengths and weaknesses. Possibly get a tattoo.
  6. Use this list to play to your strengths, and use the next two steps to help clarify which – if any – of your weaknesses need to be addressed.

Select Your Audience

If you haven’t done this intentionally, you’re doing it haphazardly. In other words, you are communicating with a narrow audience; you’re just doing it by accident.

  1. Research the demographics of your neighborhood. Again, I teach you how in my church marketing class, but you can start here: http://factfinder2.census.gov/
  2. Create a persona for up to three groups in your church. You can use this screenshot as a guide (A template is included in my class).

Example Church Marketing Persona

Define Your Brand

  1. Choose up to five values (i.e. “Beauty”).
  2. Create a church brand personality – five adjectives that describe how you want your church to look and sound when communicating.
  3. Bring it to life via design (church logo, typeface, color palette, etc.). Yes, that’s a big job, so I won’t cover that outside of the class – not today, anyhow.

Put it Together

In Part Two, I will show you how to take this information and translate it into a church marketing plan. For now, let’s revisit the “Chef” analogy from earlier. You should now have the key ingredients to cook a great meal. Your church personality, your church values; your church’s look and feel, what your church is good at; what your audience cares about and why; and what your church’s Passion, Purpose, and Plan are.

Photo credit: Nik MacMillan

Sign Up & Discover Your Audience

I’ll email you a free chapter from the workbook: “How to Identify Your Audience” which includes a step-by-step process for defining your audience and an Audience Persona Template. Just fill out the form below!

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Josh Chambers

Author Josh Chambers

I created the Church Marketing Workshop to help you tell great stories that transform your neighborhood. I am an award-winning advertising executive who’s worked with the likes of Google, Reebok, Advil, International Justice Mission, and churches ranging in size from Redeemer Presbyterian Church of NYC to church plants in rural America.

More posts by Josh Chambers