Pastors' Forum


Marketing and Advertising

As the pastor of a fairly young congregation, I’d like to know what practical, proven methods are effective in growing a church. Should we invest in advertising and marketing, and if so what type of marketing is the most effective? What pros and cons have other pastors experienced in this area? Is there a ball-park figure (percentage) of our church budget that we should designate for advertising?


Pastor Mark Garver – Madison, AL
I think advertising your church is a must. I do believe every location is unique and might require different strategy. I can tell you things that have worked for us and then things that did not seem to produce the desired results.

For us, the yellow page advertising has been a great help. We started out with a small ad and have increased the size of the ad every time the budget would allow. When the church first started, we advertised in the newspaper in our area, but it did not seem to produce much, if any results. In our area there are a LOT of churches and they put all the church ads on one page and it is very difficult to distinguish one church from another. I also consider good signage to be good advertising. At the beginning of a church it is sometimes difficult to spend a lot of money on advertising, but if no one knows you are there then you are hurting yourself. So I do believe you must set aside a good amount, if possible, for advertising.

I have saved what I think works the best for last. It is very easy and cost effective to advertise on local cable television. I always though it was out of reach cost-wise, but I believe almost anyone can do it. Some cable networks even offer free community channels. Most local cable systems even have some kind of production capability and could produce a commercial at a very reasonable cost. We tried pre-made commercials that you just put your name in. They were costly and for us, produced virtually no results. However, when we produced our own commercials it made a big impact. I do not know if seeing our face, hearing our voice and seeing our building did it, but it seemed to make a huge difference. We are currently spending about 3 to 5% of our budget on advertising, which includes TV commercials, yellow pages, and a few minor things as they come up. I will also say that everything we do with advertising we try to direct people to our website, which is a must in the society that we are now living in. So, that is the dollar and cents part of it, but there is always an element that only your congregation can do and that is word of mouth.

Your church members are still your best advertisement. Excitement is contagious. About 5 years ago we did a survey of 350 random people in our community. We surveyed them in car lines, at grocery stores, at worksites and in their homes. One answer astounded me. This survey said, in our area over 90% of people attend or visit a church based on a friend or family member inviting them. What we have found in our meet and greet room after our Sunday morning services and from our guest cards that first-time visitors fill out is that some people have come because of TV, internet, and yellow pages, but most come because someone invited them. Our best advertisement is a group of well cared for, excited members who are like the woman at the well that Jesus ministered to. She went back to her village and said come and meet someone… our people need to do the same thing; come to a place where my life has been changed. I think when we have the people excited and that natural advertisement in place I believe the Lord will add to your church.

Pastor Dave Williams – Lansing, MI
In Mark 1:1-8 we find John the Baptist “advertising” the coming of Messiah. The ancient prophets all “advertised” coming events, including the arrival of the awaited Messiah. Jesus Himself said, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house (Matthew 5:15).

Psalm 19:1; 50:6; 97:6 all say, “The heavens declare … His righteousness … His glory.” You might say, “the heavens advertise for God.”

No matter how good your product is, you have to let others know about it, whether it’s a church service, a missions’ event, special event, a banquet, or whatever! 

Suppose we decided to have a church conference and then not let anybody know about it because we didn’t want to use Madison Avenue techniques? I used to hear that from older ministers when I was just a young pastor. “Oh, I’d never use those Madison Avenue techniques!”

Well, I happen to believe that God created the concept of advertising. Madison Avenue stole the techniques from God; God didn’t steal them from Madison Avenue. God creates / Satan perverts. The words “publish,” “proclaim,” “preach,” and “prophesy” all have their roots in the same word as “advertising.”

Marketing and advertising are not the same. A good marketing plan is all-inclusive, involving everyone on the team. It is designed to create a desirable image or concept of your church in the minds of the community. Advertising is narrower and spotlights specific events.

One summer we offered a free small book to everyone on our mailing list. Our investment:  $1800. Our return: An increase in weekly offerings by $2332 per week; $10,000 per month.

One October we declared October and November as “Harvest Time.”  We strategically made 30-second radio spots and advertised in local shopping guides using personal testimonies. Our investment:  $3000. Our return:  Attendance went up by an average of 103 per week, and the offerings went up by an additional $4000 per week. That was about a $32,000 increase over the two-month Harvest period.

One time we advertised a week-long healing school. We did not advertise on the religious pages of the newspaper, only the local, inexpensive shopping guides. 150 people attended (half were not from our church or any charismatic church, and perhaps forty or so were un-churched or not yet born again). A local television news program found out and featured us on their “Health Beat” program at no cost to us. The results: A famous well-known businessman in town was healed of multiply sclerosis, several were saved and healed, and seven families joined the church as a result of that week long (2 hours a day) school. Our advertising investment was $400 and offering went up by over $100 a week.

We found that the best advertising is to provide your members with brochures and literature to hand out to their friends. 80% will come because a friend or family member invited them.

The next best method is direct mail marketing and web marketing. We still need to do both. We have the internet generation and the print generation to reach.

Pros and cons, you ask? Simply put: the more you advertise a good product, the more it works in your favor. The more you advertise a bad product, the more damages you incur. In other words, if you advertise a friendly church … you better be super friendly or the advertising will damage you more than help you. That’s why everyone needs to be onboard for the marketing/advertising campaign.

Three books I’d recommend: 

  • Church Marketing 101 by Richard L. Reising
  • Purple Cow by Seth Godin
  • Differentiate or Die by Jack Trout

If Jesus had a forerunner, you need one too. That forerunner is called advertising.

Now, get ready for the shock. I believe a church marketing budget (which includes advertising and communication) should be between 10 – 12% of the entire budget. Marketing involves branding – being consistent in your look, church signage, brochures, web design and upkeep, print media, radio and television.

Here in Lansing, I have a daily “Pastor’s Minute” radio broadcast on a few of the secular radio stations. I give a one-minute, upbeat message every day. I enjoy over 150,000 listeners. This is soft advertising, designed to make our church a household name. When un-churched people think of a church, when they face a crisis, they think of only one church – Mount Hope Church. Day after day, they feel they have a relationship with me because I come to them every day with another bite-sized, upbeat, encouraging word from the Lord.

You can have a great thing going, but, if you don’t tell anyone about it, your success can only be minimal. On the other hand …Don’t light a light … and then hide it under a basket. Let the light shine for Jesus!

Pastor Jerry Weinzierl – Sterling Heights, MI

1. This one may seem a little harsh, maybe painful to consider, but there are many churches with a senior pastor operating outside of his/her gifting. Probably the first thing any of us should do is to consider whether or not we are functioning within our true calling. It’s nearly impossible to maintain the visionary/problem-solving/direction-giving leadership without that all important “Pastor” gift. Good teaching can come from “teachers” and those that operate best as “associate pastors”, etc. but I have found through almost 25 years pastoring this church, and trying to help others discover how do the same, that good teaching alone does not build a great and growing church!

2. While we have spent money on all forms of advertising, for many years our best money was spent using a large, colorful yellow pages ad. I know that sounds like a “dry hole” to drill, but it’s true that for 15 years, it was our #2 source for people finding our church. We were in a terrible location for visibility. Now that has changed and yellow pages, though effective, is probably #4 for us. (for #1, see next item, #2 = location, #3 = media [tv & radio shows])

3. The previous comment mentioned our #2 source. What is #1? It always has been and always will be “WORD of MOUTH”. Buy billboards, newspaper ads, yellow pages and all the direct marketing you want…enthusiastic people telling people about their church will always outperform any other method.

A. Maybe create an annual, bi-monthly, semi-annual…whatever….event that people know is just right to invite their friends, co-workers, neighbors and family to.

B. Be sure that your purpose for Sunday morning is well defined. If it’s structured in such a way for Believers to really be inspired, refired, etc. then don’t be surprised that people in your church are not comfy inviting their unsaved friends for a service that may be completely irrelevant to them. This should not be construed that I’m in favor of compromising the message to justify an end goal of visitors…I just don’t think we should say we want people to bring visitors and then purposely set up barriers that will encourage just the opposite response! Just a thought!!!  (At Grace Christian Church, where I pastor, we are VERY strategic in how we put a service together, yet allow for the Holy Spirit to direct us as needed during a service. I firmly believe that if I get the Holy Spirit’s direction ahead of time…I’m not grieving nor limiting His movement…I’m OBEYING His leading. Again, just a thought! (Oh, and we are having 20-30 people per week that accept the Lord as Savior in our Sunday Morning service!)

4. Have a friend (unknown to the congregation) come to your church on a Sunday and critique what they experience from the parking lot coming in to the parking lot as they leave. It can be humbling, but beneficial.

5. Back to advertising: your best spent money is really what works for you. Direct marketing can be helpful in some cities, but in a larger town where junk mail is a daily pile of annoyance…you will probably get filed in the circular file rather quickly. Statistically they say that a mail piece has to cross a persons “kitchen counter/table” 7 times before anyone really pay attention to it. If you’re going to do it, be ready to invest longer term, stay with it.

Pastor Dean Hawk – Colorado Springs, CO
Our number one best bang-for-the-buck in advertising has been yard signs. We will put out 300-500 signs for three weekends in a row around town on the major thoroughfares. Each intersection will have 10-15 signs. You can’t help but see them and read them. This is far less expensive than a billboard on a single road and you can hit an entire city with your message. We recruited volunteers to take 50 signs each and assigned them the major streets they were to target. Check with your city ordinances for guidelines. Here in Colorado Springs yard signs can be out from noon on Friday through noon on Monday. We have used the signs to promote our special Easter service, various teaching series, and our church in general. Here are a couple things to make it successful.

1. You can purchase the corrugated plastic signs (18” X 24”) for under $2 a piece. This is a two sided, one color print. Just shop online for the best price. The metal stands for the sign will run .50 -.80 cents each.

2. Use 10 words or less and large simple to read fonts. This includes the web address. Examples:  “Easter Service  Mr. Biggs Event Center” or we did a series on marriage and ran these two signs; “Satisfied?” and “It’s Not Too Late!”

3. Drive everything to a simple—easy to remember web site. Preferably a .com address. No need to use the “www” in the address as it takes up space.

4. Pay the extra few cents for a color sign. Yellow with black letters stands out great.

5. The signs will tick some people off and they will call the city to complain if a sign is left out past the curfew. Have your staff drive the city to verify all signs have been picked up by the volunteers.

Multiple weekends has a great impact but if the signs are overused people become numb to seeing them.

Pastor Bob Yandian – Tulsa, OK
Some of the best restaurants in town are called a “hole in the wall.” Immediately this brings a mental picture of plastic spoons, knives and forks, styrofoam cups and paper plates. The building is not great and you can bet there is no valet parking. But the food will be awesome. Most of the profits of the restaurant do not go into the building, rent, fixtures or advertising, but into the food. Lines form outside of a “hole in the wall” restaurant. Word of mouth brings people from across the city and even surrounding states.

Church should not be a lot different. No one usually invites people to their church because the building is great. They are invited because the teaching and worship (the food) is awesome. Jesus’ crowd came from word of mouth, “Come and see a man who told me everything.” Word of mouth is still the best form of advertising. Media advertising can be a wise choice, but should never be depended on or allowed to take the place of great ministry of the Word and worship. Advertising puts you on the same playing field as other churches. Great preaching allows you to stand alone.

When you do advertise, I advise you not to center it around your church. Advertise your sermons. Forgiveness, family, healing and divine peace are all subjects which hit people at the core of their being. Your people will invite others to come more over the subject being preached than the great auditorium, children’s ministry or youth department.

Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA
I believe marketing is the nemesis for the 21st century church. I as a pastor believe marketing is important but to what extent? Also how do we quantify the success of our marketing?

All I can do in response to your question is let you know what we have gone through in our process of developing our marketing plan.

In the process of developing our marketing strategy we had to answer a tough question, since this would determine how we would market our church:

Who do we want to reach?

It seemed easy for us to want to reach other Christians, since they already understand church culture and most of them tithe. This seems to be a great strategy of some churches, but after a while it seems like we are fishing in the same barrel. The saved are already saved so we had to go back to our purpose statement which is, “To aggressively save and disciple all we can.”

This meant we weren’t going to put any money into Christian television or radio. We had to look to more unconventional means to advertise. So then we looked into mass mailing but without a proper budget to mail to 30,000+, three to four times a year, we never had the return purported by mass mailing companies.

We also had to look at our region. Being located in the Northwest gave us an advantage in the area of internet access. Most everyone in the area has broadband access and a computer. If we were in a more rural community, this may not be as strong of an approach. For us, I believe the phonebook is a relic and dreadfully overpriced and the last time I checked, I never had a sinner look us up in the phone book and come to our church.

So instead of putting mass dollars out the window every month on mailers and billboards that can’t be tracked for their effectiveness. We have committed to the internet as the basis and foundation for most of our marketing. When we use the internet we found that it is scaleable for any budget, reporting and accuracy is available on a daily basis and it can be focused to any chosen demographic you want.

So we decided to sink the right amount of money in our website and media capabilities. Too many church websites have a link for media, but when you click it, it says, “coming soon.” In creating our website we realized that most of this expense is a single acquisition and not a monthly drain to the fiscal budget. We are also on our 5 generation for our website. Instead of starting at a blank wall, I went to and picked the look we wanted and worked with a competent internet designer to populate it. This kept the cost down for us.

We also decided that we wanted people to be able to experience our church through the internet before walking through our doors for a service. This meant not having a picture of the church building on the home page, but letting them see inside. It’s the old Sunday school lesson about the church using our hands…”Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and see the people.”  Except most of the time churches won’t open the doors and show what’s going on inside. Since we have worked hard on creating a website that communicates effectively who we are, we have very few people ever walk out of a service because of false expectations.

I personally believe that Media is undervalued in church. This has such power when implemented strategically. In my estimation, video on the internet is the most powerful and inexpensive way to market a church. We have people that come into our church after watching us on the internet for 2-3 months. It gives us a chance to win their trust and assure them of what to expect when they show up in person. I know some pastors struggle with trying to go from audio to video, but it can be done professionally without a mega-church budget. For the cost of what most churches put out for annual mass mailings, you could purchase a professional production switcher and be streaming live on the internet. There are several integrators that will host your video, audio, and Podcasting for a monthly fee. This is what we do and it has been a real blessing. Companies like and are a couple of integrators that host church content. can work but it has a 20 minute limitation.

If a pastor is still questioning the power of video just think of The whole reason became viral is because it is video based. Just imagine if Youtube was only audio…exactly.

After investing in the website and media, we were challenged to get people to find us on the internet. So we use a third party listing company to list us in the top three in Google searches in the Northwest when people are searching for churches by key phrases. The company is and it costs us $100.00 per month. A church only has to use this service once a quarter and gain close to the same ranking in the Google searches.

Another overlooked tool for churches, in my opinion, is This is the social aspect that static websites are missing. It is the completion to the puzzle. First of all it is free and to create a church page costs nothing. We officially implemented using Facebook as a church three months ago and it has become a firestorm for us. Our staff feels more connected and I have been able to be more connected with our people. Remember; this is free and with over 150 million users, most computer users are already using it. We also created a page on Facebook for our church which costs nothing. This now creates something called viral networking and it is completely free. Here is an excerpt from Facebook in reference to using a page to promote your business or church.

“According to Jupiter Research, 70% of viral marketers report increasing brand awareness as one of the most successful areas of their social marketing campaigns. With more than 70 million active users, Facebook is the Internet’s leading social utilityThe News Feed on users’ home pages tells them what their friends are doing. When users become your fan (of your page), News Feed tells their friends and invites them to become fans as well. In turn, this can lead to the friends of their friends finding out about your business (church) through their News Feeds, and so on in a virtuous cycle. News Feed is the key to spreading your message (church) virally on Facebook.” Facebook Pages

Then we decided to advertise on Facebook. This is a customized and targeted campaign to promote our church. It can be set up at a pay per click or a cost per 1,000 impressions. You choose the city, age, and keywords that would be listed in people’s profile on Facebook and a daily max budget. For $20-30 a month we can reach specific and qualified prospects and drive them to our website. You also get detailed information on how many impressions and clicks.

I certainly enjoy being able to market our church and it is something that we are always evaluating.

Pastor Gary Martin – Collinsville, VA
As the Pastor of a fairly young congregation myself, we have tried several means of advertising and marketing to grow our church. We have done ads in the newspaper and on TV, been in local parades and participated in various community events, had outreach programs in the community, given away gasoline vouchers, etc. In my limited experience, I have not seen a “return” from any of the “traditional” means of advertising and marketing.

Today’s non-churched and churched go to the web to shop. In my case, and serve as reference points for almost all my purchases. Many shop the same way for a church. I was surprised at the number of visitors that said they came because of our website. Because of this, I targeted making the most out of the church’s website and have gotten comments from many of the new people who have come because of what they saw, read, liked about the website. It at least got them in the door the first time. Starting this year, we will try and have all our church events on our website. At least we will get them to the physical location of the church.

Beyond all of this, though, is what has proven to be the least expensive and most effective way to grow your church….word of mouth. Nothing, I repeat, nothing will bring new people in quicker than an invitation from one of your members. Keep your members focused on inviting friends, coworkers, and family.

I would strongly recommend getting the best website you can afford and however you decide to promote your church, do it on your website.

Pastor Mark Boer – Boise, ID
The best thing we have done in the area of advertising is our weekly television program. We started out on the local public access channel while we learned the ropes of producing because it was very cheap. Once we knew we had a professional look, we began paying for a more highly trafficked channel. We get visitors every week from this and it is second only to word of mouth in terms of drawing people in.

Another thing that worked pretty well for us was a billboard. We bought one year of advertising in which our billboard changed locations every two months. Although pretty expensive (about $1500/month) and at first didn’t produce many results, over time—even long after the year was up – people still came citing the billboard as how they found out about us.

Pastor Walker Schurz – Lusaka, Zambia
The question was two-fold:  effective methods in growing a church and advertising. I must admit that I am an expert in neither, but would like to share some of what has happened to us as we have seen our church grow from 900 to 2700 in the last 5 years.

We have done very little formal advertising, although we have some notices in a monthly publication. A few things that I feel have helped us that may be relevant to your situation are:

1. God’s heart for people. We have targeted the 1.3 million people in our city who do not attend an evangelical church. Our members have a passion to reach their friends and constantly invite people to services and events. We want to grow, not to prove our doctrine or to make a name for ourselves, but simply because God loves people more that we could ever imagine. He says He wants his house to be full and so do we.

2. A buzz. People in our city know about our church. God has blessed us with an amazing location beside the busiest shopping center in the nation. We are known for a few things that God has helped us to do at a high level: children’s ministry, Bible preaching, family counseling, punctuality, attention to little things, small groups and great praise and worship. I get to pray at many city-wide and national gatherings, we do TV interviews and have a weekly nationwide radio program. These things among others have created tangible momentum. I would highly recommend the books, Purple Cow and Good to Great. These books discuss this concept in great detail.

3. Changed lives. Most of our new growth has been people who came messed up with some real problems in their lives. Many have had radical change and others take notice. The Holy Spirit touches the lives of people as God’s Word is shared with relevance. These people have become walking advertisements for our church.

I believe most churches can do at least a few things at a high level of effectiveness that will cause people in the community to notice. It seems that word of mouth advertising does amazing things when it comes from those whose lives have been touched by God.