These days, I rarely meet anyone that thinks having a website isn’t at least a little bit important for their church.
It meets people where they are, shows off a little bit of the church, and — most importantly — teaches the Gospel in a passive way. People can come, listen, learn, and move on.
Mention the importance of content marketing for churches, on the other hand, and I’m usually met with blank stares.
“Content what for who?” They say.
I get it. It’s not a super popular term, but believe me when I tell you it might be the single most impactful thing your church ever does online.
I know that’s a big statement. Allow me to back it up.
What is Content Marketing?
In a nutshell, content marketing is the creation and distribution of content with the goal of using it to attract an audience for your brand.
That may not seem like something a church should be interested in.
After all, we’re not (or, at least shouldn’t be) interested in making our local church the largest it can be. If we were, we would use scummy church marketing tactics and manipulative language just to get people to walk through the door.
What we are interested in though is getting people to focus on Jesus. We want to use the internet to teach people about Him with the goal of them taking action based on that information.
We can do that through blogs, video devotionals, e-courses, email snippets, tweets, podcasts, or even — dare I say it — virtual reality. The whole world is ready to learn more about God. It’s our job to create the content for it.
Why is Content Marketing for Churches Important?
Despite how it may seem, most churches are not interested in creating content ideas for their websites. A glance through local non-denominational churches in your area probably provide a ton of information about an upcoming event, but virtually no content that is just straightforward and informational.
Here’s an example of a local church where I live. On the main page is a list of upcoming events, such as a Men’s Breakfast and local retreat.
Scan the menu bar and you’ll see links taking you to their staff directory, purpose page, a ministry page, and an online giving portal.
You know what you don’t see? A blog.
This isn’t a unique phenomenon. Punch in the keyword “church” plus any random “city, state” and you’ll see something similar.
Here’s one in Boise, Idaho.
Here’s another in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
And for good measure, a church in Tampa, Florida.
My point isn’t to necessarily disparage any of these churches (although I would argue “Monthly Coffee Night” isn’t very high on God’s radar when it comes to evangelism).
The idea is to point out the enormous opportunity that presents itself right now inside of digital evangelism.
The internet is inherently a content-delivery machine, and yet very few churches are actually creating any content. Instead, they’re relying on other forms of local SEO to drive visibility.
(To be fair, many of them do have a slot where you can watch a recent sermon, but that’s pretty low-hanging fruit in my opinion).
If you take the time to create a well-rounded content strategy for your church, you’ll not only watch your traffic numbers skyrocket, but you’ll also play a huge role in the spiritual education of billions of internet users.
Those people have to learn the Truth from someone, and if your church members claim to follow the Bible, it should absolutely be from you.
Content Marketing for Churches: 4 Reasons Why It’s So Important
By a country mile, the reason I’m so passionate about content marketing for churches is because of the enormous opportunity that lay before us.
Since local churches are not churning out content to teach people the Gospel, we have a wide-open lane to dominate that space. We should take advantage of it.
But there are other reasons why I care so much about content as part of a church marketing strategy. Here are a few that come to mind.
Content Marketing is Cheaper than Paid Marketing
I really love paid ads. I think they’re a great way to force exposure for a local church into their immediate area, whether that’s to announce a meeting, show a video, or even to just make people aware of who we are.
The problem? Paid ads are expensive.
I’ve been running marketing campaigns for churches for years, and I’ve watched the costs continue to increase year over year. What used to be accomplished with a $200 budget for social media now requires almost twice that — or more, if you really want to make a dent.
In fact, Facebook’s average price per ad increased 47% year-over-year. Youtube’s jumped over 100%.
Those numbers aren’t going down anytime soon, especially in the current economic crisis that we’re in. Everyone — including churches — will be spending more to drive awareness.
Content marketing levels the playing field. With a strong content marketing strategy, you can create greater, more consistent awareness for pennies on the dollar. Instead of plunking down money every month for ads, you have an enormous freight train of organic traffic that almost can’t be stopped.
There’s an inverse relationship between content marketing and paid ads. The more you have of the former, the less you “need” the latter.
This presents a great opportunity for everyone — but especially smaller churches — to really position themselves well online.
Content Marketing is a Long-Term Play
In the parable of the Soils, Jesus talks about different people that will hear the Gospel (Matthew 13:3-9).
Some respond favorably, while others ignore it completely.
In the story, the second soil falls among the rocky thorns. The seed springs up, has no roots, is scorched by the sun, and dies.
That’s how a lot of conversions take place in the world today. People hear the Gospel and make an emotional decision to obey Him right then and there.
In theory, there’s really nothing wrong with that. We want people to make a decision. It’s what happened to the Ethiopian Eunich and the people on Pentecost.
They went from hearing the Gospel to obeying the Gospel in a matter of a few verses.
The problem with those often is that there are no roots put down. Because it’s an emotional decision to obey, it can often be an emotional decision to leave.
Content marketing allows people to learn, learn, and learn some more. It forces the person to read and study and critically think about subject on their schedule, making a decision when they’ve read enough.
Marketers call that process the “customer journey.” It’s the process of taking someone from awareness to decision through a series of pre-defined stages of content.
That journey is super valuable to help that person put down roots by way of thinking through their decision. It’s usually slower, but prayerfully, it’s more long-lasting.
Content Marketing Expands Beyond Your Local Area
Every church wants to rank first in their local search results.
The top spot means more visibility, which means more foot traffic and (hopefully) more studies. It’s the goal of everything we do here at Diakonos.
Content marketing, on the other hand, eschews the local search results in favor of a more wide-reaching target audience. Since great content is universally applicable, it doesn’t really matter if the person reading it lives in Bangladesh, or just around the corner from the church building.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of this point. We’re so conditioned in the United States to have a church building on every corner, that we sometimes forget that access to the Gospel can be more limited elsewhere.
In a country like Kenya, for example, someone may walk into an internet cafe and stumble across a blog post from a local church that talks about baptism. For some of them, this may be the very first time in their life they’ve heard about the cleansing power of believer’s baptism.
A lot of preachers are now corresponding with people overseas because of the work their church website is doing for them online. Youtube channels are started by people in third-world countries with the sole purpose of teaching those in their language about God.
That. Is. Huge.
Very few people think about the impact that their local church can make outside of their community. Trust me — you should.
Content Marketing Establishes Trust With Your Audience
Talk to any religious cynic on the streets today, and you’ll find many of them have a negative perception of the church.
Most of them, in their minds, are only concerned about getting people inside the building. It’s a business; nothing more, nothing less.
You and I know that that’s not the goal of the church. The point is not to get people in the doors and give them an emotional experience, but to spread the Good News about Christ.
As we’ve seen earlier, many churches aren’t doing that. The church’s reputation, in those cases, is well-deserved.
A church that focuses on the Gospel, on the other hand, carries much more weight. It’s not just about the giving and the attendance and the building — it’s about souls. People, I think, can recognize the difference pretty quick.
Content creation forces a church to explore their faith and explain their faith in a very vulnerable way. If there’s a Q&A section that handles tough or controversial verses, even better.
When people know what you believe and why you believe it, it establishes a deeper level of trust with the church visitors that walk through your doors. They’re not there for the entertainment; they’re there because of what you stand for.
That’s the type of attitude we want.
Content Marketing for Churches is the Future
I normally don’t like to deem things “the future” of anything, because it automatically makes me sound like a hype man.
And also, something out of a movie.
But in the future, content marketing is going to be the defining factor between churches. Many are simply too busy or uninterested to formulate a strong church marketing strategy, which leaves a great opening for churches who really believe in it to make their mark.
And unless everyone else all of a sudden embraces it, it’s a mark that should last for a long time.