3 Key Benchmarks in Church Email Marketing

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Every year, an email newsletter company named Constant Contact, gathers together statistics from over 200 million emails sent through their system and posts the data in their knowledgebase. The resulting chart of averages offers a benchmark for how your email outreach efforts are performing when compared to other competitors and partners in your niche.

The list ranges across 35 different industry categories, from accountants to animal services, from restaurants and bars to real estate. Here I’ve selected the following industries for a relatable comparison to the church-going audience.

  • Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services)
  • Civic/Social Memberships (ex. associations, chambers, clubs)
  • Religious Organizations

In this discussion, we’re primarily going to focus on unsubscribe rates, click-through rates (CTR) and open rates. Bounce rates are included in the chart, but simply offer an idea on how many of your emails are actually getting through. Bounce rates can be affected by company firewalls, incorrect email addresses, people moving to other jobs, etc., so we’re not going to dwell on them here.

Here are the statistics on those three categories and an additional three, for comparison.

Three Examples of Email Performance for Social Do-Gooders

Health & Social Services (ex. hospital, elder care, adoption services)
Open Rate: 19.86% | Bounce: 9.66% | CTR: 9.08% | Unsubscribe: 0.19%

Civic/Social Memberships (ex. associations, chambers, clubs)
Open Rate: 21.68% | Bounce: 11.01% | CTR: 8.07% | Unsubscribe: 0.08%

Religious Organizations
Open Rate: 25.50% | Bounce: 7.00% | CTR: 7.75% | Unsubscribe: 0.08%

For Comparison, A Few Alternative Examples

Consultant, Training (ex. marketing, management)
Open Rate: 16.28% | Bounce: 9.67% | CTR: 7.50% | Unsubscribe: 0.12%

Marketing, Advertising, PR
Open Rate: 10.63% | Bounce: 7.59% | CTR: 5.62% | Unsubscribe: 0.09%

Technology (ex. web developer)
Open Rate: 11.85% | Bounce: 11.27% | CTR: 6.02% | Unsubscribe: 0.16%

Metric #3. How Often Are They Leaving Your List? (a.k.a. Unsubscribes)

Interesting to note: Out of all 35 industry categories, religious organizations and civil/social membership groups had the lowest unsubscribe rates (0.08% for both), bested only by the publishing industry at 0.06%.

So, does this mean the greater the social mission, the greater loyalty you’ll enjoy from your list? Maybe there is guilt associated with unsubscribing from your church’s newsletter. Like somehow you’re turning your back on God, right?

Are the text-addicted (authors, publishers, book promoters, voracious readers and whomever else may fall into Contact’s “Publishing” category) even able to unsubscribe? Are there compulsive tendencies at play here? Do logophiles hoard electronic newsletters like they do books? Hmm..

Metric #2. Do You Compel Them to Read More? (a.k.a. Click-Through Rates)

Publishing also led the pack with click-through rate (CTR) over 13% (only three industries achieved double-digit CTR).

With the lowest contestant (beauty salons, tanning salons and barbers) pitching a dismal 4.18% CTR and publishing leading with 13%, all three of our altruistic subjects fell somewhere in the middle of the bell curve. Religious organizations ranked lowest of our three focus groups at 7.75%. This means for every 100 people who actually opened the email, only about eight of them were actually caught by the headlines and hook paragraphs you used.

Wait.. “Hook” Paragraphs?

And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
(Matthew 4:19)

Now, let’s face it. Oftentimes, enewsletter owners don’t even use hook paragraphs (a brief introduction to the article that compels people to click through and read more.) They often fall back to the old way of stuffing all their content into the newsletter like they used to do when they printed, sealed, stamped and sent.

This misses one of the big advantages of enewsletters: bringing your audience to you. If hook paragraphs are not being used, this could certainly kill your click-through rate. You might have a higher read rate, but alas, you’ll never know because there is currently no way to track if they read your whole email or if their mail client simply showed them a preview as they were hitting the delete key.

Metric #1. Do They Pretend Not to See You? (a.k.a. Open Rates)

Constant Contact breaks out open rates into three subcategories: mobile, desktop and tablet. For the sake of this discussion, let’s just focus on the overall open rate. (In case you’re wondering, tablets are the least-popular platform by far, with desktop and mobile being fairly balanced and the most widely-used.)

Religious organizations are the champions of the open rate, capturing a stunning 25.50%. Brilliant. I would say this probably points to the hearts of the subscriber-base. If they are plugged into your church enough to have joined your mailing list, they’re invested—for the moment. Their commitment to you may wane or build, but it depends upon your engagement efforts and certainly, the Holy Spirit.

Again, keep in mind “open rate” does not mean “read rate”, so if your open rate seems high but your click-through rate is low, there may be room for improvement. You may want to study how to write better headlines for your articles.

You may also consider segmenting your email list according to your click-through activity. Look for trends in interest. If you put out an article on Christian apologetics and an article on the history of the Protestant Reformation, look to see which article received the highest CTR. If apologetic teaching received the most clicks, you know you may want to produce more teaching and analysis on defending the faith.

Building Your Email List (a.k.a. Your Call to Arms)

In your digital evangelism efforts, building up your followers (in both quantity and in spiritual maturity) and communicating to your followers is the life’s blood of your outreach efforts. Being able to communicate to paid staff, your army of volunteers, and your congregation at a moment’s notice is only the starting point. Whether you’re educating for truth, entertaining for fun, promoting the next fundraiser or sending an emergency broadcast to your community, arming your organization with the knowledge and tools to push news and updates into inboxes is a powerful way to get the Word out.

Aweber logoDon’t have a good email marketing system? You’re not currently collecting email addresses from your website, you say? We recommend Aweber for its reporting and the ability to automatically send out weekly newsletters based upon your blog posts. Let us know if you need help getting set up or if you have questions about the service.

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Constant Contact. Average Industry Rates. Retrieved from

About the Author

A recovering marketing professional, Matthew Schoenherr has been moved from building his own kingdom to advancing thee Kingdom. Matthew provides digital evangelism training and solutions to Christian churches and faith-based non-profits. He may be reached through the Levaire website.


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