Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Anthony Miller

Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Anthony Miller

July 23, 2014 by

Editor’s Note: Today we’ve got Anthony Miller, pastor of marketing and communications at Saddleback Church as well as a church marketing trailblazer, exploring our 10-year anniversary series asking if church marketing still sucks. We’re discussing this question all month, so check out the other posts and share your thoughts.

First I’d like to say congratulations to my friends here at Church Marketing Sucks for turning 10! This accomplishment required courage, faith and vision. On behalf of church marketers everywhere… thank you!

When I started in ministry nearly 10 years ago, marketing was a bad word in the church. It was offensive. In fact, the only place I could find the words “church” and “marketing” in the same sentence was here on Church Marketing Sucks. Over the years, some churches have started to embrace the word marketing. I have been blessed to work for two churches, both with a visionary leader who valued the function of marketing. I would like to think that Saddleback Church and the Rock Church have also played a catalytic role in changing this paradigm as well.

In the last 10 years, we have seen tremendous progress in the church. Websites and marketing materials are more effective, video production is at an all time high and churches are being more strategic. But does church marketing still suck?

Yes it does! It’s true that we’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s a lot more to do. John 13:35 says, “By this all will know that you are mine, if you love one another.” In essence, the brand of the church should be described in one word—love. So until the brand of the church is love, then we have failed in our quest for biblical marketing.

If we want to see the church re-branded with love, then three things must happen:

1. Serve, Not Sell

This week I’m in South Manila, Philippines, helping the launch of Saddleback’s fourth international campus. Just days before the launch, a massive typhoon hit the island, taking the lives of some and leaving thousands homeless or without electricity and water. So we rallied the troops to serve the community by clearing roads, moving trees and handing out hot meals. Our goal was to simply serve the city with the resources we had. How foolish would it have been if our teams walked the streets handing out flyers for our first service? Unfortunately, many churches get this wrong and miss the opportunity to serve like Jesus because they are focused on growing, promoting and selling. And like Jesus, our awareness and influence will grow when we serve people.

2. Innovate, Not Just Support

Church marketing leaders need to stop just reacting to ministry requests and be proactive. Innovate ways to evangelize the target audience. Half of the team’s function should be to support ministry activity, and the other half should be creating ways to reach and engage more people within the target.

3. Advocacy, Not Advertising

The only way we will rebrand the church with love is if we create an army of advocates and equip them. A personal invitation or conversation will always be more effective than a billboard, TV ad or paid Facebook post. Advertising is dead! Advocacy is the new advertising.

So until the church is known for love, then church marketing still sucks… It just sucks less.

What do you think: Does church marketing still suck?

Post By:

Anthony Miller

Anthony Miller is the pastor of marketing and communications at Saddleback Church.
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5 Responses to “Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Anthony Miller”

  • Jeff Brown
    July 23, 2014

    Thank you for this post Anthony. Couldn’t agree more, particularly about advocacy vs. advertising!

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  • Kevin D. Hendricks
    July 23, 2014

    Here’s a timely example. A Gaza church is sheltering Muslims. Forget politics, women and children in a war zone need shelter and protection, so the church opens its doors. That is communicating love.

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  • Monique Funnie
    July 23, 2014

    Serve, not sell: The fact that your team was sensitive to what was happening and jumped in to serve speaks volumes and leaves a more lasting impression on the hearts of those in need. Now when you pass out flyers, people will remember that you were there for them.

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  • Benjamin Monson
    July 24, 2014

    Great post Anthony.
    The goal of salvation is to get the nature of God back inside of a man. Then that man can love again because he’s been reborn into the image of the One who is love.

    It really is how the world will know us.
    Or maybe cool flyers and T-shirts is enough :-)

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  • Marlino Bitanga
    July 25, 2014

    Good points here… just wanted to touch on this statement: “So until the brand of the church is love, then we have failed in our quest for biblical marketing.”

    I think the brand for the church goes even deeper. Each church is called by God and has a specific mission. For example The Rock – Pervasive Hope, Mars Hill – Planting Churches, Creating Disciples, Saddleback – A place of family, community, and hope… etc

    Where I agree is that if you simplify how a “brand” it is defined with the saying it’s about not what YOU say it is, its what THEY (customer/donor/churchgoer/opposition) says it is. So if a church leads with love and uses the examples you’ve provided, they are fulfilling what 1 John 4:7 says about loving one another.

    However, I don’t believe church marketing sucks… just like a brand I think it’s either weak or strong. As you may know a brand is inevitable. Everyone, thing, business, church etc has a brand. It’s cultural, it starts with experience… Where I think churches can strengthen their marketing and branding is to really examine and clearly define why their church exists, how their core values and beliefs align with not only their congregation but with the staff that helps run the church, then communicate this from Top (elders, board) all the way down to the people of the church.

    Love is subjective, and everyone has their own experience with it and how to do it. So I feel this is only a component to biblical marketing. But defining who you are, why you exist, clearly and consistently communicating it, will help strengthen your marketing efforts. Remember it’s about THEM not us. Jesus demonstrated this to us many times in the Bible.

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