Featured Articles: Keeping up with Techno-change Evangel Assembly goes International with its Outreach Marketing Matters - Step One in the Marketing Process
Keeping up with Techno - Change
The world of technology continues to change, but many houses of worship are not keeping up with their increasingly tech-savvy attendees. The result could be lack of growth or even loss of membership to other houses of worship that use the new technologies to get their message out.
Most houses of worship use some electronic systems to enhance communication with the congregation even with just the use of a microphone.Others have realized the importance of integrating multi-media systems such as audio, video, lighting and acoustic components.After all, if people can’t hear it or see the message, they obviously can’t respond to.
Now, a much more sophisticated use of technology is being utilized, not just to communicate with the membership there for the service, but also to reach those who are not.
Currently, many houses of worship use audio tapes of the service.But tapes are going the way of record players and soon very few of the congregation will have access to tape players.The new wave is CDs, not only of the sermon but, in some cases, of the entire service.
Technology is currently available that would allow Saturday or Sunday school teachers and students to plug into USB ports in the classrooms in order to “tune” in to parts of the service with the rest of the congregation.
These same classrooms could be equipped with multi-media applications that would enhance teenagers’ educational experience in other ways…enlivening their religious studies with music and visuals as well as providing them with opportunities to create their own applications by developing audiovisual religious materials in conjunction with their studies.
While some houses of worship have chosen to tape their sermons and distribute them via radio broadcast, new technologies allow them to distribute their message in other more modern ways.Houses of worship could broadcast services live on their websites which could be watched in the home at the time of the broadcast or downloaded onto personal CDs, iPods and MP-3 players for viewing or listening at another time.
This broader reach could help the elderly, the sick and the just plain busy, receive both sight and sound without leaving home. This new technology also allows members to save favorite sermons for later review or study.
While some may argue that all this outreach may keep people away from being active participants of the congregation, others point out that the sense of community, and need for spiritual companionship, will always drive people to attend services and other functions related to houses of worship. This new technology is a important way of enhancing overall religious life by supplementing the congregations’ experience with dynamic interaction.
Evangel Assembly Goes International with its Outreach
Every month Wardergroup features an article about one of the churches we helped with their new construction/addition project.This month’s story is about Evangel Assembly of God of Camp Springs, whose outreach program reaches international proportions.
“We believe in the power of Christ and people can help God do God’s work”
“Often we get back as much as we receive; sometimes even more.You feel, man, how can I not do this?”
Evangel Assembly of God is doing God’s work, indeed, with a $225,000 outreach program to almost 20 locations in the USA and around the world. 155 church members actively participate in the missionary work.People give up vacations to do what God sends them to do. Even teenagers as young as 13 can go on missions in the USA.
In order to answer the question of how all this got started we need to go back several decades to when the hand of God reached out and grabbed a young person living in an impoverished world.Pastor St. Clair Mitchell was a young man then, living in Dominica, a relatively poor Caribbean island just north of St. Lucia. A missionary had arrived there to help work with the poor people of the sea. That missionary had also arrived under the influence of a Godly vision.The vision was one word, and that word was the word, “Mitchell”.
That missionary befriended St. Clair Mitchell, and with the support, blessing and encouragement of Rev. James Belle, (Mitchell’s Pastor), eventually brought him to the United States, educated him and put him through bible school.The rest, as they say, is history.
Now, Pastor Mitchell heads a church of about 650 members in Camp Springs, Maryland. The church entrance and sanctuary are lined with flags and pictures indicating the various nationalities of the congregation and the countries they are helping with construction, preaching or a combination of the two.
Some examples of work in the United States include:
House of Ruth, a shelter for abused women and their children.Evangel Assembly is one of their principal supporters.
Martha’s Table, which provides food for the homeless.Evangel Assembly spends $400 per month on just peanut butter. Every Saturday, 3000 sandwiches are made.
West Virginia. Evangel Assembly does a lot of work out in the Appalachian region supporting two full time missionaries who help families in need. They also run a Vacation Bible School.
Alabama. Evangel Assembly goes into the poorest areas, helping with their water/sewer needs, repairing unlivable homes, building playgrounds and installing handicapped ramps.
In New Mexico, Evangel Assembly works to help the Navajos.They built a community center which provides basic services like showers and laundry.They also do missionary work there.
Internationally, Evangel Assembly goes to seven or eight countries to help, depending on the need. Suggestions on where to go are submitted by committee and approved by the congregation each year.Some decisions to help are based on unexpected, urgent need.
Evangel Assembly spent money in Zambia on a well and new soccer equipment.Their outreach in Haiti is ministry work. In the Philippines they work with the Philippines’ version of Habitat for Humanity; building homes for the homeless. In Nicaragua, they built a church high in the mountains.In Mexico, Evangel Assembly built a feeding station specifically so that hungry children might eat. Assistance goes to the Pastor’s former home country of Dominica.Two orphanages are supported in Uganda; one of them is exclusively for infants.
According to Associate Pastor Eric Dorsey, one of the most powerful trips was to Indonesia in 2005, after the Tsunami. 155 thousand lives were lost when a 35 foot wave crashed eight miles inland,destroying everything in its path.When Pastor Dorsey arrived with others on the mission, pink body bags lined every road.The group from Evangel Assembly stayed there for 13 days, assembling and then running a generating station which supplied electricity to part of the devastated area so that other relief efforts could take place.
Associate Pastor Dorsey says they have often joined forces with people of differing religious backgrounds in order to perform their missionary work. And, in Indonesia, the people they were helping were predominately of the Muslim faith.Members of the congregation were even advised that it would be dangerous for them to try to convert anyone to Christianity. Pastor Dorsey says that the Muslims knew that they were Christians, though, because they could hear them talking among themselves. As Pastor Dorsey says, most eloquently, “We didn’t go there to convert. We went there to be a blessing.”
Whether they go as a blessing of assistance or a blessing of preaching the faith, Pastor Dorsey says “the church has been seen in a negative light for too long.It is up to us to change that by changing what has made people see us that way.”Outreach is us being there to do our part. We have confidence that God will do his.”
Marketing Matters - Step One in the Market Process!
This is the first in an ongoing series of articles on marketing and public relations, by Alice Maguire, Marketing & Business Development Director for Warder & Associates, Inc.
I have learned more than a few tricks as a seasoned marketing specialist for Wardergroup, as well as other companies over the years, and thought this might be a good opportunity to give a few pointers to those who have traditionally shied away from self promotion; in other words, houses of worship.
There are a number of reasons why houses of worship traditionally don’t market themselves.
Their focus is on God, outreach and pastoral care, rather than on the basics of church growth and how marketing strategy can affect that growth.
They often don’t have trained specialists who can formulate a comprehensive marketing strategy or set up a plan to implement that strategy.
To a great many behind the pulpit, marketing, advertising, and public relations seems un-humble, somehow.Self promotion just doesn’t seem like part of God’s work.
But look at the bible.Now, there is a monument to branding and self promotion!Even people who are not religious know what the bible is and no one can say that they have never heard of God.
All congregations need to grow, if for no other reason than to replace older members who have passed on.All congregations need young, dynamic members to serve the needs of the elderly and disadvantaged, engage in community outreach, bring new ideas into the community of faith and benefit from the wisdom and teaching of the ministers in charge.
In some cases it is simply a matter of survival.In other cases a congregation has split off from the larger group and seeks to establish itself on its own.In all cases the house of worship wants to positively interact with and engage the surrounding community.What better way than marketing.
The first step is to determine how you would describe the focus of your house of worship?
One church we worked with focuses on inclusion and international outreach.Its lobby is lined with the flags of all the countries where they have sent youth groups, given assistance to and have a reciprocal relationship with.This international outreach doesn’t define them totally, but it is a wonderful focus for a marketing effort.
A synagogue we are building is located in an area of the county where there are no other places for them to worship.Their focus is getting the word out that, at last, there will be a place for teaching and reflection.
Another congregation is located in a very disadvantaged neighborhood.Their goal would be to showcase themselves as a sanctuary for those who have previously chosen the hard life of the streets over the healing comfort of faith.
Yet another has started a dynamic youth program which they hope will keep the current population of young people attending throughout their teen years.
So, the first step in developing a marketing strategy is…
Find your focus. It doesn’t have to be all of who you are.But it does have to be the message you are trying to get out.
In marketing language this focus is call Product Differentiation.Given the fact that in many ways houses of worship are similar, your focus is one way you can illustrate a difference that helps the worshiping community choose you.