Are you a marketer?

July 21st, 2009

email-marketing-announcementI’m a marketer. It’s what I do when I’m not posting about random useless pop culture trivia on the YS blog. And while you may not think of yourself as a marketer, the reality is that the role of a youth pastor involves quite a bit of marketing. You have to sell kids on the idea that coming to your weekly event will somehow change their lives (or at least be a fun break from the rest of their week), you have to convince kids (and parents!) that summer camp or the mission trip is a good investment and possibly a better decision than soccer camp or a summer job, you have to sell your senior pastor on the idea that attending the National Youth Workers Convention every fall will help make you a better youth pastor (actually, YS can help you out here. There’s a great resource here that helps you show the value of NYWC to the person who green-lights your spending on training). Maybe you’ve never thought about those things as marketing, but they really are functions of marketing (though sometimes in the Christian world, these things might actually be called “outreach”). Unfortunately, over the years the word “marketing” has been negatively associated with people who interrupt your dinner to sell you a time share in the Bahamas that you can’t afford, or the ones who send you unwanted mail on a regular basis (fondly referred to as “junk mail”), so it’s understandable if people don’t want to consider themselves marketers. But times they are a-changing… Marketing and promotions have changed drastically over the past few years as media and technology have shifted and morphed into the world of social networks we are now navigating on the web. Now rather than talking “to” an audience, marketers can actually have conversations “with” their audience. While the methods have changed, the main purpose for marketing remains the same: At the heart of it, marketing is about telling a story that motivates people to action. It’s about helping your audience to feel like they’re part of something bigger and meaningful. It’s about welcoming them into the story and allowing them to become part of it and shape the future of it. So when you think of marketing that way, it’s probably a little easier to see how you’ve been “marketing” all along in your youth group. When you invite a student to come up and share their testimony about how the youth group or camp or mission trip has impacted their life, they’re sharing a story that has the power to engage other people and draw them into the story themselves. When you ask a parent to write something in your newsletter about why they chose the mission trip over soccer camp for their son or daughter, they’re helping you market to the other parents who haven’t figured out where they fit into the story just yet. Throw new media into the mix, and you may find that you’ve been marketing all over the place without even thinking about it. When you post a story or photos to your Facebook page or your youth group’s page, that’s marketing. When you blog about lives that are being changed in your youth group, that’s marketing. When you send text messages to your kids letting them know what’s coming up in the group, that’s marketing. See…it’s not so bad after all, is it? So I’m wondering…

  • Do you think of yourself as a marketer?
  • If so, how do you see yourself marketing to the kids and parents in your group/community? What have you found that works really well with your group? What stinks?
  • If not, why? What’s keeping you from being a good marketer for your youth group?

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in the YS Blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinion or position of YS.