The High Cost of Church: Why are we Advertising?

Last week, I asked the question is it okay for churches to advertise? I first off want to thank everyone for their input into the subject matter. There was some great discussion on the blog post and great conversations in addition throughout the week.

With the impending “hard launch” of Fellowship White Rock, I really do want to be seeking the Lord about what is right and what is wrong with church advertisement. In discussing this with others and looking through people’s comments, there seemed to be a general presupposition that basic advertisement for a church is fine. People can’t come to something they don’t know about. Jesus sent twelve disciples out telling people about the kingdom of God. When he healed the man with the demon, he told him to go out into the nearby villages and tell them what happened to him. Jesus used the common media of the day (word of mouth and disciples), sent them to the places with the most visibility (synagogues and the Temple), and got his intended return on investment (most places he went already knew who he was because of the “advertisement” of his disciples going before him).

So when a church sends out a mailer or does a billboard or has a website, at least in its most basic form, they are doing something Jesus did too. They are using the common media of the day, displaying it in public places, so that people might be made aware of Jesus. There is no point in hating something current just because it is current.

As I have thought through the issue this week, two things continue to come to my mind. Is the money spent on church advertisement worth it? And what is our true expected ROI? To answer the first question, I need to answer the second one.

What do we truly hope to accomplish by church advertisement? The average church spends 85% of their annual budget on serving the needs of their existing members. This includes salaries, building costs, and small groups or Sunday school materials (to name a few). 22% of church budgets are spent on updating building costs. In contrast, only 5% is used in supporting overseas missions or evangelism campaigns. The spending habits of the church seem to reflect an unfortunate shift in the motivation of many churches. Churches have moved from the “movement” phase, to the “organization” phase. They have moved from existing for the sake of expanding the kingdom to existing for the sake of maintaining existence.

What troubles me about church advertisement is not that they are advertising, but that often times the motivation for advertising is not for the sake of expanding the kingdom, but for getting the right kind of people in their pews to tithe a certain amount, so they can fund their new building project. Church costs a lot of money. Many larger churches now have annual budgets over 1 million dollars. Likewise, churches spend a lot of money on advertisement to maintain these large budgets.

This brings me to the next question.

Is it worth it? There is a common complaint amongst pastors in this down economy about people not giving enough. The belief is that if only people gave enough, then we could make an impact on world hunger and overseas evangelism. If only people gave even 10 percent, the mission of the church would be easily within our grasp. There is something to be said about church members not giving enough. However, I’m not convinced that is the real issue. I think all of us in ministry need to take a hard look at how we are spending the money we have already been given.

Advertisement is only worth it if the product we’re selling is Christ and his gospel. But if our motivations are anything less than that, we are nothing more than money lenders in the Temple.

Please be praying for me and the rest of the team as we move forward. Pray that we would not spend the churches money on anything that doesn’t ultimately serve his kingdom.


One thought on “The High Cost of Church: Why are we Advertising?

  1. I wonder if churches would get a better ROI when it comes advertising if their focus was always on Kingdom priorities rather than church priorities. Leaders would do well isolating what Jesus said about his Kingdom and creating a framework or grid to guide them when it comes to spending God’s resources. 2 Peter 3:10-11

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