I finished up Church Marketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth last week. I don't want to write a full review of it, and you probably don't want to read a long review of it either. But maybe a few quick thoughts.
Let's start with the good.
Ok, now onto the bad. Why, why do Christians need to 'baptize' everything with a Bible verse or story. This book was one of the worst offenders I've seen in a while. The first chapter includes a section labeled "The Biblical Foundation of Marketing" in which the author outlines Jesus' marketing strategy. When discussing the importance of building upkeep and astetics the author uses Solomon and the impression he left on the Queen of Sheba as his case study. Reflecting on 1 Kings 10 he writes, "Wow! So how Solomon's ushers dressed mattered? How the building was built mattered? How the greeters greeted mattered? You better believe it! To the queen, they were all evidence that validated the reality of God at work in Solomon's temple."
I wish authors of marketing, management, leadership, etc. books realized that this approach to Scripture doesn't make their books better, it makes them bad. I picked up the book because I know we as a church need to be more intentional about our marketing efforts. I didn't need to be convinced. In fact, his attempts to use the Bible to build a case made me question his credibility, not trust him more. The book would have been better had he, in a short paragraph, stated simply that marketing is one of the things we're called to do because we're Christ's ambassadors. Ambassadors try to represent their kings well. Or, that we're called to be crafty as serpents in our mission to reach the world. Or, that it simply flows from the great commission - we're attempting to use every means possible to spread the good news, and getting people into our churches is one good means.
Ok, back to the good, and there was more good in this book that I thought there would be. The most helpful idea was simple: people have perceptions of you already - you ought to be proactive in shaping that perception. People in Blooomington have a perception of our church that has been shaped by their ideas regarding church in general and about evangelical broadly (after all, it is in our name). Also, our church's particular history (gulp) and reputation in the community has shaped their perception. Those things, to some extent, are beyond our control. But, there's a lot we can and should do to undermine the incorrect perceptions people have of our church. We ought not just go down without a fight, but work hard to recast this perception. Everything we do matters in this regard - from keeping the grounds to developing a website, from greeters to signage in the church, from the sermons to the ease with which we enable people to connect to ministries.
Beyond that simple idea, this book was brimming with great checklists. It's easy as someone to who's been in church a long time to loose sight of the fact that there are people walking in the doors for the very first time. This book did a tremendous job of putting me in the visitors shoes - what do they experience? What fears to they have coming in? What are immediate turn-offs? Etc. These checklists made the book worth the price I paid for it and the time I invested in it.
Lastly, there was good reminders in this book that to communicate well an organization needs to over communicate. I know we all get tired of saying the same things over and over again, but if they define who we are, if they are essential to understanding how life in our church works, then they need to be repeated often. And un-apologetically!
The book wasn't long and you can skip all the 'Biblical basis for' sections. If you're wondering what first time visitors or un-churched people see when they come into a church or how the church can shaped itself (without dumming itself down) to reach them, its a worthwhile read.