Back on 5 November 2013, Brady Shearer of ProChurchTools.com posted an article entitled The Annoying Church Habit that Makes Other People Groan. I believe this “habit” is still around today in 2016 and so many of our churches, businesses, and organizations can really benefit from what he had to say. The following is a reposting of his article that I think will be refreshing and hopefully inspiring that can help you grow your platform to new areas of influence! Let’s give it a read shall we:
There’s a word that’s become very popular in the church. In fact, it’s become so popular so fast that it’s quickly turning into a cliche. And that word is authenticity.
Churches want to be authentic.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts to be authentic, there is an annoying habit that many churches still have that is not only annoying, but very un-authentic. You can’t blame most of us. It’s a very subtle habit – hard to recognize – but extremely easy to correct.
I’ve seen almost every church make this mistake. Fairly regularly in fact. And it makes non-church people groan. The annoying church habit I’m talking about is extreme event promotion.
THE ANNOYING HABIT
Let me be clear: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with event promotion in itself. It’s the way churches go about promoting events that is a problem.
For instance, does this sound familiar to you?
“Hey church, we’ve got a great men’s event this Saturday. It’s gonna be absolutely, ridiculously, amazing. You’re gonna walk away a changed man. And if you don’t join us this Saturday, you’re really making the biggest mistake of your life ’cause this is just the best event we’ve ever hosted!!!”
Okay…okay…maybe I went over the top a bit with that example. But what about this?
“Hey church, we’ve got a great men’s event this Saturday and it’s gonna be absolutely amazing. Your life is never going to be the same after this Saturday. We’ve got a special guest with a life-changing message. Don’t miss it!”
That’s likely more accurate. But do you see the problem here?
The problem isn’t that we’re excited about the men’s event. And the problem isn’t even that we’re calling it life-changing, absolutely amazing, and special.
The problem is that churches overhype almost every event that they put on.
“Come to our evening service tonight, it’s gonna be phenomenal and life-changing.”
“Youth group tonight!!! It’s gonna be out of this world!!! Bring a friend!!!”
“Are you ready for offering, church?!?! I said…ARE YOU READY FOR OFFERING, CHURCH!?!?! It’s gonna change your life.”
WHERE DID AUTHENTICITY COME FROM?
Let’s dig into this a little deeper. Before we can grasp where this annoying habit came from, we first must answer the question, “Where did the push for church authenticity come from?”
To answer that question, look to the next generation of church leaders. This upcoming generation grew up in a world where big smiles, happiness, and prosperity were the loud church messages.
And now they’re pushing back.
This new generation of church leaders – Millennials – is all about showing vulnerability, being transparent, and just being real.
No facade. No smoke and mirrors. And as a result, authenticity has become the million-dollar word in the church.
WHY IS THIS HABIT SO ANNOYING AND POTENTIALLY EVEN TOXIC?
Let’s get one thing straight. This annoying habit is the opposite of authenticity. It’s the opposite of being genuine. Here’s why:
- Not everything can be life changing
- Not everything can be amazing
- Not everything can be the best thing ever
The church has a problem with overhyping, and under-delivering. And when all you do is hype every event with the same extreme language, people become numb to the tactic.
It just doesn’t work!
Combine that with the fact that very few events are ever life changing in the first place, and you have pretty much the worst marketing formula ever.
Overhype every event + Under-deliver on every event = Why does no one come to our events?
CHURCHES ARE BAD AT MARKETING
[Brady] published an article recently called, Are You Making this Common Church Marketing Mistake?
If you didn’t read it, here’s the summary:
Churches often think they need a perfect, epic name for every event and ministry. For example, an epic name for a men’s ministry could be M.O.B (Men of Bacon). Unfortunately, that name is terrible.
And instead of trying to give every event and ministry its own name and branding, we should just call it what it is. Just call it Men’s Ministry, Women’s Ministry, etc. The reason I bring this up, is that the tendency to give epic names to everything, and the tendency to overhype everything are two sides of the same problem. And here’s why…
Churches are bad at promotion and marketing. Let’s be honest with ourselves: we’re just plain bad.
Unlike big corporations, we don’t have a marketing department. We don’t have a team of dedicated professionals working full time on our marketing efforts to make them successful.
Instead, we have pastors and church leaders doing their best at marketing, and failing because they have no experience or training.
Should we expect anything more?
No. But we can’t keep taking the same old broken approach.
HOW TO FIX THE ANNOYING HABIT
Here’s how to fix all of this: just call things what they are. Be authentic.
Don’t feel like you have to hype every event. It won’t get more people to attend the event or join the new ministry anyway. That tactic won’t work. Just call it like it is.
For example, here’s a church marketing method that will serve your church much better:
- Create a new event/ministry and call it what it is (i.e.. Men’s Ministry)
- Promote the event/ministry consistently – DON’T overhype
- Build trust with your church by not overhyping and under-delivering
- Expect more people to attend events and join ministries
Here’s what I would say when promoting an event:
“Hey church, we’ve got a men’s event this Saturday. It’s a Saturday morning breakfast. We’re gonna be meeting at the Johnson’s. Mr. Johnson will be cooking up locally sourced bacon like he always does – and we’re even going to have a turkey bacon option if that’s your thing. We’ll see you there on Saturday.”
Let the event speak for itself.
Instead of overhyping, I just shared what was happening. Men will be drawn to the event because of what it means to them and the church. Also, there’s bacon — and apparently that’s a surefire way to get men on board.
Don’t overhype – just let the event speak for itself.
The reason this article and last week’s article are so important is because church leaders are asked to do too much. We must be masters of all trades. And when we try to take a run at something like marketing, sometimes we fail.
Hopefully, this has solved some of the stress that comes with event promotion and marketing.
- Don’t overhype and under-deliver
- Don’t rely on gimmicks
- Just call it like it is
- Let the events and ministries speak for themselves
Hopefully this article helps you evaluate your church or organization’s marketing techniques. Maybe it raises some questions or peaks some interest to accurately identify how your organization is communicating with your audience. Maybe you’ve never thought about any of these topics before. If this is or is not you, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
I do want to say that it’s not always easy to get a good feel of your audience and how they are interpreting your message or marketing, especially while you’re busy running everything else from create great content/product/services to organizing volunteers or running a team to execute your vision. But it’s always good to take a second and step back from your organization and have some critical thinking and observing time to see how people are interacting and digesting your message.
Brady does a great job of tackling some of the less obvious “annoying habits” that we see in our churches. I know since I’ve read this article a few years back it dramatically opened my eyes and challenged me to be more aware of how our message is being presented. The content is almost never the biggest issue. And coming from a design background, presentation is always something that I value and almost always influences my decision to give something a chance or not. I’d love to see how these topics have sparked new influences in your process. Feel free to leave me a comment below!
See you around on the internets!