Mary Deckert

Mary Deckert has over 40 years’ experience in multiple communications and strategic functions including leadership, marketing, crisis management, creative and problem-solving roles in government and business (both private and public sectors); for-profit and ... read more

4 Elements of Effective Church Marketing

It seems like everywhere you turn, someone has a “new and greatest” marketing gimmick sure to bring results …

“Do this and all your dreams will come true.”

Well, truth be told, there’s no silver bullet that will magically 10x your church.  And we’re not here to offer you one.  However, we do realize that with the constant changes in how people view the church and find things online, it can be hard to sort the good advice from the bad.  

So, while the tools or strategies we suggest to help you get the word out about your church may change based on the changing culture we’re trying to reach, our foundations, the key principles of every marketing campaign we undertake, do not change.

This is not unlike how you find new ways to engage people at your church– your mission hasn’t changed, and it never will, just the tactics change to keep relevant.

The 4 pillars we’re discussing in this article can and should be found in any church marketing effort. We call them the Marketing M&Ms.

1 - Ministry Based Marketing™️

We’re passionate about this foundational pillar- in fact, it’s one of the key elements in our Grow program.  Here’s how it works in one simple phrase:

Be audience-centric.  

Ministry Based Marketing™️ is so much more than a catchy trademark – it means you ALWAYS think of the audience first, reach out to solve their problems or meet a need.  You’re obsessed with thoughtfully showing God’s love to them.

Marketing, especially church marketing, is all about how we can serve people, and meet the needs of our community.

It means our messaging adds value to their lives- we’re not just trying to give them information or get them to do something.

It means we focus on doing ministry – results, or church growth, will naturally follow.

It’s why we tell our Grow churches to focus on one thing when embarking on a Facebook Prayer Ad Campaign – praying for your community, nothing else.

The exponential growth churches experience through those efforts is the result, not the reason, for the initiative.

So, in all your marketing efforts, focus first on ministry – it’s why we exist, it’s why you exist, it’s the reason we all got into ministry to begin with.  Let’s focus on reaching people for Jesus, and let our marketing flow out of that.

2 - people matter

Our second pillar is closely tied to the first – if we’re going to focus on ministry first, people matter more than anything else.

The focus of all your marketing efforts should be to build a relationship with the people you’re trying to reach – that’s the NUMBER ONE GOAL.

We can’t begin to share the Gospel in a way that will be received until we develop a relationship, and we can’t develop a relationship until we connect.

So, how do you show people that they matter and connect with them?  I’m so glad you asked!  Let’s dive into the practical aspects of how you do that.

Be relational - even before you meet them

We’re talking about laying the groundwork for connection before they ever come in person – have everything that describes your church visually show what it’s like to be there – photos of people being the church.

We often say the church is not a building, it’s the people – show that in everything you communicate.

It may seem strange to assume that people will connect with you before you even get a chance to know their name- but it’s true.  People will check your church out online and decide if your church is the kind of place they could belong, long before they step in your doors.  It’s why Plan Your Visit can be so successful when it’s done well, when you look at things from a visitor’s perspective and answer the questions they have before they ever arrive.

We’re also talking about connecting when and if we meet in person or connecting online if that’s how we’ll meet – introducing visitors to people who are in the same stage of life, making them feel like they belong – that they’re noticed and loved, and gaining their trust so they’ll provide enough information so we can follow up with them later on. 

And we’re talking about connecting with them on days other than Sunday morning – to let them know we’re thinking about them and that we care.

Someone once said people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Jesus himself said they would know us by our love for one another (John 13:35).

You can’t truly love someone unless you’re intentional about relating to them.


Being relational has another critical component as well, and that’s a focus on prayer. Honestly, 

When we say it all begins in prayer it’s a recognition that nothing we do or even attempt to do is worthwhile unless God is in the mix. I’d go so far as to say we can’t truly have a relationship that will last, that honestly cares about the other person more than ourselves, unless we’ve lifted the effort up to Christ and asked for his guidance and direction. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” –Psalm 127:1

Pray about everything and then prepare for what God wants to do through your church. Nothing else matters.

3- Have a Marathon Mindset

It’s easy to look at a successful ministry and think, “Sure they’re successful, I’d be successful too if only I could do that” – but the truth of the matter is, you can’t be excellent at the big things, those impressive events or initiatives, until you master the small, the unimpressive, the mundane.

You need to think about growing your church the way you’d think about training for a marathon – there are no “quick” fixes here.  You have to be in it for the long haul.

Consistency is key – it’s why we focus on one small step at a time. Commit to doing one percent more – that’s all it takes when you do that consistently.

Encouragement- the Fuel for your marathon

There’s another tweak to this pillar – you not only need to be consistent over the long haul, but you need to be consistently positive.

Good marketing is life-giving.  It focuses on the positive.

Any materials you prepare for your marketing efforts should be uplifting – in this way, the interaction you have with the people you are trying to reach becomes the highlight of their week. It will give you a huge leg up to always be encouraging.

4 - Systematize

Let’s be honest – we can all have the greatest intentions to be consistent and to be audience-centric, but if we don’t put systems in place to make those efforts manageable, they’ll fall through the cracks quicker than our New Years’ resolutions. 

Here are two systems we recommend you focus on:

Google and SEO

One of the first things churches need to do is set up their Google business accounts and get Google verified

…so you can drive traffic to your website and begin to develop relationships.

You won’t reach people if they can’t find you when they’re looking for answers. Social media plays a part, but the days of organic social media driving people to your church are long gone.

Now it takes intentional foundational building blocks to ensure people find you when they want to and on their terms.

So when people are searching… Be sure they can find you!

Side note: this is also why the Google Ad Grant is a huge part of the Automatic Invite System we build for our Grow Churches- we want people to find churches when they’re searching for things to do and answers to their questions!

Turn Website Visitors into Sunday Visitors

There are basically four critical Landing Pages to help your website be effective in attracting visitors and then connecting with those visitors:

  • Events
  • Sermon Series
  • Kids (if you’re trying to target young families- pick a page for whatever target audience you’re trying to reach),
  • Plan Your Visit

These pages, when done correctly, will convert most website visitors into Sunday morning visitors.

Sadly, these pages are often one of the most overlooked components of a church’s website. But if we truly want to reach more people for the gospel, we need to be ready to start a conversation on the pages where we get the most new traffic.

Systematizing your efforts to attract visitors will go a long way toward achieving your God-given mission.

Bonus Church Marketing Elements for you to consider

Mind if we over-deliver? Here are a few additional components we’ve found critical to effective church marketing.  Not as important as the first four, perhaps, but they’re up there!

Hidden Element #5 - Messaging

Starting with ministry first, being audience-centric, and intentionally working toward building relationships all start with messaging. What are you saying and how are you saying it?

Here’s the secret for staying on messaging every time – develop a profile – one person – you’re talking to, someone who personifies the very one you’re trying to reach.

Give that person a name, imagine definitive challenges that person faces, and speak to her (or him) every time you put a message together.

Don’t be concerned about being too targeted – that’s the point. For example:

  • 35-year-old Jennifer with 3 kids at home 
  • She’s married, but often feels like a single mom
  • She’s distant from her husband because he travels frequently
  • She’s worried about her kids and just wants a safe environment for them to have some family time together

Think about what keeps her up at night, why she’d reach out for help.

If you don’t figure out who you’re talking to and talk specifically to them, you’ll fail every time.

Think about it this way – It’s similar to you walking up to the forest with a shotgun, shooting blindly and hoping something “good” or what you were hoping to catch walks into the shot. When you don’t have the right messaging, the same thing happens.

Remember, you’re following the path, the vision, God gave to you. Don’t fumble the dream!

You could have all four of these pillars working together, but if you’re not talking to the right person, it will still be an epic failure.

Secret Element #6 – Next-generation focused

We’ve said it before but it bears repeating here – growing churches have one very important thing in common – they are focused on reaching the next generation – from the top on down. It permeates everything they do. If you’re not attracting young families you’re quite likely not going to grow.

Take the First Step to Achieve Your Vision

If you’re intrigued and you’d like more help reaching people, take a test drive with CMU’s free Church Growth Account to find out how we can help you get more visitors every week. If you’re ready to start seeing more visitors, our Pro Account will help you do just that, and with our Scholarship Program, churches of every size and budget can participate. If this is clicking on all cylinders, let us do the heavy lifting for you in our CMU Grow Program, the best of the best we have to offer.