Methodists Appeal to the ‘Unchurched’

ATLANTA The United Methodist Church launched a $2 million national advertising campaign this week to recruit people to its worship services.

The television spot will air more than 1,200 times on 18 cable networks through Sept. 18 in 15-, 30- and 60-second versions. Tagged “The Journey,” the ad is the first installment of the $25 million “Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors” campaign the denomination plans to run through 2008.

In addition to the national effort, the church group gave grants totaling more than $300,000 to individual congregations for local campaigns. The individual churches are using the money to finance local campaigns that include TV, radio, billboard and movie theater ads.

The TV spot shows people of various ages and races following individual courses that converge into a single route with the voiceover, “Find your path and share the journey.” The work targets people between the ages of 25 and 54 who are looking for spiritual fulfillment.

“The goal of this campaign is to reach youths and adults who are not currently exposed to church but are open to attending,” said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive at United Methodist Communications. “At a time when many Christian groups and religious organizations are viewed as being exclusive, we believe it is important to reach out to the unchurched to let them know that they are welcome.”

UMC launched its first ad campaign in 2001. First-time attendance at Methodist churches increased 19 percent at 164 parishes that were monitored. Overall attendance increased by 7 percent. As a result, the denomination’s governing body voted last year to expand its advertising efforts.

“Advertising is the realization that the church needs to be visible in the marketplace of ideas,” Hollon said. “If we want to be visible to those people, then we simply must find new and different ways to get our name and values into the community.”

The Buntin Group, an independent Nashville, Tenn., shop has created all of UMC’s advertising since 2001. UMC also is based in Nashville.