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  • Practicing Congregation: Marketing the Church? by Tim Moore

    by Tim Moore

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    Your church can have the best choir in your city and a youth group that teenagers love and a pastor who can preach like Barbara Brown Taylor, but unless you are doing something to connect with people beyond your church walls the only people who are going to know about it are already in your congregation. The days of attracting church visitors by just having those things are over. They’ve been over for quite some time, but churches have been slow to realize this.

    Just as few people join a bowling league, a masonic lodge, the Rotary Club, or a neighborhood garden club much any more, so few decide to get up early and visit a church on Sunday. This does not mean no one would want to join a church in your area, but to get them to visit, regularly attend, and become a part of your church the congregation will somehow have to make a connection with them. Society has changed, which means that “business as usual” can be a death knell for a congregation.

    This is not so easy for liberal or progressive congregations. Evangelism has been done in such manipulative ways the past few generations that many of us have run from the word. In addition the idea of conversion in our growing multi-cultural society carries with it supremacist components. The word “evangelism” simply means “to announce good news.” And Alliance congregations have a good story to tell. Living during the Trump administration, where immigrants are demonized, the environment is threatened, the poor are jeopardized, and racial tensions increased, progressive Christianity has a word of hope to offer our communities.

    Many people are seeking a faith community that is inclusive, affirming, and committed to social and environmental justice. There is just one problem. Most of them do not know they can find that behind a Baptist label.

    Does your church have a marketing plan? Or an outreach or evangelism plan, if you like those words better? What is the word of hope, the good news, your congregation offers your community? And how do you tell that story to others?

    If your church builds Habitat houses, or serves at a community soup kitchen, or homeless ministry, or school partnership for at-risk kids, how often do you partner with others beyond your church walls to serve in these ways? People not sure about attending worship may be very willing to serve their community. And then who knows what might happen when church people and non-church people become friends?

    Your church has good news to announce. How will you do it?

    Tim Moore holds the title of writer-in-residence at Sardis Baptist Church, Charlotte, N.C., where he was pastor for 19 years. Tim and his wife, Magay Shepard, are the proud parents of teenage triplets, Abby, Hannah and Michael. He holds degrees from Princeton Theological Seminary, Alliance partner Andover Newton Theological School, and Mars Hill College. He returns to the Alliance board, where he served in the early 1990s.