July 25, 2016

The Church – from individual parishes to the Vatican – needs to collaborate with highly skilled specialists if it wants to get serious about evangelization, said a Canadian media, design and marketing entrepreneur.

While Church leaders should turn increasingly to lay experts, lay Catholics should “step up a lot more in our parishes and our dioceses,” offering their expertise, Matthew Harvey Sanders told Catholic News Service July 14.

The 34-year-old Toronto native is founder and managing director of Longbeard Creative, a web and graphic-design company that works with nonprofits.

Sanders was in Rome, explaining to Church leaders the benefits of allocating resources to digital tools and innovative outreach.

Many secular brands, products and services are successfully using today’s tools and marketing strategies to capture people’s attention, Sanders said.

“If you imagine yourself in Times Square, there are hundreds of conversations going on around you, you look up and there are all these screens, bombarding you with information and advertising, selling you a lifestyle,” he said.

But “if you ask someone in Times Square ‘Where’s Jesus in this mix?’ Maybe, ‘Ah, it was that guy on the soapbox, right? Who’s talking about the fact I’m going to hell,”’ he said.


“If we really want to capture people’s attention, we need to focus on putting together visuals, video and digital strategies that are as good” as what the secular world is using, he said.

The Catholic Church does not have to lose its Gospel message or its Christian identity, he said, while it takes advantage of the many insights and skills available in the secular world.

But it does have to compete with a very crowded market, making it “an enormous undertaking that’s going to require a lot of collaboration,” he added.

If one looks at the Church’s message, gifts and teachings, “the Church has a great product, one that people really need. The fact is most people are so busy and distracted they don’t even know they need the product,” he said.


Major franchises, like Star Wars, spend nearly as much on marketing their work as they do on creating it, he said.

As a result, “you don’t need to explain to anybody what Star Wars is.” But Church organizations invest relatively little in promoting their work.

Because of the Church’s lack of marketing, it is little wonder that she has a difficult time stirring people’s imaginations or why people do not consistently ask themselves “why the Church’s message is relevant to me.”

Often Church leaders are reluctant to think about marketing, sales and branding their message or mission, he said, because “self-promotion almost seems to be antithetical to faith.”

But Sanders said he tells Church leaders to focus on what they are trying to accomplish, what their goal is, “and in the case of the Church, it’s the conversion of souls, bringing people to Christ.”


Sanders, who worked for the Toronto Archdiocese as executive assistant to the chancellor, said, “If the Vatican really wants to get serious about evangelization, if it really wants to get serious about reaching people.”

Sanders, a former infantry officer in the Canadian Forces, said that experience engrained in him the military’s belief in efficiency, allocating the resources necessary to accomplish its mission and a spirit of focused commitment.


In the Church, it’s “too easy to forget that when w'£’f§ passive” about engaging with the world or “when we ignore the problems, there is a cost,” he said.

For the Church, “when I don’t pay attention, souls are lost,” he said. In the army “is very easy to see how a mistake had a direct cost. In the Church it’s a little more difficult.”