George Barna, author of Marketing the Church, is the founder and president of the Barna
Research Group. The Barna Research Group specializes in research concerning the state of the church and the culture in which the church attempts to impact. In addition to writing Marketing the Church, Barna has authored many other books concerning church health and the culture’s perception of Christians. In Marketing the Church, Barna uses his research findings to urge churches to rethink their outreach strategies. I recently read this book for my class requirements and it had some interesting thoughts on church issues and its presence in the community.
While the concept of marketing is not a common topic of development for most churches and ministers, Barna holds that a church that is serious about its outreach to the community will have leaders who will begin to seriously consider the idea of marketing their local body. Unfortunately, churches are not usually known for being trend setters, but Barna stated that marketing was a critical tool for churches which are concerned about the overall spiritual climate of the cities in which the Christians live (12). Barna held that churches are in fact involved in competition. Churches are not in competition with one another, but churches are competing for the devotion of people from other influences which makes the need for marketing so much more significant (28). In the process of marketing a church, Barna stated, “Our product is the development of a relationship with Jesus Christ and the development of secondary relationships with believers, regardless of what the marketing process looks like” (56).
By gleaning from the wisdom of secular marketing strategies, Barna holds that many churches would experience substantial growth within its congregation numerically if the members would just apply some simple marketing initiatives (40). Barna encouraged church leadership to alter their strategies for ministry to encompass a thorough marketing plan which could stimulate church growth (97). By identifying a target market and tailoring the intended message, Barna exhorted church leaders to take the concepts of marketing into their church’s outreach strategy (102).
Talk of marketing the church makes most people feel uneasy. Are we “selling” something? Don’t we just rely on the Holy Spirit? I think we have to work hard and trust hard at the same time. The reality is that every church already has a marketing presence whether they like it or not. What they put on their church sign is marketing (unfortunately, this is normally bad marketing). Your members are marketing. Your building says something. The way you dress communicates something. Regardless of if we like the terminology or not, people are watching and noticing something about your church.
The question is: is it what you want to communicate?
Travis Agnew serves as the Lead Pastor of Rocky Creek Church in Greenville, SC. His most recent book is Distinctive Discipleship. He is married to Amanda and the father of two sons and one daughter. Travis graduated from North Greenville University with a B.A. in Christian Studies and earned his M.Div. and D.Min. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, with his doctoral focus on family discipleship.