- 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
Visitors cannot be expected to understand all that goes on in the context of church. Very often, the one thing visitors do know when they come to church is that they’re out of the loop; particularly, when it comes to the language that we speak in church, or “Christianese.” When they hear words they don’t recognize, one of two things happens:
-They are taught what these words mean and they feel included in the conversation, or
-Words are not explained and visitors are confused and made to feel excluded and unimportant.
It’s very natural to develop verbal shortcuts among our groups and close communities. They save time and assure us in our sense of community and belonging. The downfall to verbal shortcuts in church is that they can create walls between us and visitors.
Think about the average church visitor that doesn’t know God, and who has trouble defining a word as common to us as grace. Would this visitor be able to understand, or at least have explained to them all that is said in your church on Sunday mornings? Think about these common church words: Anointing. Saved. Redeemed. Lost. Called. Communion. Iniquity. Intercession. Apostle. Consecrate. Transgression. Rapture. Sanctification.
It is easy to forget that some of the words in our everyday jargon are not so common in the world outside the church. I want to challenge you to start evaluating your level of Christianese and how often unfamiliar terms are explained to people who might not understand our language.
What are some other words that the average visitor at your church might not understand?
During my travels serving churches, I’ve noticed that very few churches have a balanced response to what is a core facet of a healthy church: exposure. Exposure is critical to understanding who you are as a church and finding your way. And while I know that there are some church "hermits" out there, there are just as many church "followers" to ensure that there are large crowds on each side of “the exposure ditch.”
Let's start with the underexposed church. These are churches that rarely expose themselves to the world outside their walls; or have limited knowledge as to what’s out there in their own community. Their pastors are so busy that they tend to only rely on their denomination or a few "model" churches to provide insight into how church is done. By not being exposed to other churches in your community and what they are doing, you probably don’t fully understand who you are in the context of your community and you won’t have a sense of how your community perceives you. In order to fully understand God’s will for your church, you have to be exposed to what He’s doing in other churches. This helps your church see the role it can more effectively play in the bigger picture of what God is doing in your community.
For this church, make a point to visit churches that do not match your flavor. Visit growing churches and struggling ones. Do not judge them. Ask yourself, "Why do these church-goers like this? Why is this church successful? Who is not attending this church and why?" In order to get away from your own church on a Sunday, some pastors might have to commit hard to taking a break. It is difficult to take a break if you and your church are not in the habit. Let me challenge you that every church leader needs an exposure break--an opportunity to see others fighting the same "good fight" they are fighting. I challenge you to trust God by stepping out of the pulpit and stepping into someone else's back row. It will enhance your perspective in so many ways.
The other side of the ditch is the church that is overexposed. These churches tend to chase whoever they feel is the most exciting at the moment. They spend so much time following trailblazing churches, they end up constantly changing what they do to match what they think the most innovative churches are doing. The end result is that these overexposed churches never really gain a sense of who "they" are and don’t fully understand who God’s called them to be. They read tons of blogs, get tons of direct mail, and listen to tons of podcasts. They are always looking for the "silver-bullet" that’s going to create success. They end up becoming puppets to church fads--and while they can spout out a who's who list of popular Christianity, they never take a hard, inward look at who they are and let God show them how to commit to who they are supposed to be for their community.
I want to challenge that it’s critical as church leaders that we get exposure to what God’s doing in other churches. But it’s also critical after seeing what God’s doing in other churches, that we come back and ask the question, “who are we and how can we learn from this exposure to execute better on who God has called us to be?” As a result we can use exposure to understand ourselves better, communicate our unique DNA more effectively and become more deliberate; instead of constantly reinventing ourselves.
What do you do to ensure you are properly exposed?
A marketing professor holds an item up in the air and asks his class, “what’s this item worth?” His students suggest one dollar, ten dollars, three hundred, and so on. The professor’s response surprises them. “Well, you’re all wrong.” He sees the class show their frustration and finally says, “The item is worth whatever someone will pay me for it.” He then explains to them that this is universally true with any product.
Make sense? It’s like when you hear someone say “All you’re paying for in that product is the name.” An expensive car, a set of golf clubs, a purse, or cosmetics—we try to justify these purchases but most of the time we’re buying the name or the style. Sometimes the product truly is different and really more valuable but sometimes it’s just the packaging that gets us. Sometimes it’s the sense of belonging.
So here’s my question… what do people perceive about the worth of your church? How much are they willing to “pay” for the product? In their minds, is church worth not sleeping late on a Sunday morning? Now, remember, man looks on the outside, so they don’t always see the amazing product that we’re actually providing—they think they are paying for the package that it’s coming in. How do we make church valuable to them?
The other day, I talked about Nike and its brilliant marketing campaign in the early nineties. Nike stood out amongst the competition in the athletic shoe industry by selling us a perceived need—inspiration—but delivering a real need—belonging.
Now here’s the question I’m posing: Do you think Nike would have been successful if they’d done a commercial without Jordan and instead used a slogan like “We make you feel like you belong”? No. It would have been a crash and burn because people wouldn’t have connected with it. Think about it—people don’t realize they need to feel like they belong, so blatantly selling belonging won’t work. You’ve got to wrap it up in something else that will connect with them.
Nike was able to grab you by making you feel like you belonged to something bigger than you. They drew you in with inspiration—something that knows no boundaries. Challenge knows no boundaries. Challenge me to go to the next level and no matter what level I am on, I will understand the calling.
What this means: don’t sell belonging by advertising and promoting it. People don’t consciously think about their need to belong and most are not aware of it until after it’s been fulfilled. For example, having a tagline like “a church where you belong” is like someone responding to an altar call without hearing the message first. We know that belonging is a human need—but most people don’t recognize that. This is something to keep in mind with every area of your church’s communications.
My question for you today is…how are you communicating to the needs of your community? What does your church provide that the community thinks it needs?
Some of you out there might remember the early days of the running shoe market in the late seventies and early eighties. (And by some of you, I mean if you’re old enough!) There were all these new companies—Brooks, Puma, Saucony, Asics, New Balance, Adidas, Pony—and they were all competing against each other, each company selling pretty much the same thing. Well, by the mid-nineties, Nike basically made it clear that it was the dominant company. How did they take over that market? It’s called genius marketing. They saw needs that the other companies didn’t.
What Nike did was sell us a perceived need—inspiration—but delivered our real need—belonging. They convinced us that we could basically have superhuman abilities by creating a connection between their brand and Michael Jordan—an extremely iconic figure in sports. They had top athlete endorsers from almost every sport—creating more than just shoes, but rather an identity behind them. When they reached their “Just Do It” campaign, the company was one of the top brands in the world. How did they do it? They paved the way for us to see them as more than just shoes. At the time, Nike was so great that no other shoe stood a chance.
Nike was all about belonging and to buy a pair of Nike shoes was like being a part of something bigger than yourself. We have this basic human need to belong; so Nike wrapped their product up in faith and achievement. Why am I convinced that it was about belonging and not a true desire to be better at sports? Because 90 percent of us never used our Nike shoes for anything more than going to the mall on Saturday. We didn’t really want to be athletic—we just wanted to be on the winning team.
So how does this translate for the church? Well, it helps us see that there is a difference between true needs and felt needs. We know the people we want to reach need Christ, and we can agree that God has given all of us that space in our heart that only He can fill. But until they’ve heard and understood the message, most people don’t know their need is for Him. They might know things like they should be in church and their kids should be there too, and they probably feel something missing in their lives. We know the real need in their lives is belonging to Christ, but they are likely to think the need is something less spiritual.
We’re not frequently going to introduce them to their real need until we can connect with them on what they think they need. Since they don’t fully understand their true need, it’s our job to make that need felt.
What do the people in your community think they need? Is it friends? Childcare? A sense of belonging? Financial provision? A job? Cool music?
© Richard L. Reising