Self-Promotion: The Good, The Bad & The Unexpected

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by Benny Perez

There is an inherent tension in ministry that every pastor and leader must eventually face. It is the conflict between two ideals: the need to get our messages out – to expand the boundaries of our ministries, which may be perceived as self-promotion – and that of humility – absolute faith in God’s ability to establish and promote us.

I have yet to meet a pastor that takes an apathetic approach to their ministry. As pastors and leaders, we feel an urgency to get our messages to as many people as we can. We want to impact our cities. We want to impact our regions. Many pas-tors I know feel that their mes-sage belongs at a national level, or even an international level. Yet many of the same pastors do not want to promote themselves or be perceived as promoting themselves. So, there is an inner wrestling that takes place.

Scriptural y, we are taught to let another man’s lips praise us and not our own. We are admonished to look after one another interests – and to not think too highly of ourselves. We know that it is God who raises one up and sets another down. So, is there a place for marketing and branding
within the Church? What if you could embrace both ideals? Can marketing be successful without being self-centered? What if these two ideals are not actually in conflict? What if they can be in concert with each other and even compliment one another?

I believe there is a balanced approach between the two! I call it the BOTH/AND approach to ministry – a way to live and minister in between the extremes.

Marketing and branding are two words that most pastors find intimidating. If you are a pastor, you have probably spent the majority of your time developing your message. You’ve developed your skill in articulating the gospel. You’ve probably attended conferences and purchased resources that equip you to do what you feel called to do. But, have you also found yourself utterly frustrated as you realize that, no matter how anointed you are, or how deep your message is, you haven’t been able reach a broader audience? To reach the people you know NEED to hear the message you have been given?

Let’s break down these two words. Marketing may be simply defined as using available media venues to clearly communicate the value of what you are offering. In light of this definition, let me ask you something. Is the gospel of value? Is your message and understanding of what God has revealed to you of value? Is it important for people to clearly understand what you have been given?

Branding, on the other hand, is defined as this: it is the marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that clearly identifies and differentiates one product from another. It is identifying what makes your church or ministry unique. What is your church good at? What can people expect when they come? Do you focus on family or is your strength in music? Would you describe your preaching as passionate or more like a teaching style?

Here is a truth that I have realized. Every day you live, you are creating your brand. You may not be aware of or conscious of this branding, but you are always actively creating your brand. You are known for something. If you took a survey, people that have attended your church would easily identify your strengths and weaknesses. And the answers may surprise you! The scary thing is this – if you are not aware, you may be establishing your brand on accident, instead of on purpose. The result: a brand that you didn’t mean to create, attracting an accidental audience – or worse yet, repelling your intended audience!

So let’s deal with this idea of self-promotion. Is marketing inherently self promotion? I do not believe that it is. Yes, it can be when it is used simply to make your self known. But here is the litmus test: do you believe God has given you a message or did you create it yourself? Did God call you or did you call your-self? Does God want the message He entrusted to you to touch the masses? I believe we are called by God! And if the message (the gospel) and calling are from God, then you are NOT promo-ting yourself. You are promo-ting THE Message! By branding and marketing, you are simply identifying the value of your message, and what it is that you bring to the message that makes it unique! Ultimately, only God can determine the secret motives of your heart, but I believe we must be deliberate in our branding and marketing. With all the social media and marketing opportunities available to us
today (and many of them FREE), it would be a travesty for us, as the Church, to fall behind!

Now that we have defined the difference between promo-ting yourself and promoting the Message, here are seven keys to marketing and branding that will help you and your church be more deliberate -without apology:

Decide who your target audience is. Do you want to reach families? Singles? Is there an age range or demographic you feel called to? Once you know your target audience, your marketing strategy narrows automatically. Who do you feel called to reach?

What are the best ways to reach your audience? If your demographic is young singles, you want to find looks and venues that appeal to that audience, like Facebook. If you are ministering to an older demographic, twitter and Facebook may not be as effective, but for younger audiences, you must use these venues – and they are free! Does your audience read newspapers, prefer mailers, or watch TV? This will automatically help you to know where to invest for the greatest amount of time, energy and money.

Be consistent. If your target audience is the young, hipster crowd, is your music young and hip? Is the decor of your church consistent with this vibe? If you want families, do you have a great children’s program? Be consistent. From the moment people visit to the time that they leave, they should not be con-fused by what they experience. The branding should be consistent from the parking lot to the pew!

Be yourself. Make sure you don’t falsely advertise what you and your church are able to deliver. If you are a deep teacher, don’t try to be a passionate preacher. What God has given you is adequate for what He has called you to do! Be confident in who you are and own it!

Don’t compare. The trap is to look at what someone else is doing and then, try to imitate that. The downfall is that com-paring is a dead end – and Paul warns that comparison isn’t an accurate measure anyway – so don’t even start down this road! It is a dead end – trust me!

DO rip, borrow and imitate! This may seem to contradict the 5th key, but you should seek out other people who are like you, and are doing what you want to do. Don’t compare, but let what they are doing inspire you! The-re is no reason to reinvent the wheel! A great quote I’ve heard is “Good artists borrow. Great artists steal!” So, expose your-self to other like churches and preachers! The reality is, it all comes from God and it is all unto His Kingdom.

Expand your staff. One necessary staff member you didn’t have to consider before, but is a must have now, is a Marketing or Communications Director. In a ‘wired world,’ you simply can-not afford to neglect social media venues that are available. Most of these are free and the gene-rations coming up do not know life – or are able to function – without them! You focus on your message and let your Marketing Director create ways to get that message into the hands of the masses.

I believe with every ounce of my being, that we have been entrusted with the greatest message on the planet. I believe that the message of the gospel must be heard. I believe that we are all gifted in different ways to articulate this incredible message, be-cause we are all called to reach an incredibly diverse audience! And I believe we can be BOTH humble, allowing God to promote us, AND clearly define our strengths, so we can reach the people we are called to reach.

It does not compromise the gospel to market the message. Marketing makes the message of the gospel accessible to thousands and thousands of people! Marketing and branding bring the message into this modern, ‘wired’ world!

You can embrace BOTH. You can excel as an anointed minister AND you can clearly define what makes your style unique. What God has given you is important and valuable. Use what is available to you, and get the Message God has entrusted to you, out there!

Benny Perez is the Lead and Co-founding Pastor at The Church at South Las Vegas, and author of the Amazon Best-Selling ebook, BOTH/AND: Ministering in Between Life’s Extremes. To order your copy, visit www.bothandbook.com or amazon.com. To connect with Benny Perez, visit www.benny-perez.org.