In the time of Paul and Peter, you wouldn’t have seen a dedicated marketing expert, social media strategist, or brand manager in the newly founded church. Marketing was something that naturally happened through word-of-mouth and Spirit-led growth (see Acts 9:31). But times inevitably change and so do the church marketing strategies by which we grow the local church, even if the overall Spirit-led purpose remains the same.
Even though marketing was not originally a part of the local church—at least in the form that we know it today—this does not diminish the importance of it, especially digital marketing. Without a modern marketing plan that matches the necessities of the present day, there is little hope for expansion in your church.
To this point, I am aiming to offer you some insight into what types of strategies you should use to expand your congregation and retain it. Some of these are simple enough methods that you likely already use, while others are more intangible ideas that are harder to grasp.
I hope that the hard lessons I learned in my time as a leader in a church in Los Angeles will help you to avoid similar mistakes when it comes to keeping your church population steadfast.
8 Church Marketing Strategies To Grow And Sustain Your Church
Before I dive into the eight church marketing strategies, I should note that numbers are not everything. Growth comes in many different forms and there is need for a small congregation with a couple hundred members in its church attendance just as much as there is need for a church with 10,000 members.
The important part about growth is that it comes in several forms, including both new members but also in the hearts of your existing members. It is just as important to bring in new members as it is to assist the ones you already have in growing their walk with Christ. Here are eight digital marketing strategies that can help with both of those.
1. Create A Modern Website For Your Church
Who are you? What is your church? If you cannot answer these questions yet, then you will have a very difficult time successfully completing the next seven steps in marketing your church. First and foremost, it is necessary to create an identity for your church.
I hesitate to use that word since we know our identity is in Christ, but what I mean by that is creating the image that you want your church to portray to everyone. This is done in several different ways, but the first is establishing your beliefs and viewpoints.
Once this is done, you are ready to create a modern profile for your church. There are several steps involved in this, not least of which is publishing a well-thought out and fun church website. Consider hiring an agency or do it yourself with a church website builder. Do not cut back on costs here, remember that the website will probably be most people's first touchpoint with your church.
Here are two examples I like: I’m biased, but the simplistic and sharp design of Angelus Temple where I used to work is a great example. Another great option is something more flashy but not too overwhelming, such as this brilliant, boxy design that Elevation Church has right now.
The key goals for your church website should be to clearly present your church’s information in an easy-to-grasp way. Avoid any clutter that can deter interested parties and make sure it is mobile-friendly, too, as that is likely where most of your visitors will be coming from.
Learn more about how to create a church website here.
2. Social Media Focus
Social media is a massive part of the external image that you create. If you’re not on all of the various social media platforms online, you are missing out on the future of your church. I get that some churches have existed for well over a century now and didn’t need the internet to do so.
I also understand that some pastors do not like social media or even use it themselves. At the end of the day, though, this is not a question of your personal preferences or not. If you’re content with sticking to the church growth and size that you currently have, that’s fine.
But if you are truly intent on growing your congregation, you need social media. Personally, I think you can do without Google ads or email marketing. On the other hand, social media is the very cornerstone of the church’s marketing. However, I think there is more to it than just setting up a Facebook and Twitter page. I always recommend to every church that is serious about expanding that they hire at least one person in charge solely of social media posts.
This person (or, better yet, team) should manage all of the accounts that you have. Here are some of the platforms that you should be on:
For Facebook and Twitter, these are great for sharing announcements, events, and images. A dedicated photographer on your staff can turn your Instagram into a lovely collage of your church’s journey.
Twitch and YouTube are necessary for anyone who wishes to livestream their services or upload sermons. Those two places are especially great for welcoming new members who might want to watch online first before attending in person.
Lastly, there is TikTok. I have said it before on our site and I will say it again: TikTok is the next big social media platform for thriving churches due its video marketing capabilities. If you’re not there making cute motivational videos or hilarious moments from your latest event using a trending (but appropriate) sound, I think you are literally missing out on the entire next generation of Christians.
3. Cohesive Branding
It is an old marketing practice to have a cohesive brand that you are promoting to someone unfamiliar with it. Though the church is not a business, branding can still apply here. In fact, the most successful and well-known churches around the world are in that position due to having their own unique church brand image.
This is established first by choosing key components that make up your church’s “brand.”
- What sort of church logo do you want to use?
- Is there a special tagline or verse that you want to promote on everything?
- What are the colors that you like to associate with your church?
Once you decide these basic brand factors, put them everywhere. Have it on your website, social media page, church sign, shirts, vans, buses, and every thing that you do or touch. If you are hosting a special event or booth in the community, anyone who passes by should know the moment that they look over that it is your church that is holding it.
This cohesive branding will ensure that your church spreads in the community, and possibly the world, as a recognizable organization. This will not only make you more appealing to newcomers wanting to check out your church but it will create a unified church body. This can help with retaining existing members, too, since they feel part of the same unit.
4. Define Your Environment
With the more boring, administrative parts of marketing out of the way, we can get to the exciting stuff. The point of marketing your church is to get out there and do something to bring in your target audience. To be able to do this, you need to first define the environment that is surrounding the four walls of your place of worship.
Every church has a different community and needs to be handled in its own unique way, too. Are you in a small town? Or maybe you are in the suburbs next to a highly populated city. For some churches, the location can affect the concerns in your area as well. For instance, one town might deal with a lot of violent crime while another struggles with an overwhelming number of people with substance use disorders.
Some of them will, of course, crossover with one another. Tackling these situations and communities will take different approaches. You live in the community where your church is, so you know best the types of people that are there. This means that you know their needs, too. You can cater, specifically, to those needs in your church’s marketing.
5. Community Outreach
As for how you take the environment around you and market to it, this is where community outreach comes into play. I’ve been approached by several church leaders in the past asking how to create a successful church with plenty of new members. The very first question I ask them always is: do you do outreaches and events in your community?
Nearly all of them replied “no.” My first recommendation to any church looking to expand is to do outreach events. Not only does Jesus call us to go out and tend to the needs around us, but it is one of the best ways to grow your congregation.
This goes hand-in-hand with the previous church marketing strategy. Take, for instance, the community around the church I previously worked at in Los Angeles. One thing that we noticed about the kids that I worked with was that very few of them had food to eat after school.
Their only meal a day was lunch at school and nothing else. As such, we began promoting our daily food giveaways to everyone who attended our kids outreach programs. The after-school program grew and, eventually, it led to more kids riding our buses to church and, later, many of their family members, too.
Word spread quickly that we were the church that was taking care of the kids and it meant something to the community, resulting in further support and new members. If you have community outreaches that fit the environment around you, people will take notice and recognize your image.
6. Do Not Overextend
There is a warning I must give, too, though. I have also seen far too many churches get too overzealous and overextend their reach. They will be gung-ho about reaching out to everyone in need and do too much far too soon. This is a problem as it can lead to burnout, problems, and even missing the entire point of it all.
It is crucial that you know your earthly limits and start out with a focused plan, while continuously asking God for his limitless divine help. It is absolutely recommended to have a bigger goal of reaching, let’s say, every kid in your county or state. But let’s start smaller first with the neighborhood around us, then the town, maybe the greater metropolitan city, and then go from there.
Since you are marketing your church, you want to do it in a controlled manner. Otherwise, you will either fail or people will start to recognize your church for all the wrong reasons, neither of which is productive.
7. Never Lose Sight Of Existing Members
I will try to tread lightly here but there are some churches in the past that I was involved in (not the one in Los Angeles) that made a huge mistake. They were fantastic about outreach and bringing in tons of new church members but completely failed the existing members of the congregation.
It was a tragic and devastating cycle of bringing in literally hundreds of new people and seeing them on fire only for it to burn out rather quickly. But, instead of helping them in their ongoing walks, they were forgotten and set aside in favor of continuing to bring in new people. So, it was an endless cycle of new people joining, old people leaving, and so on.
It is crucial in everything that you do that you market your church as not only a home for everyone to come to, but a place where current members will continue to feel welcome. You should always focus on both gaining new members and tending to the older ones, which is much easier said than done.
8. Dedicated Congregation Development Team
To help with existing churchgoers, I recommend establishing a dedicated congregation development team or system. Promote a path that is all about a person’s journey at the church. It should not start and end with them coming to your services for the first time. What I recommend is to first have a loving and open welcome to the church for everyone who enters.
From there, offer program(s) that teach the newcomers everything about your church and being a new believer, if applicable. Many churches do these first two steps but nothing else afterward. Small groups are a decent and common option after this, plugging someone into a group of like-minded people who perhaps have similar interests and hobbies.
But that is not the only option and I will be honest that I am not the only one who is not interested in small groups. In that case, promote incorporating church members into various ministries to help out. A children’s church, youth group, outreach, tech team, women’s or men’s ministry, and countless options are great ideas for this.
Have a clear path that is rewarding to your church members. Announce exciting trips and enjoyable outings with one another so that there is lots for people to get involved in besides just the church services.
A team that carefully plans out these events and how and when to promote them to the church with a dedicated budget can ensure that not just the new members feel loved and cared for. This is how you gain and sustain growth in your church community.
Do Churches Need Marketing?
Many churches, especially those that were established long before the advent of the internet, do not see the importance of marketing. But I will stand by that every single church leader in the present day needs a digital marketing strategy of some kind. Not every church needs an entire team dedicated to it, but at least something or someone.
You certainly need more than just a social media account, but that is at least the bare minimum that every church should be doing. Even if you have a small church in a town of 1,000 people, you need to market yourself. The kids and young adults these days need guidance and inspiration in their lives, and they will go where they feel most drawn to.
A church that is stuck in the past, ignoring the marketing needs of the present, will absolutely miss out on the next generation. I know this because I am in my 20s myself and I have seen countless churches with so much potential squander it and end up closing their doors or being on the precipice of doing so.
There are so many people who need Jesus Christ today and a church needs some form of marketing to reach them using adequate church communication. The most successful churches nail this point, no matter their location or size.
Church Member Retainment Recommendations
There is a lot of information that I provided in this guide and I get that it can be a tad overwhelming at first. This is doubly the case if someone is newer to dealing with marketing tools like live-streaming and building out a website. Fortunately, we have some other guides to help with those next steps in expanding and retaining your church members. Read more about church marketing here.
For more on streaming, check out the nine best streaming software that you can use to ensure that you can bring in new members who might not be ready to attend your services in-person just yet. And Ashley Vaughan even has a guide for the best ways to build out your website, in particular, if you have not done so already.