Marketing Matters

In their book, UnChristian, David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons provide some interesting insight on the young, unChristian population of our day. In their chapter, “Get Saved!” they illustrate a number of myths in today’s church world regarding the subject of evangelism. Two myths and realities I would like to highlight, follow:

MYTH: The best evangelism efforts are those that reach the most people.

REALITY: The most effective efforts to share faith are interpersonal and relationship based. When we asked born-again Buster to identify the activity, ministry event, or person most directly responsible for their decision to accept Jesus Christ, 71 percent listed an individual—typically their parent, a friend, another relative, or a teacher. A majority of those decisions were described as conversation and prayer, what about 1/3 were instances in which their friend or family member took them to a church service or evangelistic event. In an era of mass media, it is easy to believe that the more eyeballs, the more impact. But radio, television, and tracts accounted for a combined total of less than 1/2 of 1percent of the Busters who are born again. The clear implication is that most young people come to Christ because of people they know very well, usually in the context of “everyday interaction.”

MYTH: Anything that brings people to Christ is worth doing.

REALITY: When you’re talking dollars, there is no price too high for a soul. But the problem isn’t just cost. In our research with some of the leading “mass evangelism” efforts, we found that often these measures create 3-10 times as much negative response as positive. In other words, imagine your church is considering mailing Bibles or videos or other Christian materials to homes in your community. Our research shows that the “collateral damage” of doing so—those whose impressions of your church and of Christianity would be more negative as a result—is significantly greater than the positive impact on those who will respond favorably to these efforts. Moreover, such mass evangelism efforts are most effective with marginally church adults, while outsiders are usually the ones who respond most negatively. (70-71)

So if a church community had an evangelistic strategy of airing short, gospel presentations on local, television stations, how should these be conducted so that they are truly effective? Or should they be conducted at all?

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~ by Dave Smith on January 17, 2009.

10 Responses to “Marketing Matters”

  1. In my brutally honest opinion, short gospel presentations are not cost-effective. They are highly expensive; they only reach people on a very superficial level (that is in a very non-personal way); and, there is no way to follow up with those who hear the message – they can’t get connected to a church.

    From this, one could easily surmise my opinion of Christian TV.

    Evangelism is most effective when it happens organically in the context of relationship – at least in our culture, which is tired of soapboxes in the street and is saturated by the message over air and television waves.

  2. If a church community had an evangelistic strategy of airing short, gospel presentations on local, television stations, I do not think it would be effective…unless you were trying to reach other Christians for Christ. I don’t think they be conducted at all. I essentailly agree with Mr. BRGULKER who posts things at 3:27 am.

  3. You crack me up Chip!

    So…let’s say that you have a person who donates money specifically for such evangelistic tactics. How would you proceed with their donation, if tight contraints on how the money was to be used were given (i.e. used only for short gospel presentations of local, televsion stations)?

    (obviously this is all hypothetical)

  4. Obviously, I post things in the future…

  5. I would first assume that said donor is a Boomer or older, which is why they still think we can “sell” Jesus. Secondly, I would accommodate them because there are still a lot of disenfranchised Boomers out there who may be influenced by such tactics…well, that and because I am all about pragmatism.

  6. Given people’s distrust of the medium itself (televison) as a credible source of information…plus all of the negative associations that are already in place with the “God channel”…this would not be high on my list of priorities as a church struggles to meet budget.

    I give credit for at least an attempt at creativity…though sometimes it comes off a little corny.

    The live call in talk show (television) is a good attempt too.

    It’s easy to play armchair pastor…but what if those same dollars were poured in the children’s ministry…what kind of evangelistic tool could that be?

  7. I know…take the money only if they let you put your short gospel presentations on YouTube. Obviously many consider YouTube as, if not more, credible than television these days.

  8. Good point!

  9. Sorry, I’m late to the party. I think you are underselling the known product in question here. There’s a proven track record to the specific material to which you refer, and that track record points more toward postive branding than it does tv-evangelism.

    That being said, the spots have, over the years, been more effective with boomers than busters. Probably a new paradigm is needed.

    But the medium isn’t the answer. There’s just as much fake, plastic Christianity on YouTube and Facebook as anywhere on TV. Churches who can’t connect with the next generation in real life aren’t going to suddenly be relevant because they discovered YouTube.

    The issue is the content. Your senior pastor’s spots have been, for the most part, very successful because he doesn’t invite you to come to his church, he doesn’t ask you to send him money, he doesn’t make you feel like an idiot if you disagree with him. The spots aren’t so much about “selling the gospel” as they are about selling the senior pastor. Community feedback about your senior pastor is incredibly strong because people say they see him on the spots as a “regular guy” who understands “real life.”

    Keep in mind that feedback is from folks over the age of 40. I imagine that the under-30 crowd finds it harder to relate to him. But similar spots could still work, if they were done in a Rob-Bell-style of asking questions, not pushing answers.

    It’s about content, not medium.

    –Kind of unrelated, but wanna see a great church video? http://www.vimeo.com/840001

  10. Individual, personal evangelism – costly in time and effort, cheap in “resource” church dollars. If only we just did more discipleship in our local churches!

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