Sexy Church

October 16, 2007 by

CNN is giving some church marketing love in their video top stories. It seems as if a church sent out 50,000 mailers entitled “Red Hot Sex” to their community. The flyers were intended to pique interest and generate buzz, and they did–but not of the positive kind. Check out the video.

The long and short of it left a community asking hard questions like, “Why didn’t the church spend this money on the community?” And it left the pastor saying he would do it all over again, but he wouldn’t do it again. If that makes sense.

It’s not in any way a smooth marketing move to take the edge some churches are using and apply it to a community that isn’t ready for that. Context context context.

So here’s your challenge: the comments are open, give us your best tagline for a follow-up mailer from this Tennessee church. It can be funny, it can be honest, it can be anything. Just give it a shot.

Post By:

Joshua Cody

Josh Cody served as our associate editor for several years before moving on to bigger things. Like Texas. These days he lives in Austin, Texas, with his wife, and you can find him online or on Twitter when he's not wrestling code.
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23 Responses to “Sexy Church”

  • Chris
    October 16, 2007

    This was just a tease!
    Sorry we tried to “solicit” your attendance, we don’t think you are pew “prostitutes”.
    P.S. I’m going to go take a cold shower

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  • Marc Pitman
    October 16, 2007

    “We’re too sexy, too sexy for our mailings”
    “red hot service” (to address the community member)

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  • JoeBeineke
    October 16, 2007

    “Honestly folks, we were just referring to the little cinnamon candies and why there seems to be so many of them at the theater.”

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  • mike
    October 16, 2007

    “OK so we did the dishes and took out the trash….
    How about now?”

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  • josh
    October 16, 2007

    Sorry, we thought the end would justify the means!?!?
    We failed to read the rest of Machiavelli’s treatise, where he speaks of “the only acceptable end was [would be] the stabilization and health of the state…not dispense [ing] entirely with morality nor advocate [ing] wholesale selfishness or degeneracy.”
    We did not help to stabilize our community and we were selfish to think we could encroach upon your common decency and offend you, not with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but with crassness regarding a private and personal topic.
    Please forgive us.
    We would sincerely appreciate the opportunity to personally apologize to you. Simply, we would like to pay for your lunch. Please just visit our church, allow us to apologize to you, and give you a $50 gift certificate to the restaurant of your choice.
    The church that hurt you.

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  • From the book Un-Christian….
    Christianity seems to be paying a price for its evangelistic “get saved” tactics. Kinnaman and Lyons point out that while revivals and crusades do find some souls “won” the caluculation of how many more were driven away by our imposing rudeness and pressure is never considered. The in-your-face-make-your-decision-now approach has delivered a few while serving as an even greater wedge for more. Their idea to correct this is to continue enthusiastic outreach through the means of slow and methodical discipleship. Research points to the church’s “save’em and on-to-the-next drop ’em” process which eventually adds many of the “newly saved” to the loss column and widens the gap of those yet remaining on the outside.
    When you’re talking dollars, there is no price too high for a soul. But the problem isn’t just cost. In our research with some of the leading “mass evangelism” efforts, we found that often these measures create three to ten times as much negative response as positive. In other words, imagine your church is considering mailing Bibles or videos or other Christian materials to homes in your community. Our research shows that the “collateral damage” of doing so—those whose impressions of your church and of Christianity would be more negative as a result—is significantly greater than the positive impact on those who will respond favorably to these efforts. Moreover, such mass evangelism efforts are most effective with marginally churched adults, while outsiders are usually the ones who respond most negatively.
    The point isn’t that some are simply going to reject Jesus. That’s not it. Our approaches are unnecessarily damaging when we are on a mission to reach out without thought of the slow and tedious care it takes to let our neighbors know we love them, stand by them, believe in them. We are to extend our love for God to others by loving the people. We are to value our friends over our rehearsed evangelistic tactics.
    As Christians, we have to keep in mind that response rates are not the ultimate goal but rather the wise and careful stewardship of the image of God……If you create more barriers with outsiders because of your tactics, you have not been a good steward of the gospel. How we choose to share Christ is as important as our actually doing it.

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  • Matt
    October 16, 2007

    “I guess there is such a thing as bad publicity.”
    It seems that out desire to share the gospel with people should stem for our love for that individual. The impersonal approaches we often take (fliers/mailers/etc) seem to communicate that a “check” in the conversion category for our statistics is more important than developing a genuine relationship with those in our community. Why not design a piece for the congregation to give to their neighbors instead?

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  • drummerchris
    October 16, 2007

    We’re sorry, turns out Paul didn’t send out 50,000 scrolls to the church of Ephesus about “making whoopee” in Asia.
    (Darn those Gnostic Gospels!!!!)

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  • robert
    October 16, 2007

    “we screwed up” on the front
    “sorry” on the back

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  • Paul
    October 16, 2007

    “cold shower”
    – then, on the back, have an apology and an invite.

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  • David
    October 16, 2007

    A little slack?
    I’m sure he’s just looking at what other churches are doing. xxxchurch? – there has been a ton of sermons about God’s plan for marriage in the last year or two. It is some lipstick on a postcard.
    Then what about interviewing just one person who is “outraged” about the “expense” that could have gone to “the community”.
    If his kids can read, he better start getting ready for that day when his daughter starts dating. While uncomfortable, age-appropriate discussions are a good thing.
    Pastor just needs a bit of the labs to keep his message effective.

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  • jordan fowler
    October 16, 2007

    We do mailers, but I still like the guy’s comment. “What if they would have spent that money in the community?”
    We found that to be so true this. Their is a buzz all about a recent project we did. We DID NOT do it for any marketing purpose but funny how that is a corollary blessing. (see for more)

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  • Billy Chia
    October 16, 2007

    “And it left the pastor saying he would do it all over again, but he wouldn’t do it again. If that makes sense.”
    Actually the Pastor didn’t say that. The news reporter said that he did. It seems quite possible that his words were taken out of context.
    Not that I totally agree with the marketing tactics the church used, but the whole story seemed really biased against the church.

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  • A.B. Dada
    October 17, 2007

    Actually, the congregation DID put the money into the community — they paid for the postcards, they paid for the postage, they paid for the design, they paid for the distribution. It’s not like the Church is only about giving free money to the poor or only feeding the hungry. Sheesh.
    I have to slap my head at this, maybe twice. I think it is a great design and I think God loves the idea of a sexy marriage. I get castigated twice a week by some pastors because of my “Reading is Sexy” bumper stick on my car and laptop that my wife put there, but she maintains our (huge) personal library, and it IS sexy.
    People ask me what their kids will think when they see my bumper sticker, and I tell them that their kids know my wife and I are married, and that we’re crazy about each other, and there’s nothing wrong with the youth seeing that marriage can be sexy, and its a positive example.
    I have a feeling that the guy complaining belongs to the same doctrine that the local pastors I serve belong to who complain about my stickers. Some people are too uptight about sex and just need to get some — preferably with their spouse.

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  • Jim
    October 18, 2007

    The tactic is obviously causing an offense, but is it the offense of the Cross? And it’s not just offending “doctrinal people”, it’s offending family folk, many of which we should assume are not true believers. Remember that there are still many parents out there that don’t let their 11 year old watch certain things at the movies/TV, and don’t want them to open their mailbox and find something sexually suggestive in there.
    The argument that it is a “pure / not-dirty marriage thing, so stop being a prude”, only goes so far. To use an extreme example, we can’t just put a porn couple up on our church website, wait for people to complain, and then when they do – tell them “it’s ok, they are married”. Somethings are not appropriate for public.

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  • Top Bunny
    October 20, 2007

    “Thanks for your feedback, for many of you, this is the most contact you had with a church in years. So this time why don’t you voice your displeasure to this ad. We have even set up a special time to do so. Wed night at (whenever service starts) come on down and tell us how bad we are. To ensure a good turnout, what have you done to help the community since you yelled at us for spending the money to get your attention? We can tell you what we have done on Wed. night. Oh, and we will pass around a plate designed for you to drop in cash – you know, to help the community.”
    I thought it was brilliant. If they hacked off 50%, they did their job. Better your message to offend than to be ignored. Apathy is the cancer of marketing.

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  • Chris Allen
    November 1, 2007

    I am an ardent believer in marketing, advertising, strategy, and shock terminology etc. and honestly, I feel that this particular mailer pushed it too far… And don’t get me wrong because a group of us here in Dayton Ohio have grown a youth group from 50 to 300 through these methods, and even did a similar thing by writing “SEX…” on a card in giant text and then writing the service time and place on the back. We also named a chick-fil-a giveaway outreach “Chick-Bash”. But adding “Red hot” on the front of Sex was too graphic. I think that we need to be careful when we do things not to overstep our bounds, and we should not do things that will clearly offend a lot of people. I don’t think Jesus would operate in this manner, and we shouldn’t either. Not that we shouldn’t use good ideas and shock terms, because I do it too. We just need to be careful!

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  • Jordan
    November 5, 2007

    “How we did it”-The Pastor’s personal and intimate journey through that naughty thing we call intercourse

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  • James Dalman
    November 6, 2007

    Top Bunny…
    I disagree with hacking off 50% of the people and that it is better to offend than be ignored.
    No doubt this was a great, effective campaign! However “The Church” only continues to hurt itself by creating controversial marketing campaigns or sermon series. One reason is that non-Christians are going to see all us fighting over stupid issues (like this one) and wonder why in the world should they become like “them”. The second reason is that we are not called to be of the world and yet I see many Christians who are becoming just that (and we really need to offer people something you cannot get in the world).
    If we offend people because of Jesus and the Cross, that’s one thing, but if we offend people because we have “liberty” in Christ and are just out to get some air time – the that’s just stupid.
    Now all this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use great marketing tactics (and great marketing is not using sex to sell)or not to brand our churches in our community. Churches do need to be excellent in what they do, but it needs to be done in a way that glorifies God and doesn’t cause more division for the sake of 15 minutes of fame.

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  • Sam
    November 6, 2007

    Since when has the mission of the Church been to get people in a building or to attend our services? Sometimes our church marketing is trying to accomplish the wrong end. The Body of Christ doesn’t matter when we constantly communicate that in order to be saved, you’ve got to go to church. I think we’ve added something to grace here.

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  • Douglas
    June 14, 2008

    This story is like much in the media – much ado about nothing. Its more about a journalist who didn’t have a better story that week to follow. Dollars to donuts the one person they found to ‘protest’ the mailer gets Victoria Secrets catalogs in the mail (ummm, I mean his wife does). Overall, I think the pastor did a good thing.

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  • Daren
    October 27, 2008

    Yeah, I think they pushed it a bit too far. There’s nothing wrong with offending people, but it should be the message (ie the gospel) not the manner.
    However, some of the complaints were lame- people seemed to be using it as an excuse to flog the church.
    I applaud the creativity and guts; I pray with them for wisdom!
    I suggest using the Christmas season to correct things. Here’s a billboard suggestion for them: “Virginity can be cool too. -Mary”

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  • I think this type of marketing would have been better in another community. We should always understand the type of people we are dealing with before sending out this type of mail.
    How about this for a follow up?
    “It’s how you got here.”

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