HOW TO DO CHURCH MARKETING
What I Learned in Helping Launch
Saddleback Church in Manila
I was privileged enough to be part of the executive team and pioneering group of volunteers that launched Saddleback South Manila in Nuvali, Sta. Rosa, July 19 2014. This was part of the vision of Pastor Rick Warren’s 16 City Initiative. These 16 “Gateway Cities” were strategically identified for two specific purposes: reach lost people in each of the cities and serve as base camps for equipping other churches to work together in reaching the 3,800 unreached and unengaged people groups in the world.
It was an exciting period to witness the provision of God and Him empowering an amazing team of dedicated volunteers that made the launch possible. Our battle cry: “Whatever It Takes!” Countless hours of planning and preparation were poured into having a great first weekend service, setting the pace for where the church will go. Our team’s hard work and preparation came to fruition during our incredible launch with a record-breaking attendance of 1,615 for the launch of a global Saddleback church! Even super typhoon Glenda could not deter people from celebrating with us!
It was one of the best periods of my life where I got to serve and use both my S.H.A.P.E. by helping connect with the community through marketing and sweet spots by helping organize and co-facilitate a variety of events through PEACE Pop-ups (Seminars for Professionals, and Social Media Summits) and preview services. I was privileged to have been given the opportunity to exhort volunteers and facilitate the program with our City Pastor Narry Santos during vision gatherings and strategic meetings with key leaders.
While leading the South Manila campus’ marketing and communications, I learned three important lessons – captured here in the words of Anthony Miller, Marketing and Communications Pastor of Saddleback Lake Forest:
“Serving, Not Selling”
With what God afforded for us to have, i.e. a mobile and digital billboards (the latter courtesy of United Neon), websites and social media budget, video production, print ads, and flyers, there was a danger of appearing to merely lure and sell.
Marketing has been considered a “bad” word in Philippine churches simply because we haven’t progressed to embrace the word marketing like some US churches have. But we have to use the best business-related practices to advance our biblical purpose. That’s what marketing can do to support the purposes of the church. In marketing, the sequence for building affinity is this: I know you – I like you – I trust you. How can the community trust the church if the people don’t even know it exists? I have been blessed to see how Pastor Rick Warren valued the function of marketing.
But more than building awareness, our goal for Saddleback is to serve the city with the resources we have. How foolish it would have been if our teams walked the streets handing out flyers for our first service after just having been devastated by a super typhoon! Typhoon Glenda was our biggest opportunity to tell the community that the church is here. And like Jesus, our awareness and influence will grow when we serve people.
Be Proactive, Not Reactive
Once marketing is introduced to a church, it becomes a support ministry. However, while half of the team’s function should be to support ministry activity, and the other half should be to create ways to reach and engage more people within the target. Church marketing should be proactive and not merely reactive to ministry requests. It needs to innovate to find ways to evangelize and serve the target audience.
Two of our bridging events started with a marketing objective: (1) the Purpose Driven Life for Professional seminar with Anthony Pangilinan and (2) the Social Media Summit with Janette Toral, etc. These two events have two key target audiences – the working class and the bloggers. We want to build awareness about the church to these target groups. And we achieved that by giving them access to helpful and enriching learning events.
Advocacy, Not Advertising
At Saddleback, advertising is irrelevant here; advocacy is what we are gunning for. Even a seasoned marketer will tell you that word-of-mouth is still the best way to promote. A personal invitation or conversation will always be more effective than a billboard, TV ad or paid Facebook post.
In John 13:35, Jesus said, “By this all will know that you are mine, if you love one another.” In essence, the church should be described in one word: love. So until the brand of the church is love, we will fail in our quest for biblical marketing. And the only way we could brand the church with love is if we create an army of advocates and equip them.
The theme of our Saddleback South Manila launch is “Unli-Love” which plays on the Filipino’s penchant for unlimited supply from soup and rice to mobile data and internet access. Unli-Love at Saddleback South Manila communicates acceptance and care to everyone regardless of their identity and past. That could very much be the bedrock theme of the church’s advocacy beyond the launch.
I am excited for the Saddleback family to grow as the church continues to foster authentic relationships and unlimited love to the community.