Another way in which contemporary churches incorporate marketing strategy is by focusing & declaring their target audience. Good businesses do this: if they're good at what they do, the business will focus their target demographic & aggressively seek to engage that target demographic with their brand.
In the last half century, this way of thinking has been applied to the Kingdom of God. It has been especially prevalent in the strategical thinking among those associated with The Church Growth Movement. The book that brought perhaps the greatest prominence to this idea of bridging "strategic demographic targeting" with "church" was Rick Warren's great book The Purpose Driven Church. In that book, Pastor Rick talks about their target demographic whom they gave a name: "Saddleback Sam." Here's what Pastor Rick writes in his book about Saddleback Sam (p. 169)...
Most of our members would have no problem describing Sam. We discuss him in detail in every membership class.
Click Image to Enlarge
Saddleback Sam is the typical unchurched man who lives in our area. His age is late thirties or early forties. He has a college degree and may have an advanced degree. (The Saddleback Valley has one of the highest household education levels in America.) He is married to Saddleback Samantha, and they have two kids, Steve and Sally.
Surveys show that Sam likes his job, he likes where he lives, and he thinks he's enjoying life now more than he was five years ago. He's self-satisfied, even smug, about his station in life. He's either a professional, a manager, or a successful entrepeneur. Sam is among the most affluent Americans, but he carries a lot of debt, especially due to the price of his home.
Pastor Rick goes on for several pages describing Saddleback Sam. It's an impressively well-researched profile of the typical resident of Saddleback Valley, CA, as well as the prototypical prospective member for their Saddleback Valley Community Church.
This idea of a church focusing & pursuing a target demographic was not new to Pastor Rick's church, however. This idea rises out of an ideology first formulated by Donald McGavran, the father of the Church Growth movement. McGavran was a missionary in India, and figured out that people of different caste levels would not worship with one another. So he planted separate churches for each caste level with the idea that he would convert them and, once they reached a certain level of maturity, he would be able to mix them together later. However, there was a big problem with this strategy: it didn't work. The idea of separatism already had been woven into their mission strategy & crystallized in form in their churches. They never could get the castes together as one body.
This idea has a name: the Homogeneous Unit Principle (HUP) of church growth. McGavran's observations of people movements led him to postulate that "people like to become Christians without crossing racial, linguistic, or class barriers." (quote from Peter Wagner) McGavran understood that birds of a feather flock together. He learned that people naturally associate with persons of like values & rarely venture outside of these units.
Pastor Rick even offers scriptural support for the HUP strategy. He highlights the fact that in the limited commission -- when Jesus sent out the 12 -- they were to go to Jews only. Was Jesus racist? No. He was simply focusing his target audience... or so says Pastor Rick.
So what say you? Does the Homogeneous Unit Principle of church growth sound like a viable strategy for your church? Is it theologically sound? I'd like to hear your take before I taint it with my own opinionated perspective.