How much should your church spend on marketing?

How much should your church spend on marketing?
How much should your church spend on marketing?

Marketing is an elusive term for many churches. Because it feels so corporate, church leaders can mistake marketing for one of the less-than-spiritual expenses on the balance sheet. However, marketing is intensely theological.

At its most basic level, marketing is the effort to make people aware of something. We have a name for that in Christianity: evangelism. Though a Facebook ad may not seem on par with a Billy Graham crusade, they share a similar foundation.


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In the world of business, the rule of thumb is that an organization needs to be spending about 5% of its bottom line to maintain and 10% to grow. How does that stack up to your church? How much should you be spending?

These questions should help you develop those answers with the leaders of your church so that you can make the most of your advertising dollars.

1. How much are we spending and what are we doing?

This is an important step. You may not realize how much money you are spending on marketing. It’s easy to begin the list with the ads you place around Easter and Christmas Eve, but that is far from all the marketing you do.

You often have hidden marketing costs tucked into other budget items. It will take a little digging and talking to several people, but ask questions such as, “Do you send out reminders for events? Do you create flyers for people to use to invite their coworkers and neighbors? Do you do other event-specific advertising?” Each of these has a cost associated with it. Even if it is just the paper and copy machine lease, do your best to identify that.

Finally, there are several free or practically free ways that we market our church. Make sure to add those to the list as well.

When you are done, you should have a complete list of all the ways you market your church including any costs associated with it. Once you total this list, it will allow you to see where you are currently spending your energy and money on marketing. If you want to take this to the next level, you can perform an overall communications audit. We have several church auditing resources to help guide you through that process.

2. How effective is your current marketing?

Though 63% of churches say marketing is important or extremely important, a study by the Center for Church Communication revealed that 76% of churches aren’t documenting or tracking the results of their marketing. In order to decide how much money your church needs to spend, you need to know what type of marketing is working with your community, and that requires tracking.

How do you track your church marketing? Though it depends on what your outcome will be, you can track the number of people who visit a campaign-specific webpage, how many response cards you receive, or how many people utilize a discount for an event registration.

If you are like the vast majority of churches, you have not been tracking the success of your marketing efforts. What should you do in that case? When trying to determine success with zero tracking data, doing a simple phone or in-person survey is a good place to start.

Though it will take a bit more time to collect and analyze the data after the fact, it is essential to have some data to begin to evaluate how much money you need to spend on marketing.

Here is a sample survey:

  • What church marketing did you experience before you visited for the first time?
  • What was the primary thing that motivated you to visit for the first time?
  • What events did you attend at our church in the past six months?
  • What marketing for those events did you experience?
  • What was the primary thing that motivated you to attend that event?

Keep in mind, the sample questions above are open-ended, which isn’t always the best practice for surveys. Feel free to offer multiple-choice answers from which respondents can choose. You want to make it as pain free as possible for all involved. If you don’t provide answers, it requires more work sorting through responses. Check out these 8 tips on developing church survey questions for more great advice.

3. What types of marketing are the highest value?

The next step is not as simple as it sounds. Once you find the effectiveness of each marketing tool, there’s more to it than dividing the number of responses by the number of dollars. Assessing the value of marketing requires deeper thought.

Other things to consider are: How many people not already in our relational network (members and their friends) are reached by this marketing? How many times will an individual be exposed to this marketing piece? Direct mail will likely be seen once but you will reach newcomers with Facebook ads multiple times. What ages are responding to these pieces? How far from our church does this marketing reach (farther is not necessarily better)?

Once you have thoroughly explored each piece, assign a value for each of them on a scale of 1 to 10 to help you group which methods you think are most valuable.

4. What kind of marketing are we not doing?

One of the biggest things you might discover is that there is some type of marketing (print, email, social media, etc.) that you are not currently doing. Take time to do the research on the kinds of marketing you are not doing and the associated costs, number of impressions, demographic information for its typical audience, etc. For example, it might be time to consider advertising on Facebook.

5. Do we need to maintain or grow?

This is an important question to ask and one that is not necessarily obvious. Though the response might seem like it should always be grow, there are many factors that might mean you are not in a season where you are prepared for growth.

6. How much do we need to spend and where?

Armed with all that information, it’s time to start talking about the real money. You know what you are spending and what is working. It might be that you realize you need to spend less on a weekly newspaper ad in favor of social media advertising. Or it may be that you feel most of your marketing is effective, but you just aren’t spending enough time doing it.

Whether you discover you are spending too much or too little on marketing, taking time to evaluate your marketing will allow you to be intentional about putting your marketing dollars and energy to work in the best way possible to do the important work of evangelism. If you want to do a deep dive into your church marketing, make sure you check out our Church Marketing Plan Tool.

Jeremy Steele

Jeremy Steele is the associate pastor at Los Altos UMC in Los Altos, California, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website:

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