13 min read

10 Church Marketing Strategies to Grow Your Church

With the darkest days of the pandemic in our collective rearview mirror, churches have long since reopened their doors to worshippers. However, a recent Gallup poll found about 4% fewer Americans returning to their local house of God since 2020. Compared to figures from 2012 and earlier, attendance is down even further – about 10%.

Effective Christian church marketing strategies can reverse this trend. When you market your church, you attract new members and keep existing church members engaged, growing your ministry and helping your community thrive.

Why is Digital Marketing Important for Churches?

Marketing is just as important for churches as it is for nonprofits and commercial industries. Church marketing is nothing new: even in ancient times, people spurred church growth through community outreach and street corner preaching, inviting anyone who would listen to attend services.

Fortunately, you don’t have to preach to passersby on the street to attract new visitors to your church anymore (though you certainly still can if the Spirit moves you). Instead, your church needs a strong online presence. Using websites, podcasts, social media, a church mobile app, and other tools we’ll discuss, you increase the chances of God’s message reaching potential new church members – and that’s what ministry is all about.

Plus, effective church marketing strategies help existing church members deepen their faith by creating new ways to connect to God and their Christian community.

Let’s explore some detailed church growth strategies.

Benefits of Having a Church Marketing Plan

Whether you’re a new church or a long-time congregation, a church marketing plan is crucial to church growth. A well-developed church marketing strategy offers other benefits, too – making it especially important for churches and congregations who need to watch their budgets.

Here are the key benefits of creating and enacting a church marketing plan.

Spread God’s Message

The primary purpose of any church is to spread God’s message, and a solid marketing plan can help do that in many ways. Marketing may not bring in a flood of new members right away as your message gets out there. Your marketing efforts can also keep your church and its message front of mind for your members and regular attendees.

Grow Your Congregation

A primary goal of any church marketing team is to attract new members. With the right strategy, you’ll be able to spread your message to more people than you ever thought possible. This involves word-of-mouth marketing, where regular attendees share their spiritual journey directly with friends, family, and other community members.

Encourage Engagement

Organizing inclusive events, gatherings, and service events offers crucial opportunities for your church to engage with your broader community. Events also allow your local church members to put their faith into action together.

Attract New Church Volunteers

Acts of service give members a personal stake in your church’s success, increasing their commitment to your church. Identify your top drivers of service, then ensure your marketing strategy replicates what makes those opportunities so successful.

Raise Funds

Churches rely on their members to support the church’s financial needs, including buildings and grounds, clergy and support staff salaries, program expenses, and other supplies and materials. The more people that participate in church activities and contribute regularly, the more funds your church has to advance its mission.

5 Benefits of a Well-Defined Church Marketing Plan

Essential Elements of a Successful Church Marketing Plan

As church leaders implement a successful church marketing plan, they’ll want to start by organizing five essential elements and incorporating them into a solid church marketing plan template. The following pieces will form the core of your church marketing strategy.

A Defined Marketing Team

Invite congregants with marketing-related skill sets such as fundraising, graphic design, marketing message writing, web design and maintenance, and programming to share their talents to benefit your church community. Ensure you have a good project manager who can manage all the moving parts of marketing, sending reminders and follow-up messages.

A Defined Audience

Before compiling the strategic tactics you’ll use in your marketing plan, you’ll want to define your target audience. Look at your congregation’s demographic makeup and compare it to your larger community. Should your marketing attract men, women, teens, children, families, senior citizens, and middle-aged adults?

Goals and KPIs

Work with church leaders to identify key performance indicators, or KPIs, to assess progress toward goals and evaluate the efficacy of your marketing efforts. Common church marketing KPIs might include attendance figures for services or events, mobile app downloads and engagement, or weekly offering intake.

A Marketing Budget

You don’t have to spend like Solomon for your church marketing budget to make a significant impact, especially if volunteers help with writing, design, programming, and project management. Of course, you can’t count on divine providence for everything, either.

Set a few denarii aside for your website and domain, an email marketing service, live-streaming bandwidth, mobile app hosting, printing and mailing expenses, and other incidentals. Designate a staff member to manage the marketing budget.

Core Marketing Messages

Before you start designing ads and communications, take time to consider your church’s brand or “personality.” Your current church members can help you here: ask them what attracted them to this particular church and what keeps them coming back. You can also ask your marketing team to brainstorm what your congregation does well and incorporate their feedback into your marketing message.

Once you realize what great things your church offers, your marketing plan is just a few steps from realization.

Use our drag-and-drop Church Template to create your own church app!

10 Church Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Church Community Outreach

Now it’s time to move into specific tasks around boosting your church’s community outreach and adding more people, resources, and impact to your ministry.

1. Upgrade Your Church Website & Mobile App

In today’s age of smart devices and constant connectivity, having a modern, engaging, and optimized church website is critical to your strategy. Too many church websites are little more than a homepage with a welcome message from the pastor, service times, the church phone number and address, and some grainy pictures.

Modern websites should include much more, such as a calendar, registration forms, staff directory, program information, mission activities, video feeds, and a first-time visitor page. Website visitors should also be able to access your podcasts and service recordings easily. Ensure your social media posts appear on the website as well. Any information on your site should also be accessible in your mobile app.

If you’re concerned that all the above will require gobs of code, consider subscribing to a modern, template-based website service. Providers like Wix are affordable and easy to use for people at all technical skill levels. They offer modular, click-and-drag functionality so you can preview pages as you build them.

Mobile apps have gotten easier, too. No-code DIY app systems like Shoutem’s Church App Builder don’t require any app development experience. Shoutem’s a drag-and-drop app builder features a pre-built church app template and straightforward pricing.

2. Integrate Donation Forms/Buttons

When COVID-19 shut down churches, they moved to recorded or live-streamed services. Offering plates went digital, too, with many churches using a donation app or giving platform like PayPal to accept contributions online. Visitors to your website and mobile app will expect the ability to make their donation quickly, easily, and securely.

Personalizing the giving experience increases engagement. If possible, choose a platform that allows donors to give in the name of a loved one, for a particular purpose, or to a specific church department or ministry.

3. Learn about Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Search Engine Optimization (SEO), put simply, is the practice of ensuring the programming, content, and structure of your website is optimized to improve its visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs) such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo. SEO involves various strategies such as keyword research, content optimization, link building, and technical optimization.

Some top SEO resources to familiarize yourself with include both free and paid resources, though even the paid resources offer some free tools and free training webinars that can be helpful in mastering SEO: Google Analytics (Free), Google Search Console (Free), SEMrush (Paid), Moz (Paid), and Search Engine Optimization for Dummies (Book).

For paid search engine advertising, look into the Google Ad Grant program, which provides nonprofit organizations with a powerful tool for accessing free advertising credits.

4. Establish an “Invite Culture”

Ensure your members know you’re looking to grow the congregation. One way they can help is to invite prospective new members to join them for worship, service activities, and church-related events.

Establish an “invite culture” by creating business cards, online invitation graphics, and “invite someone” forms that members send out. These invitations should include information about upcoming events, worship information, key programs, and contact information. Bonus points if your design aligns with the branding guidelines your church marketing team developed.

5. Boost Marketing Efforts Around Holidays

Holidays are a busy time for churches. Even members who don’t regularly attend church services make it a point to attend Christmas and Easter – often inviting friends and family to accompany them. Celebrating the birth or resurrection of Jesus is a great time to show off the welcoming and inclusive nature of your faith community.

A tactic that works exceptionally well during the holidays is to reach out to congregants who recently moved. Remind them about your website and church mobile app and offer them as a way to keep in touch with their “home church” from afar, joining in virtual Bible studies, streamed worship services, podcasts, and more.

6. Be Present at External Community Events

One challenge many churches face is getting outside the church walls to reach their target audience. Showing up at local events helps familiarize people with your church’s presence, culture, and what you offer the community.

These activities could be sponsoring a booth at a festival, participating in a local parade as a church group, or volunteering your praise band to perform at area gatherings. Churches with access to a gym may also sponsor sports leagues, increasing community visibility and offering more activities where potential new members can meet existing congregants.

7. Invite the Community to Internal Events

You can also host your own events and invite the broader community to attend. These may include church festivals, workshops, barbecues, movie nights, or organizing community-wide events like highway clean-ups. Invest in and give your volunteers branded “merch” for these events, including colorful t-shirts, hats, and name badges.

Doing so can spread your church’s message during these community events, especially if members wear their merch as part of their regular wardrobe, which creates a residual marketing effect.

Children and families who “grow up” in church communities often establish strong lifetime ties to their congregation. Your marketing efforts must include advertising and outreach around programs for children and families like a strong Sunday School program, a children’s choir program, Children’s Church activities, Vacation Bible School activities, and more.

8. Consider Out-Of-Home Advertising

Incorporating out-of-home advertising strategies to complement your digital efforts is an essential part of a well-rounded marketing plan. Your goal should be to weave your church’s presence into the fabric of everyday life, making it a familiar and inviting presence in the community.

A billboard with a compelling message or image can spark curiosity and make a significant impact in high-traffic areas. Posting flyers in community centers, local stores, and coffee shops (with the owners’ permission) taps into the heart of your local community, reaching people in their everyday environments.

Placing ads in local magazines or newspapers and direct mail outreach can tap into demographics who don’t spend much time online. Transit advertising in buses, subways, and other areas gives you access to a diverse audience, including commuters and visitors to the area who might be looking for a local church community.

9. Try Crowdfunding for Special Projects

When raising funds for special projects beyond your general operating expenses, try a crowdfunding platform like GoFundMe. This can be a great way to gather your community for a specific cause or project, like replacing old pews, adding a playground, or funding an upcoming mission trip.

Crowdfunding platforms can also be accessed from anywhere using a mobile device. So, leverage email marketing, mobile app push notifications, and text messages to drive your members to give during a specific time. Encourage your church members to share your funding page on social media for an even bigger impact.

10. Be Active on Social Media

Social media is a critical component of any marketing strategy. Don’t just conscript the closest teenager, though: seek out and attend webinars on effective social media campaigns for churches.

Developing and maintaining a content calendar is also crucial for social media success. Align yours with the liturgical calendar to quickly figure out what content you’ll need to publish at certain times of the year, then designate a special sub-group of your marketing team to handle consistent content creation and posting.You should also work with your marketing team to create a social media policy that includes your preferred tone and voice when posting on Facebook, X (formerly Twitter), Instagram, TikTok, and other platforms. You can also use Facebook Ads to amplify your message on Meta-owned properties like Facebook, Instagram, and Threads.

Use our drag-and-drop Church Template to create your own church app!

Content Ideas for Your New Marketing Plan

After reviewing the benefits, essential elements, and strategies around your church marketing materials, it’s time to develop content ideas. While we’ve discussed some specific marketing ideas already, here are some evergreen content springboards to help you brainstorm ideas for your podcasts, blog posts, newsletters, app notifications, and more.

  • Upcoming Events: Include interviews with those involved, highlighting why church and community members should attend. You can promote anything from Bible studies to a movie night.
  • New Service Times: Are you having seasonal worship times or partnering with other churches for special services? Promote these church services!
  • Volunteer Requests: Activities wouldn’t happen without volunteers, so encourage congregants to get involved.
  • Worship Team Spotlight: Help subscribers learn more about church leaders, lay personnel, and regular volunteers.
  • Ministry Updates: Grow engagement by updating people on what’s going on in your children’s, teen’s, women’s, and men’s ministry groups. What are you doing to help your local community encounter Jesus?
  • New Tools: When you launch a new social media account, mobile app feature, or other engagement tool, use your other channels to drive people to it.

Congratulations: now you’ve got the foundations to build a solid marketing strategy, content plan, marketing tools, and suggestions for reaching new audiences.As you continue your marketing journey, try a free 14-day Shoutem trial, a powerful tool that includes church app templates to kickstart your app-building efforts.

Church Marketing FAQ

  • Do churches need marketing?

    With declining attendance at weekly services nationwide, churches need a marketing focus more than ever. Church marketing activities drive community engagement, visibility and awareness, communication, outreach and evangelism, and fundraising.

  • How do you market and advertise a church?

    Churches market and advertise in many of the same ways as a traditional business – just with a different message. Instead of selling a product, the church connects its target audience to its community of faith and God. Websites, social media, custom mobile apps, and text messaging are modern marketing tactics churches use to promote church events and initiatives.

  • Where do churches advertise?

    While churches of larger denominations may cooperate with the larger group for national advertising, most local churches advertise in their community. This can involve traditional marketing efforts like newspapers, radio, billboards, TV, and word-of-mouth. It also includes digital efforts like social media marketing, a website, SEO, and mobile communications.