Thursday, August 15, 2013

Why We Won't Be Using the Episcopal Church's Advertising Materials

Earlier this week, I received our diocese's e-newsletter that included a link to camera-ready evangelism materials produced by the Episcopal Church that can be used by congregations for postcards, ads and billboards.  Since I am always looking for helpful evangelism tools (what parish isn't?), I clicked the link.  I moved quickly from shock to disappointment to anger that our church is still promoting messages that make sharing the good news with unchurched people more difficult.

Here are a couple examples, and why we aren't using them.



"Summer sermons will be shorter.  Priests play golf too."  I can't help but rephrasing this ad as, "Our preaching is such a waste of your time that in the summer, when your leisure time is more valuable, we'll waste less of it."  If our preaching isn't helping people live out their Christian lives in important ways, then we shouldn't be preaching.  If it is, let's advertise that: "Hear a message that will change your life before your Sunday morning tee time."


"Why not surprise us and show up this Sunday?"  When I showed this one to my deacon, he couldn't believe it.  "We pray daily for those who need a relationship with Christ to come to us," he said.  "We're expecting them when they come, we're not surprised."  Really, would anyone want to go to a church, or anywhere else, that would be surprised and unprepared for their arrival?  Many people don't return to a church they visit for precisely that reason.  When we hung the banner off the side of our church last year, we included our purpose statement (Worship God, Care for People, Grow as Christians) with the message "We're Expecting You" underneath.



Then we come to "Come see what goes on between Easter and Christmas."


This message is a prime example of the insider language (interwoven with guilt) that turns newcomers off.  An increasing number of the folks in my community aren't in church on Easter or Christmas.  Some have never (!) been inside a church building, even for a wedding or funeral.  If we want Christmas and Easter Christians to come back, probably having a church leader reach out and see how to meet their needs is more helpful than a generic message, and this ad couldn't realistically be targeted to anyone else.

Then we have a couple of billboard suggestions directing people to twitter and Facebook.  I can't see a billboard ad to drive people to Facebook or twitter.  I think social media advertising is a much more helpful way to drive people to our social media sites and, if we are buying a billboard, let's have it share something more positive about us than "we are on Facebook and twitter."

For better billboard and advertising campaign ideas, I'd direct you to the Diocese of Ohio.  Their billboards included the message: "Love God. Love Your Neighbor. Change the World."  A church with that bumpersticker is one I'd be interested in trying, and so might my unchurched friends.






50 comments:

  1. Deacon Patricia LaveryAugust 15, 2013 at 10:51 AM

    Amen. My reactions as well. Even for free, I can't imagine using these resources. I'm all for humor in and out of the church setting, but these do not meet the mark. Love the Ohio billboards!

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  2. I have a bigger problem with these--they are boring, boring, boring. In an age of videos, Photoshop, stock images, etc.. we end up with trite sayings without any images whatsoever? With the background graphic, I think it would take me about 15 minutes to come up with something like this. How much money did we pay, and to whom, for this stuff?

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  3. And who approved them? Who in the leadership of the DMFS at 815 thought these were a good idea?

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  4. Ouch! An excellent point on the preaching one. Our summer sermons are not shorter and we do not phone it in just because the temperature has risen. Indeed, the summer has some of the most challenging lectionary pieces we face!

    You also make a great point about the difference between surprise and unprepared, and "we're expecting you". The latter is much more hospitable.

    Good post, my friend!

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  5. Thanks for pointing out these... I'm not sure what the expectation was behind their publication (humor?) but it seems more like an embarrassment. The last one is a good start!

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  6. This is why cutesy promotional materials don't always work, especially when you are trying to communicate value and mission. I agree that the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio does a better job at this than the national church. Hip and edgy works for some products and services, but makes the Episcopal Church look irrelevant, out-of-touch, and a little flaky, IMHO.

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    1. Hip and edgey can work for some parishes at least. Christ Church New Haven uses the slogan "this is not your father's church, it's your great, great grandfathers". This works for them because it's authentic for them- they're mostly-young campus church, and they're also anglo-catholic and almost entirely Rite I.

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  7. Agree totally, Fr. Adam! These ads seem insulting and arrogant to me. I love the ad from the Diocese of Ohio that gives the two Great Commandments and the result (Change the World) of following those commandments.

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  8. Gosh.. I hope we didn't pay some genius consultant lots of money to come up with this stuff. Just awful. Also agree on the Diocese of Ohio sign. That makes sense.

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  9. Can we produce Ohio's bumper sticker for the National Church? I know loads here who'd get one.

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  10. methinks that this is our (TEC) attempt at "wit."
    Unfortunately, it comes off as "snark."

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  11. Where is the comma in "Priests play golf, too"?

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  12. Really not creative and very disappointing. It would be better to hunt out some of the best stuff being created across the church and share it. This is sad stuff and I bet won't be picked up by many (nor should it). The Episcopal Church has so much more to offer than these promo pieces.

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  13. I started #TECpostcardslogans on Twitter and here are a few of my favorites:

    The Episcopal Church: Serving God in an Advisory Capacity since 1789.

    Come for the pageantry. Stay for the small slice of power in an otherwise impotent existence.

    Somewhat ill at ease when people mention Jesus? Us too!

    Way more open minded than the church you grew up in.

    All of which I like better than what's on offer, I'm afraid.

    Laura

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  14. I'm sorry to say I'm not at all surprised. I served in the communications department at 815 for 8 frustrating years. One month after I arrived, we got a new "director of communications." His idea of a great ad campaign was a TV spot that would begin with a shot of a church interior and the back of a couple's head as the offering plate went around. VO: "You don't have to give." Next shot: everybody but the couple lines up for the Eucharist. VO: "You don't have to receive." Next shot: Couple at home relaxing with coffee and the paper. VO: "You don't even have to show up." Tag Line: "The Episcopal Church. We're Here For You." If he hadn't been asked to resign shortly thereafter, you'd have had that disaster on your local TV station a decade ago. Looks like things aren't much better. C'est la guerre.

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  15. How about including, "The Episcopal Church Welcomes You. No Exceptions."

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  16. There was an era in which this type of acerbic campaign was considered funny, but since the great schism, and the years of trying to get clear what it is that TEC has to offer. I am with you. I do like the new bumper sticker from Ohio. Thanks for bringing this to light.

    As one who has grown long in the tooth in this church, I have seen a wonderful shift in the last few years when we can get back to having a relationship with God as the centerfold of our advertising.

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  17. Those messages not only turn off "newcomers", they turn off the "regulars".

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  18. When I got the newsblast from 815 that they had created new graphics for us all to use, I clicked to the link with great enthusiasm. And then I saw them. And I did not share them with our clergy our vestry. They were just embarrassing. The "Priests play golf too" [missing the comma that should be there] especially ticked me off. (1) It says our sermons are useless. (2) It aligns us with the country club set.
    I know we have good people at Church Center. But what in the world were they thinking??

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  19. I was hoping to find a reason someday to start attending church again. No, thanks. You've blown it. Golf is a sport for the wealthy. You aren't gong to attract new parishioners by emphasizing your elitism. You make it seem that people like I--unemployed, on food stamps, and scraping for gas money--are not welcome. Furthermore, these sappy tips of the hat to British humor are simply unacceptable. There is no audience in the United States for it. Who wants to go back to a church that already has a reputation for being snobbish and insular? Not I. Maybe you'll see you in the food pantry line at your parish.

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    1. I can assure you there wouldn't be any appetite for these in Britain either - I certainly wouldn't want them associated with my church

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  20. I thought they were quite good, and I'd be quite happy to see them used by the Cathedral which I attend. But I'm British, and we do humour (note the "u") much better over here!

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  21. Couldn't agree more. We're a tiny, poor parish in Omaha, and we do so much better than this. It's embarrassing in both spirit and quality.

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  22. Ronald ClingenpeelAugust 16, 2013 at 6:51 AM

    I was in campus ministry for 20 years. Every year we "started over." It was difficult, exciting, interesting. If I had used anything like this it would have been a disaster. Whoever thought these were evangelistic has not idea what it takes to bring people to church. Why insult their intelligence and make them feel like lesser people. Evangelism affirms and encourages. These are a waste of time and money -- even if they are free.

    We grew my last congregation significantly with one message: My Episcopal Church Invites You. Nothing passive, no inside language, no secret handshakes.

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  23. I heard a suggestion somewhere for "The Episcopal Church Invites You" rather than "welcome" which implies passivity.

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  24. Horrible advertising/publicity!!! I sure hope the Episcopal church I go to doesn't get any bright ideas to use any of this garbage!!

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  25. My daughter has always loved the sign posts as we enter various towns that say The Episcopal Church Welcomes you. She said it makes her proud to see a sign that welcomes people to a town even before in some cases the town has their signage out.

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  26. The Diocese of Ohio has the right idea...a few other options might be:

    "The Middle Way - The Episcopal Church Invites You"

    "Faith. Hope. Charity. Love. - The Episcopal Church Invites You"

    "Seeking & Serving Christ in All Persons - The Episcopal Church Invites You"

    "Real Presence is a Real Present - The Episcopal Church Invites You"

    "Pause. Breathe. Pray. Give Thanks - The Episcopal Church Invites You"

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    1. There is *way* too much inside jargon (eg Middle way, Real presence) in these to be effective. Pretend for a moment that you have not grown up hearing these phrases and in fact have never heard them before and see if they still make sense.

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    2. Point taken John...on the other hand, there are more than a few former Episcopalians and other liturgically formed Christians who may "get" the jargon - and I find bright folks tend to ask "What does THAT mean?" and make at least cursory attempts to find out...certainly Googling Episcopal Church and some of the "jargon" might get them headed down the path in our direction....

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  27. Why not, "We have the best wine in town!" --lol--

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  28. Dear Black Giraffe, My husband read those to me last night and I thought he was joking. This morning I saw that they came from the episcopal church's national web page, and I became VERY sad. I sent them the following letter. Maybe they will listen to me.

    Your postcard regarding shorter summer sermons is disappointing and looks like it was written by someone who goes to church out of guilt in order to get it over with, and expects that all other churchgoers have the same motivation.

    That person does not understand me or the reason I go to church. I WANT to be there and I intensely hope each Sunday to develop a deeper connection with my Creator. I do not want to worship with a minister who would rather be playing golf because I doubt such a minister would be able to help me achieve my goal of drawing nearer to God.

    The advertisement is embarrassing to me, a new Episcopalian, and I hope you withdraw it.

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    1. Good for you! I have been an Episcopalian for over 40 years and I am embarrassed to think that these "ads" are on the church's website for anyone to see. I currently serve on the Evangelism Committee at my church, and these sentiments are precisely the kinds of erroneous opinions the community has of us -- that we are elitist snobs and not concerned with Scripture or Jesus. I

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  29. I love your church's banner. Can you make a jpg file available for others to use, just as the Diocese of Ohio has for their bumper stickers?

    Nancy+

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  30. For the zealous Episcopalians out there who cxan neither laugh at their faith nor understand hyperbole here are some ads for you:

    If you don't take our preaching as seriously as we do, just stay home

    That spur0of-the-moment inspiration you had to go to church -- Ignore it we only welcome committed Christians who had really thought through their faith choices.

    You will need a degree in theology to understand our marketing material -- that way we can look down our noses at you.

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  31. Looks like the ads have been pulled from the national church website. A mea culpa of sorts is posted at the page linked in the original post.

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  32. With all the violence and pain in the world, along with the desperate need of those on the streets in our own community, the subject of sermon time seems to occupy an inordinate amount of energy that could well be directed elsewhere...fortunately we haven't yet heard of closing the church down for summer vacation!
    The Rhino Priest, Marysville, CA.

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  33. oh my!!! they probably reflect some reality--- hard to admit, but I certainly would not put them out there as jokes or anything else!!

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  34. Well I liked them! Surely the point of the adverts is that they are not to be taken seriously... and therefore they make a serious point. Ironic huh? Kind of reminds me of that guy who spoke about camels going through the eyes of needles and told ludicrous tales about Good Palestinians in an attempt to teach us who our neighbors might be.

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  35. I don't care for the campaign, but here is the original post: http://episcopaldigitalnetwork.com/ens/2013/08/08/evangelism-materials-available-for-local-use-at-no-charge/?utm_source=National+News+August+14+2013&utm_campaign=ANS6-20-12&utm_medium=email To be "fair," it starts by saying it is a "light-hearted" campaign and ends as follows: "Special thanks to Bishop Thomas Breidenthal and the Diocese of Southern Ohio for permission to use some of the creative ideas that first ran there several years ago." Here is a link to their promotional ideas which includes the golf joke: http://www.episcopaldso.org/What%20we%20do/marketingoutreach.html

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  36. When our church began making a t-shirt we started out trying to use the "Episcopal Church Welcomes you" language. We ultimately realized that really isn't the point. We ended up with t-shirts that say "In Christ ALL Are Welcome" and have the prayer from the BCP "Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that all might come within the reach of your saving embrace"

    I think this works well--but it took about 10 months to birth--adds may be small things but they have great impact. I think sometimes gestation time is rushed --with poor results

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  37. While I certainly agree with you in principle, this campaign reflects an increasingly alarming state of affairs in the Episcopal Church. All this talk about turning off newcomers, for instance - what newcomers? A representative of the old guard in my church summed it up a couple years ago when we were debating, for some reason, whether or not to erect a larger sign to replace the long-standing one inconspicuously posted on the wrought iron fence surrounding our beautiful edifice: "We have enough people”, he said. He was dead serious. The current movers and shakers (at least in my 14 year experience in the church, including 11 years in youth ministry) actually want shorter sermons in the summer. I was even present a few years ago when an interim Rector my church said during a meeting about declining Sunday School attendance, “I applaud their passivity”. He actually believed that today’s busy-ness and overscheduling is just the way it is, and seemed to understand if not endorse their embracing of weekend down time, even if it meant neglecting their church community. When church leadership takes such a stance, well, need I say more? Probably not, but I will anyway. Now I do agree with the notion of greater efforts to reach out to the C&E attendees, but ironically I believe that it is in part our quest to “change the world” that keeps some of them coming only twice a year. There are desperate, hurting people in our congregations every Sunday, going through divorces, suffering with troubled teens, and like everyone else, generally searching for some meaning in their fast-paced lives and we are overlooking most of that to water Malawi or organize yet another mission trip to Belize, which, truth be known, is often more about relieving our own consciences and dealing with our own “white guilt” than it is about any of the people targeted. I once did a bit of research to confirm my suspicions about this strange and heretical phenomenon – I checked each of the over 400 FB friends of a young woman who professed a calling to work with the poor of Africa, and found that she had fewer than 10 African-American friends that I could clearly determine. (Despite our claims to be so down with the folks in the hood, TEP remains about 2 percent black). I am constantly baffled at people who feel God’s call to Somalia yet other than the UPS delivery person or the mailman, haven’t had someone of a different race in their homes for years, if at all. That’s right, I said it. You can’t expect to change the world despite your snappy bumper stickers that say so, with an ill-equipped, socially distracted, biblically ignorant group of folks who are themselves hurting too much to be of much good to anyone else. Until the clergy of TEP decides to take a stand of some sort and week after week preach solid messages with attainable, sustainable goals that focus first on the people they’re eyeballing and then on people in a country whose name you can’t pronounce and offending people be damned, we are going to remain an ineffective force of marginal Christians who simply don’t get it, and yet are strangely proud of that fact. The Via Media has become the Via Mediocre quickly on its way to the Via Whatever. I am, if you haven’t noticed by now, on the verge of walking out the door for good in search of a community a bit more in touch with theological reality and operating with a stronger sense of urgency, and who, while maintaining an intellectual approach to spiritual matters (perhaps our greatest strength), is able to balance that with an understanding that a relationship with the Creator is more important than soccer and tennis. But honestly, I am beginning to doubt that I will ever find such in this materialistic, self-centered culture I am sadly a part of. Perhaps Richard Rohr said it best: Western society is on a collision course with the Gospel. How many of us though, really, truly, believe that?

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    1. Thanks for this comment.
      Over 30 years ago a couple of the movers and shakers in my parish (part of a cluster of 4 churches) decided that a Lay Reader licensed by the Bishop to celebrate Morning Prayer for the 3 Sundays a month that we didn't have a Priest, wasn't good enough for ordination to the diaconate, much less for the priesthood. As an ordained deacon in the Baptist Church a few years before and a Sunday school teacher, my Priest mentor, who was training me to be a Deacon and Priest, received a call from the Bishop who had received a call from one of the rich movers and shakers. As a result, I will never be ordained in the Episcopal Church. As a mixed race person in the Deep South, I think the Episcopal Church has some serious issues to solve. I did continue to be a "Worship Leader" despite some in the church. Although I could count on the organist leaving before the service ended so he could watch football, I stayed and finished the service every time. I was a Lay Eucharistic Minister before their was even such a thing for 30 years. The Episcopal Church needs to engage in some discernment about the mission of the church itself. Is it to fill the pews or spread the Gospel? Is it to ordain the "right" kind of people with the "right" kind of credentials and degrees or those moved by the Holy Spirit to a calling into the ministry?

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  38. Another example of the Episcopal Church running after fads, buzzwords, gimmicks, and other desperate attempts to be relevant. Probably from the same friendly folks who came up with "We're here for you," which sounds like an ad for an insurance company. I've often wished we could come up with some ads that make fun of our stereotypes, e.g., "You don't have to watch Masterpiece Theatre ...'; "You don't have to like Gilbert and Sullivan ..."; "You don't have to take afternoon tea ..."

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  39. Looks like 815 got the message.
    http://www.episcopalchurch.org/page/advertising-materials

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  40. Well put. 2.5 out of 3 need some serious work. I confess, however, that I preach shorter during the summer...not because I golf but because, without air-conditioning, our building gets pretty warm.

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  41. Thanks for speaking out about yet another embarrassing failure from the "vacuum at the top" of this part of the Church. It reinforces my sense that many so-called leaders of TEC are caught in some sort of Jane Austen novel plot: ashamed of the Gospel and Anglican Christianity, but endlessly fascinated by the leisured life to which they so desperately aspire. Until we outlive this generation of gimmickry and learn once more the value of what we have to share, we will see more of this sort of silliness. Our parish, however, is not tying our dingy to this particular Titanic.

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  42. Maybe, just maybe, the leaders at 815 might try mentioning that guy on the cross just once ... as a change of pace.

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