Methodists Launch $1.5 Million TV Campaign

The United Methodist Church launched a $1.5 million back-to-school campaign to connect families to its churches during this strategic fall season.

Continuing an annual cable television advertising campaign, the United Methodist Church is presenting its "Open hearts. Open minds. Open doors" message in commercials airing through Sept. 17. The "I Believe" and "Prayer" commercials will air approximately 1,200 times on 21 cable networks.

"The back-to-school season is a significant time to invite people to attend a United Methodist Church after summer vacations are past and families begin to regroup and plan their fall activities," said the Rev. Larry Hollon, chief executive of United Methodist Communications, according to the United Methodist News Service. "Many churches present new programming initiatives during this time of year to connect families to church ministries."

In addition to the television campaign, United Methodist Communications has also awarded 70 grants totaling $240,000 to local churches to conduct media campaigns in their communities. Local campaigns include advertising media such as broadcast, billboards, radio and cinema advertising.

"I believe no one who asks for help should be turned away," starts one commercial which emphasizes the church's acceptance and inclusiveness.

The campaign comes as church attendance in 2005 within the denomination has dropped to the lowest level in reported history according to a preliminary report from the General Council on Finance and Administration. Membership in the U.S. also dropped for the first time since the 1930s to just under 8 million.

This year, the campaign has expanded to include more cable networks and local media campaigns. Expenditures and funding, however, has decreased. Cable networks that are airing the commercials now number 21, up from 18 in 2005. The cost has been reduced from $2 million to $1.5 million. The number of grants to local churches has also increased from 64 to 70 local media campaigns, but funding has dropped from $313,000.

The United Methodist Church began its advertising and welcoming campaign in 2001 and research has shown that it has significantly increased first-time and overall worship attendance in 150 test churches across the U.S. between 2001 and 2004, according to an earlier news release. Tracking is now taking place in 300 churches during the 2005-2008 time period.

The commercials are being aired on such networks as ABC Family, Animal Planet, BET, CNN, Discovery Channel, Fox News Channel, the History Channel, Lifetime, TNT, USA Network and others.

Spanish-language commercials are also being broadcasted on Telefutura, Galavision and Univision.