Inspiration or Invitation?

June 25, 2008 by

In churches, marketing efforts seem to go one of two ways—internally inspiring those who attend your church or externally inviting those who don’t yet attend.

In what direction should your ministry’s marketing face? Inspiration or Invitation?

The correct answer is a conditional both … but first you must determine to whom you are speaking.

Marketing that is directed inward, towards a church’s existing congregation, should inspire its audience to passionately pursue their own spiritual development and motivate them to faithfully fulfill the Great Commission. The message should inspire reflection and action. The message should encourage its audience to look beyond itself, into the world, and seek opportunities to move from worship to work, witnessing God’s grace to those outside of the church. The efficacy of this marketing will not be determined by the number of scriptural references that these members memorize or the number of committees to which these members belong. The efficacy of your inspirational marketing will be determined by the number of times your audience attempts to share their stories with those outside of the church. And yes, they will likely fail more often than they succeed. Your inspirational marketing must encourage them to act against the odds.

Marketing that is directed outward, towards the unbeliever or the unchurched, should invite its readers to consider a relationship with Christ. This message should also inspire reflection and action. However, the difference is that the message should encourage its readers to look beyond the world’s distractions and search themselves, to consider how a relationship with God might improve their current situation. The efficacy of this marketing will not be determined by your individual church’s growth, or even the increased number of downloads of your podcast, hits to your website or subscriptions to your blog. Ultimately, the efficacy of your invitational marketing will be determined by the number of people who stand in anticipation of an authentic encounter with the resurrected Christ, most of whom you will never meet. There is a strong chance that your intended audience will miss your message simply because you don’t speak their language. Your invitational marketing must be localized and relevant, so that your audience doesn’t believe you to be alien.

The cost of getting these wires crossed can be very expensive. Improperly directed internal marketing can cause the existing member to feel justified in withdrawing from the world, instead of going out and witnessing to it. Similarly, unfocused external marketing must be careful not to reinforce the reasons that unbelievers and the unchurched currently cite to avoid fellowship with the Christian community.

In what direction does your ministry’s marketing face? Be it inspirational or invitational, be sure it points its audience in the right direction, toward a healthy and growing relationship with God.

Post By:

Brian Gaffney

Brian A. Gaffney is the expectant father of FourWord Thinking Marketing and Communications, Inc., a Christian communications consultancy that he was called to start after working in corporate consumer marketing for a decade. He and his wife, Kym, live in Brooklyn, N.Y., and attend Emmanuel Baptist Church, where he is an ordained deacon.
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4 Responses to “Inspiration or Invitation?”

  • Mark Howell
    June 25, 2008

    Good stuff, Brian. I really like your thinking. The marketing question is absolutely related to a crystal clear understanding of who your real customer is. The reason many churches fail at marketing? They haven’t figured out who they’re really designed to reach.
    Good stuff. Thanks for your insight.

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  • Sam Andress
    June 27, 2008

    You know that the church has been consumed by consumer culture when we are asking the question how are we to “spin” our message?
    Jesus has called us to BE, yes that is from the Hebrew very haya, which God used at Sinai when he called Israel to BE, his people. Jesus marketing was, “how are you going to be flesh and blood, hands and feet, and a healing presence in the world (earth) God is making new?”
    Its not that church marketing sucks, it’s that the whole notion that its what the church is about that sucks. It presumes the Body of Christ is a collection of individuals–not a community of the new humanity.
    My favorite was in a recent Relevant magazine article where Rob Bell says to that the whole system of big numbers, big ministries, and church marketing, must die!
    The question should always be, every week, since Christ is raised how are we going to BE his hands and feet in the world God is making new. How will we participate in healing a fractured world?

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  • Josh Asbury
    June 29, 2008

    I think that a good way to start with any church-based marketing effort is to focus inwardly. Understand your congregation and why they choose to attend your church. Be a resource for them and their lives. Once you have successfully done that, they can be an active part of your outward marketing. Word of mouth works much, much better than a billboard.

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  • Sheila Branscombe
    September 10, 2008

    It seems clear to me that Christians simply don’t “attract” people to themselves. Hence the focus on inward. But this doesn’t seem to work either. Could it be because we, the church, are simply human, full of error, forgiven by God? I think we need to simultaneously grow upward, inward and project outward, if we are to reach non-christians. And that includes marketing or better yet, call it strategic thinking.

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