"$2500 - We advertise our conference in numerous magazines, seminaries, state publications, etc. We would love to list you as one of our partners as our premier sponsor in all of our advertisements. This is a great way to diversify your marketing" (from 2010 FBC Jax Pastor's Conference Promotions Plan)
This is indeed the "church marketing" age. Churches large and small are employing techniques used for decades by businesses, to get the word out to the community about their ministry, to attract new prospects, and to entice people to come to their church.
This trend is accelerating, as mainline denominations like the SBC are losing members, and they see younger church members fleeing to the non-denominational churches, and there is more and more competition between a rapidly growing number of churches over a slowly growing "consumer base" of Christians. Mega churches especially are trying to stall this membership loss through spending hoards of money - money given by God's people for "ministry" - on things like marketing, advertising, and promotions to attract more nickels and noses to their church.
First Baptist Church Jacksonville was on the cutting edge of this trend back in the '80s as they began to advertise - putting billboards up around Jacksonville, and later, buying TV commercial time.
There are even consulting firms that exist today catering exclusively to the "marketing needs" of churches - offering services including website design and hosting, design of advertising and promotional pieces, design of sermon series and associated promotions and advertising. They will assist churches in applying the business model of market analysis and strategies: branding of churches (and pastors), identifying strategies to target specific market segments, etc.
While this is distasteful to many in Christendom, its nothing new and it has been embraced by almost all denominations.
But FBC Jax in the last 3 years seems to have broken new ground in this area.
It is one thing to implement marketing principles within a church to help it achieve its mission or to simply grow - which some have criticized as being unscriptural at its core - but its another thing altogether when the church employs marketing techniques to RAISE REVENUE through advertising within the church walls.
That is precisely what FBC Jax has been done with the Pastor's Conference - the very conference that was started nearly 30 years ago by Jerry Vines to help minister to pastors and let them see how things are done at FBC Jax - access to these pastor's eyes, ears, and wallets is now being sold.
They have gone beyond using church marketing services of the A-Group to entice people to come, and now have employed marketing AND promotions firms to assist them in SELLING advertising WITHIN the walls of the church to raise revenue by selling access to the eyes and ears of the attendees sitting in the pew.
For the past 2 Pastor's Conferences under Mac Brunson, an Atlanta-based marketing and promotions firm, called Conexus, has actually SOLD advertising "promotions packages", ranging in prices of $1000 to $12,000. What FBC Jax is selllng in these packages includes:
- display of ministry name in the image screens of the main auditorium
- display of videos highlighting the ministry on the image screens
- "Emcee" recognition of the ministry from the pulpit
- plugs for the sales of CDs
- placement of ministry logos on the church website
- listing of the ministry on the conference website
- mentioning of name in post-conference emails
And this is just the start.
This year, they've become even more brazen in the promotions for the 2010 Pastor's Conference, as now they are trying to sell for thousands of dollars the privilege to place the name of a ministry on bottled water, pens, and conference bags. Even the mentioning of a ministry name from the pulpit is "negotiable", according to their website.
Do the people of FBC Jax really want their leadership charging other Christian ministries $750 for the simple privilege of occupying an 8' x 10' section of our foyer to put up a display table? Is that what the faithful people did 20 and 30 years ago when they gave sacrificially to pay cash to build the RLA and Main auditorium: so Mac Brunson and the A-Group could then sell promotions packages in the auditorium? Did the people of FBC Jax give money to purchase image screens and all of the top-notch audio-visual equipment so Trey Brunson could sell to Christian ministries for thousands of dollars the privilege of displaying their ministry logo or so the "emcee" could speak the name of a ministry to the audience after they have negotiated the appropriate fee with Trey and Maurilio?
I don't know about you, but as a Southern Baptist, and knowing the influence that FBC Jax has, and the respect that Mac Brunson has with churches all over the SBC, I'm worried when I see FBC Jax breaking new ground in this area. What a terrible precedent that I hope others don't follow.
In a few upcoming articles I will discuss some of these FBC Jax tactics to raise revenue, why they are a terrible idea, and I will contrast this with how the Southern Baptist Convention handles the matters of promotions and vendors at their annual convention. Instead of FBC Jax having something to teach the SBC, its the other way around in this case.
Until the next article, I will leave you with a Homer Lindsay, Jr. quote:
"God's plan was never for man to use worldly schemes to raise money for the spread of His message. God did not plan for His churches to have sales, dinners, raffles or bazaars to raise money...Such schemes are a shame and a disgrace to the church and certainly can never be pleasing to the Lord" (Homer Lindsay, Jr, "Spiritual Helps for the New Member", 1969).
Did Homer say that? You better believe he did. And if he were here today, he'd say it again.