Church Marketing 101

January 27, 2006 by

Church Marketing 101 by Richard ReisingOK, let’s get it out of the way:

Worst. Title. Ever.

But we’ll forgive Richard Reising for calling his book Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth, because despite the name, it is doing foundational work. The book covers the basics of marketing and why churches should care. It’s the handbook many of us will want to give as gifts to less-than-eager pastors.

Reising, the founder and president of church marketing firm Artistry Marketing, lays a good foundation. Let’s take a look at some of the lessons:

“You cannot find the answer to growth for your church in mimicking what growing churches do—you are more likely to find it in what they are. … Marketing is not about applying neat promotional ideas. … Marketing, to me, is not about sugarcoating or misrepresenting, it is about effectively communicating. It is meant to support a work that God is doing in your church—not replace it.”

And just what is marketing?

“Marketing is much more than promoting things. Marketing requires thinking it through. It involves every entity and interaction that fosters the outside world’s perception of your organization. When you do not pay your bills, you’re marketing. When you do not cut the grass, you’re marketing. When you talk over the heads of your ‘prospects’ or fail to serve them, you’re marketing. You are shaping perception in the hearts and minds of your members and target community—that is the very definition of marketing.”

Sound familiar? That’s the broken record we’ve been playing since we launched this site.

Reising defines marketing as the management of perception, which is a good definition. But it gets tricky when you realize that perception is subjective. Not everybody likes plinky piano music and emotional altar calls (can you tell I don’t?). But not everybody likes liturgy and kneeling. Some people love the recent EKG peer review, but others hate it. Neither of them are wrong, they just have different opinions.

Which is why it’s important for a church to differentiate. This one grates on me, because I want my church to be the body, to be diverse with all types and kinds of people. But the reality is that we don’t always get along. Sometimes it’s just more practical to put the headbangers in one service and the plinky people in another.

Reising goes on to state that “over 50 percent of the churches in the United States should not promote themselves,” a fact he’ll repeat again and again, based on the idea that most churches aren’t ready for new visitors to come. Before they can put up posters, they need to do some initial work so that any visitors will want to stay. Reising calls it “pre-marketing” and he spends a majority of the book on it.

Finally we come to my favorite lesson:

“In today’s world, you have to overcommunicate to communicate. If you are not sick and tired of saying it, it probably has not been said enough.”

I can tell you how true this is from my experience in youth ministry. I’m amazed at the inability of anyone to turn in a permission slip on time. We put it in the newsletter, announce it Sunday, announce it Wednesday, put in the bulletin and then when we ask why it’s late they scratch their heads.

But the one thing our youth group does know? Our vision statement: To see kids come to Christ and see Christian kids become Christian adults. Why do they know it? Because we’ve repeated it so often we’re sick of saying it, but the teens know it and have taken it to heart.

Repeat, repeat, repeat. In some ways it’s that simple.

Note: This “review” (which is really more highlights) was based on an early press copy, so the quotes may not be completely inline with the final version. This also explains why I left out the page numbers, since they won’t be the same as the final version.

Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth should be available February 1, 2006.

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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10 Responses to “Church Marketing 101”

  • s. zeilenga
    January 27, 2006

    I agree with the bad title, although the cover art is quite catchy. I like the colors.
    So, (consider this a hypothetical question if you want) when is the first CMS book coming out? It sounds like this whole topic has been hashed and rehashed enough times on CMS to pull some posts together into chapters and a book. But then again, maybe it isn’t nessesary… it is all here online for everyone to read.
    Well, thanks for the review. I too might pick it up for my Pastor to see if I can open up conversation about better marketing.

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  • kevin
    January 30, 2006

    I’ve said this in a few other places, but we actually intended to write a CMS book from the start. And it’s a good thing we didn’t. The blog has taught us a lot more and helped us meet a lot of cool people, something a book probably wouldn’t have done.
    I think we’d still consider a book, but it’s not at the top of our priorities right now. I think it’d have to be the right kind of a book–something that would work better as a book than as a blog.

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  • ellen
    February 3, 2006

    really interested in your site…
    am currently starting a dissertation on the applicability of marketing to the churchm in particular reference to the church of scotland. Stumbling across your site has been a real encouragement and catalyst for some things i hadn’t thought about.
    looking forward to hunting the above mentioned book down for some good referencing :)
    take care, ellen

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  • CFCC is in a Book

    Well, on a book. The back of a book. OK, so it’s not really about us at all, but it’s still cool. Richard Reising is the founder and president of Artistry Marketing and author of the just-released Church Marketing 101:…

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  • Paul
    May 25, 2006

    Great book. I totally agree with the bad title issue. I really enjoyed the book. It had a lot of great thoughts, and it expressed and confirmed what I’ve told my clients many times. But that title…they should have given it some more thought. Too many potential readers will overlook the book and miss the great content because they don’t think “they” should read it. I would love to give it to some pastors, but I know they will look at the title and think “this issue needs to be looked at by someone else.” Then that “someone” who reads it–and gets excited about it–will then need to convince the pastor of it’s worth. Change the title and increase your market.

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  • Dwight
    October 30, 2006

    This was a really great book, and although the title may seem a bit simplistic to some, I am a church consultant who works specifically with small community churches and fellowships (less than 100 members), and I can tell you that the name captured it all! Many of my clients aren’t familiar with marketing and what it has to do with “having church”. I intend on recommending the book to many of my past and future clients; as I believe it will have an impacting effect on their ministries.

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  • riza
    December 10, 2006

    i think all churches should be more marketing oriented. We must satisfy the congregations as if we satisfy customers. We must have good music so that we can please the congregations. I think it’s just like a business where you want to deliver the best to your customer. I think congregation is, in a sense, a customer that we must satisfy. This is not to say we must compromise the scripture. But outside the scripture, everything else must be perfect.

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  • Ryan Gear
    September 27, 2010

    I just now read the book, 4 years after it was published. Of course, you’re right about the title. At the same time, pastors and church leaders who are open to “marketing” will be okay with it. I appreciate Reising’s simple explanation of terms like “marketing” and “branding”. His broad definition of marketing reminded me of a conversation I had with a commenter on my blog ( shameless marketing of my blog). Everything a church does, whether it wants to market or not, is actually marketing. The key is to be intentional about it.

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  • Randy Allen
    July 17, 2011

    “OK, let’s get it out of the way: Worst. Title. Ever.”

    Regarding the negative comments above, I disagree. The title of the book CLEARLY and EFFECTIVELY communicates what the book is about.
    Get over yourself. It’s a great title and a great book with great information.

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    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      July 18, 2011

      Randy, it is a great book. That’s what I said in the rest of my review. And while the title does communicate clearly, “[Blank] 101” is horribly overused. Using a cliche as a title is kind of lame.

      Get over myself? Dude, it’s a review. It’s supposed to be opinion.

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