Three things mainline denominations should do now

Jake Dell, manager of digital marketing and advertising for the Episcopal Church, thinks about thing that the mainline churches can do together right now which will deepen our reach and improve how we communicate our Gospel message.

The Consortium of Endowed Episcopal Parishes 2012 conference is chock full of ideas and take-aways. Here are a few that I came up with on my own.

Number 1: Start buying Google search traffic. People go to Google before they go to their therapist or minister. They Google "Does anyone care?" or "God, do you exist?" or "I need peace" or "Is Jesus real?"

We should be buying this search traffic and routing it to custom landing pages, based on location, so our local churches can start answering these cries for help.

Marketers call this "lead generation and conversion." I think Saint Paul called it that too.

Our outreach and evangelism committees are going to be quite busy.

(Not surprisingly, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association is already doing this. Check out SearchForJesus.net.)

Number 2: Publish a mainline trade magazine. One estimate I've heard states that the Episcopal Church alone (and taken as a whole) generates 2 billion dollars in annual revenue. Assuming that figure is roughly the same for the United Methodist, the United Church of Christ, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America then we mainline Protestants are an 8 to 12 billion dollar industry. Maybe even more.

Any multi-billion dollar industry I know of makes common cause. They start a trade association. They publish a magazine. They share best practices.

Oh, and there are these people called advertisers with lots of money to spend to reach that 8 to 12 billion dollar market. Maybe it's time (once again) to let the Procters and the Gambles of the world underwrite some of our mission and ministry.

Outreach magazine is great example, but it targets the evangelical church audience. In the spirit of the new journalism, we should aggregate this content and add to it so it reflects our own experience as America's historic churches.

Number 3: Develop a common calendar of marketing opportunities. Let's face it, real news doesn't happen very often. Instead, the media we consume and most of the events we attend or care about from March Madness to the Academy Awards to church on Sunday happen according to a calendar that's been planned out months, sometimes years in advance.

(In fact here it is: http://www.zapaday.com/home/.)

Do the mainline churches have a prophetic word or a word of comfort to say to mainstream culture? If so, let's put our heads together and think about how we're going to engage God's world and God's people, where they already are, from Coachella to Cannes.

Comments (7)

How nice to know that the Episcopal Church even HAS a "manager of digital marketing and advertising." Does Mr. Dell have anything useful to suggest for the vast majority of small, struggling congregations, or does he just deal with "endowed" parishes with millions to spend?

I find myself grimacing when I imagine corporate sponsors to ministry. From distaste or fear of being controlled by their advertising dollars I can't say at this point.

The author of this article is speaking on what denominations as a whole should be doing, not individual parishes. Obviously a parish wouldn't be expected to create a "mainline trade magazine."

Morris Post

Shouldn't the "manager of digital marketing and advertising for the Episcopal Church" be coming up with (and actualizing) ideas for Episcopal Church instead "mainline churches" in general? How about some ideas for the parishes, the folks in the frontline? Why precisely has this position been created and what is its portfolio?

Great ideas. And for many parishes, the solution may be much simpler -- just take the social media seriously. It amazes me how many clergy talk about their interest in growing the church, yet update their Facebook page (if they have one) just two or three times a year, and then with something utterly banal. As Ashes to Go demonstrates, effective outreach means coming to others, not waiting for them to come to us.

Sorry, forgot to add my signature; the coffee has not yet kicked in.

Eric Bonetti

I love these ideas. For anyone that is interested, any nonprofit (501c3) organization can apply for a Google grant for in-kind advertising via Google AdWords. While the ads don't get the number one spot, it is a great way for small parishes to have Google ads without having an impact on the parish budget. If you are interested, simply visit the URL below to find out more information.

Google Grants: http://www.google.com/grants/

Hunter Ruffin

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