Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Greg Atkinson

Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Greg Atkinson

July 16, 2014 by

Editor’s Note: Today we’ve got longtime church communicator Greg Atkinson for our 10-year anniversary series asking if church marketing still sucks. We’ll be discussing the broader question about church marketing all month long, so check out the other posts and share your thoughts. We’re also giving away copies of Greg’s book, Strange Leadership (read our review), so get the details below.

Has it been 10 years already? Wow! I remember when I first heard of Church Marketing Sucks and was introduced to Brad Abare and Kevin D. Hendricks. I loved the concept and the name grabbed my attention.

I want to sincerely thank Church Marketing Sucks for your ministry to the church over the past decade. You have made a huge difference in church communication.

Things that I can see that have changed over the last 10 years are churches having a champion who owns the marketing/branding for their organization. This may be a volunteer, part-time or full-time staff member. Most churches are so aware of how crucial marketing, branding and online presence is that they have empowered someone to lead in that area.

Another beautiful thing I see happening is the community, collaboration and sharing of ideas through Church Marketing Sucks. Church creatives are getting educated and inspired, and that is a blessing to the kingdom.

So, as to the question, “Does church marketing still suck?”—the short answer is yes. We’ve come so far, but we still have a ways to go. Many churches have made huge changes and gains in this area, but many still don’t get it.

As a consultant, I work with churches around the country and I evaluate their online presence (use of social media and their website). I also evaluate their communications internally—their bulletins, signage and mailings.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve recommended that the church have someone own this area for their organization and I introduce them to Church Marketing Sucks.

The last two churches I consulted with in the past month both need new websites and have given no thought as to what their website looks like on a mobile device.

So, friends, keep growing, keep learning, keep being inspired, educated and stretched. Sharpen your skills and spread the word about Church Marketing Sucks to peers in ministry. We’ve come so far. Let’s keep pressing forward!

Does Church Marketing Still Suck?

Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization by Greg AtkinsonYour turn: Do you think church marketing still sucks? Share your thoughts in the comments and be entered to win a copy of Greg’s book, Strange Leadership. Five winners will get a print copy of Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization (read our review).

  1. Post a comment below answering the question, “Does church marketing still suck?”
  2. We’ll draw five winners at random on Monday, July 21 to receive a free copy of the book.
  3. One entry per person, legit email required so we can request the mailing address for the winners, [insert more legalese here].

Congrats to our winners: Angi, Josh, Amy, Kimberly and Julia.

What do you think: Does church marketing still suck?

Post By:

Greg Atkinson

Greg Atkinson is the editor of Christian Media Magazine and author of Church Leadership Essentials and Strange Leadership: 40 Ways to Lead an Innovative Organization.
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50 Responses to “Does Church Marketing Still Suck?: Greg Atkinson”

  • Mike Eilers
    July 16, 2014

    Does church marketing still suck? I would have to agree with Chuck Scoggins in that it doesn’t suck AS MUCH as it did ten years ago. Well, that is unless you are still stuck on church bulletins and cheesy graphics only (hey, we all came from somewhere, right?) But he’s right, with the proliferation of multitudes of social media options available, we have become very noisy with our communications. In fact, I would like to suggest we are deluging some to the point of not caring. We should be careful of the mindset that every tool is good — or else we may use every tool in our arsenal to reach every single person, on multiple platforms, multiple times. Our church used to suck, but we’re getting better. We haven’t found the solution to all our problems, but we are trying to be more intentional with our communications. Sure, we still over-saturate on various fronts, but we’re learning the opportunities and responsibilities our communications present.

    • John L Hoh Jr
      July 18, 2014

      Church marketing sucks if it focuses on the congregation and programs. The focus needs to be on the reason for a church’s existence, namely to preach Christ crucified and risen. That is the primary objective of the church. Anything that sugar coats what the church needs to say sucks. Basically, church marketing says, “Look at me and hear me.” The church is about relationships, which means seeing and hearing the other person. When you recognize the humanity of the other person, you can engage in that person’s struggle, and from that show the love of Christ.

    • Sheila Yamanaka
      July 19, 2014

      I’m a new church communicator so yes, church marketing still sucks. I’m very grateful to Church Marking Sucks for your ministry and the wonderful resources you share!

  • Dustin Rader
    July 16, 2014

    While some Churches excel at marketing, I would say that the vast majority still have absolutely no idea what they are doing. Even the Churches that utilize various forms of marketing and do it well are still lacking in their overall communication to their community. Marketing and communication work hand in hand and if one side isn’t working properly they both fail. Even if we are great at marketing we forget that everything that we do communicates some form of message about who we are and what we are all about, if we don’t communicate that once people enter the doors they will be turned off anyway. This comes in various forms: signage, social media, the clothes your greeters wear, the decor if your building, etc.. Once marketing and the overall communication of the Church begins to work in sync, I believe we will reach the point where we say, “Wow, we don’t suck anymore.” Then our marketing will begin to stick with people and begin to make a huge difference.

  • Michael E
    July 16, 2014

    I think church marketing still sucks, but it’s a necessary growing edge. We need a sea change in our congregations, which is incredibly hard to affect. Unless you’re Jesus, of course.

  • Corri Page
    July 17, 2014

    I know that our church marketing sucks less, but there is still a lot of room for improvement. I’m grateful to have more resources from church communicators and organizations like the Center for Church Communications. There is definitely a new culture of wanting to share knowledge, resources and creative gifts that is so helpful to smaller churches like ours.

  • Ken Lupton
    July 17, 2014

    Church marketing seems to be better than it used to be.

  • Mary Tyler
    July 18, 2014

    Church marketing has greatly improved within the last ten years. We still have a ways to go… although I think it will always have plenty of room for improvement. We have many more methods of reaching beyond just our church within the past 10 years. We are gradually moving beyond methods used over the past 2000+ years and moving into a more streamlined marketing world with the digital age. Thank you for all the help, guidance, and services you provide and continue to give. Congratulations on 10 years!

  • Cynthia Chandler
    July 18, 2014

    Unfortuantely, I have to say yes. While individual pieces are often much more finished and polished, the overal messages and goals are still not as clear as they need to be. Oddly enough, if ever there was an organization that should have a clear message – it should be a church. But as a church communicator and marketer, I’m hoping that we will continue to make strides to be better.

  • Seth Goldsmith
    July 18, 2014


    I am young (exiting that category and indulging while I can) and yet I still feel like I have a lot to learn about good church marketing. When I just moved to this new mission area, CMS was getting its start. Over the years I’ve forgotten about it amid my busy multiple-streams-of-employment-and-life-with-5-kids schedule and come back a few times. This time I am vowing to keep in touch and continue my education with CMS. The good news is that each time I’ve come back, I’ve been able to come through the archived topics that interest me and get what I need ASAP!

    Congrats to both of us for making it 10 years! I hope we can continue our partnership into the next 10 years!

  • Tammy Hise
    July 18, 2014

    I too think that we have come a long way in ten years. I have been at our church just under that and as a larger church, we have improved in some areas and still struggle in others. Much of the problem is that many churches do not make a commitment to marketing, but sadly some businesses don’t either. It is always one of those things they think they can do without or with little effort or money. I have been very lucky to have some leadership that knew the importance, but it is still hard to put a block of the budget behind something that can sometimes be hard to measure its effectiveness. It is hard to ask every new person that walks through the doors, How did you hear about us? What made you come here? and things like that. I think the largest hurdle is getting away from the paper driven and embracing the digital era to our advantage. Love the resources you guys provide. I would say we definitely suck less!!

  • Nick Guerra
    July 18, 2014

    Church marketing still sucks. We rely on the content from big churches to trickle down in hopes that other churches would use this as model and thrive. Marketing is a creative’s sport and we are losing to google, buzzfeed, apple. As soon as a boxed church marketing plan is passed to the masses a ceiling in created, and this is where we are. Until we can get more creatives busting that box and ceiling, church marketing will suck. Don’t get me wrong it has made huge strides but we haven’t come close what it could and hopefully will be. The ground work is there now it’s time to invest in those who will take it to the next level.

  • Angi McCarty
    July 18, 2014

    I know that we’ve made huge strides in our communication strategies. The challenge is to keep abreast of evolving technologies… all within limited budgets and staff resources. So very thankful for online organizations that provide awareness of available resources and give helpful advice and guidance. Love the online community of Church Marketing Sucks!

  • Chris
    July 18, 2014

    I look back at some of those first sermon series graphic and say, “What is that?!”, but I remember that it was an improvement from what we had. I HOPE that I’ll be able to look back at what I’m doing today and say, “We’ve grown from there too.” I guess progress is the optimal word.

    It’s not perfect, but church marketing has certainly become easier for “non-experts” like me whose main focus/expertise might be elsewhere. The resources and attention to this topic allow me to increase abilities and vision without having a degree in the field. – so for your part in that, thank you CMS.

  • Sara H
    July 18, 2014

    There have been definite improvements but I still think the BEST form of marketing is how we live our lives and the importance of the personal and intentional invitation to be a part of something way bigger than ourselves. Words and images and personal presentation need to compliment this, not replace this. It’s not a one or the other, it’s a partnership. As a creative, I crave that partnership. As a hard working ministry leader in the midst of the daily battle, that partnership may not be as easy to see especially when under resourced. This is why I’m so thankful God created the body, not just the head or hand. We were created for community. We need help. Thank you, Church Marketing Sucks, for sharing and resourcing your brothers and sisters!

  • Josh
    July 18, 2014

    Church marketing seems to have made improvements, I think, because it isn’t seen as “salesmanship” anymore. It’s seen more as an opportunity to spread the gospel, and an effective means to accomplish kingdom goals.

  • Chris Pugh
    July 18, 2014

    “Does church marketing still suck?” Only when churches don’t do it right. Too much salesmanship and not enough endorsing of God’s love.

  • Richard V
    July 18, 2014

    There has been much improvement over the years. However still a long way to go to move forward in the church’s mission to their local community. A balance of what the church is all about with how it can play a key role in strengthening the spiritual devleopment of those outside the church is still needed.

  • Ruth B
    July 18, 2014

    Many of the congregations we are working with still think of “marketing” as a bad word. They are coming around on the concept of “communications,” which I consider progress. Baby steps.

    • Kevin D. Hendricks
      July 18, 2014

      We battled a lot of ‘marketing is a bad word’ thinking in the early days. From an editor’s perspective, we’ve been able to move away from that as people embrace marketing. But there is still a need to help people rethink that concept. Baby steps indeed!

  • Jay
    July 18, 2014

    Yes, it still does. I think issue is due to us not remembering the message hasn’t change but the delivery method has which is tough for older members of a congregation.

  • Frank Chyz
    July 18, 2014

    Yes, still sucks but less so every day. I discovered this site around a year ago. It’s been a blessing. Our Pastor of 32 years has recently retired and our search committee is just about ready to bring a name forward. This is a perfect time for a communications and branding strategy package. I’ve been using the 10th Anniversary posts as my starting points in producing the first draft and will soon present it to church leadership.

    We have a solid foundation to build upon in this church so I am looking forward to working with the new pastor, taking us to a level where our church marketing “doesn’t suck” any more.

    Frank Chyz
    Media Director
    Liberty Baptist Church
    Ellenboro, NC

  • Katrina
    July 18, 2014

    I think the advent of social media has been one of the best things to help move church marketing out of the “sucks” category. When it’s done right, social media is about relationships which is what the church is supposed to be about!

  • Angel
    July 18, 2014

    Sadly, church marketing still sucks….BUT the church marketing sucks website does not!!!!

  • Andy Catsimanes
    July 18, 2014

    As long as churches go for “flavor of the month” tactics instead of starting with purpose and strategy, then church marketing will suck.

    Fortunately, orgs like this and others are giving them the tools to do things right.

  • jgreenkee88
    July 18, 2014

    Some church marketing still sucks. Tired of the overused and “trying to be cute” gimmicks that I’ve seen around here. (i.e. two word story–gag me. Gimmick? Gimmick.)

  • Amy Kelly
    July 18, 2014

    It may suck, but I feel like I’ve already started learning, just from all these great comments!

  • christian webb
    July 18, 2014

    the site, definitely doesn’t suck, continues to be full of great information and resources, to equip individuals and churches. just need to get more people to read them and use them.
    oh, not the website!?!
    yes, overall, i think most churches (if they don’t suck) are really struggling, and while there have been significant steps taken to improve marketing, i would agree with some other responses, that some are maybe “over” marketing, or worse yet, maybe promoting well without clarifying purpose (of events or the church overall)
    let’s pray CMS continues what they’ve bee doing, and that churches all over, will improve their clarity, so when people show up for the “what”, they will know “why”

  • AmyT
    July 18, 2014

    Our goal is excellence, but we are still a work in progress. There are many competing priorities, so effective communications is sometimes a challenge. Many thanks to Church

  • Kimberly Cain
    July 18, 2014

    I see wonderful examples of church marketing, but I also see failures. I echo the sentiments expressed in John Hoh’s posting. There are times when ‘marketing’ feels more about the program and not about Christ Himself. Marketing seems at its best when others can see and experience the trans-formative work of Christ. When people see that Christ is intimately involved in the lives of people around them and people they know, they can come to believe He will work in their lives as well!

  • Julia
    July 18, 2014

    I think church marketing has improved significantly in the way of design, cohesiveness, and the use of more digital vs. print mediums. We still have a lot to learn regarding social media and communication strategy. I’m thankful for the CFCC for providing so many valuable resources!

  • Alisa Carmichael
    July 18, 2014

    Yes, a lot of church marketing still sucks BUT we are making progress! The question no longer is whether a church needs a website or Facebook page or other social media platform to market who they are and what they are about. Instead (some) churches are embracing new technology and finding new ways to reach out to their neighbors and community. The question is now: “What are the best ways we can use these new tools to proclaim the Gospel?”

  • Sarah Boyette
    July 18, 2014

    It’s getting better every day, but we have a long way to go!

  • Brian
    July 18, 2014

    Many leaders are finding “permission” to use today’s marketing tools and techniques … but like with anything else, when strategy, know-how and commitment are weak, suckiness creeps in. We cringe when we see a campaign go flat, but awkward moments are often the best teachers. As long as we’re learning from our mistakes we are making progress!

  • David
    July 19, 2014

    Church marketing doesn’t necessarily suck – Country Club church marketing does!

    The primary goal of church marketing needs to be a beacon in it’s community reaching out to the lost and hurting with the saving news of Christ’s message. Nothing wrong with promotion that aids in the training of the saints, but the end result should be outreach not more inward promotion.

  • Becky
    July 19, 2014

    Yes, I think church marketing still sucks but I also think it may be starting to get better.

  • Jay
    July 19, 2014

    Sucks or not it’s something church’s have to do in this day and age. More and more things are competing for peoples time these days and if we don’t market the church something else will step in and take its place.

  • Chris Gill
    July 19, 2014

    Does Church Marketing Still Suck?

    Depends. I think many times we have the wrong person doing the job. Traditionally pastors are not just the pastors. They’re the pastors, managers, evangelist, property managers, counselors, plumbers, electricians, and even the marketing team. They wear more “hats” then most professional positions require.

    So why do we depend on Pastors to handle everything? It’s usually due to finances, lack of good help, or a combination of both. A pastor is typically not a marketing guru. So when your given a task that you have to do, have no skilled training in it, and have a 1,000 other things knocking at the door to be completed if the weekly chaos report in church ministry, then yeah, church marketing sucks.

    For some pastors, they enjoy it. It’s a breath of fresh air outside the typical duties needing to be fulfilled. Maybe that was their background before ministry and they enjoy the creativity part if it. I tend to be more like this. But I also understand the other type of person that doesn’t enjoy marketing.

    So does church marketing suck. I think it’s dependent on the person who is responsible for this area of ministry.

  • april canik
    July 19, 2014

    As with anything, there are pockets of greatness within churches, mostly those with some prestigious piles of pennies to devote to it. So, yes we have come a long way babeyyy. However, the biggest change agent is a relationship and that is still FREE, last I checked, so I guess we can’t lean on too many excuses but must polish our beacons on occasion. I am thankful for the resource sharing available through this portal to keep us focused and equipped. Onward and upward, my friends!

  • Ken Howard
    July 20, 2014

    The great paradox of church marketing is that the more we learn about church marketing and the better we get about applying it, the more we learn that there is to learn and the more areas we learn that we suck in. So we suck both less and more at the same time. (Mind. Blown.)

  • Rita Endres
    July 20, 2014

    In my neck of the woods. . . you. have. no. idea.

    I STILL get photo copies on colored paper (that look like my 75-year old mother made them with all the clipart she could find) here at our church office from other churches promoting their pancake breakfast fundraisers. Eeeesh.

    I made a rule when I started here 16 years ago. Actually two. The first was that in our promotions, it was FORBIDDEN to use the words FOOD, FUN and FELLOWSHIP. The second was that the graphics could not have doves and clouds. For obvious reasons. Church marketing should compete with the world and surpass it—not be an embarrassment.

    I “grew up” in a Fortune 500 company’s graphic art department before coming on staff at my church. I see what you see here at CMS. Looooove how you think. Looooove how you want better. Is not God excellent in all He does? Then we should to. :)

  • Joelle Anderson
    July 20, 2014

    Church marketing definitely sucks less than it did ten years ago. However, from what I experience, it sucks less with caucasian churches than it does with churches comprised of marginalized voices, or a mixed-race church. My goal, being from an urban church, is to incorporate themes, messages and marketing tactics that appeal to more than just one ethnic group. Most of the resources I have come across have been for churches that are well staffed, well funded, and for one sort of demographic. As a recent seminary grad in a state that is booming with diversity (MN), I am hungry for advice and resources that speak to more than just the white suburban community. Please hear me when I say that I am ever-so-grateful for CCM and CMS, I have learned a lot from the content you have put out, and I can’t wait to gain wisdom from the amazing church communication community. It can be a lonely place sometimes. Thanks!

  • Elizabeth
    July 21, 2014

    SOME church marketing still sucks. Some is actually pretty good these days. I think one of the primary issues that makes it suck is that we still think people are all walking around just looking for a church to go to, trying to decide which one to try today; when in reality, a LOT of people have zero interest in church, and the marketing is going to have to be very good to get them to even consider the possibility of going someday.

  • Denise
    July 21, 2014

    I think some does. I think social media and internet has changed it a lot. I also think churches don’t take marketing seriously. Tight budgets usually mean they redirect funds to something else like programs. Old habits die hard.

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