Ministry. Marketing. Mixing these two words is like trying to get oil and water to get along. At first glance, they seem like mutually exclusive concepts.
But I’ve got a confession.
When I was headlong in vocational ministry (as a “career” or “job”) I desperately wanted to know how to get word out about what God was doing.
My heart was genuine!
It wasn’t about money (my church took good care of me); it wasn’t even about fame (I’m not a limelight kind-of-guy). It was about impact, and I knew our endeavors were truly helping people.
The catch was I didn’t want to be pushy, pestering, or worst of all: prideful. To be labeled egocentric, arrogant, or even self-promoting was the one thing I tried to avoid at all costs.
As a result I didn’t “market” our ministry. I felt God would promote us in His timing. (This is a safe, spiritual assumption, right?)
I see things in a different light now.
No, I don’t think I’ve become more self-promotional, or spammy, or sketchy. In fact, I believe I’ve become more healthy in my outlook on this.
The Balance Between God’s Promotion vs. Self-Promotion
Yes, there is an ever-present tension between self-promotion and God’s promotion. It’s tough to balance.
When I work with businesses, the objective is clear: increase exposure, raise profits, and gain market share. Business is competitve, so this tension is virtually non-existent. Chik-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby have no qualms about marketing.
Ministry is different. We’re supposed to “be on the same team.” The very idea of competition runs counter to the concept of ministry, as reflected in unwritten taboo practices like churches “stealing each other’s sheep” or “watering down” each other’s events by having them too close in proximity or dates.
I understand the aversion ministry leaders have to “marketing” — it feels competitive, icky, and even a bit Ishmael-ish, like we’re trying to make things happen in our own power.
But what if marketing your ministry involved you just doing what you can do, and God doing only what He can do? And what if we’ve had the wrong “competitor” in mind this whole time?
For years, my perspective was warped. I had the wrong “market” and “competitor” in mind. Mighty revelation:
Your competitor is the enemy, not other churches or ministries.
Satan is shameless in vying for people’s eyes, ears, hearts, minds, and souls. He will use any and every means necessary, and it doesn’t help that mankind is at heart a sinner. All he needs to do is let mankind be mankind — we do a pretty good job being “bad” without additional help.
But your ministry is doing good things! For example:
You’ve written a great book that can help married couples overcome adultery, or recorded a worship album that calms people’s emotions, or planted an outpost that provides clean water for remote third-world villages …
Yet you’re afraid to tell people about it?
There are people that need your voice. There are people that need your ministry. You are uniquely qualified to meet a certain type of need … in a very particular place … for a certain type of person … and God has chosen you to do it.
There’s no need to apologize for it, especially when you see that your competitor (the enemy, not other churches) is having his way. You need to market your ministry.
Why we’re really afraid of marketing our ministries:
- We’re afraid because of how people may view us.
- We’re afraid people will reject us.
- We’re afraid it might fail.
- We’re even afraid that it might succeed!
- Basically, it’s the fear of man.
(All these sound eerily similar to our fears of personal evangelism.)
But we all know marketing — which is simply letting others know how we can serve them — is absolutely necessary.
Am I saying you should spam people and post a ton of things about your church on every social network? Of course not. But there are some best practices.
Please consider that there are people that could really use your help … right this moment. Someone will sleep in -4 degree wind chill temperatures tonight … because they don’t know about your shelter.
An abuse victim will consider taking her own life, unaware that you overcame the same kind of struggle and attained victory in Christ. The possibilities are endless.
Extreme? Just watch your local news broadcast tonight. This stuff happens everyday, and the enemy is delighted that you’d rather not let people know about what you do.
Jesus was a great marketer.
While He was fully God, Jesus fully utilized human principles to communicate and spread the greatest message of all. He did it tactfully, tastefully, and tactically.
- He chose very diverse individuals (fisherman, doctors, lawyers, etc. which reached all strata of society)
- He chose bilingual individuals (esp. fisherman, who traveled everywhere spreading news of what he did)
- He chose Capernaum as his base (a trade city on the water where many travelers passed through)
- He taught with stories, which are universally considered the most engaging way to get human beings to remember pretty much anything.
None of it was scammy, spammy, or a bait-and-switch. He did it by adding value to people’s lives, sharing truth, serving, and speaking love (even when it hurt).
“But those celebrity pastors and worship-tainment stars…”
Yes, it can get dicey when it comes to this topic. While I can’t always defend every marketing tactic utilized, my point is this:
- If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not a celebrity minister.
- That said, my point is: don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
- The end game is not for you to become a celebrity, it’s to serve people.
Friend, let’s get over our aversion to marketing. Failing to promote your ministry is doing a disservice to the very people you’ve been called to serve.
On that note, I leave you with one of the most famous quotes of modern times, most often attributed to Edmund Burke:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
No, it’s not Scripture. But it is true. And so is the fact that you — yes, YOU! — are doing important things to serve people. That is nothing to be bashful about.