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First Impressions: Presentation vs. Promotion

January 25, 2007 by

A friend from church has been sporadically carrying on a conversation with me about first impressions. He knows that I am a big first impressions guy and he positions himself somewhat antagonistically as someone who cares more about what is happening in the hearts of the people at church than what happens in the parking lot or with the font on the church bulletin. Unfortunately we can’t seem to come to any reconciliation despite my contention that good first impressions and the authenticity of church attenders are complementary and not contradictory.

Bob Franquiz seems to echo my convictions in his book review of The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing by Al Ries and Jack Trout.

In it he writes:

Some are afraid of the word “marketing” . But every church markets themselves to one degree or another. A sign in front of your building is marketing. Invitation cards to your church is marketing. The issue to me is “what is the impression you want people to have when they think about your church?” Marketing is how you present yourself to your community. It’s not simply promotion. This is what made the book interesting to me. I’d recommend it.

I love how Franquiz picks up on the difference between promotion and presentation. First impressions is about leaving a taste in people’s mouth that makes them more willing to ‘try it’ again. True, if your first impressions ministry is solely focused on promoting this or that in your church for the sake of self-glory or reputation, you have trouble. But if your impressions ministry is designed around presenting everything well, sermons/greeters/signage/bulletins, then you can work for the sake of God’s glory and the welcoming of people into his kingdom.

Marketing and first impressions are not bad things when they are used for the presentation of Christ and not the promotion of self.

Post By:

Brenton Balvin


Brenton Balvin is a writer, blogger and speaker who is passionate about helping churches create great first impressions, developing innovative ministry ideas and making sure church marketing doesn't suck. Brenton lives in Minneapolis, Minn. with his wonderful wife and three loud, energetic and basically insane small children (all under the age of four) who he is grooming for the NHL.
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9 Responses to “First Impressions: Presentation vs. Promotion”

  • Kevin Shorter
    January 26, 2007

    I have found that most people who take the view of your friend say that it is up to God to draw people to Himself. By marketing ourselves we are playing God and reducing the influence of the Holy Spirit. The problem I have with the philosophy is that their argument can easily be twisted to include evangelism because evangelism is a form of marketing.
    I agree in theory with your friend that God is more concerned with the heart, but we should never allow that to be an excuse to create our Christian island. Jesus desires all who are weary and heavy-laden to come to Him. We need to make a good first impression through marketing and through our personal interactions so that others would care enough to see our hearts in love with the Savior who also deeply desires a relationship with those outside the church.


  • Bill A.
    January 26, 2007

    I think there is a component of balance needed here too.
    A great first impression is not helpful if the worship service is formulamatic and dry.
    On the other hand a wonderful heart and worship service is difficult to find if the first impression is poor.
    One without the other is less than our best and not what we are called to do.


  • Casey Ross
    January 26, 2007

    Unfortunately, many people already have an impression of our churches, and it is not a very good one. For one reason or another, the impression they have of our churches keeps them from coming. So when they decide to give their friend who invited them and the church they are coming to that “one chance”, we’d better care about the impression we make when they show up. I want them to look forward to coming back. I want them to want to be in environments where they know God is doing something in their lives.


  • Gene Mason
    January 28, 2007

    The fallacy in this logic is again we are looking at “first impression” or “marketing” being campus-centric. That is, the “church” is perceived as a place, rather than a people. Whether you call it marketing or presentation, it seems that unfortunately the aim is getting people *to* the church (building), rather than taking the church *to* the people.
    Perhaps this is because most (nearly all?) American churches are campus-centric. What if most people’s first impression of the church were people reflecting the glory of Christ in their own lives apart from Sunday morning? Have we become so dependent on our worship and teaching “rooms” under our steeples that we simply don’t know how to relate as the church (Christ-followers) in the world on a consistent, daily basis?


  • Jim McGee
    January 29, 2007

    I agree, Gene. What I see in my work with Guest Reflections is that when unchurched people actually show up at a church to evaluate it, they are often pleasantly surprised at the experience. But most people won’t show up.
    Still, I don’t think we can just leave it at the diagnosis. If we’re going to move away from a campus-centered model, what kind of processes or structures or education can we develop to equip and encourage people to be the Church in the world?


  • brad
    January 30, 2007

    I agree that our focus is far too much on the building, not the body. What we do, we should do with excellence. Excellence communicates very well, and that goes for all the aforementioned bits and pieces of everyday church life.
    But the main component that gets missed is that the church isn’t called to mass marketing. It’s to individuals. In my opinion, the only really important first impression is the people. Are they welcoming, engaged, approachable and eager to listen? Or are they stressed, isolated, distracted, and anxious to leave?
    I get the whole thing about church marketing with the materials, and the programs, etc. — I’m invested in that process all over the place (home, work and church). But marketing prowess and edgy designs don’t matter two hoots without a personal connection. And with a solid personal connection, everything else fades into insignificance. The whole church is Jesus’ marketing team. The deep question is how do we get to the point where we all see ourselves as that, and actively get in the game.


  • Brenton Balvin
    January 30, 2007

    My opinion is that as Christian people we should do our best to remove obstacles that hinder other people from developing a level of trust and enjoyment at church, with the hope that these visiting people would connect and develop relationships with the regular people. Does that make sense?
    For me it comes down to a both/and. We should both do our best in marketing and presenting Christ in our churches, and we should be authentic, loving, caring Christ-like individuals.
    A church can be very friendly and welcoming but if it is dirty and the sermon graphics stink and you can’t find a bathroom or a nursery and the pastor goes KJV for 2 hours…visiting people are not coming back to build friendships.


  • colby
    March 19, 2007

    I agree with Casey, the Church is not a building, we are the Church built up with living stones. Jesus gives us the greatest marketing strategy in John 13:35, by this, all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another


  • Brent
    March 30, 2007

    I have served in churches where the service was great, but visitors found the members unfriendly until we started a First Impressions ministry. Conversely, I just left a church with a great First Impressions ministry, but folks (like me) were leaving out the back door because there was no depth. You need to be solid in all areas to grow the church.



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