The turn of the century has seen an explosion of the phenomenon of “megachurches,” as they are called. By the year 2005, the country had around 1,200 of these religious organizations, which translates into almost double the number in 2000. How religion is viewed by members has also changed significantly in the past decade.
Experts are recognizing the fact that cutting-edge marketing strategies have contributed to the unbelievable growth. Most modern congregations follow the Protestant theology and typically, have a dynamic, charismatic leader at the head.
Megachurches are More Like Mini-Villages
Traditionally, houses of worship restricted their activities to services led every Sunday by a community pastor at the local church. But, contemporary megachurches are essentially mini villages. Covering more than a hundred acres, megachurch campuses stand on properties that include massive auditoriums where services are held.
Like this feature on ResearchGate explains, such auditoriums boast of the most advanced audio-visual equipment and cater to over 2,000 attendees. The complexes may also include cafeterias and restaurants where members can interact along with fitness centers, libraries, support groups, bookstores, and sports fields. In addition, they have huge parking lots to accommodate the impressive footfall.
Cutting-Edge Marketing Techniques Are the Key
The meteoric rise in popularity of these organizations has been attributed to their adoption of contemporary marketing strategies. These methods have helped megachurches attract and take over attendance and membership from conventional houses of worship across not just the United States, but also other locations across the world.
Traditional churches and the clergy did not believe in using advertising and considered the methods as conflicting with their religious dogma and preaching. However, megachurches are largely non-denominational and open to adopting the latest technology to gain a following.
Megachurches Are Not Limited by Geographical Constraints
Megachurches have branches in different locations and that helps them maintain their membership even if people move to other places for work or personal commitments.
Social media and websites allow followers to catch up with sermons regardless of where they are and their working hours. For instance, Houston Church posts regular feeds on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook where believers can get information about the latest events being organized and attend virtual meetings. Posting videos of live sermons on YouTube is another effective method to keep in touch with worshippers.
Followers can talk about their experiences and act as brand ambassadors for the organization. Further, social media, one of the most powerful marketing strategies, helps connect with people surfing the internet, looking for answers to their spiritual problems.
Branding is Essential for Recognition and Awareness
Creating brand awareness is instrumental in the success of leading businesses across the world. And, megachurches have tapped into these marketing strategies, effectively. Online websites, recognizable logos, catchphrases, and merchandise together help people identify and connect with the organization. Branding also helps attendees remember any events or uplifting moments that changed their lives. It is not unusual for pastors and church leaders to develop brand names and identities independent of the organization they represent.
A good example is Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church who released a book in 2011 with the title, Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together. This article on The Atlantic talks about how the marketing campaign for the book costed $210,000 spent by the church. Given that the institution and its pastor are closely interlinked, the figure points to the startling investment made to gain exposure and promote sales.
Video – What is a Brand?
Attractive Website Designs Bring in New Participants
New followers searching for churches and congregations to join can find them online. Adding keywords to articles, blogs, and web content make it easier for users to find religious groups on Google and other search engines. A well-designed website acts as a virtual portal for believers and is, easily, an effective marketing strategy.
Users can check out the theology and beliefs of the megachurch, and get information about the venues where events and sermons are held. Other details like the timings, days of the week for meetings, and contact data like email and phone numbers are all available online.
Modern-day believers are likely to stream recordings and get an understanding of the institution before they actually decide to attend one. Interestingly, most websites also have options for users to make donations online using secure methods.
Megachurches Provide More than Just Sermons
Megachurches, in today’s times, are more than just about preaching religious beliefs. Other spheres where the organizations are making their mark is entertainment and the development of music. Hillsong is Australia’s largest megachurch that owns Hillsong Music.
The company releases compositions under its sub-brands, Hillsong Worship, Hillsong Young and Free, and Hillsong United. Many of their songs have made it to the US Billboard Top 50 and the ARIA Top 10 chart, each year, since 2007.
The church now has 81 branches across 21 countries and is a well-known brand. One of their latest releases is What a Beautiful Name. This song won the Grammy Award in the category for best contemporary Christian music performance/song.
Traditional Methods of Advertising Are Still Effective
Despite the obvious success of digital marketing strategies, traditional methods continue to help promote the brands of megachurches. Installing billboards and giving out fliers and brochures always work to attract followers. Personal referrals possibly work well because people are more responsive to a suggestion from a friend or loved one than cold calling and unwanted emails and texts.
Philanthropic activities that support education, the needy and homeless, and environmental causes create a positive impression – in the minds of the people who hear about them and of course, of the recipients of the donations and assistance.
Unlike conventional houses of worship, megachurches are employing cutting-edge marketing strategies to grow and expand. While traditional churches are losing membership and closing establishments for lack of attendees, mega religious organizations continue to make their mark in more locations across the real and virtual world.