Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Small Church Learns the Secret of Church Marketing

Some American churches of late have become notorious abusers of marketing. They know how to drum up business through provocation. They strive to be hip, relevant and they boast of their pastor's ability to "relate God's word to your world." They have cool logos, catchy slogans, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and pastors who dress like Abercrombie models. They hang banners that cause an intended stir or they announce a series about sex that they know will rile their small conservative community. It's all for the sake of hoped-for viral success or a mention on the evening news. They count this attention as something God has blessed. Their numbers grow and they think "surely the Lord is behind this." Any attention is good, they believe, and if they have to get them in the door through shock and awe, that's how they'll do it. It's a tough market out there, and with so many things competing for the attention of the prospective church-goer, a pastor has to do what a pastor has to do. Or rather, an Associate Pastor of Marketing and Community Outreach has to do what an Associate Pastor of Marketing and Community Outreach has to do.

So along comes "Dr." Terry Jones of Dove World Outreach Center in Gainesville, Florida. His first marketing trick is the title before his name. I am unable to find any information on Jones' supposed doctorate. His second trick is the name of his church. When you have 50 members in your pews and you call yourself a "world outreach center," that's very clever marketing. You might consider it misleading, but I'm sure Jones would make a case that he sends money to Africa and Asia.

But Dr. Terry Jones has one-upped his marketing brethren in a big way. He's not going to preach a series on good sex. He's not going to debate an atheist in a warm-hearted gesture of goodwill toward atheists. He's simply going to burn some Korans this Saturday and get the attention of the whole world. With that simple announcement and a few other provocative signs around the neighborhood, Jones has succeeded in drawing the attention of Muslims from around the world, the world's media, and he has even drawn responses from the commander of US Forces in Afghanistan as well as the White House.

Look at that sign. Crude layout. Kerning is all off. I can safely guess from the appearance of this sign that  Dove World Outreach Center doesn't have a Pastor of Electronic Arts and Media overseeing the creation of its outdoor advertising. But they have the basics down, learned very well from the best practitioners of modern American church marketing. You must provoke, shock, announce a press conference, create a controversy, get people mad, get people talking. And points to them for doing it on a very small budget.

As the nation's church leaders step up to denounce this man and his message, they should probably also repent that they taught him too well. 

Crossposted to Radio Free Babylon.

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  • Wish some church would take the flip side of this position, and teach about the Koran and tolerance, maybe an interfaith service or two... Not that I'm religious (couldn't care less), it would just be nice for a change to see organized religion get press for something other than hate. Bah. I don't think that will come from many churches, and the ones that do will be ignored by the media. Hate sells.

    By Blogger Dan, at September 8, 2010 at 11:14 AM  

  • When I heard about this I was hoping it caught your attention. Well done as always!

    By Anonymous David, at September 8, 2010 at 1:28 PM  

  • Dan, since organized religion is about power, control and money,no church would be cool enough to do anything "interfaith". (I'm ashamed of and actually freaked out by these weirdos.) And David, you're right. This is well written as always.

    By Anonymous adchick, at September 8, 2010 at 11:14 PM  

  • I read that whilst enjoying the irony of the Scientology advertising banner at the top of the page.

    By Anonymous VicHoon, at September 9, 2010 at 8:58 AM  

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