A new study released in January indicates that the United Methodist Church's (UMC) national advertising campaign has increased first-time attendance at its local churches and improved public perceptions of the denomination.
In its annual evaluation of the church's Igniting Ministry campaign, Ventura, Calif.,-based Barna Research Group said, "the advertising is working in part because it combats a typical challenge that denominations face: indistinct positioning."
Since the campaign's launch in 2001, fi rst-time attendance is up 14 percent, while overall worship attendance has increased by 6 percent.
Viewers of the church's commercials also have a significantly stronger favorable impression of the denomination than those who have not seen the ads, according to Barna.
People who have seen the commercials are nearly twice as likely to say United Methodists "are there for people facing personal difficulty" than those who have not seen the ads, the report said. Those viewers are also much more likely to say the church helps people in their communities, accepts people from different walks of life and shows care and support for its members.
The UMC's $20 million initiative, approved by the church in 2000, is aimed at raising awareness of the denomination through a series of cable television commercials and other advertising.
National commercials are aired during the Easter, Christmas and back-to-school periods.
"The more people know about the church and how it can help them, the more likely they are to choose to visit one of our congregations," says the Rev. Steve Horswill-Johnston of United Methodist Communications. "[The study] shows that when significant local church efforts are combined with a consistent presence in public media, it opens up real possibilities for disciple-making."
Horswill-Johnston attributes the increase in first-time attendance at UMC services to congregations working better to understand newcomers, as well as sharpening their welcoming.
For an overview of the 'Igniting Ministry' United Methodist Church campaign, visit ignitingministry.org.