“You have to know your product and be able to market your product and our product is Jesus Christ,” says Taynia Wright.
Ms. Wright, from a Toronto Star article I quoted in August of this year on marketing techniques used to grow certain megachurches in my fair city. (The article is now only available for a fee.) She is part of a church leadership team who
…are using integrated marketing methods most associate with mega-corporations like Disney, Wal-Mart and McDonalds. They employ state-of-the-art technology, media and entertainment products to spread their faith message, promoting and distributing their religious ideas, goods, services, organizations and events to a market of Christians and potential believers.
…practising a form of faith marketing worthy of a five-star rating, according to secular marketing executives.
Wow, if secular marketing execs are impressed, it’s got to be good, right? And what better product for a marketing message than the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Jesus in a Box – now who wouldn’t want to buy that product. (Of course we need to smooth off some of the rough edges – no crosses, no “sin” talk, no cursing fig trees or temple table tossing – not good for the brand.)
Out of Ur in their post, Product Placement in the Pews—Part 2, quotes James Twitchell
Growth is key to megachurch success because large, enthusiastic congregations are what megachurches “sell” to potential members, according to James Twitchell, author of the forthcoming Shopping for God: How Christianity Went from In Your Heart to In Your Face.
The first thing you hear at a megachurch these days “is how many new members they have. Churches used to be politely non-competitive,” says Twitchell, professor of English and advertising at the University of Florida. But since so many megachurches are now independent or quasi-independent of centralized denominations, they aggressively compete with other churches for members. Maintaining rapid growth is tough, and when churches falter, that’s when corporations spot an entryway, Twitchell adds. “Advertisers can go to the heart of your mission—in the case of megachurches, that’s evangelism—and underwrite it.”
How much better can this get. Not only do we have a fantastic product in Jesus (Smooth-Edged Jesus™, that is) – but if we run into problems marketing Him, we can get corporations “onboard” to help us. Brad Abare in a brilliant post, Your Church, sponsored by Crest White Strips says
The realization to mainstream marketers that congregations are a worthy market is long overdue. I also think churches are long overdue to harness this powerful partnership potential and consider the synergies. I am not suggesting we start re-naming our churches to include a sponsor’s name, but there is certainly room for strategic and meaningful partnerships.
Toronto’s Skydome became the Rogers Centre, why couldn’t The Meeting House become Molson’s Meeting House – if it helps the church grow, can that really be a problem.
Let’s be honest. Church is really about how we get more butts in chairs – and then get those butts to make transactions for Jesus – whether they raise their hands, come forward or whatever peculiar initiation you might practice. If we need a little product placement to make that happen, can you really have a problem with it? Perhaps a Pontiac placed purposefully in the foyer, a few words about a new Disney flic from the pulpit, a brief infomercial before the sermon – hell, it’s all for a good cause – the cause of Smooth-Edged Jesus™, right?
It’s time we became comfortable with who we are – consumers with a capital “C”. I’m sick and tired of people who are upset about the techniques we use to get people in our doors, so we can get them “saved.” Don’t they realize that people are just dying for Smooth-Edged Jesus™. As Twitchell says elsewhere,
Commercialism is more a mirror than a lamp. That we demonize it, that we see ourselves as helpless and innocent victims of its overpowering force, that it has become scapegoat du jour, tells far more about our eagerness to be passive in the face of complexity than about our understanding of how it does its work.
The new model citizen wearing his Calvins and eating his Paul Newman popcorn while applying his Michael Jordan cologne, … is the citizen consumer, the one who makes rational choices based on assimilating all the available information. Thinking ends in action and that action is buying. W. H. Auden may have lampooned this creature as the drone of the modern state (The Unknown Citizen), but it seems it is not the state that makes the drone, but the drone that makes the state.
God knows we need more drones in the pews – and great marketing will get them there.
ASIDE: If you’re confused by Part 4, you might find this post interesting and perhaps even more confusing. There will be a Part 5 in this series (and maybe even a six and seven.) Part 1, Part 2, Part 2b and Part 3 are available for reading as well.
ASIDE 2: And if you’re just starting out in your church marketing, you might want to consider this simple tool – the EvangeCube – makes witnessing easier than any four spiritual laws ever could. Use it to help build your initial audience congregation – and grow from there. (HT: Wilbur)