Marketing God

Large billboards towering over busy highways. Catchy phrases on flashy t-shirts. Even television ads streaming into living rooms across Edmond, all seemingly marketing God. Is this the means of mega-Churches’ growth explosion?

“Not for us,” said Matt Anderson, Associate Pastor of Crossings Church. “The marketing for this church is more information than it is an attraction. The marketing of this church happens when the people of the church operate like a church should operate. The book of Acts tells about the birth of the church. How did they get their message out? They didn't send out fliers, they were simply what Christ called them to be.”

Okay, but in these days of large churches that are currently in the process of opening multiple campuses, the means to promote itself has got to be huge.

“That's not always true. How we package the message is not important. It is the fact that it is the message and it doesn't change,” said Kim Swyden, Executive Pastor at Henderson Hills Baptist Church. “In the past we have had billboards and even a television spot. As it turns out, over 80 percent of our attendees said they were invited by a friend or family member.”

Well then, how about a church that has twelve different campuses in six states?

“What has worked best for us is just word of mouth. Instead of elaborate advertising campaigns we are taking our advertising dollars and creating effective advertising tools for our volunteers,” said Katie Moore, Director of Communications and Public Relations of LifeChurch.tv.“We get them involved and fulfill their needs and as a result, we get people coming to church.”

These three churches are all witnessing record attendance. In some form or another they are all expanding in capacity. Each church offers Internet feeds of their messages and all three are experiencing astounding numbers of hits on their individual websites. What does the future potentially hold for these churches?

“The Apostle Paul posed a question, 'How are they going to know if they don't hear, and how are they going to hear if somebody doesn't tell them?'” said Swyden. “Our DNA at Henderson Hills is to teach the truth of the Bible. This results in people's growth and we see that growth everyday. This is what we desire to continue to do.”

Matt Anderson of Crossings agreed.

“Everybody has faith in something. Even those who don't believe in God have taken a leap of faith,” he said. “Our future is wherever God will lead us, and whatever His will is so that we can lead people to Christ and the ways of Christ.”

There is a unanimous agreement among the churches.

“We began in what is basically a two-car garage. We certainly know what it is like to be a small church,” said Moore, referring to LifeChurch.tv. “Today we have over 22,000 attenders each week, and that is a very humbling number. However, at the end of the day, we want to make sure that we’re God focused and not LifeChurch.tv focused.”

There is a popular belief that large churches use their enormous budgets to bring in large numbers of people. This proved not to be true. There is also the belief that these churches would not work with each other—to help each other grow. Again, this is not true.  In fact it was demonstrated by two of the churches.

“When we were led in the direction of opening up a second campus in Stillwater, we went to LifeChurch.tv to learn the do's and don'ts on how to open up a second campus,” said Swyden, of Henderson Hills. “We were amazed at how willing they were to help us all along the way on how to get our mechanics lined out for a smoother launch.” Henderson Hills will be opening their Stillwater campus this month

Each person interviewed for this story understands that large churches are not for everybody. They understand that some people prefer a contemporary type of worship while others prefer a traditional service with hymns. Perhaps Matt Anderson sums it up best.

“Worship is an expression toward God. Some people need that to be in a set pattern and some people prefer it to be in a more free style. What's important is that there is worship.”

Information about Crossings Church can be found at www.crossingsokc.org. Henderson Hills Baptist Church can be found at www.hhbc.com, and LifeChurch.tv can be found at www.lifechurch.tv

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