If marketing your church seems extra-challenging lately, it’s not just you. In fact, Gallup recently reported that Americans’ membership in houses of worship has hit an all-time low. In the most recent survey, just 47% of Americans said they belonged to a church, synagogue, or mosque. That figure has gone down from 70% in 1999.
The data also shows that age is strongly correlated with church membership. Younger generations are less likely to belong to a church. 36% of Millennials say they’re a member of a church, versus 66% of Traditionalists (born before 1946).
But, there’s no reason to lose hope! Marketing for churches CAN be successful, even when church-going is in decline. In this post, learn how to share the word and grow your congregation for years to come with a successful church marketing strategy.
First, let’s delve into why marketing is so important for churches.
With church-going in decline, church marketing is more important than ever. Marketing can help you spread awareness about your church, welcome new congregation members, and raise critical funds for your programs and operations.
There’s a wide variety of ways that you can market your church. It can seem like the options are endless and there’s no one right answer. The best marketing plan is the one that fits your church’s budget, goals, and needs. Let’s delve in.
You don’t need a huge team or a lot of money to create a successful marketing plan. Instead, focus on small daily and weekly steps that you can take action on now. Before we delve into how to market your church for growth, let’s review why consistent church marketing is so important.
Marketing is an essential function for any business or organization – including your church! When coming up with church advertising ideas, focus on the support, purpose, and friendships that people gain when they join your congregation.
Help your congregation members stay engaged while also attracting new members from your greater community. Marketing your church leads to a thriving church membership, which allows your church to spread the word further and accomplish your goals.
If your church relies on volunteers to help with projects, church marketing is essential for you! Your marketing efforts can help recruit volunteers for meaningful projects. Or, your marketing can draw in new congregation members who may engage with volunteerism over time.
It’s simple math – the more successful your marketing, the more your congregation, and your fundraising efforts will grow. Marketing can help you bring in passionate new members who can grow along with your church.
First, let’s review what a marketing plan is. Think of it like this: if you’re on a road trip, you’ll probably want to plan the route, purchase snacks and supplies, and research ideas of what you might see along the way.
Similarly, a successful church marketing plan is one that creates a roadmap for your marketing efforts while also leaving room for spontaneity. A healthy balance of planning and flexibility is ideal.
With a team-based approach, no one person has to do it alone and feel responsible for everything. Building a team that can manage your church marketing efforts goes a long way toward ensuring you’ll hit your goals. Your church marketing team might include church leaders, staff members, volunteers – or a mix of all of the above.
Pro tip: If members of your congregation have skills or jobs in fields like graphic design, web design, copywriting, photography, or business management, ask them for help! These are perfect skill sets to brainstorm and implement church advertising ideas. You can even form a Marketing Committee to oversee your work.
If you’ve worked in a corporate setting, you might be familiar with the idea of setting “SMART” goals. This is an acronym that stands for setting goals that are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-Bound.
For example, a vague and non-SMART goal might be “we want to start posting on social media.” Your team can turn this goal into a SMART one. This might look like: “we want to post one photo, video, or quote on our Facebook and Instagram account each Friday afternoon.”
For most churches, the most important audience to market to is going to be your existing congregation. That’s because word of mouth is a powerful tool when marketing your church. unSeminary reports, “The fastest-growing churches in the country consistently encourage their people to invite friends and family to be a part of their church. It really is that simple.”
Think of it this way: when your friend recommends something to you, how likely are you to take their advice over the advice of someone you may not know as well? Most of us tend to trust the recommendations of people we love and enjoy spending time with.
Word of mouth can be (mostly) free. But, it’s still a good idea to have a marketing budget for some ads, print materials, and other marketing expenses. It can also be worthwhile to hire someone to manage your church marketing ideas and efforts. This might be a full-time, part-time, or a contracted staff member.
A “brand identity” defines and articulates your church’s visual aesthetic and personality. Many organizations create a brand standards guide, which is a written document outlining your brand. This can include your color palette, preferred fonts, logo, mission, and vision statement. Your church’s brand identity should also include guidelines for how your church will express written and verbal ideas – think preferred terminology, phrasing, and even words you might wish to avoid in your messaging.
Establishing your brand identity will help ensure that your church’s print and digital materials look cohesive and intentional. This can help build trust with your congregation and create a sense of community.
Once your brand identity is in place, it’s time to craft your church’s marketing message. Think about what makes your church unique. To understand your church’s “selling points,” it can be helpful to interview current congregation members. Ask them questions like, “What first attracted you to our church?” and “What motivates you to keep coming back each week?”
For example, your contemporary service might provide a great opportunity for young professionals to network over coffee and music. Or, your church’s child care program might be popular with busy parents, so they can relax and enjoy the worship service knowing their little ones are cared for. Or, maybe your congregation has an amazing pastor who helps everyone feel welcome and inspired.
These days, there are a wide variety of distribution channels available to market your church. From digital ads to print and traditional channels, there’s a lot to choose from! Think about which marketing channels might work best for your budget and audience. In the section below, you’ll discover even more ideas and how to implement them.
Just as you need a marketing plan for your church promotional ideas, you also need a fundraising plan to keep your church community thriving. Innovative and effective fundraising strategies help not only raise funds for your church but also spread the word among people. It’s a great way to engage with your supporters on a regular basis and encourage them to bring in friends and families. This way, fundraising can help fuel your church’s marketing efforts, too.
Now that you have a team, a budget, a brand identity, and a message to share, it’s time to start marketing your church!
In this section, you’ll learn 10 actionable steps you can take to market your church. These strategies will support you in working toward 3 key church marketing goals.
Let’s review 10 actionable steps to accomplish these overarching goals.
Let’s say someone drives past your church or hears about it from a friend. They’re interested and want to learn more. So, they head to your church website. What will they see?
It’s critically important to make sure that your church has an up-to-date, mobile-friendly website. For many potential new members, your website is the first thing they see – and it can leave a lasting impression. Consider a user-friendly service like SquareSpace or Wix to create your site.
Bonus: many online fundraising platforms, like Donorbox, integrate seamlessly with these web design platforms!
Once your church website is up and running, you can set up an online donation form. If your church doesn’t have an easy way for people to make an online gift, it’s likely that you’re leaving money on the table.
Consider using a donation platform that allows you to create an on-brand donation form, accept recurring gifts, and allow for gifts in honor or memory of a loved one. Some services allow donors to choose which church project their gift will support. This can help you raise money specifically for a community event to boost your marketing efforts. For example, raise funds for your annual church fall fest or carnival.
Donorbox offers all of the features above – and you can set up your online donation form in less than 15 minutes! Plus, there are no set-up fees, no monthly fees, and no contract.
As mentioned earlier, word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool for your church. But, it only works if your church members are willing to invite others to join! Creating an “invite culture” at your church can go a long way.
For example, you could design and print professional-looking “business cards” for your church with an inspirational Bible verse and your church’s contact information and service times. That way, when people strike up a conversation, you’ll have your church information handy to share.
Many people grew up in the church but now only attend services on special holidays. In the Christian community, Christmas Eve and Easter are obvious times when your church attendance is likely to be higher than usual. Mother’s Day is also a popular day to attend services.
During these times of the year, many congregation members will invite friends, neighbors, or out-of-town guests to join them for a service. To make the most of these special days, make sure your church is prepared. This might include sprucing up your housekeeping efforts and ensuring that your worship service’s printed programs are typo-free and well-designed.
Holidays are also an opportunity to promote your church’s upcoming events and year-round programs, such as summer camps, after-school programs, counseling support, and more.
If your church is a qualifying nonprofit organization, Google Ad Grants will help you access up to $10,000 per month in search ads shown on Google. The program is aimed to help nonprofits share their causes with the world.
By taking advantage of this smart tool, you can raise awareness about your church, boost your visibility in search results, and even recruit new volunteers and donors.
When they’re getting to know a new church, some people feel more comfortable showing up to a community event than a Sunday service. Participating in or hosting a community event can be a great way to introduce new neighbors and friends to your church. A few ideas include:
Sending a postcard inviting people to attend your church can be a smart and affordable move. According to the U.S. Postal Service, 81% of recipients read or scan their mail daily. Plus, unlike a letter, a postcard doesn’t require you to open anything in order to immediately read the message.
Be sure your postcard is well-designed and clearly shows your church’s unique offerings. You can target your mailing by neighborhood or demographic to ensure your message will be relevant to the people reading it. Be sure to include your church’s address, website, ways to donate, and contact information along with church service times.
Crowdfunding is when many people come together to combine their small donations for a big impact. Crowdfunding can unite your community around a shared, mission-driven goal. Generally, crowdfunding is done through online donations.
One benefit of crowdfunding is that people can share a crowdfunding project on social media and encourage their neighbors and friends to contribute. Crowdfunding can also be a high-ROI way to raise money since getting started can be an easy and free process.
Look for a crowdfunding platform that offers features like a goal thermometer to keep everyone motivated. Plus, a virtual donation wall helps donors feel appreciated and recognized. Learn more about how to successfully launch a crowdfunding project for churches.
Did you know that 84% of Americans don’t carry cash on them? If you’re only passing around a collection plate, you’re leaving money on the table! A text-to-give option provides an easy, convenient way for people to support your church through their smartphones. One study found that 26% of all online donations in 2019 were made using mobile devices!
Pro tip: Try a text-to-give campaign during your Sunday worship service! With a donation platform like Donorbox, you can easily conduct a text-to-give campaign during services – or any time!
There’s a Chinese proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” In that spirit, if your church isn’t already active on social media, now is the time to start!
If you’re on social media already, consider ramping up your efforts. A few ways to do that include:
With a dedicated team, a solid marketing plan, and consistent effort over time, you’re likely to start seeing your church marketing efforts pay off! These strategies can help you help your church grow and thrive for years to come.
Whether your goal is to expand church membership, raise funds to support your mission-based work, or simply to spread God’s word, with these church marketing ideas, you’ll be well on your way to achieving your vision.
Learn more about how you can set up an online donation form, crowdfunding project, and text-to-give campaign for your church, with no set-up fees, no monthly fees, and no contract – sign up with Donorbox.
Get more tips and resources on nonprofit and church fundraising in our blog.