Trish Fisher is an Associate Professor of Marketing in the Department of Business and Management at Vanguard University and is Chair of the Business Degree Program for working adults. Trish shares her practical suggestions for maximizing the use of the Sunday sermon message.
It’s Saturday night and you’re in your office, going over your Sunday sermon one more time. You’ve spent hours praying about the sermon series, researching the text, and thinking through relevant images, stories, and anecdotes to help bring your points to life in a meaningful way. While the message you have so prayerfully developed is powerful and the goal is to reach and share this Good News with as many people as possible, too often your work ends up as a one-Sunday message reaching only those hearers gathered at your church building.
Maybe a simple marketing approach can help accomplish the greater goal: to reach more people.
(After all, you’ve already done the work.)
I know—marketing is that discipline that often seems to create a divide among people. They either value and appreciate its benefits, or they think it’s salesmanship at its worst, just a broad array of strategies designed to manipulate people into buying things they don’t really need or want. But marketing at its core is about reaching people with a message, and meeting consumer needs and wants—and our greatest need is to hear and respond to that Message (and that Savior!) through whom the Holy Spirit will transform us into people whose needs and wants align with God’s eternal desires for us. (And Paul, for that matter, knew something about reaching people with a message: “But how can people call for help if they don’t know who to trust? And how can they know who to trust if they haven’t heard of the One who can be trusted? And how can they hear if nobody tells them?” (Romans 10:14, The Message)
What might the apostle Paul have done had he lived in a digital age? Would he not have embraced the opportunity to reach many more with communication and promotion vehicles such as instagram, snapchat, twitter, and blogs? Paul was willing to pay any price to reach people with the gospel; as a marketer I like to think Paul would have been so zealous in his evangelistic goals that he would have been open-minded to innovative ways to broaden the reach of his messages.
Here are a few marketing tools and strategies discussed in current marketing texts and promoted by various bloggers and church websites. Consider these as options that might help you use your Sunday message in additional ways to reach a broader segment of all those who need and want to hear the Good News:
- Take a few paragraphs from the sermon, add an introductory sentence and closing though, and use it as a future blog
- Transcribe and reprint the sermon audio version in the church newsletter
- Upload both the audio and print versions to the church website
- Take a few key sentences and use them over several weeks on Twitter
- Use the content of a sermon series as the basis for Bible study lessons and discussions or a teaching class or a weekend retreat
- Take a few key points from the sermon and send out on a post card or direct mailer to a particular zip code near the church
- Take a sermon series and turn it into chapters in a book—get published!
- Make audio copies of the sermon and give it to visitors; get a list of new house sales in the area and deliver a welcome basket that includes a sermon cd/reprint
- Email the written sermon (and link to the audio version on the church website) to the church database; encourage church members to forward the sermon link to their Facebook friends with an invitation to read/listen and then call to discuss ( keep track of Facebook’s changing policies as to how many people it reaches)
- Video the sermon, upload to You Tube, put the link on the church website, email the link
- Use some parts of the sermon as an email devotional
- Engage in an online discussion on the sermon message
There was a time when the preacher could reach only as many as could immediately hear his/her voice, but today we gladly utilize the airwaves around the world to reach people everywhere. There was a time when Paul’s written instruction could reach only people within earshot of someone reading from the scrolls he had written to the churches; the Church was quick to utilize Gutenberg’s printing press to reach a far broader audience. God knows the other side is marketing like crazy to reach the masses today; may God help us to be wise in the ways we use current marketing tools and strategies.
For those of you who have been called to the mighty task of preaching, and teaching, and evangelizing, and working to “encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing”, (1 Thessalonians 5:11) know that you are appreciated!