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So I’m going to the Echo Conference in Dallas, TX (USA) next week. It’s for leaders that use media, the internet, and other forms of technology as a tool for the church. I get paid to go to conferences like this for my work and I’ve participated in these kinds of conferences or trade shows (yes they have trade shows for churches too).

There are a lot of conferences and training events out there that compete for the attention of the church staff.  There are denominational events, those put on by the church’s affiliation or events surrounding a subject like worship or leadership in church.  And the staff person must decide which events are most valuable while remaining a good steward of the church’s budget.

We are called to come together and meet as Christians and we also understand that iron sharpens iron. And when thousands of people commit to coming to these events year after year, it also becomes a place of commerce for many vendors.  Is that ok?  I happen to work for a vendor like this but I also know my own heart and I pray often about my motivations.  At what point are these vendors and event organizers trying to create revenue rather than equipping leaders? My answer is: the vendors wouldn’t come if there wasn’t money to be made.  My bosses wouldn’t let me attend or buy booth space if the end goal was to spread love.

It’s obvious that the makers of technology like projectors, video cameras, and computers are interested in sales.  It wouldn’t make sense for them to give their products away, would it?  And before technology was heavily involved in the church did we have the same scrutiny of stain glass makers and the people who make wooden pews?  We are called to be IN the world not OF the world.  So even though we participate in events that are consumer related and we’re treated like businesses by vendors we are still the church.

What are your experiences and what is your feedback?

I have just come across a discussion started by Michael Boyink suggesting that web designers should not work for free when it comes to creating sites for churches because that inherently means that the organisations that the work is done for do not value it.

Because when a church gets a website for free, it evidently has no value. Things with no value get replaced or reimplemented on a moment’s notice, on staff whim, or as soon as the person leading the effort is called away.

The comments on this piece numbered 85 when he closed commenting, and on Church Marketing Sucks comments are still coming in, so it is obviously a topic that people have strong opinions on.

The criticism around this says that the website creation should be a gift without reservation to the church and what they do with it is their business, but this misses the point of the article. Churches that invest nothing in the original design and building of a website are not likely to invest the relevant resources ongoing to develop compelling and relevant content for the site.

And when someone else offers to take over the site, the old design is too easily abandoned (as it costs nothing) and replaced, when in fact the time spent on the redesign could have been better used on content. Michael Boyink suggests that churches that pay for the site in the first place are more likely to commit the relevant resources to get the most out of their investment.

Facebook have introduced ‘pages’ for organisations, so rather than multiple groups or closed networks any organisation can set up a page including churches that they can use to promote themselves.

Having set up a Facebook group for our church, and managing to recruit some church members to join up (13 members at the last count), I thought it would be good to have something a little more official. On the face of it, pages look quite similar to groups but with some small differences, such as fans instead of members.

Another more frustrating difference was that there was no mechanism for me to invite people to join. I had to go back to the Facebook group and message all members to let them know about the page. I think Facebook want you to run an advertising campaign to gain ‘fans’.

One advantage over groups is the ability to have applications, but at present it seems that most applications are not compatible yet for pages, application developers need to revise their work.

It seems likely that these pages will be indexed by search engines, looking at the church’s page without logging in gives quite a but of info (but not who the fans are).

You can create a Facebook page for your church by going to the business section of Facebook.

Help via: Dave Walker gives his take on ‘Facebook pages’.

After I heard the announcement of pages, I couldn’t work out how to add one, so dismissed it as something launched for North Americans. Seeing Dave become a fan of his church in my Facebook mini-feed encouraged me to look harder.

Over the last few months I have been somewhat distracted by Facebook, and unlike almost all the other social networking sites I have tried, I have found non-techie friends are using it.

Facebook difference

Many people are raving about it, and I can understand why as I have caught up with people I haven’t spoken to for many years. Unlike email, there is a instantness of communication with people and no spam. Which means that short conversations can happen quickly, but without the intensity of instant messaging.

Also, unlike other social community websites, the privacy settings allow for close control of profile and information.

I had been using on-line photo sharing websites, but these don’t come close to Facebook in the social aspect of being able to tag friends and share photos with restricted groups of people.

But what about the church?

I have tried, unsuccessfully to coax church members onto mychurch.org (one member plus me to date).

I thought the reason for this failure was because people didn’t want to sign up for another on-line service that they might not use, and they couldn’t see a use for it.

However, after setting up a church group on Facebook, we already have 10 members. This is because church members were already users of Facebook, so joining a group was easy.

Using Facebook for your church

The other benefit is that non-Christian friends on Facebook can see what groups you join and so can see easily your affiliations. So rather than a closed Christian networking site, Facebook is a social networking site that better reflects your friendships and not just your Christian clique. It is obviously no substitute for sharing your faith in person, but allows you to create a profile that reflects your faith and to share this with your other friends.

With group events pages, we can better manage what is happening rather than a storm of emails and phone calls trying to arrange event.

How are other churches using Facebook?

Let me know in the comments how your church is using Facebook or other social networking sites.

Any gathering of people gives the opportunity for evangelism. So why not the Cricket World Cup? (Christianity Today). After all, it is the 3rd biggest sporting event in the world (after the football world-cup and the Olympic games).

The Caribbean Baptist Fellowship (CBF), one of the six regional bodies of the Baptist World Alliance (BWA), has said that it views the Cricket World Cup as an opportunity for evangelism and ministry.

CBF is also setting up prayer tents that allow volunteers to minister one-on-one to the thousands visiting the area.


I have been enjoying the Cricket that is taking place in recent weeks (or is it months now?), even if it has only been via cricinfo, Radio 4 LW and late TV highlights. Of course watching England is somewhat painful, but they will probably be put out of their misery soon, and we can go to hope at least some of the teams run Australia close.

Cartoonchurch book at Wesley Owen Last week we were at Spring Harvest in Minehead and as I was wandering around the ‘mobile’ Wesley Owen Bookshop that they set up at these conferences, I noticed ‘The Dave Walker Guide to the Church’ and I suddenly felt convicted because I had not reviewed or even made comment on this excellent book.

If you have not read it, then I suggest you get a copy pronto, as the cartoons are insightful and extremely funny. One cartoon that particularly sticks out in my mind is of Dave’s analysis of saying the ‘grace’ (2 Corinthians 13:14), when he examines the two schools of thought on this ritual.

Aside: as you can see from the photo, it was on the ‘fiction’ stand, maybe not the most appropriate category, but at least it was on a central table. I was brave enough to prop the book up, so that others could see it more easily, but I did not have enough courage to move it to the ‘speaker recommendation table’.

A guest post on Church Marketing Sucks briefly discusses using RSS or other feeds to provide information to church members. For instance different types of news and announcements. If your church runs their church website on wordpress then this makes it easy to do as each category has its own feed, so that as long as you post different types of news to different categories subscribers can follow them independently.

For instance on this website we have the category ‘church humour’, which is located here:

churchblogger.wordpress.com/tag/christian-humour/

And the RSS feed is located here;

churchblogger.wordpress.com/tag/christian-humour/feed/

It is found simply by adding /feed/ to the end of the URL. Fancy an atom feed? Just append /feed/atom/ to the end. If you do this to a post rather that to a category post list (as above) you will have the RSS feed (or atom feed) for the comments to that post. (And by default these comment feeds come prefixed with ‘Comments on:’, in the feed title so that in a feed reader it is clear it is a comment feed. For example:

churchblogger.wordpress.com/2007/02/11/fitting-in-at-church/

Becomes:

churchblogger.wordpress.com/2007/02/11/fitting-in-at-church/feed/

But there is a problem, and it is to do with privacy. The CMS post suggests prayer requests, but many of these with be of a confidential nature. They cannot just be posted on a public website for all to see. Even if you do not tell ‘outsiders’ what the feed URL is, you cannot keep it private for ever, as your church members will use bloglines or another feed reader to subscribe or google will find it.

One solution is to use the wordpress password-protected post feature, setting a password. These posts appear in the feed, but without the content. Church members can then go to the website and type in an agreed password.

The only thing to consider is that it makes the church look uninviting and closed to outsiders if when they visit the church website to see many password protected posts. The best option here would be to stop entries in this category appearing on the front page loop.

Feeds are very powerful and with wordpress as your content management system for the church website, management of them is made easy.

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