You’re a church leader, not a marketing expert.
You’re also not a professional volunteer coordinator, accountant, or daycare provider, but you find yourself wearing all of those hats from time to time, anyway.
When something needs to be done, you do it. And if you want your church to grow, you need to market it.
A church marketing checklist
This article will help you build your church marketing toolbox as quickly—and as cheaply—as possible. The idea is to get your church marketing plan rolling tomorrow, not two weeks from now.
Think of the following as a sort of checklist. If you cover all of these bases, you’ll be in good shape. You don’t have to devote hours each week to each of these channels, and you may find that one or two of them don’t work for your church/situation.
But, if you’re aware of them, and spend some time promoting your church on them—whether it’s a Facebook page, a monthly email newsletter, and/or launching a modern website—I guarantee your church marketing plan will be in much better shape than when you started.
1. Social media accounts
Back in the 1980s, a church marketing plan meant placing ads in the newspaper or booking radio/TV spots, your trusty old hanging letter sign out front, and—if your church was really doing well—a billboard alongside the highway.
A classic church billboard (via Wikimedia Commons)
These days, marketing is all about social media.
These three are the best place to start due to their popularity and ease-of-use. Remember: it’s better to run a few channels well than to run a bunch of channels poorly. If you’re a one-person church marketing team, it’s best to start with just one platform until you’re comfortable enough to add more.
But if your ChMS doesn’t include social media features, don’t worry. Free tools like Buffer and Hootsuite can take a lot of the legwork out of posting by allowing you to schedule posts ahead of time. Here’s a complete guide on using FIT (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) to market your church.
2. Even more social media accounts
The big three social media platforms are your marketing toolbox’s hammer, wrench, and screwdriver that you’ll use every day.
To be clear: I don’t recommend launching accounts for your church on all of these platforms. That’s a surefire way to burn yourself out and abandon one—or all—of them.
I do recommend taking the time to explore each, though. Even if you don’t want to post, these platforms contain a host of useful content for church leaders.
- Looking for fun church fundraiser ideas? Pinterest is a fount of inspiration.
- Wondering how to let your less fortunate members contribute in ways that don’t involve money? Ask Quora.
- Have a question about your church tech? There’s a community for that on Reddit.
While this approach isn’t immediately applicable to your church marketing plan, social media is constantly shifting. If Snapchat supplants Facebook by 2025, you’ll be glad you’re well-versed on how to use that puppy filter.
Here’s an awesome guide on how churches can use Snapchat from church marketing expert Brady Shearer.
3. Email marketing
For years, professional marketers have been cautiously waiting for email marketing to go the way of fax marketing. But every year, email marketing comes back stronger than the year before.
Most established church management systems have email management built in. If yours doesn’t, don’t worry! Most of the biggest and best email marketing platforms on the market—including MailChimp and VerticalResponse—have totally free options for up to hundreds of subscribers.
Free email marketing from MailChimp
An email marketing tool lets you track the effectiveness of your campaigns, curate your subscriber list, and set up autoresponders (a tool that automatically responds to emails, such as a welcome message for new members/subscribers).
If you’re still trying to sort through a big pile of old AOL and Hotmail addresses that keep bouncing back at you, you’re doing it wrong. With so many free email marketing tools out there, there’s no excuse to not use one to send out your monthly newsletter.
4. Your church bulletin/newsletter
Church bulletins are classic for a reason. Who among us hasn’t experienced reading about the youth group field trip to the water park, or the welcome potluck for new members?
It was many a Sunday in my youth that I found myself daydreaming about those thrilling water slides and delicious varieties of macaroni salad while pretending to pay attention to the sermon.
In the digital age, the church bulletin has changed. There’s no longer a need to cram every last announcement into the printed bulletin you hand out to members and visitors each Sunday. You can easily post and share that information online.
But, this doesn’t mean that your church bulletin or newsletter isn’t still a powerful church marketing tool. As Kevin D. Hendricks, editor of Church Marketing Sucks, put it: “The bottom line is that [the church bulletin] is an important component in how a church communicates. It’s likely the one thing visitors and members will take home with them.”
Your church bulletin should include perennial, necessary info, such as:
- Your website and social media information (so visitors can easily find all the stuff you couldn’t fit in the bulletin)
- Your physical address and phone number (in case visitors aren’t particularly tech-savvy)
- A welcome message to make first-time visitors feel welcome (marketing 101)
That’s all you really need on paper. An email newsletter, on the other hand, can serve as your church bulletin’s older, more talkative sibling. That’s where all of your church birth announcements, knitting group notices, fundraiser information, and board of director listings can go.
5. Your church website
We can do better than this…
But, that lack doesn’t change the fact that your website is often the first (and potentially last) impression potential visitors will have of your church.
The good news is that creating your website doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it shouldn’t be, especially if you’re working with limited resources. I’ll even go as far as saying that you can skip a website altogether if you’re doing the first thing on this list—the big three social media accounts—well. If you have a strong, informative Facebook page and incredibly thin margins, keep your focus there instead of on trying to manage a website as well.
Websites remain a major part of most church marketing plans. At a minimum, your church website should have:
- A picture of your church and at least a few members (NOT stock photos)
- Your address and contact info (phone, email, social media)
- A regularly updated calendar of events and services (use church management software to save yourself a lot of trouble; here’s a filtered list of options that include calendar management)
Here’s a complete guide to building (or improving) your church website. WordPress is the most popular content management system in the world; I’ve gathered seven free WordPress church themes to get you started.
Once you have all this down, you can start worrying about creating the church website of the future, complete with dynamic content, virtual communities, mobile compatibility, and more.
The nice thing about tools like WordPress and its community-built integrations is that creating a modern website is only going to get easier. Who knows, in the near future, creating your own website might be as easy as setting up a voicemail inbox (Does anyone still use voicemail?)!
How’s your church marketing plan going? Do you have any questions that weren’t answered in this article? Do you think I missed any indispensable church marketing tools? Let me know in the comments below, or connect with me on Twitter @CapterraAC.
Capterra’s church management blog has a host of resources to help you build your church marketing plan. Here are a few to get you started:
- 7 Examples of Churches That Own Social Media
- Mega-Church Marketing on a Micro-Church Budget
- How to Build Your Church Social Media Strategy to Boost Engagement
Looking for Church Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Church Management software solutions.