As a professional marketer I understand the power of advertising, promotion, public relations and the various ways of placing product in front of the public to increase awareness and sales. Put simply, it’s all about making enough memorable, repeated exposures so when consumers consider purchasing a product in your category they’ll remember yours and make a purchase that adds to your bottom line. 

This last week I read a book review in Advertising Age for Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age. Although I haven’t yet read the book the topic certainly got my attention. I’ve been thinking lately about how churches should market themselves, and although I’ve not developed any iron clad theories it seems the Bible’s idea of people sharing the good news with each other is a great way to start. 

Two things in this review especially caught my attention: The first was this, The book’s author, Mara Einstein calls religion a “commodity … packaged and sold the same way as other marketed goods and services.” To me that implies there is money to be made which seems to be somewhat of a mockery. While I hope people don’t view religion or God as a commodity my fear is that many may. Second, the author states that, “If spiritual hunger isn’t driving people to the big-box style of worship, then eventually the religious consumer is “going to feel disappointed.” This is a statement I agree with.

While I believe God can use a wide variety of ways to create spiritual hunger, I question the long term effectiveness of slick campaigns or exposure events. Sure, they may produce quicker results than people sharing the good news with each other one at a time but I’m not convinced the result is as long-lasting as what might be possible otherwise. In addition, once this pattern begins what needs to happen to maintain momentum? Does the weekly battle to “top the previous week” only further erode the real value of the gospel and increase the level of commoditization? 

What are your thoughts?

In the late 80’s I was Worship Pastor in a brand new church in Phoenix, AZ. One Sunday I created quite a buzz when I walked on stage and opened the service by singing the theme song from Cheers. The premise was simple and straightforward: Sometimes you want to go, where everybody knows your name. We sincerely wanted people to think of our church whenever they thought about hanging out with friends; with people who knew their name. While singing this song in church doesn’t seem all that creative 20 years later, I still think it represents a worthwhile goal for a church to pursue.

I’m reading a book called Microtrends. It’s a fascinating look at emerging trends around the world and the implications of those trends for our lives. The author cites a trend of organized religion being on the rise but it is now switching over to what he calls the Starbucks economy and the growth of the Mini-Church. These Mini-Churches (could also be called Boutique Churches) are “tailored to as many individual preferences as we can come up with. These days you can choose your faith, and your prayer community in practically as many varieties as you can choose your morning coffee.”

As I’ve thought about this I’ve wondered what would happen if this trend grew from a micro trend to a much more major trend. This could have a major impact on the church landscape in this country. What if churches were much more boutique in nature and catered to small niches of people. Not only would those who attend know everyone else’s name but they’d probably know much more about one another. On one hand I’m not sure this is all bad. From another perspective this only further supports the consumeristic tendencies so much of the American church landscape leans toward. From still another point of view this could lead to small, elitist churches where only certain people feel welcomed and comfortable.

So, what are your thoughts on these so-called Boutique Churches? Good thing, bad thing? Could it ultimately attract more people to Christ, or just shuffle the already convinced around from boutique to boutique? What do you think this trend could bring about?