Pastor Ron Carpenter, of Redemption Church, outlined, during one of his Sunday morning messages, one of the most profound things I have heard in quite some time. He walked the congregation through the decline of the social relevance of the church in a unique way—through the music of the different generations. Starting with the music of the 1970s, he highlighted how the sound of that generation was completely different from the sound of the 1960s. The ’70s were about disco and peace born out of the Vietnam War. The ’80s were about rebellion and the “I know what to do, but I choose not to” generation. As a result, the ’90s became about hopelessness and grunge bands. The choice of not doing gave way to the not-knowing generation in search of hope. The 2000s then became about a sound of ignorance that resulted in a generation that does not know anything and therefore is not rebelling against anything. As a result, more young people are growing up in nonchurch homes today than ever before.
Why Church Marketing is Critical
For many churches and religious organizations, this poses the greatest challenge because there is a hesitancy to move away from the structures of the past to reach out to and engage new generations. Furthermore, many churches do not have the budget to hire a full-time marketer to develop the structure and processes necessary to be effective and efficient with their allotted resources. Here are four cost-effective ways to engage the new generation and help churches engage the digital generation:
Reach Them Where They Are
The numbers suggest that the United States’ religious beliefs are changing. A 2014 Pew Center survey showed that 62% of the people surveyed believe in God with an absolute certainty. This number decreased from 2007, when 70% of the people surveyed stated that they had an absolute belief in God. Moreover, one of the more eye-opening statistics from a Pew Center survey shows that 23% of the US adult population have no faith affiliation, whereas only about 16% stated the same seven years ago. Other Pew research indicates that Christian faith is not being passed along to younger generations as effectively as it was before Millennials came along. I believe that this is due to a number of things that can be encapsulated in one word, “relevance.” Many churches are hesitant to embrace the relevance of the social media age out of fear of watering down the gospel. However, to reach older and younger Millennials where they are, churches must use the language of the times they live in. It’s not enough to say that the word of God is timeless, which it is, but even Jesus himself used the language of the time in which he was living; for example, he used references to agriculture. If the tone and tenor of your message are still from the ’60s or ’70s, then it’s a strong possibility that you will miss the next generation. “Fleek” is a word that I have never thought existed, but its correct usage resonates with this generation and immediately grabs their attention. It’s more than possible to be relevant as a church or religious organization while maintaining the core values of what separates the message of Christianity from that of the secular world.
Develop Member Personas That Matter
Personas matter. Most churches may think that they are trying to reach everyone, which is true to an extent. However, when using that strategy, it can become overwhelming and expensive to market to everyone, especially as the social media advertising becomes more and more saturated, thereby increasing the amount of dollars needed to be spent to reach everyone. A tried and true method to drive the best ROI for any marketing strategy is to develop member personas that outline the characteristics of a particular demographic of members. Additionally, member personas help with figuring out which current church programs or ministry fit which type of members, and what programs could be devised for the future based on the particular demographic that one is trying to reach.Furthermore, the digital and visual age in which we live narrows the focus of various audio and video content that is produced. Businesses that sell other products develop buyer personas very effectively to ensure that they are driving the highest ROI for their marketing and ad dollars. Churches and non-profits should be no different. Resources are often much harder to come by; therefore, a high ROI is critical to success.