By Nelson Henderson

They come in the mail almost daily. Stuffed envelopes full of slick printed material on ways you can promote your church. Promising success and money-back guarantees, these marketing tools even have sentence testimonials from pastors beside their smiling faces. If only growing a church was that easy.

I would be less than honest if I told you that I never fell for one of those promotions. But after 20-plus years in the ministry, I have learned one valuable lesson. There is no one promotional tool which works in all geographical areas, nor is there a one-size-fits-all plan for making every church visible in its community.

One time-tested and tried, though often overlooked, promotional opportunity is the newspaper. All larger cities and many smaller communities have their daily or sometimes weekly editions. Though this may not be your favorite means of promotion, nor may it yield the most results, don’t miss the wide range of benefits from using the newspaper.

Cost-Friendly

The slick promotions are eye-catching and often cost-prohibitive. Very few churches have unlimited advertising budgets, but free advertising from the local newspaper is available to every church.  Other than paid advertisements purchased by churches, the religion section of the newspaper is almost always free. Now that is cost-friendly!

Available to every church is access to every person who reads that section of the paper. Few advertisement opportunities available to the church have the potential of reaching a more diverse group of people than the newspaper.

Many small-town newspapers are always searching for local news and welcome church news. The editors are usually open and rarely censor what is included. Some newspapers will edit the content, rewriting the information, but often if the article is well written it will be used intact. A few well-written and grammatically correct articles could gain you quick favor with your local reporter or editor.

Options and Opportunities

Even if you feel your editorial skills are inadequate, there are still ways to get your news printed. Consider giving your local editor a call the next time you have a newsworthy item. They often are willing to send a reporter to compose the article.

Our local newspaper has written different articles concerning special services, projects and ministries for our youth and church groups. After returning from a mission trip to Panama, I was contacted for an interview by a local reporter. The article was given an entire page of coverage. From this article a local service organization invited me to share about my trip. It was a ministry opportunity open to me at no cost.

The local paper has covered veterans’ services, pastor appreciation services, youth ministries such our Foreign Missions TEAM participants and National CTS winners, and other areas of ministry in which our church has participated.

A Picture is Worth . . .

What catches your eye first when you scan the newspaper? It’s always the pictures. Then one reads the article. Even in a technologically advanced society, the old cliché, “a picture is worth a thousand words” is still true. If people don’t have time to read an entire article, they will look at a picture and read the caption. A picture with a short, easy-to-read caption will do more than a well-written, lengthy article which goes unread.

Details and Deadlines

One of my pet peeves is church advertisements which leave out critical information. I have seen paid church advertisements in newspapers which left out their addresses, meeting dates and times or contact numbers. This assumes that everyone knows where the church is located just by seeing the name.

After pastoring in a small town where the church is located on one of the two main highways within the city limits, I am constantly amazed how many people pass the church daily but could not tell you the name. Don’t forget the details.

Rushing to meet a deadline can cause one to miss important details. Although most papers have reasonable deadlines, it is always good to prepare ahead. Knowing that our local newspaper is flexible with deadlines, I checked with two of the larger newspapers in the state and was quite surprised. Even larger daily newspapers will accept articles as late as the day before they publish their weekly religion page.

Where else can you find a way to promote the ministry of your local church which is as flexible as the old reliable newspaper?

Don’t Forget to. . .

  1. Always include the address and directions which can be listed in any church article.
  2. Include the name of the pastor. It is valuable public relations to help people make a connection between the church and the pastor.
  3. List the names of the people in pictures used in articles.
  4. Give service times and church phone number when possible.
  5. Use this as a ministry opportunity inside the church. Some of the church youth may be in journalism class in school and this would be the perfect opportunity for involvement. Other adults may be gifted in journalism and would gladly serve in this area.

Yes, the old reliable can still be effective in our generation.

About the Writer: Reverend Nelson Henderson has pastored churches in Oklahoma and Arkansas