Congregations undoubtedly do amazing work. We have health services, food banks, children’s programming, leadership development, summer camps, long term care facilities, and programming to support every subsector of society with almost any challenge (not to mention supporting our communities with spiritual grounding, emotional support, and connection).
If we were for-profits with these fantastic results, we would be shouting this from the rooftop. Our people would brag about the cool company that they work for. Our advertising would show how much impact we have made. Our marketing messages would feature these amazing stories. We would have marketing!
But this doesn’t happen that often. Why not? The marketing challenge in congregations is three-fold;
Humbleness. The value of being humble is ingrained in us. Shouldn’t we do good things and be good people just for the sake of being good? Wouldn’t it be bad if we wanted recognition for this work? This value holds us back from marketing.
We are introverts. It’s true! A majority of congregational members are introverts. We love having one-on-one conversations that are genuine and safe. We are often social, but not overtly so. This natural inhibition to draw attention to ourselves holds us back from marketing.
Fear of rejection. We think that people don’t want to hear our story and that conversations about faith communities are taboo. So we don’t bring it up! Interestingly enough, there is only a very small percentage of people who are actively unwilling to hear stories from a faith community. Most people are interested and willing to listen. It is this small group of negative people that holds many congregations back from marketing.
There are many reasons out there for a congregations to avoid marketing. However, there is a very real ethical dilemma in not telling our story and not marketing. If we aren’t telling everyone that we know about the amazing work that we are doing, then people can’t benefit from it. People aren’t being cared for, because we aren’t marketing!!
With this logic, we have to start marketing. We need to start telling our family and friends, using traditional community channels, and learning about best practices.
When marketing is used by flourishing congregations, there can be fantastic results.
Public relations and press interest starts happening. This is the best marketing, because it is free! Once you are on the news agencies’ list, they will contact you for news ideas and will quote you on other topics which gets your name out even more.
Partnership opportunities appear! Once you are on the community’s radar, more opportunities follow.
Start communicating about your great work now and get on people’s radars. Small wins lead to bigger wins. Once the momentum starts, it gets a lot easier.
Carla Leon is Manager of New Initiatives for EDGE – A Network for New Ministry & Ministry Renewal, The United Church of Canada.
This article was originally published in www.flourishingcongregations.org