Middle-class marketing


In 1986, a Census was taken of the main Protestant Churches in Australia, to find out who, and how many were coming to church. The results were very interesting and probably apply to most Western societies.

When we study the figures, they lead us to some dangerous conclusions. The figures show that newcomers to church (i.e. people who have become church members in the last 5 years) are weighted toward 20-30 year old middle-class professionals, many of whom have had family problems. That is, what the figures show is that church based evangelism seems to find a greater response among the middle-class, than among other segments of society.

What we do with these figures is of real interest. If we come at it from a marketing angle we would have to say, that as evangelism is effective with the middle-class, then we should concentrate our efforts at this point. For example, we might concentrate on the upwardly mobile - run family management courses, set up a preschool. That is, we would target our efforts at the best response group.

Now this raises two related questions. In the first place, is it right to market the Christian faith? And second, should the target response group be middle-class? It is often said today that a church that does not adopt a sound marketing strategy will not grow. If this proposition is true and we adopt a business-like marketing strategy, then we are bound to ask the question - what have we grown? Have we grown Jesus' church, or a socialized pseudo Christian middle-class back slapping organization?

It's an interesting phenomenon to discover that protestant churches are predominately middle-class. James, the brother of Jesus, wrote these words in the first century. "Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom?" The church of the first century was a church of the common people - a church of the poor. So, what's going on?

It is likely that middle-class values are predominately Christian in ethos and therefore, it is this segment of society that is most attracted to the Christian church. This will be particularly so when these values are under threat by an economic downturn or the resurgence Islam. So, given this ethos, it is only natural to find the church predominately middle-class. There is nothing wrong with this, of course, but there may be something wrong if we target this group for evangelism. Is God a respecter of persons? Does he show favoritism? To market Christianity, particularly with a good response group, may well produce results, but not necessarily disciples of Jesus.