Why Not Marketing Your Ministry is Vain

Communications in ministry today is loaded with borrowed terminology. We rely heavily on “the world” for our vocabulary when it comes to getting the word out. Sadly, modern ad agencies excel in communication far beyond the efforts of the Church. Madison Avenue often reaches the eyes and ears of our people far more quickly and effectively than we do.

This does not have to be the case but it is the case. That is why leaders are so sensitive when the word “marketing” is introduced to their weekly church staff meeting. We don’t want to “market” the Gospel. “Marketing” somehow reeks of theological compromise. After all, we want to subvert the evil tactics of the world; not perpetuate them.

But what if you adjusted your understanding of the word “marketing” to a more accurate definition? What if “marketing” could be reclaimed for the Gospel?

Evangelical theologian and scholar Carl F. H. Henry once said, “The Gospel is only good news if it gets there in time.” As ministers of the Gospel, we need to be quicker and more persuasive than Madison Avenue. It is our mission, and it is your responsibility, to “market” your ministry if you are driven by the Great Commission.

The term “marketing” is too often perverted into a sort of glam deception schema that preys on the appetites of the public. Let’s stop there: Is that what comes to your mind when you consider a marketing strategy?

The way you communicate demonstrates what you think about the value of your message. The world is trained to watch for signals, both visual and audible, that tell them what is important and what is not. Your ministry’s website testifies to the power of the Gospel. Even your service bulletin stakes claims about the Kingdom.

Don’t get me wrong; the Kingdom of God is not about websites and bulletins, but your ministry will succeed or fail, at least in part, based on the level of seriousness with which you take your message. If your message is important you will ensure that people hear it quickly and effectively. In other words . . . you will ResonateOrDie.

Gospel leaders who “market” their ministries well should do so out of consideration for the lost. To do so for some other reason is vanity. Gospel leaders who do not “market” their ministries well demonstrate contempt for the lost. That is equally, if not more grotesquely, vain. Let me be clear: you should only market within, your means. “Your power” to do so might be great or it might be small. If your resources are abundant, be a good steward. If your resources are limited, be a good steward. The point is to “market” effectively, not to “market” expensively.

So don’t be afraid when your staff brings up ministry marketing in your next weekly meeting. You are not selling out to the world to have this conversation. It is not vain to “market” your ministry. It is vain not to.

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13 thoughts on “Why Not Marketing Your Ministry is Vain

    • Matt,
      Thanks for the encouragement brother! Church planters HAVE to have a strategy to resonate in the community. The church will never take root if they don't get the word out.

  1. I agree with the concept, but marketing as I see it is simply communication. How are communicating our message IS an option not that we communicate our message. Let's not forget the context of the quote. The context was "the good news" not church information & invitation. 90+% of marketing is about the church, not God or the gospel. Two different things. The gospel is best communicated in two ways: through a life lived out (coupled with their story) and through God's Word. Everything else regardless of the culture is less than. Not ineffective or pointless, but less than. Every church markets every day by their lives and words as they experience life. Marketing for the church is not relegated to "advertising." Those against that aren't against marketing or communication, they are against the forms that cost X dollars while people are going hungry and other needs are more important and effective for the Kingdom. To each, follow how God is leading you!

    • I think Shawn's dead on. Are we promoting the Gospel, or our churches. If we promote ourselves (i.e. our churches) then it's certainly more vain than not marketing at all. If we promote the Gospel, then it's certainly not vain and very in line with scripture. Here's the issue though, how or why would you "market" the Gospel in the first place? When most of our marketing of the Gospel these days comes through missional activity and not street corner shouting or witty church signs, how is church marketing done so that it is not all about us and more about God?

      • Sam,
        Thanks for your comment and question! I think your question hits right at the heart of why I contribute here at ResonateOrDie. I think in order to do ministry marketing that exalts Jesus more than self, you have to hold your ministry loosely. We must always be open to repentance if we have drifted into self-promotion. I am concerned in this post with drawing a strong connection between Christ and his Church. If Christ is the head of his Church, then we should also understand him as the head of our churches. If we see ourselves as the head of our church then we won't be able to help but market ourselves. Everything about the ministry would be personality-driven. That is a bad thing. I think the key to marketing churches well, so that they are as you said, "not at all about us and more about God," is to be held accountable to exalting Christ as the head of our churches. Jesus is Lord of all things including bulletins, parking lots, and the Kingdom of God. My call to action is to bring all things under his authority. Thanks again!

  2. Shawn,
    Thanks for your comment! I agree too that marketing is communication. I also agree that the Henry quote is about the Gospel. It seems like where we disagree is about the value of those things that are, as you say, “less than.” What I would propose in this case is to evaluate those things. Are they Gospel driven? If they are not, I will concede that they are merely advertising and not worth any amount of your budget. If they are Gospel centered, they are worthy of your resources. You make a good point that the best form of marketing is incarnational. I tend to agree though I am afraid some folks might use that, though I’m sure it is not your heart, to get off the hook when it comes to communicating with excellence. Bless you brother!

  3. I love this post. I have sent many a client to it lately in regards to precise marketing for your ministry within your financial means! Thank You Devin!!
    You all totally rock here. I have appreciated your insight for quite a while…back to the days of it being <a href="http://www.MinistryMarketingCoach.com” target=”_blank”> <a href="http://www.MinistryMarketingCoach.com” target=”_blank”>www.MinistryMarketingCoach.com.

    Thank you for your spirit of excellence!

  4. As someone who considers himself Gospel-driven/centered, there is still a foundational question in my mind. What does that look like? Does that mean we must have the actual Gospel message on every piece of literature we hand out, or on the front page of every website we build? I would be interested to read some ideas from others on this. BTW, I agree that Devin's article is spot on! When God's glory in the Gospel is the foundation/focus, how can we NOT be motivated!