Marketing has long been considered a dirty word for churches. It’s a topic that many people feel just doesn’t belong within a spiritual environment. But good marketing supported by sound research has the power to put action behind vision and re-energize a church and its community. And the best part for churches in the West Virginia Conference? The resources are at your fingertips.
First United Methodist in Williamstown is one church that is using marketing data to help define the church’s vision as well as identify areas of need within the community. Wanting to do a better job of fulfilling the church’s mission of making disciples, FUMC’s church council reached out for guidance from Ken Willard, the conference’s director of Discipleship, Leadership, and Congregational Vitality.
The first step was completing a local church self-study, a process that helps a church better understand where the congregation has been, where it is now, and where God is calling it to go as a ministry. A comprehensive exercise, the study pulls together information from umdata.org, the individual church’s history, input from church and community leaders, and a review of topics like the church’s parking and signage, Sunday worship, and children’s ministry.
FUMC also used the MissionInsite tool to collect marketing and demographic data about the Williamstown community. Leaders learned that there are 8,458 people within a 1.5-mile radius of the church building, and they gained insight as to age, household and income trends, marital status, education levels, and more. The church plans to use this information to help guide decisions on mission projects, children’s programs, hospitality, and discipleship offerings.
For example, FUMC’s MissionInsite revealed that a high percentage of the people within its mission field are single, so the church is looking at ways to reach this demographic through things like small groups. In addition, church leaders learned that more than 2,650 people in the community are age 55 or older.
This information, coupled with input from the town’s mayor in the church self-study on the desire for more opportunities for seniors, has prompted the church to think about its current senior programs, how to improve them, and how to encourage participation.
While FUMC is in the very early stages of this process, church leaders say they are excited about what God has in store for the future, and how the information gained from this research will help them make sound decisions across the entire church. The church’s next step will be to develop a way to measure the outcome and success of any new programs or adjustments to current offerings and practices.
These are just some of the ways one church is using data to plan its next steps. Churches interested in using these and other resources are encouraged to check out the conference’s Congregational Vitality website.
Jennifer Greene is a Marketing Professional and the District Communications Coordinator for the Little Kanawha District.