In this age where people are much more visual, fast-paced, and consumption oriented, churches must also learn new ways and become market savvy. The 132-year old First United Methodist Church located in Birmingham, Al. has adopted market strategies to gain congregants.
John Halsing rehauled the entire church’s image and used a well-known advertising tool to attract newcomers—branding.
“I’m a big fan of branding, and I wanted to use marketing to reach people and show them all the church has to offer,” he says.
He could have something going there. From that concept, a catchy slogan was born: Faith Happens. The church then propelled a new website, www.faithhappens.org. The website offers the typical calendar of events in addition to a breakdown of the church’s beliefs, a call to ministries and countless other outlets for readers (UMNS).
Having a website is not unheard of in churches. What was unique about this initiative, however, is the decision to advertise the website. Not only did they advertise it on contemporary radio stations and bumper stickers, they also produced movie screen stills to air in movie theaters (UMNS).
The promotion did not end there. During the Birmingham music festival, the church handed out water bottles with the website address and another catchy slogan, “What You’re Thirsty For” (UMNS). That’s it. It was a hit.
Not ones to be limited, they tried other venues. “We also did what we called guerilla promotions,” he says in an interview with UMNS. “We had banners made up that we hung over the interstate or other busy intersections that promoted our Web site. We had 10,000-some clicks in a very short period. It drove great traffic to the Web site.”
The result? 30-40 new members one year later. The promotion cost roughly $8,000, and it was “totally justified,” Halsing said.
Publicity is very important. In an era where so many stimuli are competing for people’s attention, the church and God should not lose out.