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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended July 09, 2000
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News about Mormons, Mormonism,
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Sent on Mormon-News: 08Jul00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

LDS Advertisements Old Example of New Trend
(Maine churches turn to advertising to get out word about God)
Dover NH Foster's Daily Democrat 5Jul00 N6

PORTLAND, MAINE -- Maine's traditional religions are finding that preaching from the pulpit isn't enough. Churches and denominations are increasingly turning to mailings, TV and billboards to attract new members and gain name recognition that is only reserved for the famous. The Church of the Nazarene in Portland publicized its services atop ABC Taxi cabs this spring. Portland's Clark Memorial United Methodist Church sent out coupons bearing the slogan, "Big enough to serve you: Small enough to know you!". These were good for a free cookbook to anyone bringing them to Sunday service.

Clark Memorial's cookbook coupons were less than a hit . "No one showed up to claim one," said Rev. Thomas Merrill. A mailing that invited 800 residents to a free Saturday breakfast also failed to draw crowds. "We were not overrun with people - 12 to 20 as I recall," said Merrill. Yet, he may try again. "If direct mail can somehow demonstrate to the community that we as the church are good neighbors, and that what we have to offer may be valuable sometime to a few of our neighbors, then I think it is worth a hundred bucks a year."

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has produced professionally run ads on network television for years. Late-night TV watchers may be familiar with public service type announcements promoting the benefits of family, communication and marriage. They offer a phone number to receive a free Book of Mormon.

Timothy Doot is the vice president of Bonneville Communicatons, a Salt Lake City based advertising agency that produces the commercials. "Paid media is a call to action," Doot said.

Traditionally churches have limited their advertising to the radio and religious publications. But times are changing. The Rev. Robert Gustavson of Emmaus Lutheran Church in Falmouth said, "There has been an encouragement by our national (denomination) to try to advertise."

Gustavson's church along with a half-dozen other Lutheran congregations raised $5,000 for television ads during Lent. The Evangelical Lutheran Church of America put up another $5,000 and prepared their own 30-second spots.

"With all these advertisements by the churches, the intent is to get people to go to church - primarily your church, but also to go to church in general," Gustavson said. The United Methodist Church recently agreed to spend about $20 million on television commercials that will run over the next four years.

With all of these attempts to keep up with the growing competition among churches, one belief is held in common. The intent is to get people to go to church.


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