Should your church sell advertising on its livestream?

A number of pastors have contacted me recently because they have been approached by a local business to advertise their live worship service. In some cases, the congregation has business owners who would like to support the church through their business. In other cases, the COVID church lockdown revealed to marketers a significant audience watching the church online. As a result, they’re approaching pastors about advertising the church on the livestream — but those pastors aren’t sure if it’s appropriate or worth it.

So I asked a range of highly respected pastors, marketing experts and other Christian communications professionals what they would recommend regarding church advertising. Although we didn’t find a consensus, we got a wide range of interesting responses.

Church Advertising – No Shortage of Opinions

– I wouldn’t allow it. The main reason is that you don’t know the ethics of this business owner. Second, the church is run from tithes and offerings. Finally, the singular focus of the online worship experience is the gospel, and it tends to get blurred when we make it into profitable delivery. Also, if that was OK, then why don’t you put ads in your pre-roll video loop in the worship center? It’s the same concept. Movie theaters do it, but I don’t think it’s appropriate for churches. – Executive director of a national church media ministry

– I say to myself “why not? I would be open early or late. As long as the leadership of this company aligns with our values. For example, I would like to be sponsored by an organization like Pray.com or Museum of the Bible. – Pastor

– If it is a corporate sponsor or a product with no value conflict (florist, clothing store, etc.), this should not be a problem. But the slippery slope is when the church begins to depend on that money to the point of not being able to live without it. Then compromises start to be made. Sponsors may decide that the pastor should move away from a biblical position or soften his doctrine. When a church or ministry becomes dependent on revenue, then the sponsor can become too powerful, and that would never be acceptable. – Christian media producer and former network manager

– We have a local business that sponsors our live stream and that offsets our expenses. However, we do not run video advertising, but display a graphic like “This live stream is sponsored by ____” at the start of the service, as PBS does. We never had any reviews. – Pastor

– I wouldn’t hit him with a 10 foot pole. It’s hopeless for me. And some things must remain sacred and a place of worship is that place. – Church Marketing Director

– I am not sure. I like it but part of me is hesitant. – Pastor

– I think it’s a very slippery slope. You are bound to receive criticism from some people who could probably offset any gains with lower donations. Also, how do you decide who can advertise and who doesn’t? – Marketing and fundraising consultant for the church

– I think it better be worth it! If I did, I would be very intentional about telling the congregation. I would like them to know that it pays for the livestream fee, or the church mortgage, or the children’s ministry. – Marketing Agency CEO

– I think a graphic on the screen at the end would work. – Church fundraising expert

“I think once you open that door, you’ll have a hard time closing it. And others will also want to place ads. If you say no to some (who may be members of the congregation), it may seem like playing favorites. I think there is more to lose than to gain. – Church Marketing Consultant

– Well, churches advertise on other platforms, so I would probably treat that the same way. Does it make sense to them? Are advertisers part of the church? – Church Brand Strategist

Marilyn J. Hernandez