Marketing Your Parish Religious Education Program

Megaphone Outline Clip ArtThe New Evangelization calls us to utilize the proven techniques of the world of marketing. That is not a dirty word! In 1977, Pope Paul VI said the following:

It is our wish also that the Catholic Institutions, in their various kinds and according to their specific character, will follow with constant attention the development of the modern techniques of advertising and will know how to make Opportune use of them in order to spread the Gospel message in a manner which answers the expectations and needs of contemporary man.

That was 35 years ago! If you’re still having trouble uttering the words marketing, advertising, and evangelization in the same breath, it’s time to get over it!

This inspiration comes from a workshop I attended at the Hofinger Conference in New Orleans this week. I attended a workshop by Maureen Wales who began her own company called Catholic Marketing Initiatives. She presented “10 Proven Pointers” to help you initiate new or bolster current diocesan, parish, or school marketing plans. These same strategies can and should be applied to our parish religious education programs and other parish/diocesan efforts as well. She identifies these pointers as:

  1. Set an objective for your marketing effort
  2. Know yourself (your brand, logo, tag line, etc.)
  3. Know your audience (focus groups, interviews, surveys, etc.)
  4. Create your message (say it in as few words as possible)
  5. Really reach your target audience (segment your audience and identify the best way(s) to reach them)
  6. Create your 18-month marketing plan (what you will do and when you will do it, benchmarks)
  7. Put a timeline in place for implementing and assessing (checkpoints) the plan along the way
  8. Know the 4 R’s of marketing communications; readability (strong visual content), recall (clear/memorable copy), ratio (concise/appropriate presence), and results (compelling/call to action)
  9. Maximze the power of the essential components of good marketing communications (headlines, subheads, graphics, body copy, identity, call to action, contact info, proofreading)
  10. Become a marketing “groupie” (what gets YOUR attention? use those examples to shape your approach)

What are you doing to market your parish religious education program or parish/diocesan initiative?

About Joe Paprocki 2739 Articles
Joe Paprocki, DMin, is National Consultant for Faith Formation at Loyola Press, where, in addition to his traveling/speaking responsibilities, he works on the development team for faith formation curriculum resources including Finding God: Our Response to God’s Gifts and God’s Gift: Reconciliation and Eucharist. Joe has more than 35 years of experience in ministry and has presented keynotes, presentations, and workshops in more than 100 dioceses in North America. Joe is a frequent presenter at national conferences including the Los Angeles Religious Education Congress, the Mid-Atlantic Congress, and the National Conference for Catechetical Leadership. He is the author of numerous books, including the best seller The Catechist’s Toolbox, A Church on the Move, Under the Influence of Jesus, and Called to Be Catholic—a bilingual, foundational supplemental program that helps young people know their faith and grow in their relationship with God. Joe is also the series editor for the Effective Catechetical Leader and blogs about his experiences in faith formation at

4 Comments on Marketing Your Parish Religious Education Program

  1. Joe thank you for sharing Marketing tech.
    the consumer( witness) of the product is the ultimate tell tale if the product ( faith formation product) is going to be a hit via word of mouth email etc.
    So when kids are in a faith formation programs they talk they tell there friends ie. its great or its boring. Continual feedback from parents and students so we can Revamp Revitilize through more Resources in Faith Formation programs to really reach these kids and there issues ie divorce, gluttony and obesity, relationships, drugs alcohol, worry anxiety etc the list goes on. ( the youth in our news and the despair out there is very disturbing)
    There is a God component and answer to each one of these. We have some great programs and great people but if this is the year of faith and our youth is our now. Prior to Marketing the product we need to know your consumers perhaps by a census and their needs and how is our program meeting there needs and we need to speak there language so our Youth can become the 21st century hands and feet of Christ.
    Please do not accept this as criticism but healthy skepticism from a Catholic parent and catechist. once we know the needs and concerns of our youth revamp our programs to really meet the needs of our Youth with the teachings of the Church. Then they can tweet and facebook to there friends come to our Faith formation program something like (Phil Rivers is going to be our guest speaker from the san diego chargers)lol
    Blessings to you for all you do!

  2. I think along the same lines as Grace. I have an MBA, so marketing doesn’t scare me in the least. But parish faith formation is something that ought to sell itself purely by word of mouth. The program should be good enough that participants spontaneously invite others to join in. And the parish should be inter-connected enough that those invitations can happen.

    I would argue that if you don’t have participation, either your program is weak, or your parish relationships are weak. In either case, it isn’t marketing, traditionally understood, that is needed. This is the one sphere, I would respectfully argue, where if you have to do marketing, it’s a sign of a serious problem.

    And again, inasmuch as marketing is nothing more than effective, focused communication, I’m entirely in support of it. And I do fully agree, Joe, that many parishes suffer from poor communication and administrative skills, and there’s nothing in the world wrong with fixing that!

    • Thanks for your thoughts, Jennifer. Your points are well taken however wouldn’t you say that word of mouth IS a form of marketing? Marketing does not always mean fliers and slick ads so I hesitate to agree with you that the need to do marketing in this sphere is a sign of a serious problem. Likewise, not everyone can be reached by word of mouth if they are not around in the first place. A good program can suffer from lack of awareness and it seems that we would always want to be reaching out to more, even if word of mouth is working well.

  3. Joe, Yes, I would agree with you. And if no one else is reaching out to the unconnected members of the parish, then as well they be invited to join into parish life via religious ed as anywhere else.

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