Ministry. Marketing. Mixing these two words is like trying to get oil and water to get along. At first glance, they seem like mutually exclusive concepts.
But I have a confession.
When I was neck-deep in vocational ministry I desperately wanted to know how to get word out about what God was doing.
My heart was genuine!
It wasn’t about money (my church took good care of me). It wasn’t about fame (I’m not a limelight kind-of-guy). It was about impact, and I knew our endeavors were truly helping people.
The catch was I didn’t want to be pushy, pestering, or worst of all: prideful. To be labeled egocentric, arrogant, or even self-promoting was the one thing I tried to avoid at all costs.
As a result I didn’t “market” our ministry. I felt God would promote us in His timing. This is a safe, spiritual assumption, right?
I see things in a different light now.
No, I don’t believe I’ve become more self-promotional, spammy, or sketchy. In fact, I believe I’ve become more healthy in my outlook on this.
The Balance Between God’s Promotion vs. Self-Promotion
Yes, there is an ever-present tension between self-promotion and God’s promotion. It’s tough to balance.
When I work with businesses, the objective is clear: increase exposure, raise profits, and gain market share. Business is competitve, so this tension is virtually non-existent. Chik-Fil-A and Hobby Lobby have no qualms about marketing.
Ministry is different. We’re supposed to “be on the same team.” The very idea of competition runs counter to the concept of ministry, as reflected in unwritten taboo practices like churches “stealing each other’s sheep” or “watering down” each other’s conferences by having them too close in location or dates.
I understand the aversion missionaries may have to “marketing” — it feels competitive, icky, and even a bit Ishmael-ish, as if we’re trying to make things happen in our own power.
But what if marketing your missions work involved you just doing what you can do, and God doing only what He can do? And what if we’ve had the wrong “competitor” in mind this whole time?
For years, my perspective was warped. I had the wrong “market” and “competitor” in mind. Mighty revelation:
Our competitor is the enemy, not other churches or ministries.
The enemy is relentless in vying for people’s eyes, ears, hearts, minds, and souls. He will use any and every means necessary.
But your ministry is doing good things!
Maybe you’re helping translate scripture into the native language of a people group that has never heard the gospel before. Perhaps you’re planting churches, or work to provide clean water for remote third-world villages…
Yet you’re afraid to tell people about it?
There are people that need your voice. There are people that need your missions work. You are uniquely qualified to meet a certain type of need … in a very particular place … for a certain type of person … and God has chosen you to do it.
There’s no need to apologize for it, especially when you see that your competitor (the enemy, not other churches) is having his way. You need to market your missions work.
Why we’re really afraid of marketing our ministries:
- We’re afraid people will think we’re pushy or promotional.
- We’re afraid people will reject us.
- We’re afraid we might fail.
- We’re even afraid we might succeed!
Sounds a lot like the fear of man, no?
But we all know marketing — which is simply letting others know how we can serve them — is absolutely necessary.
Jesus was a great marketer.
While He was fully God, Jesus fully utilized human principles to communicate and spread the greatest message of all. He did it tactfully, tastefully, and tactically.
- He chose very diverse individuals (fisherman, doctors, lawyers, etc. which reached all strata of society)
- He chose bilingual individuals (esp. fisherman, who traveled everywhere spreading news of what he did)
- He chose Capernaum as his base (a trade city on the water where many travelers passed through)
- He taught with stories, which are universally considered the most engaging way to get human beings to remember pretty much anything.
None of it was scammy, spammy, or a bait-and-switch. He did it by adding value to people’s lives, sharing truth, serving, and speaking love (even when it hurt).
Marketing is Something You Do FOR People, Not TO People.
Yes, it can get dicey when it comes to this topic. While I can’t always defend every marketing tactic utilized, my point is this:
- If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably not some famed-crazed celebrity minister.
- That said, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
- The end game is not for you to become a celebrity, it’s to serve people.
Friend, let’s get over our aversion to marketing. Failing to promote your missions work is doing a disservice to the very people you’ve been called to serve, and it makes raising money that much harder.
On that note, remember the words of marketing expert and fellow Christ-follower Ray Edwards:
“Marketing is something you do FOR people, not TO people.”
No, it’s not Scripture. But it is true. And so is the fact that you — yes, YOU! — are doing important things to serve people. That is nothing to be bashful about.
Finally, A Step-by-Step Roadmap to Raising More Financial Support
Many missionaries struggle to raise support in today’s world. The Missionary Support Raising Checklist gives you a step-by-step roadmap on how to focus your vision, enlist a team, ask for donations, and more.
This framework has been used to raise millions for missionaries and non-profits like The American Cancer Society and Special Olympics. Get this guide today.
Mike Kim is speaker and branding expert who has crafted the messages and marketing campaigns for organizations including StoryBrand, Catalyst, People of the Second Chance, Global Mission Awareness, and a host of other churches and ministries. Mike’s love for missions was kindled during his ministry experience as a worship leader, youth pastor, and short-term missionary. He now hosts the Fully Funded Podcast and Fully Funded Workshop to help missionaries grow their donor base and raise more money.