- Praise God
- Please be praying...
- What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Final Thoughts: If you don't pass the people test, nothing else matters
- What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Part 3: Marketing is about People
- What Every Church Needs To Know about Marketing: Part 2: Marketing is Everything
- Getting Your Current Members to Invite Friends
- Through the eyes of a visitor
- Encouraging progress
- Please be praying
- Bootstrap Faith
- Know Our Hearts?
- Seldom Read But Always Evaluated
- Creating an Experience
- The Bond Between Music and Design
- The Church Exposed
- The Value Principle
- The Nike Effect: Part II
- The Nike Effect: Part I
- Starting New This New Year
- Christmas Revelation from Charlie Brown
- The Video: Speaking Starbucksian
- And The Winners Are...
- The Video: A Treasure Hunt
- The Video: We're Not Like That Church Down The Street
- The Video: Signs of Neediness
- The Video: Death to Papyrus and Comic Sans!
- The Video: Inconsistent Artwork
- A Thanksgiving Thought
- The Video: The Culture Crime
- The Video: Reserved for Barista
- The Video: Real Men Love Java
- The Video: Marketing is more than you realize
- The Video: The purpose of the video.
- What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.
- re-Branding on Momentum
I recently spent a week in the UK working on some exciting projects where I had the opportunity to spend time with a number of church leaders, as well as minister in a small country church. To me, it was exciting to see how hungry the hearts were. The state of the church in Britain is a picture of what could happen in the United States—about 90% less church attendance than what we experience. Church, over time, has been marginalized—even trivialized—in many cases due to lifetimes of unwillingness to change.
It is said that if change is happening outside your organization faster than it is happening inside, then you are falling behind. Can that be said of your church?
In my talks with friends in the UK, I was amazed by the stories they told and of the history that surrounded them at every turn. World War II was still a visual part of their lives in many parts. The buildings, the damage, the story and folklore. Many of the older generation, seeing that I was American, shared stories of the US involvement in the war and how American forces had accomplished what in many ways they could not on their own.
These older chaps had further reason for why they felt America had become a strong country so quickly... "America changes," one man told me. "In America, you are not bound by centuries of your past pulling at you and requiring you to value it, at the expense of your future." To them, America was great because it started fresh—without the past to tether its decisions to.
The past is valuable. Don’t get me wrong. But the question is this:
If you got to start fresh (from scratch) today with your church, what would you do differently? What would it look like? How would it be different? Who would it reach and why? What specific things would you do?
Second question: what is keeping you from doing these things? Does history have an unhealthy hold? Behold, God is doing a new thing (Isaiah 43:19 / DC Talk 1995).
Let 2009 be a year of change. Now, please don't throw out the needs and desires of the saints of yesteryear, include them in it. They want to reach the promised land, too. They want to see the baton of faith passed on. It is your job to enlist them. Enlisting comes from casting vision and dreaming with them—asking them for their insight and their participation—valuing their contribution. Success with walking a congregation through change is often found by reaching one hand out toward the future while using the other to reach back to who you have been. One without the other is costly.
Begin the New Year anew. We have an unchanging message—yet for us—it’s time to change.
© Richard L. Reising
Believe it or not, Christmas was even complex back in 1965. "Is there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?!" Charlie Brown's frustrated plea originated back in a day when things were even less complicated and less commercial than they are now—during a time when there were less divided families and multiple-stop Christmases than there are today.
Now, I could go off into a rant about anti-consumerism and remembering the meaning of Christmas, but instead, I’m going to just let the words speak for themselves. Linus nailed it head on. Watch the video. He even knew to tell them to dim the house lights! (shameless marketing plug)
As church leaders, let's keep it simple this Christmas. I have seen million dollar productions never accomplish what the simple reading of scripture can. Let the profound truth of Christ break through the confusion of life. We have the greatest message. We have the one message that matters. We have reason to celebrate. Great joy! He is exactly that... to all people.
May your Christmas be filled with the love that changed the world.
Luke 2: 8-14
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”
There is no doubt that Starbucks has their own language. Tall, Grande, Venti... (Let's call it Starbucksian). For the most part, churches have their own language too. Having your own language is sometimes a valuable weapon in your marketing arsenal, but yielded without planning and precision, it can be deadly to your culture. Basically, it’s a two-edged sword. On one hand, if you don’t know the language, you feel lost and on the "outside." However, if you know the language, you feel "included," special and "in-the-know."
"Code" language is a very insider thing. Many churches will ask, if insider language is a bad thing, why does Starbucks do it? Simple. They want insiders. As an outsider, you learn the secret code by ordering a drink. If you don’t know it, someone is standing right there, looking you in the face and helping you engage your transition between outsider and insider. They are there to even suggest a drink. When someone has a puzzled look on their face, you quickly hear... "Would you like something hot or cold?" "Would you like something sweet?" They are literally trained to identify a newcomer and immediately make them comfortable without any kind of embarrassment. They are "hands on" to steer you into an addictive Mocha Frappucino. After you visit about three times, you are the master. You’ve got your drink and your size down pat. You’re an insider now. The bridge to that point was built very deliberately by Starbucks themselves in an effort to create insiders. Brilliant!
Now, why is this not working so well for churches? One, most churches speak Christian-ese not as a bridge to gain insiders, but as a validation tool with other insiders. AKA: I prove my spirituality in the number of three-syllable Bible words I can say. As churches, we often make it difficult for visitors to understand our code. We don’t have interpreters waiting to greet visitors at the front door, their job solely to explain everything we intend to say. When someone does indicate they might not know our ways, many churches throw them under the bus and make a show of them—asking them to stand up, raise their hands, and fill out forms.
If the visitor tries to follow along, our insider jokes and language—the very stuff that rallies the troops and makes believers feel like they’re in the cool "in-crowd" (the “God is good.... All the time” stuff from the video)—all of those insider jokes just remind them that they’re outsiders.
What's the key? Just that: a key. It’s like a map that you need to read the key to understand the symbols. The key is a bridge. The key is an explanation. Without explanation, you leave outsiders out. Without the barista telling me what the stuff is, I’m lost. With the barista carefully explaining the coded language, I’m on my way to becoming an insider. So, insider language in itself is not the issue unless it is left to resolve with out deliberate explanation.
Make this commitment: never let a service take place where you don’t break down church vocabulary for the visitors present and tell them the story behind our inside jokes. The secret behind this is two-fold: if you commit to it, 1) you’ll build stronger bridges and 2) you’ll get tired of bringing in so much context to all your insider verbiage, that you'll cut it down to the minimum.
As a church, do you have your own language? Do your inside jokes leave an outsider feeling further outside? It’s time to build a bridge. Change your language or commit to bridge-building. Without it, your church might be good at winning over other Christians, but you will leave a lost and dying world dying to know what you’re talking about.
© Richard L. Reising
Big thanks to everyone who participated in yesterday’s contest!
In the video, when the couple enters the Starbucks for the first time, an extremely outdated Amy Grant poster is visible in the background. Of course, I asked you to also name the cassette, which was The Collection. The actual second on the video was 1:17, if you’d like to go back and take a look. Here’s a screen shot:
And the winners are…
Congrats! I must give honorable mention to some of the guesses, including Phil Keaggy and Michael W. Smith.
More on the video later this week!
The idea for the video came to me about five years ago. I had spoken at a conference about creating an atmosphere that fostered growth and had a pastor couple visit me directly after to tell me they loved what I talked on and agreed with every point, but they still could not see why their church wasn't growing. They went on to describe a list of culture-killers that made me realize that the issues are often much too close for us to see in our own world. When this is the case, your best shot at understanding is through a parable. Jesus taught this way when He knew that they weren’t understanding the point that was hitting them right in the face (Matthew 13:13).
In this video parable, my team and I had a blast packing it full of hidden jewels. One of these jewels was a joke about how we often don’t replace the memorabilia of the past. A 5000+ member church client of ours had a signed photo of a guest artist up on its wall that was about 25 years outdated, even though this artist had visited the church again within the year (certainly having a newer photo available). In homage to our commitment to yesteryear, we placed a different 20+ year old Christian music poster in the video. I'll give a Next Level Pack (six books and a DVD) to the first 3 that find it. Post your response here. Name the artist and the cassette. I’ll keep the posts hidden until our winners are determined.
In our video, What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?, one of our cameos with a barista suggested that, "We aren’t like that store down the street, where they water their product down. We serve only 100% real coffee." This is particularly humorous to me because in the course of consulting with hundreds of churches, I have never met a church that says, "We really water it down,” only churches that claim that other churches do.
As a matter of fact, in a particular consulting season, I asked about ten churches in a row if they considered themselves "deeper" than the other churches in their community. Ten out of ten, despite being from different denominations and of different sizes, all claimed to be "deep". Go figure! Maybe those are just the churches that hire marketing consultants :). Maybe it’s that we all value depth and feel as though we’ve nailed it. Either way, we might just be missing it if we feel we have a unique claim on truth—or assume that others fall so short.
It’s similar to the “Got Milk” ads. They were an effort of the US Dairy Board to get people who don’t drink milk to start drinking it. This is very different than the ads by the individual dairies (like Borden or Lucerne) that make claims as to the superior quality of "their" milk. These ads are aimed at people who already drink milk—attempting to bolster their position with them.
When it comes to your promotional efforts as a church, any claim you make as to the quality of your truth does more to separate you from others in the eyes of a believer than to endear you to a non-Christian. Actually, that’s the least of what would appeal to someone on the outside of Christianity looking in—deciding if they want to know God in the first place. Spiritual truth and doctrine are critically important. But when a church outwardly communicates the superiority of its doctrinal statement, it only matters to those who are savvy enough to distinguish it—thus showing that they are not asking the masses to taste and see of His goodness, but rather talking to “church folk”, trying to rally the troops along common values. I'm not saying you are not right--just saying that non-believers don't care.
The point is, if I don’t drink milk, don’t waste your time telling me how perfect your milk is compared to everyone else. Convince me to drink milk. Any time we spend making a claim to "our milk's" superiority is always wasted on a world that doesn’t value milk in the first place. It’s always an argument of superiority that ultimately reveals that we are unaware of the decision-making process of the non-believer. If they aren’t drinkers of "milk", their primary need is to taste and see that He is good (Psalms 34:8).
Let's spend all of our efforts on bringing that to pass and applaud any church that makes progress in His name.
© Richard L. Reising
If you look closely at the video, you’ll see the smiley face signs that ask for volunteers. They are smiley face signs with a pointing finger that says, "Starbucks looking for smiling volunteers. We need you!"
It wouldn’t be uncommon to see a sign at a Starbucks communicating the opening of a paid barista position. But there’s a world of difference between communicating a need for employees and soliciting for free labor. In reality, I think that it’s the commonality of such signs that causes us not to second-guess the use of "volunteer begging" in the pathway of a visitor. Even if it wasn’t meant for them, they don’t know that. To a visitor, he/she was just asked to volunteer in spite of not even knowing Christ or this particular church.
In the book, I mentioned a story about an unchurched friend of mine who had called me to let me know she had finally attended church (something she knew was very important to me) but that she was baffled and frustrated that when she went there looking for answers, she was asked on her first visit to volunteer the following week in the nursery. A little overzealous, don't you think? That church's neediness translated into a missed opportunity to meet someone's spiritual need by preemptively asking them to meet the church's labor need.
Whether a sign or a non-filtered verbal challenge, confronting visitors with volunteering is a telltale sign that you are a "get to work" church. The visitors are asked to give of themselves before they’ve received anything. This might work with a believer, but with a non-believer, we should fight to always make it a "win-win" in which we let them "win" first. I do admit that there are communities that are more prone to volunteer quickly based on their work ethic and values, but I challenge that the concept of Christianity is summed up in the fact that Jesus gave us a win-win opportunity by letting us win first. That means to follow His footsteps, we are to give to visitors in such a way that they are overwhelmed with grace, long before they are asked to give back.
So the issue is really placement. If it’s not something for the visitor, it simply belongs somewhere else. I know what you’re thinking. You say “Well, this is the best chance we have at getting our church-goers attention about that need.” If that’s the case, your real issues might be two things: 1) assimilation and 2) communication. Create a church where people are taking progressive steps towards Christ. As they're taking those steps, find the right place to challenge them to get involved. Consider web-based communities, times of deeper ministry and small groups—all of which are better opportunities to challenge people to serve that don’t confront visitors head-on.
Just like the post about the Stadium, people come to church at various spiritual levels. Communicating to people on each of those levels and progressing them is essential. This will help you avoid the bottleneck that creates volunteer neediness. Signage to get volunteers will simply reinforce that issue by pushing newbies further away.
© Richard L. Reising
Does anyone remember parachute pants? They were this 1980's phenomenon (and I mean phenomenon) alongside leg warmers, Thriller, black lacquer furniture and Nagel prints (you get extra points for remembering those). It’s funny how things go in and out of style. Parachute pants are not-so-much in style anymore. That doesn’t mean that they won’t ever be popular again, but it does mean that if they do come back into style, they’ll always be referred to as “80s style.” Parachute pants aren’t the only things that go through that product cycle. In fact, if you’re more fashion forward, ten years from now, you’ll probably be looking back at what you’re wearing today and the same thing will go through your mind.
Amazingly enough, in the same way that clothes and decor become dated, so do fonts. We placed a number of over-used and dated fonts in the video to showcase this point. I’m sure many of you savvy designers out there immediately caught the Papyrus and Comic Sans. (It’s almost like our eyes are trained to identify it and point them out instantly). Well, fonts experience the same product life cycle that all style elements do—the early adoption period (where only the cool people use them), the market saturation period (when they are at the max of their popularity) and their popular decline (when we have all "been there" and "done that" and find ourselves moving on). In the video, we used a number of fonts that were dated in this way.
Same thing goes for the use of beveling with a drop shadow. This was on a banner or two in the video. It was a style that became extremely popular when Photoshop added it into the effects menu—go figure! It became very easy and therefore very overused for a season about ten years ago. If you’re sporting this look now, you probably don’t realize just how much you are tipping your hat to the style of the past. The viewer might not ever say anything, but subconsciously, many will put what you are showing them in the "out-dated" category.
Think you do not need to know this stuff if you’re a pastor? If you’re not going to know it, someone on your team needs to know it—and don't expect all designers to know these things either. The thing is, there are designers out there that don’t have enough background knowledge to keep from pulling out a font from last decade without knowing that it was a font from last decade. As a result, you end up being the church that is wearing leg warmers when no one else is wearing them. You don’t always have to be the cool kids, wearing the cool clothes—that might not be your church’s style. But it’s important to know what you’re telling people—you might be telling them you’ve lost track of your decades.
This goes back to wooing your target with your design. Only wear the parachute pants if you know they’ll get you the attention you want.
© Richard L. Reising
Here's a test. How many different versions of the logo did you see in the video? I'll give you a hint... It's more than five. Do you ever wonder why most churches have logos and design styles that vary in everything they do? In most cases I would suggest that it mirrors a lack of commitment to who they are as a church. Most churches are not consistent because deep down, they don't know who they are, whom they are called to reach, or how to reach them. When a church does, consistency becomes the natural outflow of our successful communication with those people.
To be brutally honest, those of us who have been in church for a while know what all the different styles and logos really represent--they stand for all of the volunteer graphic designers that have been burnt out along the way. :)
Design is not something to skimp on. When my wife and I were dating, I spent a lot of money on my haircut. She thought I had great hair and I admit I worked that angle as much as I could to woo her. After we got married and the demands of life overcame us, I resorted to buying clippers and cutting it myself late at night--partly because when we first started serving churches, it was financially tight and also because I was too strung out to ever make it to an appointment. A few years ago God convicted me about it. He reminded me that my wife loved my hair and that by no longer investing in it, I was devaluing her. My investment into my haircut was an investment into my relationship. Needless to say, I pay for my haircut now.
In the same way, great design is part of the courting process. It says, "I know who you are and I know who I am and I want to appeal to you." When you cheaply slap it together, you are literally devaluing the object of your pursuit. Furthermore, show me a church that looks to other popular churches for their design direction and I will show you a church that is short-changing its unique, God-given purpose for a random shot at quick-fix, imitation success. It would be like me getting a haircut to match some movie star in spite of it fitting my face or hair type. If these churches continue on this route for too long, they will come across as "the always changing church"--a.k.a. "the poser." To the outsider, the use of a barrage of differing design styles and varying standards leaves an impression--whether subconsciously or quite obviously--that your church suffers from real identity and resource issues.
The great irony about communications inconsistency is that even though you spent more time and money re-inventing yourself on every project, you actually come off looking cheaper. On the flip-side, when you really know who you are and whom you are called to reach, it shows. Consistency reflects deliberateness. Deliberateness is a value of confidence that draws people.
What's most amazing about the constant re-invention approach is that the churches that do it never stop to think about how rarely they ever see a truly strong organization creating such brand chaos. I mean, Eddie Bauer is still Eddie Bauer and Apple is Apple. I have never seen an ad that would cause me to confuse the two. Brands that know who they are and their resonating factors with their target audience maintain consistent design molds. Adapt over time? Yes! Constantly reinvent? No!
I beg you, as a church, it is time to figure out who God has called you both to be and to reach. Once you have, you are able to build an arsenal of consistent communication that connects the two together over time. Stop measuring yourself by the newest mailer that hits your doorstep--measure yourself by your ability to stay true to who God has called you to be in the midst of the world around you. You do not need a "cool" brochure or website, you need a strategic brand that grows with you as you grow.
© Richard L. Reising