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Why does The United Methodist Church advertise?

Laura Buchanan
April 5, 2017

Advertising has been part of The United Methodist Church’s marketing plan for 15 years. Whether seen in a newspaper, on television or on a computer screen, denominational ads build awareness of the church and extend a message of welcome to seekers — individuals who are not committed to a church yet are searching for deeper meaning in life.

United Methodist Communications is dedicated to creating innovative, research-based advertising campaigns that reach out to a world in need of hope. Advertisements invite people to visit RethinkChurch.org so that they can explore their spirituality, learn more about the denomination, sign up for a seeker-focused e-newsletter and search for a nearby United Methodist congregation to connect with a community of faith.

Advertisements are national, regional, local and hyperlocal, and they reach out to a diverse audience.

“Advertising and media have an important role, because we want to make sure the positive perception about the church continues to increase,” said Poonam Patodia, chief marketing officer at United Methodist Communications.

Their Words. Our Beliefs.

The 2017 advertising campaign captures the innocence of children.

“We’re talking to kids about what they know about faith and what their experience of God and church has been. To see God’s love through the eyes of children is a wonderful experience,” said Jennifer Rodia, chief communications officer at United Methodist Communications.

In the first set of advertisements, children share their thoughts about what it means to have open hearts, minds and doors. According to research from the Barna Group, three-quarters of seekers — especially Gen-Xers, marrieds and women — find the denomination’s “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors.” tagline appealing.

Local church partnerships

United Methodist congregations directly benefit from the denomination’s work to build awareness and seeker interest. As people search for a way to connect to The United Methodist Church, they will likely begin by learning more about the congregation nearest them.

Local churches can take advantage of the heightened familiarity brought about by the advertising campaign by partnering with United Methodist Communications in several ways:

  1. Seekers can visit Find-A-Church.org to discover information about churches in their zip code. Local churches should update their profile so that it contains the latest details about worship times, ministry offerings, website address and contact information. To begin, church leaders can go to the Find-A-Church website, search for their local church, select the church’s profile, scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Update Church Information.”
     
  2. Seasonal resources available during Lent and Advent carry the national advertising messages. Churches who utilize the resources are making a direct connection between their congregation and the ads that potential visitors have seen on television or the web. A suite of postcards, door hangers, social media assets, worship service graphics, and invitation cards bolster community outreach efforts. In 2017, Advent resources will be further expanded, enhancing invitational opportunities for churches that choose to embrace the messaging of the campaign.
     
  3. Campaign videos are available for local church use. Videos shown during events and worship services can help attendees to become familiar with the advertising theme and the outreach capabilities of the messages. Incorporating the videos on social media channels makes them sharable — a digital invitation is an easy way for congregants to ask people to visit their church.
     
  4. Congregations can incorporate the ad campaign into children’s ministry efforts. Often, children are less inhibited when inviting people to church, and many times, a child’s desire to attend church will lead their parents to a place of worship on Sunday morning. Children could write notes of invitation on postcards mailed to neighbors, given to friends or placed in nearby businesses. The concept can also be extended as a digital invitation by capturing children’s thoughts about faith in a video series for social media channels and worship services.

There are more than 32,000 United Methodist churches in the U.S. that are seeking to make disciples of Christ for the transformation of the world, and a national advertising campaign is a unified effort to support all of them.