Attracting People in Your Community (Part 1)

December 25th, 2011

I graduated college with a degree in marketing. I spent four years studying how to persuade customers that a particular product or service would be the answer to their needs. During college, my classmates and I learned about the four P’s of marketing—product, price, promotion, and place—by examining case studies of effective marketers. For the next decade I used my education to persuade women that well-made, tailored clothing met their need for fashion, sophistication, versatility, and comfort. I loved what I did. I knew that if a woman felt good about what she was wearing, her self-esteem was higher, she felt better about herself, and the quality of her life improved for a season.

When I left the world of retail to join the staff at Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kansas, I assumed I would be setting aside what I had learned and practiced in the field of marketing. I never thought a church would use marketing, promotion, and product development techniques; they were so secular, so consumer-driven, or so I thought. I quickly discovered this assumption was wrong. In fact, I discovered the Bible would have been a great source for case studies in our marketing classes.

The goal of marketing is to identify the needs of the customer, provide a product to meet those needs, and generate ways to spread the word so that others know about the product. Jesus was highly effective at marketing. As Jesus encountered people, he identified their needs and met those needs by calling the people to him, and word spread quickly about what he had to offer. Jesus’ encounter with a woman at a well, recorded in the Gospel of John, was one example of effective marketing. While in the woman’s town, Jesus noticed her and made it a priority to learn more about her. He asked questions and made observations. He identified her need and offered her living water to meet that need. The woman ran to tell her friends about the life-changing “product” she had been given. Word spread quickly.

Many of the Samaritans from the woman’s town came to believe in Jesus because of the woman’s testimony: “He told me everything I’ve ever done.” When they urged him to stay, Jesus remained in the town for two days. Because of his words, many more became believers. They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this one is truly the savior of the world” (John 4:39-42).

Many pastors and church leaders are hesitant to embrace marketing techniques. They say marketing is manipulative, secular, and customer-driven. Technically they are right, but does that make it something to avoid? Let’s look at the definitions of these words.

  • Manipulate: To manage or utilize skillfully
  • Secular: Of or relating to the worldly or temporal
  • Customer: An individual usually having some specified distinctive trait

Given these definitions, is marketing still something to avoid in the church? What do we think Jesus would say and do? (WWJD—now, that’s marketing.) I believe that Scripture shows over and over again that Jesus managed and utilized his ability to connect with people (customers), providing a response to a worldly or temporal need. And he was convincing.

Marketing involves persuasion. Paul persuaded people to a better way of living. Through marketing, you are persuading non-religious and nominally religious people to consider what the church has to offer. You are seeking to motivate and inspire them to respond on their journey to become followers of Jesus Christ.

Read part 2 of the series Applying the Four P's to Church Marketing
Read part 3 of the series Work the Steps

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