Secular Marketers are Stealing from the Bible!


Secular Marketers are Stealing from the Bible!
Well, sort of.  Astute reader, Mark Bateman, recently forwarded me Kobie Fuller’s blog post How Emotion Drives Customer Action in Start-Up Marketing Without realizing it, marketers are taking the play list straight from the Bible by eliciting emotions via storytelling.  As the church so well knows (at least in theory) and what Fuller has discovered, “Humans are intrinsically wired to connect with stories.”

Just think about substituting church-oriented language for what Fuller says about marketing:  “Many companies know exactly what they do and communicate it well (“we make X app”), but few companies advocate the why (“we believe that people should have an easier way to communicate with the people they love”).” 
Hold on, I’ll do the work for you:  Many churches know exactly what they do and communicate it well (“we worship and have lots of programs”), but few congregations advocate the why (“You are shaped by God. Life is given meaning and purpose and the world’s a better place.”).

All of us want to have more people sitting with us in worship.  But how is that story we celebrate in worship - of inclusion, of hope, of faith – being transmitted to a culture that often sees our buildings as museums rather than as vibrant places of mission and ministry?  As you tell the story of your congregation to your community (aka, your marketplace), remember that “why” you exist is just as important, if not more so, than “what you do.”  Tell stories that reveal the “why.”
At their best, stories are driven by emotion.  Craig Elbert, the Vice-President of Marketing at Bonobos, outlines four correlations in emotion and user behavior.  I’ve added the faith twist:

  • Intrigue and mysterycreates curiosity.  How does your community view the church?  Perhaps they’re asking, “What goes on in that building with a cross on top?  Can my deep spiritual need be met there? Or is it a museum?”
  • Desire and aspirationstokes consideration. What image does your church have in your community?  Does it have one?  Why would anyone come through its doors? Are the people going out the doors living in a way that others aspire to be like them?  Do others wonder if your faith community could help them be the people they want to be?
  • Urgency and fearprovokes a feeling of missing out.  The faith community may part ways with this correlation because we don’t want to motivate people by fear.  However, a sense of urgency indicates that if it’s a “happening” church and people are talking about it, this triggers a desire to see what’s going on inside the building. As someone on the outside, you don’t want to be the last one in on the excitement.
  • Surprise and laughtergives people an “aha” or a “ha ha” moment and makes them want to experience more.  Do you take your church seriously?  So seriously that “joyful” is not in your vocabulary? Can we send a message that touches spiritual hunger in a way that delights and brings joy so that others might think, “Maybe there's something to this faith stuff?”

Go ahead; steal from the marketers’ playbook. But know this: you and your congregation have the opportunity to tell the greatest story ever told – of love, redemption, and new life.  Now that’s something everyone in your community needs to experience.

P.S. If you’re still trying to figure out why your congregation exists, harken back to my blog post of yesteryear, “Telling the Story: What’s Your Purpose?”  I told you then and I’ll tell you now – watch the Simon Senek TED Talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.”  It’ll get you on the road to figuring out why your church, camp, or business exists.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012.  Her favorite Bible story is of the grouchy people who followed Moses...and how Moses (miraculously) stuck with them. Her position with the Conference is funded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.