In response to precipitously declining numbers, some liberal denominations are turning to professional ad campaigns to try to draw young people in…
Ad campaigns invite people to church
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Shrinking mainline Protestant denominations are turning to marketing to help stem decades of membership losses and stay afloat.
The United Methodist Church recently unveiled a $20 million rebranding effort aimed at attracting younger members to the large but diminishing Protestant group. The new ads will appear over the next four years as part of the denomination's "Rethink Church" campaign.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has invested nearly $1.2 million over the past two years launching a similar branding effort based on the theme, "God's Work, Our Hands."
The denominations are trying to bounce back from losses that began in the mid-1960s.
From 1990 to 2008 alone, mainline Protestants dropped from 18.7 percent to 12.9 percent of the population, according to the American Religious Identification Survey.
One telling statistic from the article: "The median age for a United Methodist is 57, according to the Rev. Larry Hollon, the denomination's chief communications executive.". Yikes! In a few decades, between people fleeing and people dying, the UMC will virtually cease to exist.
Here are a couple of their advertisement videos…
Here is where the disconnect happens. People are not abandoning the ELCA, the United Methodist Church and other mainline/liberal denominations because they aren’t helping enough women in Senegal to start their own businesses or passing out enough care kits to people crossing the border in violation of the law. That is a very noble cause but it puts the ox before the cart. When you abandon the Bible and the Gospel, you cease to be a force for the Kingdom and become a do-gooder organization with a religious patina. Make your message first and foremost the Word of God, the Savior on a cross who died and rose again to redeem lost sinners. Then and only then talk to people about women starting businesses in Senegal.
What is going to draw people is the Gospel. Once we win them with the Gospel, we absolutely must turn to helping feed the poor, the widows, visiting those in prison. We do a shameful job of that for the most part in the church. But we cannot reduce the Gospel to a philosophy of good works and not expect people to abandon the church. If someone wants to help people removed from the Gospel, there are lots of secular social organizations that will do the same thing and probably do it better. It is no different from “seeker sensitive” churches, there will always be a more exciting circus that will draw them away if they are not there first and primarily for the Gospel. The world is always going to be better at doing worldly things.
You don’t need a marketing agency and clever TV ads. You just need a very old book. That book is always relevant and always speaks to what people really need, whether in the first century or the twenty first.