Mainline church attendance has been in decline ever since JFK was president. And it’s not just here in Northeast Wisconsin. Would advertising bring people back?
The Catholic Diocese of Green Bay has invested $200,000 into a Lenten media blitz. It seems a quarter million members have gone missing in Mass, according to a recent Fox 11 news story. In the ad they “invite you to come home again.”
The United Church of Christ has a unique approach with what they call “spiral advertising,” to be released just after Easter. The denomination is asking its local members to distribute the video ad via email, Facebook, Twitter, and other forms. “We're asking people to become tech-savvy evangelists,” is how the Rev. J. Bennett Guess, the UCC's director of communication, describes the effort. He explains, “our target audience is now more likely to be found sitting in front of a computer screen instead of a TV screen."
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America has advertising campaigns readily available to their member churches for local advertising. Their most recent national campaign was focused on “brand awareness” for the ELCA.
During Advent 2009 we saw TV ads from the United Methodist Church asking people to rethink church and to “remember those who are shopping for hope, acceptance and love.” The United Methodists launched an advertising campaign with an appeal to aid victims of Haiti’s recent earthquake. Any resulting increase in church attendance, of course, would be strictly residual.
On a related note, certain churches not in the mainline are actually growing right now. But that’s a story for another time.