Preamble: I’ve wrestled with posting this for a while. The reason is that everyone has different personality styles, leadership qualities and approaches and I don’t want to seem like I’m saying that there’s one proper way to lead or one proper set of guidelines to expect from your leader or that your leader is sub-par if they don’t meet these guidelines.

Hear my heart: we’re in this together and we each bring something unique to the Kingdom of God. We can do this!

After a recent poll on our Church Marketing Ideas Facebook group, I realized that a majority of people who responded that are in church communications / marketing / media, etc. find that the biggest obstacle slowing them down is getting clarity from church leadership on expectations and direction.

There is much more to be said about this, and each church is unique, but here is the number one question that I’ve found to start a discussion with my Pastor when determining how we move forward:

Who is our target audience?

We’re not the church for everyone. I know that sounds odd since the Gospel opens a door for everyone, but think of your church as a unique expression of God’s church. If your leaders still is unsure about narrowing down a target audience, simply ask this “Do we have any regulars in our church that drive for more than 2 hours every Sunday to worship with us?” If the answer is no, then you have started the discussion on narrowing down your target audience.

The reason this question often comes with resistance is that for someone who doesn’t live in the marketing world, it sounds like you’re asking “Who do we want to turn away from our church?” or “Who are we not trying to reach?” but the real question is “Who is God assigning us to reach?”

I was doing some consulting for a church out of state, and when I asked this question the associate Pastor quickly shot back “Well, let me ask you this. Who was Jesus’ target audience?” He was expecting me to say “Jesus came to reach everyone and so should we.” but, I reminded him that in Matthew 15:24 Jesus told a Canaanite woman that he wasn’t sent to help the Gentiles, but he was on earth for the Jews. In the end, he helped her.

Without getting deep into theology, Jesus recognized that if he could transform the culture of the people he was sent to reach (the nation of Israel) that they would in turn reach the Gentiles. In business, Nike, for example, doesn’t target their marketing to gain the appeal of senior citizens or preschoolers, but they don’t stop them from purchasing their shoes.

Make it clear that you’re not asking your leadership to turn away people, but rather help you focus your marketing and communication efforts.

There are 2 big-picture approaches that you can take to determining your target audience, and both are modelled in business:

1) Has God called us to build our ministry to connect with who our audience is? If so, our marketing will be determined by our target audience. (ie. Most TV shows choose their topics based on the wants of their audience)

2) Has God called us to build our audience based on who our ministry is? If so, your ministry core values will determine your marketing, and the people who it appeal to will become your audience. (ie. The Nike example is to build a shoe for a specific need an audience. Those are primarily the people who choose to pay the premium to wear Nike shoes.)

Clarifying questions to start the discussion with your leadership could be:

• Who are we trying to reach geographically?
• What audience will our worship music appeal to?
• Does the teaching appeal to a person with specific goals? (ie. inspiration, in depth detail, real-life application, study and theology, etc.)
• What does that person’s schedule look like outside of church? What events / learning opportunities / relationship building / connection points are we providing that meet those wants
• What does that person perceive about church in general?
• What can we do to open the door for that person to hear our message?

I would love to hear more from you about the conversations this starts with your leadership. Leave a comment below or stop by Church Marketing Ideas Facebook group and let us know the progress you’re seeing:

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