Church Marketing | The Product

Church Marketing Newsletter

Second in a series

By John F. Bagwell – President ChurchMax

The is an archive of a previously published Church marketing Newsletter. You can receive current issues by subscribing to this newsletter. Other back issues of this newsletter are available on the church marketing newsletter archive page.


If you have had a traditional marketing course in college you are no doubt familiar with the four P’s – Product, Price, Promotion and Placement (or Distribution). The first P is Product and a very important part of marketing.

Today, I want to cover the first P — Product — and focus on how this can relate to your church or ministry. In subsequent issues I will focus on the other 3 P’s.

Let’s look at two areas: Defining the product and the product image.

Defining Your Product

How would you describe the “product” offered by your church or ministry?

The question makes your think, doesn’t it?

Oh sure, you’re “selling” the idea of a “church” but what exactly is a church and specifically —your church?

You may come up with words such as: God, Salvation, Comfort, Friendship (a sense of community or belonging), Family Values and other related words.

Most churches want to increase their church attendance, but the over riding question from non-church goers is, “Why should I attend church?”

Unless you can give people a compelling reason to attend church —and specifically your particular church – you probably will not be successful in finding and keeping new members.

In many cases it is a two fold process -educate the prospect about the “product” and next get them to try your “product.”

This is why you must know your “product” or, in this case, “your church.”

It really is hard to define a church. However, in order to market your church, you must first define what your church is. Clearly defining your “product” is crucial for effective church marketing.

An example from the secular world

When you think of McDonald’s you probably think of fast food. If you ask my six year old what he thinks about McDonald’s, he will tell you, “fun.” The food, to him, is secondary. Why do you think they call it a “happy meal?”

The idea of “fun” can change for my sons. There are times that my boys make a choice between Burger King and McDonald’s based on one thing – the toy in the kid’s meal.

McDonald’s has learned that they sell a lot more hamburgers and fries based upon creating an atmosphere of fun and excitement than just by focusing on hamburgers alone.

Apply this same dining experience to yourself. Where do you like to dine?

More than likely you have several restaurants you favor. In most towns if you want a hamburger you can go to any number of restaurants. Why do you pick one over the other?

It is probably because of the service, the food, or because they have a big screen TV that you can watch your favorite sports team. But if you really think about it, there is one thing that defines your “dining experience.” That is what makes you come back time and again.

I am not saying you should “water down” the gospel or focus all your activities on “fun,” or otherwise try to change your church to fit into the secular world. You just need to communicate to your members and prospects a clear image of what the church “experience” is at your particular church and show them how it is relevant to their life.

One way to help define your church “product” is to talk to your members. Find out why they come, and what they expect. Ask them why they bring (or don’t bring) their friends to church.

You might also visit with recent new members to your Church and find out why they joined. Ask them what they liked about your church and why they joined your church over another.

I served on a Pastor Search Committee at my church here in Dallas this past year. One of the projects we had to undertake was defining our church. Some of the potential pastors we interviewed asked us some tough questions about our church. One person on the committee had been a member of the church for 40 years and had difficulty defining our church.

Take the time and effort to know who you are before trying to present an image of something you are not.
ChurchMax offers a number of marketing programs – including direct mail. We have recently added a program that allows you to reach prospects for as little as 10 cents each— including postage.

We also have over 500,000 promotional products – from key chains to coffee cups. Most can be imprinted with your church logo or message.

Product Image

Another important part of your “product” is how people perceive the product.

I love traveling and visiting other churches. Recently my family was visiting with some friends in another city and attended their church. Since they were teaching in the children’s department, my wife and I were placed in an adult class where we didn’t know a single person.

We were introduced to the teacher and a few class members. Most of the members were interested in what was going on in their own lives and with each other so they pretty much ignored us. We felt out of place.

While it wasn’t a particularly bad experience, I certainly missed my home church Sunday School where everyone knew me and I felt at home.

When we went to the worship service things were different. People welcomed us, and showed a genuine interest in my family. We felt at home. If I were looking for a church home, I would probably go back to worship at that church. However, I’d look for another Sunday School class!

The point I want to make here is that your marketing needs to be as unified as possible. To quote my childhood pastor -“Everybody needs to be singing from the same hymnal.”

Now that doesn’t mean that you are going to get every Sunday School class to reach out to every visitor. But it helps to make an effort to have a unified message that everyone receives when they come to your church.

McDonalds has created an image of good food, reasonable prices and fun. It is pretty consistent wherever you go. Imagine if you stopped at McDonald’s in Oklahoma only to discover that they didn’t have a Big Mac menu but instead offered Chinese Food.

I hope you will spend some time thinking about the image of your church. It would be worth your time to call a friend or relative in a neighboring city and ask them to visit your church unannounced and give you a report. The results may surprise you.

If you have the budget, you might contract with a “Mystery Shopping Service.” This is a company that sends people into businesses to check on customer service. These companies are in major cities, or I can provide you with a list of some national companies that you can use.

Don’t overlook your church facilities

What image are they communicating? Are the rest rooms clean? Is the parking lot well lit at night? Are the carpets clean? These are little things, but they make a big impression on a visitor. And they contribute greatly to the over all image of your church.

In short, make sure you have the very best “product” available.

I hope this newsletter is helpful. I welcome your comments. Please e-mail me.

Please feel free to pass this newsletter on to others within your church or ministry.

If you missed the first issue, go to the church newsletter archive page.

John Bagwell

Now, Find All Your Church Marketing, Church Advertising, Church Promotion and Church Growth Needs In One Place.
Everything you need for your ministry or church growth program is at We have Church and ministry marketing programs that include promotional products, advertising and marketing support and lots of resources for your church or ministry. ChurchMax also offers Internet hosting and Web site design and Internet Marketing support to help position your Church or ministry favorably in a competitive marketplace. Details at

Additional Church Marketing Resources

If you know of other sources, we’d love to hear from you. Send your suggestions via e-mail by following the link under the contact us page and we’ll try to include them on this page.

The Case For Church Marketing

Church Marketing Newsletter
First in a series

By John F. Bagwell – President ChurchMax

The is an archive of a previously published Church marketing Newsletter. You can receive current issues by subscribing to this newsletter. Other back issues of this newsletter are available on the church marketing newsletter archive page. .

Mention “church marketing” to pastors and church leaders and you are sure to get a variety of responses.

For many, the thought of having to “market” the church is something that just doesn’t seem right. “We’ve never marketed our church,” said one pastor “and I don’t see any reason to start now.”

If you think of marketing in the traditional sense and compare marketing a local church to marketing a consumer product, such as an automobile, then it may appear that we are “commercializing” the church.

However, most churches take part in some form of marketing every week – often without knowing it.

What is marketing?

In the broadest sense marketing is offering a product or service that people want or need with a result that a “change in ownership” takes place. Designing and offering an automobile that few people actually purchase is not really marketing. The actual sale must be closed for the marketing function to be complete.

The same thing is true for churches. Depending upon your goal you need people to either visit your church, join the church, give to the ministry or in someway become involved. Someone needs to respond. Marketing is simply the vehicle that gets people to your church. Of course, a good marketing plan also keeps people involved in the church. We’ll talk more about that in upcoming issues of this newsletter.

The 4 P’s of Marketing

There are actually four areas of marketing. Like a chain, if any of the links is bad the whole chain does not function. These include the Price, Product, Placement (distribution) and Promotion. In upcoming issues of this newsletter I will focus on these 4 P’s to show you just how to get the most from your marketing efforts for your church or ministry.

The Marketing Concept

Through the years our country has evolved more to a marketing concept for goods and services than the traditional sales concept.

When Henry Ford developed his Model T in the early 1900’s, he once said, “You can get it in any color you want, as long as it is black.” At the turn of the 20th Century Ford didn’t have to worry about what the consumer wanted because the American consumer would “buy” almost anything.

As automobile makers discovered that people wanted a choice and would actually pay for that choice the marketing concept began to take over. Soon, just because a company built a particular product didn’t mean that someone would purchase it immediately. The product had to offer some kind of value.

Many churches are still operating under the old sales concept. Like Henry Ford, they offer church one way. You either take it or leave it. That type of attitude usually results in declining church attendance and often extinction. The idea that “if you build it, they will come” doesn’t often work these days. There has to be a compelling reason for people to go to church today. Marketing communicates that reason to the consumer.

Does Marketing mean you have to change the focus of the church?

I will admit that church marketing sometimes gets out of control. Just look at the television evangelist of the last decade that got so caught up in the marketing effort that they lost their sense of direction. When you have to raise more money to buy more television commercials or programs, to raise more money to buy still more commercials in order keep the operation going, something is not right!

Many of these evangelist or pastors changed their message to focus on what the consumer wanted to hear. The so called “prosperity ministry” bought in lots of money, but then crumbled as people felt like it was just a scam.

The fact is, you do not have to change your message to effectively market your church. I saw a sign in front of a church recently -“We don’t change our message – The message changes you.” In short, it is not changing the message – it is presenting the message in a way that people understand.

Today, Churches have to provide something of value while letting the community know they exist.

Jesus Was a Marketer

If he had his ministry on earth today, Jesus might well work in advertising instead of being a carpenter. Jesus knew how to relate to people and to bring the message to everyone. And Jesus practiced the basis of target marketing. He used a completely different approach in talking to Jewish leaders than to the woman at the well. He realized that different people react differently to the same message. And while his message was always the same, it was presented very differently depending upon his target audience. Now that is true marketing.

Target Marketing Is Important

I have spent almost 30 years in marketing. I am still amazed how many companies don’t have a clue about their target market. I once talked with a car dealer. When I asked him who he was trying to reach he responded, “everybody.”

Well, that simply was not true. First, he needed to reach people over 18 who had a driver’s license and had the money to buy a car. He also sold the Buick line, which traditionally reaches an older audience.

Equate that back to your church. Who do you want to reach? If you answer “everybody” your target audience is way too large. Even McDonalds and Wal Mart don’t try to reach everybody. There simply isn’t enough money to accomplish that goal. And while the effort to reach everyone in your community is certainly noble, one church simply can not reach every individual.

Now that doesn’t mean you exclude any one group or that you turn people away from your church if they don’t fit your target market. I think it does mean that you should direct your resources (time, money and energy) in specific areas.

How do you decide on a target market?

For starters, a target market needs to be large enough to reach effectively.

I once knew a pastor who wanted to target runners. While there were a fairly large number of athletic individuals in the area, it was difficult to reach them because many races were held on Sunday. You certainly could build a ministry for this group, but it would be difficult to build a church based upon this one narrow segment of the population.

Look around your church and your community. Can you effectively reach singles, young people, seniors, young married couples, Hispanics or middle income families?

Pick one or two groups and then look at how you can reach these people. You will find that the way you present your message may be different for each group.

Target marketing is so important that I will prepare a special issue of this newsletter on that topic.

I hope this introduction to church marketing has been helpful. I welcome your comments.


More Church Marketing Newsletters

Newsletter Archive

Back Issues of Church Marketing Newsletters Posted below are previous Church Marketing Newsletters.

Subscribe to Church Marketing Newsletter.

The Case For Church Marketing

Defining the “Product”

Additional Church Marketing Resources

If you know of other sources, we’d love to hear from you. Send your suggestions via e-mail by following the link under the contact us page and we’ll try to include them on this page.