Growing up in the deep south in the 70s and 80s there appeared to be no shortage of TV “evangelists” wanting money for something. It was one of the big reasons I refused to go to church at that age. Why did I have to give $100+ to get to Heaven or stick my hands on the TV for healing? These guys just wanted to build their empire for themselves. Unfortunately, lots of people did give money, millions in fact, to these people because they were masters at deceptive marketing. They promised something people wanted (forgiveness, healing, a better life) in exchange for money… and people bought it. What these people didn’t understand in their desperation, is that all of these things were paid for about 2,000 years ago.
But that era had another, long term negative impact. It made the spreading of God’s Word a taboo, as if Christians had crawled from underneath a rock somewhere, pitching empty promises. I wish this wasn’t the case, but we have to fight past this fear to reach people, especially here in the US, but so many of us are too afraid of rejection or persecution.
So What Do We Do?
Christians are told to be a light on the hill in darkness. Even a small flame can shine a long way in the dark. This “flame” is best seen through our actions and behaviors that reflect who God is. In this age where even the poorest here in America have smartphones, TV, the Internet, email, Facebook and YouTube, the Church has missed a real opportunity to reach people who want to know more about God and connect with something true. It seems like whatever the latest Internet meme is, has more people sharing it than sharing Christ with others. People are tired of media bias, political positioning and weak leadership. In fact, over 50 millions people a month are trying to find God according to Google.
Did you catch that? 50 Million people.
So what is the little church on the street corner to do if people are turned off by religious marketing? It turns out there is a lot, probably more than any church by itself could probably take on. God has made us creative and He wants us to tap into His creative spirit, so to speak. Remember that God gets the glory when there is no way we could have accomplished something, yet it happens anyway. The world sees God in things like that, so don’t be afraid to take on this goliath task. The basic definition of marketing is making people aware of an idea or organization to create an action.
Whether you still go door to door, help at the local school or shelter, post Bible verses on Facebook, create a billboard, handout water, or wear a cool tshirt, you are marketing. Most of us do it without even being aware of it. As the body of Christians, we have a huge opportunity to reach millions of people, especially online in our social circles and in search engines, we merely need to start. It doesn’t have to be huge. Start with something small, start with anything, but be that light on the hill. The Internet is a dark place, we need to light some bonfires everywhere we can.
Some Digital Ideas
So if we put on the brainstorming hat a little bit, what can a ministry do online in this dark world we call the Internet? Here are some ideas we have seen implemented that have worked very effectively for other ministries and our customers.
- Google Grants. Google has a program for non-profits that will give away $10k a month in Adwords advertising for education and helping people. I have seen many ministries take advantage of this including churches. Read the fine print though before you sign up. It can take several months to be approved.
- Create Great Content. Create a great story to help drive traffic from Google search. If you want to read an in depth article on how to do this, check out our blog post on converting visitors from Google. Traffic from Google search comes when you have great content that people want to share.
- Get Social Help. If you want to reach a larger audience, you want to work with people who know people. In this case, they are called influencers and they have a large social media following already. Reach out to them and see if they might be willing to help you get your message out. Research who the right ones are that are passionate about what you do.
- Get Out of the Kitchen. The business world has a zillion great examples of how to reach people online. If you’re just following what every other ministry is doing, you may be lost in the noise. Explore how businesses are marketing and adapt that for ministry outreach. Learn about growth hacking and how it can be applied to reach people for Christ.
- Create a Team. The odds are very high that there are some marketing savvy people in your church, within your group of volunteers or one of your followers. Leverage their experience and passion to apply the skills God has given them to help you out.
These are obviously some high level ideas, but they will take you down a path to some great tactics that you can use. There are a huge number of tools, ideas and resources that you can leverage. The trick is choosing what is right for your ministry to have the greatest impact on your mission within a budget you can afford. Don’t try something for a few weeks and give up. It takes time to learn and time for your audience to adapt to your changes in marketing.
If you want some help trying to figure all this stuff out, just let us know. We love helping our ministry partners.