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Last Updated: Thursday, 14 August, 2003, 09:48 GMT 10:48 UK
'Designer' ad campaign for Church
Church attendances are declining
Churches are being urged to launch an advertising campaign stressing the social side of services to attract successful people in their thirties and forties.

Images of Jesus on the cross and Bible quotations are putting parishioners off, according to ad-men commissioned to reverse declining attendances across the country.

They say churches should advertise the chance to make friends, enjoy stimulating sermons, sing-songs, intimate chats and gossip.

September's Christianity and Renewal evangelical magazine features two campaign proposals.

Editor John Buckeridge says millions of non-churchgoers "want to know God and have a spiritual experience" but fail to realise the many ways churches can fill the gaps in their lives.

Khameleon Advertising pitched a campaign featuring a vicar with the tag line "When was the last time you saw some really good stand up ... for free?"

Most people come to a point in their lives, when, although they may have a nice car, home, and partner, they feel something is missing
Jonathan Wilcock

The campaign also featured a goldfish alone in a bowl with the line "When did you last really need someone to talk to?"

Khameleon Advertising managing director Guy Lupton told BBC Radio 4's Today programme it aimed to portray churches as part of their communities offering support "spiritual or otherwise".

People did not want to be preached at, he added.

Ad agency Link ICA, which is urging the Church to target people in their thirties and forties, opted for the slogan "Get a Life - Go to Church".

Joint creative director Jonathan Wilcock said: "Most people come to a point in their lives, when, although they may have a nice car, home and partner, they feel something is missing."

But Jonathon Bartley, who runs theological think-tank Ekklesia, told Today the campaigns were pushing "designer religion", turning worship into just another consumer item.

The Church has a great subversive, revolutionary message
Jonathon Bartley

"It is putting the Church on the shelf next to the new cosmetic, or in the car showroom, as something to be bought," he told the programme.

Consumer culture was the Church's enemy, Mr Bartley added.

And the campaigns embraced the very values the Church was supposed to combat.

"The Church has a great subversive, revolutionary message," Mr Bartley told Today.

He said it should use that hard-hitting message to challenge people by, for example, asking them to love their enemies during the war in Iraq and reminding them Jesus was an asylum seeker.

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