Susan Young has written part 1 of a series that describes the difference between marketing and publicity, and why you, as a volunteer organization, need to be doing both.  If not you, then your message.

Marketing is all about branding. Marketing is how your organization differentiates itself.  Susan says that marketing messages should be a few short sentences that are punchy and concise.

  • A Church on the Move
  • Church with the Big Red Door
  • Real church for real people
  • For by grace we are saved . . .
  • The Offer Still Stands

Every person in your organization should live and breathe this message. When they convey this nugget to someone, the person listening should not walk away puzzled.  It belongs on everything you publish,  every message that goes to the congregation and the community.  The slogan defines who you are in a few words.

Marketing is how you position yourself to the community.  Sometimes it’s in your name, especially newer congregations or newer congregations within the older church.  At one 40-year-old church, we created GracePlace, a Sunday evening service different from the morning.  The name was to convey a shift in attitude, trying to change the neighborhood’s perception of us as “the place I used to go before they ran me off over some triviality.”

And that’s the warning with marketing.  It has to match who you are.  If you say you’re a friendly church but no one talks to visitors, you’ve wasted all the effort to build a brand, and in some cases, take a step backward.

But if you have a consistent message, get that message down to a few words and get the message out into the community.  It is your new brand.

I’m not saying the Gospel needs improvement, but in a culture that is increasingly hostile to Christianity, you may need to do some


It’s only Reformation Day (Halloween for the pagans) and we’re already thinking Christmas.  But if your church hasn’t started thinking about Christmas yet, you’ll miss a great outreach opportunity.

C Michael Johnson and Tom Bowers have written a great marketing piece called “The 12 Mistakes of Christmas Outreach.”  Yes, they want you to buy their outreach products, but they have some of the best approaches I’ve seen (and no, I don’t get paid to say so.)  The introduction to the guide begins saying the authors “strongly believe any church that takes active steps to avoid these mistakes will dramatically increase the effectiveness of their outreach. Christmas outreach done in the way described here will positively impact every other facet of a church’s ministry, and many of the recommendations provide smarter ways to plan for the whole year. ”

Got your attention?

Mistake #1 is “Not planning for something great.”

We live in a world of extraordinary things. The mistake often made is to settle for the ordinary, familiar….or safe. Familiarity does not always breed contempt. But settling for the ordinary and the all-too-familiar may breed something else. … The Big Idea does not necessarily mean big budget, or big staff, or big splash. Small can be remarkable

Mistake #2 is almost the same:  Doing little or nothing during Christmas

With all the messages crowding for attention, all the competing distractions, all the busyness and demands for time and focus, it’s tempting to decide not to try anything special during Christmas. … unchurched people only visit a church they have heard of. Unchurched people motivated to attend a service (say, at Christmas or Easter) are almost certain to choose a church that has captured their awareness at that particular time. To maintain high awareness, a church needs to have a strong community presence during the strategically important Christmas season.

I highly recommend you read this guide, and then you get ready to do something.  Make it consistent with yoru message, but do something special.  Tell your community you’re doing it and then do it the best you can, even with limited budget.  Even if it’s caroling around the neighborhood, Christmas eve vespers, free gift wrap service, or Christmas present storage so prying eyes don’t look until Christmas eve, do something!

The guide is found here.

Sarah Palin made fun of Barack Obama being a community organizer, but there are a lot of people who add value to their community by organizing neighborhood citizens to accomplish more together than they could individually.

It’s no accident most organization starts within a church, and most community activist leaders are church leaders.  In this context, it’s no wonder Martin Luther King and Ralph Abernathy were both pastor and civil rights leaders, and why seminary student Jesse Jackson got diverted from the pulpit toward community action.

The people who trained Barack Obama were trained at the Gamaliel Foundation.  I went to their website and found a list of great manuals.  I recommend the Conversion Toolkit in the “Faith and Democracy” section.

The purpose of that manual is to engage people in our congregations more deeply about what they hope for in their lives.”  It is written to get people trained to solve social problems, but the lessons about the process are useful to teach you how to lead them in learning the church mission and purposes.  (It also resembles some of the building fund campaign literature I’ve read.)

It won’t write your message for you, but once you know where you want to take your congregation, it will help you structure your approach to training them to take action in your community.

Over at Church Planting Village (dot net), there’s a discussion and set of tools for ministering to the multihousing community. That’s the generic term for apartments, condos, residence hotels, and campgrounds, places where lots of people live close together “with shared amenities.” They define the opportunity this way:

Sixty percent of the unchurched population in North America, some 120 million people, lives in multihousing communities. Left unevangelized, that figure could rise because the numbers of people in multihousing communities, which include apartments, condominiums, manufactured housing, and public housing, is increasing.

Our tradition methods of evangelizing are geared to families living in the suburbs or rural communities. But that’s not where the prospects are. If your church is near one of these multihousing communities, and your attendance is dwindling, you might consider establishing a ministry there.

As the site says, it will take some time building relationship with the manager, because if you try overt evangelism in today’s security-conscious environment, you will be asked to leave and not allowed back. Short, focused meetings about setting up a Bible study or social / service project should be the topic. Don’t worry about evangelizing the owner right away. Rather, focus your attention on showing how what you do benefits the tennants. Things like:

  • backyard Bible club to keep the kids occupied for a few hours a day. This is either a full-week VBS-style camp or a once-weekly break for the parents.
  • laundry support ministry
  • Mobile food kitchen
  • Educational classes on site

Ask the manager what services the tennants would benefit from, and let the Spirit lead on how you can fill those needs.

Once you have a beachhead established with one or more tenants, they become the site hosts and the funnel for future ministry, and the opportunity opens to bring them into the full fellowship of your congregation.

You can find the resources here.