The Billboard Analogy

Imagine your church was given a huge billboard on Highway 401, North America’s busiest highway, carrying about 420,000 vehicles per day. (That means A LOT of people would see your sign.)

Your billboard invites people to a special program at your church. But suddenly, you’re told that you have to pay for the days you want your billboard to be unveiled.

You have two choices:

  1. Leave the billboard on the highway covered with a thick, black tarp or
  2. Pay a small price for half a million people to see it.

What would you do?

Hopefully, you would pay to unveil the billboard. Why? Because when it comes to letting people know of Jesus Christ, every penny is worth it.

Why consider digital ads?

Let’s face it – most of the world’s population is online.

Today, the question is no longer whether Seventh-day Adventists should have an online presence, but rather, how do we increase our presence? What can we do to be more effective at sharing the Gospel online?

Digital ads, specifically Facebook ads, are like that billboard on Ontario’s busy highway.

1 billion people log on to Facebook every day.

This number includes people in the area around your church who you want to reach.

Isn’t it enough to have a Facebook page?

To strengthen our online efforts, churches and ministries have Facebook pages, Instagram and Twitter accounts, create YouTube channels, and use other methods of digital promotion. If your church or ministry has a social media platform, kudos to you!

But it’s not enough.

Remember the billboard analogy? The billboard is up but no one will see it unless you pay for the tarp to be removed.

According to the Digital Marketing Institute, organic reach is “the number of people who have seen your post through unpaid distribution.” Going back to our billboard scenario, organic reach represents the number of people who intentionally leave their cars, climb up the billboard. and peak under the covering.

We can no longer count on the organic reach of Facebook posts. If you don’t put money behind your ad or posts, less than 2% of people who follow your page will see your content.

What are Facebook ads?

Facebook ads are paid promotional material that targets a specific audience in the effort to let more people know about your church or ministry’s programs or services.

These can be:

  • Video Ads
  • Photo Ads
  • Multi-product Ads
  • Event Ads
Now that we know a little about ads, we ask;

Should churches use Facebook ads to promote their services and programs?

More practically, if your church is offering a Bible-based financial help seminar, an after-school program for kids, or they’re giving out winter coats to needy families, should these be advertised on social media?

Almost 20% of people think not!

In a recent poll, 81% agreed that we should be advertising on social media platforms while the remaining 19% thought not, for varying reasons.

What do you think? 

As you mull over this, remember the church has been “advertising” for as long as it has existed. However, the methods are constantly evolving. Look at it this way:

Your church is already advertising if:

  • your church has a sign in front of its building
  • you print out flyers or cards to be passed out
  • there are paid ad spots on the radio or television
  • the church has a social media platform.

A Facebook ad is simply an additional tool that you would be using to reach out to your community. It’s the digital version of what your church is doing already.

If your church is still printing flyers to give out to your community, consider the words of one CEO:

“Some…believe that an attractive flyer mailed out to countless, untargeted recipients will bring results. Unfortunately, this is just one way to kill lots of trees, waste plenty of expensive ink and give the post office your hard earned money without getting any kind of return. Even the best-designed flyer won’t be very effective at producing a response, especially if sent to cold, untargeted [individuals].”

What’s the purpose of “advertising” your ministry online?

If you sense a twitch in your spirit because the words “Gospel” and “advertising” are used in the same sentence, that’s understandable. Besides, we don’t ever want to convey the idea that Salvation is a product for sale.

When we promote or advertise, we extend an invitation to those online to be a part of something bigger. For digital disciples or ministry workers, our reason for promoting what we do has eternal value.

Digital disciples (those who share the Gospel online) recognize their responsibility to let others know of the saving grace of Christ.

We share the Gospel in various ways (preaching, health classes, education, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, defending the defenseless, etc.). When we’re planning an event, we want to find the most effective way to get the news out.

The purpose of advertising is to:

  • reach more people online with the Gospel
  • let people in on resources offered by the church
  • raise awareness about your church or ministry
  • give a better idea of what your church is like
  • encourage visitors to consider Bible study or other ministry events
  • promote services offered by your ministry

With 2 billion people using Facebook every month, you are guaranteed to reach someone in your target audience.

What should the church be advertising?

  • Our schools

  • Our health institutions

  • Our community service programs

  • Pathfinders

  • Drug rehabilitation programs

  • Health programs and lectures

  • Media (radio, television, publishing, online) entities

  • Feeding and clothing programs

  • Prophecy seminars

  • Evangelism training

  • And much more!

“Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they set it on a lampstand, and it gives light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15 NIV).

So it should be with what the church offers. We want as many people as possible to know.

More people need to be made aware of what the church offers. Online ads have the possibility of giving the world a better idea of who we are.

When a product or service is worth it, creators focus on how they can use all the methods available to them to promote something they believe is useful to consumers. Knowing how useful our ministries are (online and offline) will push us to work feverishly to use as many tools as possible to reach more souls.

How do Facebook ads work?

Now that we’ve established why online ads are important, let’s get to how to actually create Facebook ads.

HubSpot recommends keeping these things in mind when creating ads on Facebook:

  1. Create a visually appealing ad: Will the ad attract the attention of your target audience?
  2. Make it relevant: Will your target audience see value in what you’re promoting or is the ad out of touch with their needs?
  3. Include a Call-to-Action: What do you want your audience to do as a result of seeing your ad? Visit your church website? Sign up for a Bible study? Make a clear appeal at the right time.

Create a Facebook ad in 8 steps:

  1. Start here
  2. Choose your objective
  3. Select your audience
  4. Decide where to run your ad
  5. Set your budget
  6. Pick a format
  7. Place your order
  8. Measure and manage your ad

So, should you advertise on Facebook?

Absolutely!

Effective advertising on Facebook increases the chance for more people to learn about your church or ministry. While we promote the church to those in the community, we shouldn’t neglect those who are seeking for truth online. 

However, it is critical that churches and ministries remember that it is NOT ads (digital or otherwise) that win souls. The Holy Spirit wins souls.

“There is a necessity, it is true, for expending money judiciously in advertising the meetings, and in carrying forward the work solidly. Yet the strength of every worker will be found to lie, not in these outward agencies, but in trustful dependence upon God, in earnest prayer to Him for help, in obedience to His Word” — Testimonies, vol. 9, p. 110. (1909)

By promoting your church or ministry activities or programs online, you let more people in on Something life-transforming.

Has your church or ministry used Facebook ads? What worked for you and what didn’t? Tell us below!

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