Marketing and Gospel Ministry: Can they work together?

Tell us about your background/training/experience in gospel ministry

I grew up in a South Indian cultural church known as the Mar Thoma Church. I am thankful to have grown up in a place where the Bible and prayer were part of my life, even though it took a while for me to clarify things like how the Bible fit together, the assurance that Jesus brings and the importance of living with Jesus as my King.

Over time leading Bible studies, youth group and teaching Sunday school, my passion for ministry developed, and some influential people in my life tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to consider full time ministry. After working for a while to get some life experience and serve in more ways at church, I applied to Moore Theological College and studied the Bachelor of Divinity. It was awesome.

While studying there, I was a student minister at St Andrew’s Cathedral, Village Church in Annandale and then Evangelism and New Churches (ENC). I have also been involved, for several years, in ministry to people of the sub-continent. After graduating from Moore, I was ordained with the Sydney Anglican Church and served at Auburn and Newington Anglican Church as Assistant Minister, before coming to Moore College as the Marketing & Communications Manager.

Tell us about your background/training/experience in marketing

I studied Communications and International Studies at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS). It was an excellent foundation in learning communication skills, developing an entrepreneurial mindset and gaining exposure to the world of the media and mass communications.

After graduating from UTS, before starting at Moore, I worked with the Marketing and Communication Unit (MCU) at UTS, the central marketing unit of the university. My role included marketing and recruitment of domestic undergraduate students around Australia, including a specific portfolio working with students from a low socioeconomic background. I was on the road all over NSW for a large part of each year doing speeches, presentations and representing the university at careers expos. I also prepared e-communications, developed brochures and other printed material for recruitment purposes, and worked with the wider team on on-campus events.

What is your current occupation?

I work at Moore Theological College as the Marketing & Communications Manager. I basically oversee all external communications from the College, including the image of the College, recruitment of students, promotion of College activities, courses and faculty, and helping other departments with designing, e-communication and use of social media.

What are some of the fundamental principles of marketing that are relevant for gospel ministry?

There are so many theories about what is most important in marketing, but I like to think of it simply as the 4 P’s. Product, price, promotion and place. A good marketing strategy will look at the uniqueness of the product in question, ask why it costs how much it does and why it is worth paying for the product, then how to promote the positives of the product and how it will contribute to the advance / betterment of those who use the product, and finally the specific share of the market who would most benefit from the product.

If done well, in my opinion, this is actually very helpful for gospel ministry and for promoting a theological College. We want to highlight just how important the gospel is, and we also want to highlight the privilege that it is to serve God’s people. We want to be able to speak about the sort of cost that gospel ministry has, not just financially, but with one’s entire life. And we want to help highlight that while gospel ministry is for every Christian man and woman, there is a special privilege to be able to do this in an office of leadership. And for those who have been appropriately gifted by our Lord, we want to emphasise the importance of being equipped for ministry. We want to highlight the need to take the time to thoroughly prepare for ministry. Why? Because the people we serve are bought by the blood of Jesus, and so precious. Because the gospel we proclaim is God’s power for salvation, and so important. And the task of lifelong service involves difficulty and requires perseverance.

How might marketing principles undermine gospel ministry, if we’re not careful?

Especially in evangelical circles, marketing tends to have a negative reputation. And although overstated, this fear comes from real examples of marketing done in a way that does a disservice to the gospel. This is dependent on the final goal of the marketing. If the goal is ultimately financial gain, then marketing taken too far can manipulate people to make them believe they need a product, even when they do not. This is classically seen in much of the advertising on billboards and television.

Most marketing campaigns won’t, for example, tell you that you need a product to do a job. They will tell you that having the product will change your life and make you complete. They associate a product with identity and need, and in this way, manipulate people in to buying things they do not actually need. To do this in the context of gospel ministry or theological education is extremely harmful, and will often be contrary to what the Bible says.

How have you seen marketing serve gospel ministry?

In contrast to the above, marketing done well should do the work of clarifying what is beautiful about the product – in this case the gospel and gospel ministry. If I can be so bold, a piece of constructive criticism of much communication around ministry and theological education is assumption. The reality is that while we do not want to sugar coat, we do need to speak clearly about how the gospel has made an impact and why the gospel is necessary for everyone. In the same way, we want to speak clearly about why theological education is an important piece in full time ministry. And we need to do all this communicating in contemporary vernacular. Otherwise, we run the risk of not actually communicating what is clear and significant. And to be silent in a world where the media is flooding the market, is not helpful.

What advice would you give to people involved gospel ministry who are thinking of making use of marketing principles or employing a marketer for their team?

I don’t think every ministry team requires a marketer specifically. However, I do think that clear communication is the key. Make sure you say what you think. Tell people of the positives of what you are doing, as well as the risks. Information and clear communication is the key to relationships with stakeholders. This is no different in churches and other ministries.

Christians need to clearly know the why of everything you are doing. This is more important than telling them the how you are going to do things. I don’t think I am saying anything new, and most of our ministry workers are well aware that this is the case. However, it doesn’t always come naturally. The reality is that the why speaks to the limbic brain, which is where trust is built. Helping people understand the why captures people and allows them to get on board with what you have to say. Only then can the how and what with rational thought and language ever get through. That would be my advice.