Church Marketing 101: Ben Picton

Is it November already?
Today my great friend Ben Picton is guest blogging for me. I’m absolutely nuts over the Picton clan – they are some of the most terrific human beings on the planet! We really only built friendship in a short amount of time, but that friendship runs deep and wide (like Jesus’ love, maybe) and it feels like we’ve been friends for years and years.
(Friends, let it be known that I have rewritten that paragraph probably 10 times. There are so many wonderful things to say about Ben, and narrowing it down to “terrific human being” is such an understatement.)
Ben and I first really connected when he came on board as our Marketing Director for Transit Assembly in Seattle, and I have learned so much from him in the world of marketing and the arts (oh, and fashion). He graduated from Evangel University with a BBA in marketing, and is currently a marketing professional with a focus on churches and non-profits, working with organizations ranging from international non-profits to small churches.
Thank you for writing, Ben. I really miss you & Hannah and baby Penelope.
I know creatives in the church tend to get thrown into marketing their church, and have no idea what it really means or where to start. Here is your crash course from one of the greats. You’re welcome.
Josh

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A lot of people jump to conclusions when they hear “church marketing,” so let’s talk about that first. Church marketing is not about manipulating people. The heart of church marketing is to make sure you are ready to welcome people into an environment where they will feel open to hear from God. It’s more about doing your best to prepare to represent Him to your members, visitors, and community than promoting yourself.
This is the heart of church marketing, but what is does it look like?
Church marketing is the management of perception.
That’s an academic definition, so let’s talk about what that really means.
Management is the cycle of learning where you are now, what your vision for the future is, and making decisions to get you there. Every interaction your church has with someone combines together to form their perception of you. This perception of you is how they will decide to visit, return, etc.
So church marketing is 1) learning how people perceive you now, 2) having vision for how you want them to perceive you, and 3) taking action to get there.
Step 1: Current Perception.

How do you learn how people perceive you now? You can learn a lot from your current members. First, are they regularly inviting guests? If they are – that’s great, and if not, there’s a reason why. Have a conversation with them, and get their honest opinion. You can learn from your visitors, too, just by seeing how many come back again. It would be great to ask returning visitors why they came back and one-time visitors why they didn’t come back.

Step 2: Vision.

This is up to your church leadership and God to create. I’m no expert on casting vision, but go big. How can your church truly impact your community? Find a need and fill it.

Step 3: Taking Action.

Now that you know where you are and where you want to go, making changes to get there is the hardest part. Educate your staff, volunteers, and members about what you are doing and why. It’s always easier to change when you know why. Take small steps, and your church will evolve from the inside out. Your marketing should affect who you are first before it can affect your community.

If you think about every interaction your church has with an individual, there are a lot of opportunities. Below is a list of 11 scenarios to review. Think through the three steps above through the eyes of a first-time guest and a church member.
  1. Searching for church address and service times
  2. Pulling into the parking lot
  3. Walking into church
  4. Navigating (nursery, youth, restroom, water, etc.)
  5. Greeting each other before service/after worship
  6. Worship (style, song choice, mood)
  7. Tithes and offerings
  8. Sermon/lesson (style, word choice, comprehension level)
  9. Altar call/ending service
  10. Leaving church
  11. Driving away
Church marketing is a cycle, so once you finish going through the list above, start over again. Always reevaluate where you are, what your vision is, and new steps to get there.
A lot of what I’ve learned has come from Richard Reising’s book Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church For Greater Growth. Check out his book and blog at beyondrelevance.com to go deeper.
If you have any questions or great ideas to add, please comment below.
Thank you,
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3 thoughts on “Church Marketing 101: Ben Picton

  1. wow this is great stuff. I've never thought about it liek this before and it really helps me with our church. Thank you! Blessings!
    Michael

  2. Hey, so I have an honest question, I'm not angry, I just want to understand. When I think of marketing, I think of a business, and I'm not so sure we ought to think of our churches as businesses and. I don't know if Jesus would want us to think of his churches as businesses. So as someone who I guess studied marketing as it relates to church, how do you approach this?

  3. Hi Joel, this is Ben Picton. Thanks for your question; it’s a great one that I should have discussed in the post. I'm going to answer your question in two pieces.

    Can Churches Learn From Businesses?

    There are probably entire books devoted to this question but I’ll try to answer it succinctly. Churches and businesses are not the same, but from an organization perspective they have similarities. Both consist of a group of people, employees and volunteers, with a leader, pastor or CEO, so management skills are necessary for both. Churches and businesses want to attract new visitors or customers and want to keep their current members or customers, which is where marketing comes in to play. At the end of the day both have bills to pay so we have to be good stewards of our finances.
    There’s no denying that businesses have invested billions of dollars researching the best management, marketing, and financial tactics. I think it only makes sense for churches to learn what they can from businesses. The majority of churches have a website and a sign in front of their building but we learned the importance of these from businesses.

    Is Marketing Biblical?

    Marketing by deception or manipulation is not and for obvious reasons I think. Marketing as it relates to the definition I gave in the post above, “the management of perception,” is Biblical. Another way to think of marketing is communicating in a way that will be understood by the audience and cause them to take action.

    In the Bible we see this numerous times. Jesus communicated differently to the unreached, those interested, and religious leaders. He knew the perception of these people and communicated in a way to reach them where they were at in life. He showed grace to the sinner, taught the interested crowds, and rebuked the Pharisees.

    We also see this in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 when Paul says, “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” Paul changes his evangelism techniques, word choice, method of preaching, etc. to become relevant to his current audience so that as many people as possible could be saved. I don’t think Paul ever watered down his message to become relevant either. There’s a lot we can all learn from him on this!

    I hope this helps, let me know if you have any other questions and I’ll do my best to answer them sooner than this!

    Thanks,
    Ben Picton

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