From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Advertising campaign seeks to ignite church's ministry

Date 13 Feb 2001 14:11:31

Feb. 13, 2001 News media contact: Linda Green·(615)742-5470·Nashville, Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) -- You drive down a city street and come upon a
billboard that declares, "I believe none of us is qualified to judge." 

Or you search the classified section of the newspaper and come across an
advertisement inviting those who are tired of empty and unfulfilling
relationships to visit the people of the United Methodist Church.

United Methodist Communications (UMCom) will be using such messages to
promote the denomination during the next four years.

Billboard and classified advertisements are included in an ambitious
national media campaign that seeks to raise awareness about the United
Methodist Church, inspire current members of the denomination and encourage
others to visit a local congregation. 

Igniting Ministry is the first full-blown television, newspaper and outdoor
campaign undertaken for the church, according to the Rev. Steve
Horswill-Johnston, director of the Igniting Ministry effort and a staff
executive at UMCom.  

The commercials will be available March 1 as part of the Igniting Ministry
planning kit. The kit is designed to assist congregations in honing their
inviting and welcoming skills and to provide guidance in conducting media
campaigns based on Igniting Ministry. 

Last May, the denomination's 2000 General Conference approved UMCom's
funding request of nearly $20 million for the campaign. The conference
authorized UMCom to create national commercials about the church for cable
television, with the goal of communicating with people that the denomination
might not reach otherwise.

One of eight advertisements will be selected for the national television
spot campaign, which begins Sept. 5, according to Horswill-Johnston. 

The Igniting Ministry effort includes five campaign "expressions," which are
available for television, radio, newspaper, billboard, bus shelters, door
hangers, direct mail, electronic worship graphics, Web graphics and bulletin

The first expression, called "Diversity," shows that the United Methodist
Church embraces not only different races and cultures but also diverse
theological views. "Unlike other denominations, we hold all of that together
as one denomination," Horswill-Johnston said. "Although there are tense
moments about those differences, they are what is attractive about our
denomination to 'unchurched' people."

Another category is found in "Classifieds." The idea behind this ad theme is
that people who are unchurched or seeking spiritual fulfillment often look
in the wrong places -- places such as the classified or personal ad section
of the newspaper. "Our classifieds are little spiritual land mines, where
someone searching for spiritual fulfillment goes to that section of the
newspaper, discovers the land mines, is caught off guard and pointed in the
direction of the United Methodist Church," Horswill-Johnston said.

One of the most intimate or personal areas of the campaign is the "Rain"
expression, which highlights people considering what it means to be in the
community of God. "The people are reflecting on 'if my life adds up to mean
anything,' " he said.

A fourth expression is "Good Works," which taps into the finding of the
Barna Research Group that, among unchurched people, the denomination's most
attractive attribute is its care for those in need. Working on behalf of
UMCom, Barna interviewed 432 people across the country last fall to find out
what they seek in a church.

"Good Works" says that when a person reaches out to help another, that
person is renewed or changed. "Spiritual renewal happens in our lives and in
the lives of people we help," Horswill-Johnston said. "Our salvation is in
part dependent on it."  

The final ad expression has the possibility of creating the most "buzz" in
the campaign, he said. "Love Letters" will portray intimate and thoughtful
notes from the Creator to humankind about mending the broken relationships
humans have with God.

Each piece of advertising is centered on the theme: "Our hearts, our minds
and our doors are always open. The People of the United Methodist Church." 

All five expressions will be reflected in the Igniting Ministry planning
kit. Newspaper ads, radio spots and artwork for supporting media will be
included in the planning kit and on a Web site. Local churches will be able
to customize each piece to fit their needs.

The national advertising, which starts this fall, will only be on
television. It is up to the 36,000 congregations across the country to place
the advertising based upon their resources. Churches will have the
opportunity to localize or put their names on the newspaper, billboard,
radio and television spots that are shown in their regions.

"The television and all of the other advertising should take a back seat to
the invitational and discipling efforts of local churches, "
Horswill-Johnston said. The resources to make welcoming, hospitality,
invitation and discipleship are found in the planning kit. "Advertising
alone is not going to strengthen the church. It creates the willingness for
people to attend. It is the local church's duty to invite people into the
life of church and help them become disciples of the faith."

Beginning March 1, Igniting Ministry officials will offer 33 regional
training events to help local churches in strengthening their welcoming and
marketing skills. The training also will provide local churches with
guidance in conducting media campaigns.

In an effort to prepare for the regional events, UMCom is hosting two "Train
the Trainers" events, Feb. 13-15 and Feb. 19-21, at Scarritt-Bennett Center
in Nashville. The sessions are designed to train people who will provide
leadership for the regional events.

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United Methodist News Service
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