Marketing the Church, Part 2-b

kinnon —  December 18, 2006 — 3 Comments

I won’t have a chance to get Part 3 up today – I have too much work and the family need to get a Christmas tree before all that are left are Charlie Brown‘s. But I want to comment on this flyer that arrived in our mail this morning – for a local church.


This church is planting in a very mixed neighbourhood – known as South Riverdale. The community is racially diverse with a large Asian component. Most people in this community have never darkened the door of a church. The socio-economic nature of the community is just as diverse, including the unemployed, working poor and young professionals. (I was involved on a church leadership team that planted a church in this neighbourhood a number of years ago – it bloomed quickly, lived for a number of years and then died.)

The area we live in, also being pitched by this church is The Beach – one of the more expensive neighbourhoods in Toronto. It begins about 2.5 kilometers east of the church. The picture suggests a church for this neigbourhood – white yuppies with young families – one of the largest demographic groups in the Beach – but they aren’t remotely interested in Church. (Starbucks, Tim’s or the Second Cup on Sunday mornings. Church? I don’t think so.)

And then the text:
The best things in life are free…
(“Then why was my SUV so dang expensive?”)
As the world would suggest the church is known for it’s clichés, perhaps the lead in this flyer is appropriate.

Hope, healing and happiness
Hmmm. I must confess that I don’t believe that healing and happiness are promised in the New Testament. Hope is. As is joy – but happiness, I don’t think so. And though I have seen people healed, it’s been too few to believe that one can offer it in a marketing piece.

This “community church” then provides us with information about what they’re selling:

Live, uplifting music (as compared to?)
Practical, relevant sermons (what’s a sermon?)
Friendship networking opportunities (“networking opportunities” – wow, are you guys into Multi-level Marketing?)
Children & youth programs (ahh, the first felt need that might be being addressed – when are you available during the week?)
Friday night prayer meetings (what the heck is a prayer meeting, sounds kind of weird)
and more…
(like we’ve never been promised that before)

Come Experience the Difference
From what? Other churches? Much of the flyer does appear to be speaking to Christians, as the language would indicate the reader has some knowledge of church life. So is this about stealing people away from their present churches.

What Would I Do Differently
I’ll unpack more of that as I continue with the series, but this piece misses on so many levels. These folk are selling something people aren’t buying. They’re making promises they can’t keep to people with finely tuned BS detectors. The only group they have a hope of reaching are other Christians disgruntled with their own churches. (Hardly a group I’d want to build a church with.) But perhaps that’s the market they want.

They’ve spent a lot of money, killed a lot of trees to produce a marketing piece that will find its way quickly into the recycling box. A perfect example of modern marketing to a post-modern world.

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

3 responses to Marketing the Church, Part 2-b

  1. Bill, a glaring example of how much of contemporary Christianity has capitualted with the values of the North American Dream, rather than the Gospel.

    The pursuit of happiness is core tennant of the American Dream…

    I notice a little bit more of a value on the bottom right of the ad…free street parking, I’m in! See you Sunday?

  2. Bill;

    As I am discovering right now with the musical I am doing for my Christmas Concert (Dickens’ A Christmas Carol), a great many of the families who do not have that “church history” don’t have a grasp of even some of the terms you are talking about.

    For example, Joy. What is that? To most of the families I see at school, it is the same as happiness. They don’t see a difference. Biblically, you and I understand the difference, but….

    Another one – Hope. To people who have an understanding of the Bible’s meaning of that word, it means something completely different. To some of the families I meet at school, it means the same as fate – and is just as useful to them.

    Just an observation.

    As to the free parking – I bet the whole city has free parking on the streets on Sunday.


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