Tag Archives: church marketing sucks

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A thing I said about social media on Davemiers.com

Dave Miers is a cool guy. I’ve never met him. But he seems cool. He does cool stuff like raising money for clean water in India – but he does even cooler stuff than that, he tries to help people know and love Jesus. He’s writing a couple of concurrent series on davemiers.com one called Digital Skatepark about using the Internet for Youth Ministry, and some interviews with people like Steve Kryger, Steve Fogg, and little old me – about redeeming social media.

In my post I shared this quote I read on Church Marketing Sucks a few weeks ago which I think sums up the opportunity that social media presents.

“If some day they take the radio station away from us, if they close down our newspaper, if they don’t let us speak, if they kill all the priests and the bishop too, and you are left, a people without priests, each one of you must be God’s microphone, each one of you must be a messenger, a prophet. The church will always exist as long as there is one baptized person. And that one baptized person who is left in the world is responsible before the world for holding aloft the banner of the Lord’s truth and of his divine justice.” – Oscar Romero

Here’s my big thesis about how churches should use social media:

Doing social media well as an institution is all well and good, but churches need to equip and empower their flocks to use social media as people who don’t promote their own image on social media, but the image of Jesus.

Anyway. I say more on that post. Keep track of these two series though. They’re good stuff.

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Church Sign Fail

I have mentioned in the past that I’m less than excited by most church signs that try to be pithy and end up sucking.

Why churches don’t just use these boards to promote the big idea of each sermon, or you know, the gospel, is beyond me.

Here’s a bit of a doozy in Brisbane (sent to me by my brother-in-law).

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Vintage Christian Marketing: How not to a tract people to Jesus

Get it. These are “tracts”… I’ll be here all day. These are from a blog dedicated to such ethereal ephemera called Old Time Religion. They remind me that I should finally start my “bad Christian books” blog – I’ve got about thirty books on my shelf that I haven’t blogged yet, and I still haven’t finished reviewing Help Lord the Devil Made me Fat.





Your gas life now

This is just bizarre. Watch this video.

Whoopee Cushion Life Teaser from North Point Church on Vimeo.

That, friends, is a video trailer for a sermon series. At North Point Church.

It’s called Whoopee Cushion Life.

Honestly. Whoever had that idea should be fired. Or Dutch ovened. Or Dutch ovened then fired.

Here, if you can stomach the intro again, is the first sermon from the series.

Whoopee Cushion Life: Pull My Finger from North Point Church on Vimeo.

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Church Marketing on the Gruen Transfer

The Gruen Transfer last night (or tonight if you caught it on ABC 2) had a segment on how religion uses advertising.

They looked at the Jesus: All About Life TV ad from last year.

Todd Samson reckons the Jesus is cool, the church is bad thing was based on sound research – but that the church is let down by the “retail experience” which is church. He reckons Hillsong has done this well.

Russel Howcroft said the ads worked, and numbers increased.

One of the other panelists made a point that preaching to the converted is a valid and necessary function of advertising.

The next ad was a Scientology spot. “Know yourself, know life” – it was, in the words of one of the panelists “pure motivational speech,” and it didn’t feature any ugly people.

Todd says religions have traditionally been about community. And the scientology ad tries to capture that.

The next spot was a Scientology ad featuring Tom Cruise – for people within the cult. Russel calls Tom Cruise a total “brain smashing” advantage for the converted Scientology people. He says “aspiration is so important in branding” and celebrity endorsements are a key part of that. Todd says it’s “influencing the influencers.”

The Mormons had a really weird ad that tapped into familial guilt. A little girl asks her mum to go rollerskating with her, she says no, the precocious kid reminds her that she’ll grow up to be a disconnected teenager. One of the Gruen panellists said the whole thing looked plastic, was horribly out of touch, and that it was pretty awful.

Then my favourite. Answers in Genesis. With the kid in a singlet with a pistol. Wil Anderson quips “Are you feeling Godly Punk?” – “will scaring people into religion help?” Todd quips “I thought that’s what Hell was for.”

Todd says religious advertising is run most often in tough times. Todd has an impressive grasp of the argument Answers in Genesis is making about evolution and morality. He calls it an awful piece of communication. They are preaching to the converted. Fear is good at keeping people in, but not attracting people in.

If you missed the episode check out this advert for Australian Christian television:

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Stupidity, and rumours of stupidity

I’m calling for a retranslation of Matthew 24:6. We’re living in strange times. With strange people. Here are some media stories about public Christianity that have grabbed my attention in the last few weeks.

A UK judge ruled that a Christian sex therapist could not refuse his services to a gay couple.

‘Law for the protection of a position held purely on religious grounds cannot therefore be justified. It is irrational, as preferring the subjective over the objective. But it is also divisive, capricious and arbitrary.’

‘We do not live in a society where all the people share uniform religious beliefs.

‘The precepts of any one religion – any belief system – cannot, by force of their religious origins, sound any louder in the general law than the precepts of any other.

‘If they did, those out in the cold would be less than citizens, and our constitution would be on the way to a theocracy, which is of necessity autocratic.’

‘The law of a theocracy is dictated without option to the people, not made by their judges and governments.

‘The individual conscience is free to accept such dictated law, but the State, if its people are to be free, has the burdensome duty of thinking for itself.”

I didn’t know the English had a consitutional right to sex therapy. Forcing people to act against their conscience in the interest of “freedom” seems pretty odd to me.

But England is pretty messed up, just days later a Christian street preacher was arrested for privately telling (according to the reports) an off duty (gay atheist) police liaison officer that he believed homosexuality was a sin.

Whether or not homosexuality is a sin (I believe it is) is not the point here – whether or not we can voice opinions over things we disagree with is a much more important issue. I’m not sure why an atheist (which the complainant claims to be) would be offended that a God they don’t believe in thinks their conduct is sinful – especially when he defines every person as sinful, and every sin as essentially genetic (an inherited trait).

Things aren’t much better in the US – where a judge just ruled that the cross is a symbol for everybody – not just Christians. Much to the chagrin of atheists and Americans of other religions… here’s a section of the transcript.

MR. ELIASBERG: It doesn’t say that, but a cross is the predominant symbol of Christianity and it signifies that Jesus is the son of God and died to redeem mankind for our sins, and I believe that’s why the Jewish war veterans —

JUSTICE SCALIA: It’s erected as a war memorial. I assume it is erected in honor of all of the war dead. It’s the — the cross is the — is the most common symbol of — of — of the resting place of the dead, and it doesn’t seem to me — what would you have them erect? A cross — some conglomerate of a cross, a Star of David, and you know, a Moslem half moon and star?

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, Justice Scalia, if I may go to your first point. The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of Christians. I have been in Jewish cemeteries. There is never a cross on a tombstone of a Jew.

(Laughter.)

MR. ELIASBERG: So it is the most common symbol to honor Christians.

JUSTICE SCALIA: I don’t think you can leap from that to the conclusion that the only war dead that that cross honors are the Christian war dead. I think that’s an outrageous conclusion.

MR. ELIASBERG: Well, my — the point of my — point here is to say that there is a reason the Jewish war veterans came in and said we don’t feel honored by this cross. This cross can’t honor us because it is a religious symbol of another religion.

Closer to home, a Geelong church had an Easter publicity stunt closed by police because it was offensive. They were trying to re-enact the crucifixion in a public space. Who thought that would be a good idea? Seriously. I know the crucifixion is important – but in terms of scarring (and scaring) little children in a public place the only way you could create more shock would be to crucify the Easter Bunny and tell them they aren’t getting any eggs.

I know the message of the cross is offensive – that doesn’t mean we have to go out of our way to offend people with it. Like this:

The minister of the church responsible, Sarah Keneally, said:

“When the police stopped it I looked behind me and there were about eight children … watching it and none of them looked distressed,” she said.

“I think it was pretty sad that a Christian group couldn’t express what Easter was truly about for one hour – it wasn’t like we were trying to take over the city or tell everyone they were going to hell.”

She said the group did not get a chance to talk with police before the display was shut down.

“They didn’t talk to us first, they just came and yanked the cord out of our amp and said we had to stop,” she said.

“We got through 40 minutes of Jesus hanging on the cross with two women mourning and instrumental music. I was a bit disappointed we weren’t allowed to have a one-hour demonstration.’

The Bible tells us to go and tell the world about Jesus.

“It doesn’t say to stay in a church and hope that everyone will turn up there because they won’t.”

Ms Kenneally said if the church conducts the same re-enactment next year it would consider cutting out the fake blood element.

“We would probably modify that a bit,” she said.

“We don’t want to, but if that’s what the public are saying, we would if we needed to.”

There’s a big difference between telling the world about Jesus and shoving a gory picture of his crucifixion in their faces.

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Ad value

Tim Challies is one of the world’s preeminent Christian bloggers. Today he wrote about advertising and the church – mostly advertising but this was a great quote about his approach to ads:

“I guard against this because I’ve seen what happens to churches when they adopt a marketing mindset. Every church markets; the moment a church places a sign outside or puts an advertisement in the phone book or the local newspaper, it is marketing. But some churches go far further, adopting a kind of marketing mindset that makes the church functionally not much different than a business. After a while every decision comes back to the bottom line, whether that is a dollar figure or an attendance figure. This quickly sends churches into a tailspin, a downward spiral that draws them further and further from the Bible. It is inevitable, really.”

I’m still not sure where I sit on the issue of church marketing. I’m not as sold on it as churchmarketingsucks.com – who despite the name actually encourage churches to do better.

Challies also asks a question about whether or not we should ethically watch ads when consuming content – and thus whether ad blocking is immoral.