I came across this interview with David A. Anderson, Senior Pastor of Bridgeway Community Church in Columbia, Md., in Church Executive magazine in an article focusing on racial unity. This line about church marketing jumped out at me:
How did you market yourself to your community and surrounding area to let people know that you were there?
Actually, we didn’t do much marketing. We didn’t have the dollars for marketing when we first planted. We didn’t start from another church. I started with a diverse team of people that I met in the community. The rest were people that I had built relationships with. So when we began we had a multicultural core and then we created an environment where everyone felt it was home and that they could go here and invite their friends, neighbors, family and associates. It was more about making the soil to receive the seed than it was about getting the seed.
What strikes me is Anderson’s insistence that they couldn’t afford to do marketing, and thus didn’t. It’s a sentiment shared by most pastors, yet it’s wrong.
I’m sure Anderson and most pastors can’t afford to do most advertising or potentially expensive methods like direct mail, especially when they first started. But that certainly doesn’t eliminate all marketing from the picture.
Intentionally choosing to build a diverse team and creating an environment that felt like home were marketing decisions. His comment about preparing “the soil to receive the seed” as opposed to “getting the seed” is a crucial early marketing step. These kind of early decisions are crucial for a church, and are the building blocks that any other marketing efforts will be built upon.
Just because you don’t have any money doesn’t mean you can’t do marketing. It may mean you won’t have an ad in the newspaper, but a lack of money can’t stop you from making intentional choices about the kind of church you’ll be, the way you’ll welcome people, the atmosphere in the sanctuary and a thousand other early marketing decisions.