Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Cynthia Ware

Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Cynthia Ware

July 30, 2014 by

Editor’s Note: All month long as a part of our 10-year anniversary we’ve been asking if church marketing still sucks. Today we hear from Cynthia Ware, our former executive director. We’ve had a lot of other voices in this conversation, so be sure to check out the other posts and share your thoughts.

Happy 10th Anniversary Church Marketing Sucks!

Congratulations on being the premier space where church marketers are regularly breaking the fourth wall, providing honest and open dialog about the flagrant errors, miscommunications and insensitivities found in all things related to church marketing.  From billboards to brochures, from motion graphics in service to vidcasting baptisms, from inspired logos to some of the most dated websites ever, we’ve seen it all.  Here’s why Church Marketing Sucks matters now more than ever.

The Fourth Wall Metaphor

Historically, there has been an invisible boundary that separates the congregation from the pulpit, even among Protestants.  The priesthood of every believer means we all carry out Christ’s ministry, but until recently did not necessarily include evaluating and discussing church praxis, practices and publications between leaders and followers.

Enter digital media.  Gone are days of controlled church communications using the one-to-many broadcasting model of the past.  Our congregations live in a transparent, communication marketplace where many-to-many communication is normative. In fact, today’s social media ethos insists upon conversation for—as my daughter would say—street cred.  Breaking the fourth wall means crossing the line between personal agenda promotion (yes, this can even include scriptures and/or spiritual insights) and engagement, where real conversations take place via two-way dialog.  Conversations, you see, require vulnerability.  And vulnerability gets tricky when it comes to the Western church model.  I’d say we’ve gotten quite comfortable with the broadcasting one-to-many model where the leader accomplishes what we have mistaken for ministry and the congregation watches.

Breaking the fourth wall, especially here in a safe zone, means that for church champions there is an unparalleled opportunity to actually converse about our church media. They’re able to actually step off the proverbial stage to join the conversation, communicating church values, identity and calling, and receiving feedback and support to express each church community’s unique mission.

But This Is the Way We’ve Always Done It

If you don’t like the terms church and marketing in the same sentence, your congregation is at a modern-day disadvantage.  In today’s media-saturated world, marketing simply means what you produce when utilizing any form of media (including sermon archives).  Regardless of whether your church leadership is harnessing communication opportunities well or not, the congregation is communicating, and the web allows everyone to listen. For example, Mars Hill, currently in the news, has got a marketing conundrum on their hands.  What communication plan would you implement if you were on staff there?  Please do not recommend business as usual. “That’s the way we’ve always done it” will clearly not work in this case.

Church Marketing Sucks provides a conversation corner where poor/weak quality church communication can be discussed in a safe, constructive atmosphere. Instead of just thinking you have an awesome church website, you can actually ask some other well-versed folks.  Improvements are possible with the kind of input the Church Marketing Lab offers, where a creative community of supporters can provide valuable insight if you’re ready to get vulnerable.

The Emperor Has No Clothes!

An emperor with no clothes is hard to ignore with the interwebs watching.  If the public is pointing and snickering at the naked reality of church hypocrisy, hedonism and/or gospel hokiness, then we should take note.  Thanks to digital convergence, our churches may now communicate with unparalleled global reach. In order to pursue the kingdom, to persuade the unconvinced and to practice the Christian way, we must reevaluate our church communications with fresh eyes in the context of today.

Thanks to Church Marketing Sucks, we have access to Flickr images, podcasts, Creative Missions trips, ebooks, helpful links, graphic design input, clever insightful observations and spiritual support from a volunteer-driven community made up of vibrant creatives who continue to offer help in the spirit of making sure church marketing does not suck!  Thank you Church Marketing Sucks; we like it when you frustrate, educate and motivate us to communicate well.

What do you think: Does church marketing still suck?

Post By:

Cynthia Ware

Cynthia Ware is a communication professional with a nonprofit consulting background. The former executive director of the Center for Church Communication, she currently works at Pepperdine University, a Malibu, Calif., non-profit, where she is the director of the annual giving program, leading the university community in resourcing students to lead lives of service, purpose and leadership.
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