Content Marketing for Churches
A technique known as “Content Marketing” may be just what your church needs to make a path to the gospel and loving fellowship for people in your community when it’s most desperately needed. If you downloaded our “Facebook for Churches,” “Church Website Guide,” or one of many other similar digital offerings, it’s a good bet you discovered Church Juice through content marketing. A social media post or a blog article attracted your attention to an offer of a free and helpful ebook. In supplying your email address, you gave Church Juice permission to start a relationship with you and provide you with regular content to equip you in your church communications. Your church can use content marketing in the same way.
Content marketing as outreach
The American Marketing Association defines content marketing as “a technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience” to stimulate interest in a product or service. The content is frequently digital (a video, blog, or social media post) and usually does not explicitly promote a particular brand or organization. Most address some “felt need” of the intended audience by providing usable information toward meeting that need and showing the audience where they can get even more information. As a church communicator, your felt need might have been for your church to get the most out of Facebook or build an optimized website. Your church can use content marketing to connect with people’s felt needs and invite them into a relationship.
Where do you start? Begin by figuring out what the felt needs are in your community. What issues or concerns do people in your community face? What do people ask for when they contact your church? What doctrinal or theological questions do visitors ask about when they start coming to your church? How might your particular body of believers minister to concerns, worries, or fears brought on by macro-level challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic or an especially divisive national election cycle?
Here’s one example. At ReFrame Media, the publisher ofChurch Juice, we’ve discovered that people often have questions about Christian holiday traditions. We’ve posted blogs like “What is Advent?” or “Why Observe Lent?” or “Why Is It Called Easter?” Each of these blog articles gives substantive and thoughtful responses to those questions and then offers more content to deepen readers’ spiritual engagement with that tradition: a series of advent or lenten devotions or a podcast Bible study about Easter. If you can think of it, and it’s something people in your community care about or might be interested in, your church can develop content to publish for their benefit.
What kinds of content can you use?
No matter how big or small, your church probably already produces a good deal of content, particularly sermons. With content marketing, you can creatively share excerpts or video clips from sermons via social media and offer a way to engage or a call to action with it (more about that below). Here are some common types of content used in content marketing:
Blogs are a prevalent type of content marketing. Write a short article (400-800 words) about a topic or need of interest to your community, post it on a special page of your website, and share it via social media and newsletters. Make the title the search terms someone would most likely use to look up the topic (for example, “What is Communion?” or “Four Ways to Start Your Day with Prayer”). Set a goal for the number of blogs you want to post in a month and stick to it. You can have a consistent voice, perhaps of a pastor, or ask several people to contribute to the blog. Keep ideas simple and relatable.
As already mentioned, you can offer excerpts and video clips of sermons to share ideas that inspire, uplift, or comfort. But you can also compile full sermons into series or collections (video or audio) packaged with digital study guides for easy Bible studies for individuals or groups. You can put together a one-page PDF or a full ebook cheaply and easily. You can upload sermons and series to podcast platforms, usually free.
Digital music services like Spotify, iTunes, and Pandora make it possible to share playlists with other users. Share themed playlists to minister to people in whatever place they find themselves.
If your church has a dedicated prayer team, use social media posts to offer to pray for people. Present a straightforward form with an option for followup. You might be surprised at the response you get.
These are just some examples. Useful content marketing offers your community relevant and authentic content they can use. That content can take almost any form.
Invite people to engage
The content you share is a gateway for people to engage with your church. Typically, the content doesn’t promote your church directly, but by including a form or link that accesses additional content, you open an avenue of engagement with your church. It might look something like this: with a blog on faith and anxiety, include links to similar blogs, a sermon on the topic, or a form offering Christian counseling through or sponsored by your church. Or you might request an email address to provide a newcomer’s newsletter from your church, a weekly devotion, or something of that sort. Content marketing is about initiating a relationship that benefits the user.
Some people get hung up on the word marketing, but in Christian ministry, marketing is making a straight path for the gospel. Your content marketing blog, sermon, or playlist are the first steps to a ministry relationship with someone in your community.