Whether it’s on our signs, our websites or on the lips of our congregations, every church has a mission statement or slogan that people rally around—something that articulates the vision of what we’re all here to do.
At least, we think it does. But maybe it doesn’t.
One of the challenges of church marketing (yes, I used the “m” word) is seeing our mission statements and slogans from an outside perspective, carefully considering what they communicate, intentionally or otherwise, to people who aren’t us. We’re all blind to our own blind spots, and without good council and perspective, the message we’re sending may be the opposite of what we’re attempting to.
This is what we see in so many of our church slogans. Here’s one example:
“A church for people who aren’t into church.”
What does this actually communicate? Let’s think about it from a couple of perspectives.
This slogan is birthed out of the seeker sensitive mindset of the 1980s and 1990s; the idea most churches using a slogan like this is trying to get across is that it’s a place where non-Christians will feel safe to explore the Christian faith at their own pace. They’re trying to say they’re welcoming and inviting.
But what does a Christian attending a slightly more theologically conservative church take away from it? In my town, it’s a safe bet a church using this type of slogan:
- Has topical “talks” instead of expositional preaching
- Has a low-level of commitment from congregation members
- Has a low-level of biblical literacy
- Has high attendance turnover
(I say this from experience, not to be a snarky, divisive jerkwad.)
At best, to this sort of believer, it comes across as trying to be “relevant” to the culture in the negative sense, and perhaps a few steps away from abandoning the gospel at worst. (This, again, is something I’ve seen from churches using this exact slogan.)
Just as importantly, what does this slogan say to its intended target—the non-Christian?
The difficulty here is the idea of being a church for people who aren’t into church is those people aren’t into church. There is nothing you can do to be a church for them except to not be a church! It’s like saying a banana is a banana for people who aren’t into bananas—if someone doesn’t like bananas, there’s nothing you can do to make them want to eat one, even if you claim it’s not like any other banana they’ve tried.
The fact is, there are only a few things that lead a non-Christian into a church service:
- The work of the Holy Spirit
- alleviating familial pressure (Easter and Christmas visits)
- baby dedications (sometimes)
Being a church for people who aren’t into church isn’t likely to do that.
Whether we like it or not, marketing is a part of ministry. We need to think carefully—from a theological and practical perspective—on what we’re saying, considering whether or not the message we’re conveying is true and clear and God-glorifying. If we don’t, our attempts at marketing might be doing us more harm than good.