- 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
At times it's easy for people to sound off about what they want to see changed in the church--and we need change, no doubt. But we would all be amiss if we didn't realize the debt of gratitude we owe to all church leaders--the success stories and the struggling.
For those of you who have abandoned a life of normalcy for the most illogical and potentially unrewarding lifestyle (from a purely human standpoint)... For those whose hearts beat against all human reason to serve an eternal calling to connect wayward hearts with a relentlessly merciful God... For those who are often-times expected to house all the answers in the world and deal with the weight of a church and the needs of everyone and still have a life... For those who answered a God-given call to serve the hearts of men...
We thank you.
And we thank God for you. And I personally dedicate my life to serving you.
On this Thanksgiving, I am more grateful than you know for my wonderful wife, the incredible team of talented people that I work with and the opportunity to serve church leaders. At the core of it all, I am thankful for the church leaders in my life that have helped mold and shape things in me that I did not always recognize at the time. I am grateful for you.
I want to encourage everyone to remember this Thanksgiving that (perfect or imperfect) those in ministry around you have all answered a call and dedicated their lives to serving others for Christ. In our humanity, we often forget the divine call that unites us. What an honor we have been given to serve side by side in the kingdom--and what a debt of gratitude we owe to all who join the fight.
May the Lord bless you this Thanksgiving!
In the video, there were a few points made about culture. Not just the style of things, which I look forward to writing on soon, but the often unidentified aspects of culture that are less obvious—the way greeters greet, the way ministers minister, the way ushers "ush", and the way church-goers go—all of it is a reflection of a church's culture. Some churches have a very outgoing culture—others seem to be in a completely different world of their own.
I’m not just talking about our need to train greeters on how to greet as much as I’m suggesting that there is a way of "being" that each individual church has created—whether it’s realized or not. That culture can be completely magnetic to outsiders, or completely repellant. The irony is, whether good or bad, it’s usually consistent throughout—or at least is consistently inconsistent. Many times, when you see a greeter fail on his/her job, it has more to do with church culture than it does poor training.
For some of the church leaders out there, I’m about to paint a picture about a proactive culture that you might deem farfetched, but here goes...
Imagine being ahead of the game. Your volunteer team is trained and comes ready. The sermon and music was nailed long before Sunday. In addition, as a leader, you are thinking and praying for souls. You are thinking about people and how you‘re going to connect with them at every spiritual level [see my posts on the stadium]. You’re thinking about visitors—how you want to see them come to Christ. When you arrive before service, your pre-game routine is simply to pat the team members on the back and remind them of what the trophy looks like—touched lives. You encourage your team that people today will be coming and need to see their smiles as God prepares their hearts. You are thinking more about hitting home runs [see the stadium] and not so much about the details. As a result, you’ve spent what time you do have with your support team—encouraging them with enthusiasm. You are outward focused. You put your teammates at ease by allowing them to focus on their task—reminding them of the end result.
This culture is a proactive one. It’s proactively outward focused. It’s ahead of the game and it’s driven by a clear purpose. It exists consistently in about 5% of churches. The other 95% of churches are reactionary: struggling with the lack of resources, the missing team members, and the last-minute changes. In the reactionary world, it’s very unlikely that every one is thinking outside themselves and about others—specifically visitors. No church will ever be proactive all the time. Some weeks, things will happen and the reactive impulses will reign. But, the end result of weeks and weeks of reactivity is that after a while, we stop forgetting about the outside world all together. After a while, we are no longer building our efforts around the visitor experience and we lose the correlation between our actions and growth. If we go too far, we can even create a counter-culture, so fixated on ourselves that we've lost track of what non-"regulars" are going through or needing.
The culture crime of this video is not just the missed greeter opportunity—it’s the disconnection that kept every other "regular attendee" and worker in the video from thinking first and foremost of others—remembering the inside jokes and the punch lines, but forgetting the true treasure in their midst. Just this past week I experienced a rapidly growing church that was so outward focused, it was palpable. Every volunteer was attentive to me as a guest, and was adding to the experience of the well-executed service. I was amazed. I then felt the same attention given by those I sat next to. It was a pro-active culture—one where they were thinking about me long before I arrived. What "secret sauce" did this mystery church have? It wasn't their brochures. It was their culture. It starts today in your church. Go build it.
© Richard L. Reising
I love signage. Signage means so much. When you have a birthday and your family hangs a sign they made up over the door—when the military returns home from war and they are met with poster-board signs of affection—every time you see it, signage conveys value. It says "you are important, and we thought of you in advance."
In our video there were two signage statements we were making—one blatant and another hidden. The "RESERVED FOR..." parking signs did the job that signs do: they expressed value. They said, "These people are important to us." In our video, the visitors were not valued, just the ones who ran the show: the barista, the manager and the manager's wife. Without realizing they were doing it, they were saying with signage that, "These are the preeminent people. This is who we value as an organization."
The hidden statement is that there were no signs for visitors whatsoever. Not parking signs, not welcome signs, not even signs telling them where to enter. In our original cut, we had the couple ask, "Where do we go in?" They were confused about where to enter and ended up just walking where the crowd was headed. Lack of signage simply told them they weren't important. Lack of signage in a church leaves the indefinable impression to a visitor that, "this church was not made for you. It was made for people who already know their way around."
Now, I understand that pastor might need a parking sign in order to make sure the service goes off without a hitch. I might suggest that it is near the back entrance, if possible. In our video, it was the only signage visible—saying that the barista (minister) was much more important than the visitor.
When we think about how valued we want the visitor to feel, we would all say it should be very high. The way you show that, is in the signage leading up to your entry, and then following that throughout your building. Notice at the end of the video, the wife says, "I couldn’t find the restroom anywhere?" Signage leads the way. Your Info Center does not resolve the timid visitor's need to know something we should have already told them.
Hey, I'm not the only one pounding the table about signage. How bout this guy... “Write the vision and engrave it so plainly upon tablets that everyone who passes may [be able to] read [it easily and quickly] as he hastens by.” Habakkuk 2:2 (Amplified)
Signage is a statement of value. Are your values consistent with your signage?
For more insight into signage, I wrote a few articles earlier this year about it in Church Executive and Religious Product News.
Stay tuned for more on the video...
© Richard L. Reising
You’ll notice that there are some great bumper stickers in our video, What If Starbucks Marketed Like the Church?. “Real Men Love Java,” “Think this coffee’s hot??” and of course the Starbucks logo eating the Juan Valdez logo. Now, this was not meant to be a cheap shot at all Christian bumper stickers, as bumper stickers are not the issue when it comes down to it. We specifically chose bumper stickers that had a combative undertone. Of all of the props we used, we admit this is the one that any given church has the least control over (except in our video, where they were sold inside on the bookshelf). It can, however, reflect your church's culture or tone towards people who do not think the way you do.
Most of these bumper stickers started out as great inside jokes between Christians. We laughed about them and made them into bumper stickers but maybe never really tried them out through one-on-one situations in personal evangelism. I mean, can you imagine? Someone at the gas station goes up to the person at the next pump and says, "Real men love Jesus. Are you a real man?" It might work, but I doubt it’s the most strategic and effective opening line.
While I fully believe that Christ portrayed the ultimate man, I’m wondering how many non-believers on the highway today fell to their knees seeking manhood after reading "Real Men Love Jesus" on the car in front of them. Jesus is awesome. He doesn’t need us telling non-believers they aren’t "real men." Knowing scripturally that only God knows our heart and that "man looks on the outside" (1 Sam 16:7), I just wonder what we are showing unspiritual people about what God is like. The chances are, my only reaction as a non-believer would be to close myself off even further. You might as well drive by and yell to someone at a stoplight, "You're not a real man!" and then drive off. If you have 10 seconds to say something to someone with your car, is that what you want to tell them?
"Think this Texas heat is hot? Wait till you get to hell." This is along the lines of "Get saved or get microwaved." It might sound cute when we say it among believers, but would you ever kick off an evangelistic effort with this door-to-door opening line? Oh yes, and we are not the biggest Darwin fans, but does our fish have to eat his fish? I'm not saying it doesn’t work—just that combative evangelism is not necessarily the best way to open hearts. I assume most of the church world gets this, but let’s be aware of our need to develop a culture that loves people into the knowledge of God. Remember, it is "His goodness (kindness and patience) that leads us to repentance" (Romans 2:4).
© Richard L. Reising
About ten years ago my wife and I left the corporate marketing world on a mission to serve the church. We had received a clear calling on our lives that drove us to leave house and home--literally. We sold a brand new house we built in Scottsdale, sold one of our cars and moved in with relatives (better know you have heard from God before you do that) in order to pursue this passion. We left two executive level salaries for a life serving churches that qualified us for welfare for several years. God sustained us. He sustains what He starts.
As we were in this transition to serve the church with God-given, world-tested, marketing principles and ideas, we were struck by how the term marketing was handled in the church. In my previous career, as a marketing professional, I had my hand in everything from market research, client profiling, customer experience development, sales analytics, pricing, sales oversight, advertising, facility decor, public speaking, branding, public relations and client billing. When we put up our shingle as a firm, churches were struck by the concept of a "church" marketing firm and routinely asked us, "Oh so you can design my mailer?" We could and we were gracious to do so, but to many churches--the small area of marketing that we call "advertising" or "promotions", was what they thought marketing was all about.
What is marketing all about? Webster’s says that marketing is “an aggregate (sum) of functions involved in moving goods from producer to consumer.” So how does that apply to the church? The sum of everything your church does to connect Christ with your members and the outside world is marketing. Many might wonder why the video is about marketing. It's because marketing (connecting Christ with people) is in your parking lot. It's on the outside of your building. It's in the way you greet me. It's in your members. It's in your message. It's in everything we do that forms the perception of who we are and what we value to the world we are called to reach.
The challenge is, if we think door hangers or websites will solve our marketing problem, then we have a bigger problem. The average church in America has less than a 15% retention rate of first-time visitors. If I owned a pizza parlor and more than 85% of the people who ate there once decided to never come back, I would think a mailer might just kill the business. It would bring people in faster and increase the speed of my demise. I, more likely, need to be working on things like... my recipe, my wait staff, my decor--anything and everything that could increase my retention rate outside of bringing more people in. The principle is stewardship. What are we accomplishing with what God is sending us? If we are not converting that, scripture would reveal that we are not ready for more (Luke 16:10).
Most churches are not successful at marketing because they don’t quite understand the fact that it encompasses every aspect of church life. They often make the mistake of assuming that marketing is about having the coolest website, but it’s so much more than that. Reality: every single church out there is currently marketing whether they know it or not—there are just some doing a great job, and some doing a not-so-great job.
The truth is, God is not as interested in promotion (mailers and the like) as He is in preparation. He is more concerned that you have created an environment to connect with and retain those who visit your church than He is with how you compelled them in—He wants you to create an environment that a non-believing visitor would actually want to stay in.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I imagine some sort of uprising where you all start yelling at me and telling me we’re supposed to be in the world, but not of it. I know that. The fact is, you don’t have to be of the world to create an environment where worldly people would feel welcomed and engaged. The truth is, not everyone is going to come back. Not everyone will accept Christ. But I pray that it will never be the way we miscommunicate with them that causes them to not come back. Take a look back at my post called A Pastor’s Prescription for More Golf. You’ll be surprised.
If this topic intrigues you, I would highly encourage you to check out the book. I spend several chapters redefining “marketing” and pouring a biblical foundation for it. In a few days I will start breaking down the video further--talking in detail what is in there and why.
© Richard L. Reising
It is important, rather critical, that as church leaders we see how the things we do can affect others. I love the church. My heart beats for pastors and church leaders who have given up normal lives for salaries that are below expectations and responsibilities that are above reason. I have spoke, written and pounded the table at every turn for the last 10+ years as an advocate for that pastor who wants to see peoples' lives changed for the cause of Christ. This video is a furtherance of that cause.
Many years ago I spoke at a conference, challenging on biblical marketing principles (yes, they exist--more to come on that) and I shared the concept that most churches should not promote themselves. Why? Simply this. If your current membership is not actively inviting people (or visitors are not staying), there are reasons why. If you send out a big promotion and visitors come, all they see are the reasons why your congregants do not want to invite people. Those visitors seldom return and share with their friends the reasons they will not come back. Lights came on in minds throughout the room.
I further challenged that every person who has had a life-changing experience with Christ wants every one they know to have a life-changing experience with Christ. If they are not inviting people to church, it is likely because they are not confident in the result. I know some of you will say, "we as believers are responsible to win people to Christ outside the church and the duty of the church is equipping...", I know and I get it. The challenge is, that until that is realized, people from outside our church walls are visiting looking for answers. These people are not spiritually minded, they are naturally minded. Like 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us, they do not see our hearts when they enter, because "man looks on the outside."
After the conference I had the opportunity to speak to a number of pastors. One particular couple mentioned how much they liked the message and saw its application in the church they came from but not in their own. In the church they pastored, they had great members who loved them and were proud of their church, but still never invited anyone. After a few minutes of questioning, they had unknowingly built a case for how awkward a visitor would feel. Their core group was so core, any visitor would feel like an outsider looking in--not invited to the party.
For years I have struggled with this topic. It is my heart that every church looks introspectively about how a visitor feels when they walk through their doors. This can be extremely difficult for the visitors who are not regular church-goers. They are terrified. They feel out of place. They need us to acclimate them. I have secretly visited hundreds of churches in my consulting. I see things first hand. I have trained my mind to see things from the eyes of the visitor, yet maintain my own unrelenting passion for the church. And it is for this reason I have a desire for us as church leaders to all meet people right where they are at--just as Christ met us.
Every church has the opportunity to better themselves and be introspective, so I don't want you to think your church is excluded from this. Your takeaway is not to determine which church this fits the best, it is to go back to your church and ask, "God, how can we connect with the lost more effectively so we can share your love with them with greater success?" Yes, we need the Spirit of God. We need His presence and His wisdom. We can have it all and still confound a newbie by not creating a bridge from his/her cluelessness (this day and age we have to expect them to know nothing) into the depth of terminology, style and churchi-ness we have grown comfortable with.
With all the love I can muster, this video was not meant to offend, to make fun, or to frustrate. It was meant to wake us up. To open our eyes by seeing something in a new light. To help our hearts break. The response is not to point, to blame, nor to think "our church is in the clear." The point is to prayerfully ask God how we can remove the speed-bumps we have unknowingly created for visitors. It is to convert our speed-bumps into onramps toward the knowledge of Christ. If your heart has been stirred, please read more of the blog, read the book, and stay connected with us. We are here to help churches reach more for the cause of Christ. We will continue this cause as long as He allows.
Lord, in our pursuit of you, let us not go blind... to the lost.
© Richard L. Reising
Have you ever tried really hard to make a point and when people say they get it, you are just not sure they do? Sometimes it takes us seeing our world through new eyes--something that it is hard to do as believers. Sometimes a little bit of juxtaposition does the trick.
We made this video because we sometimes struggle in helping churches to truly understand the disconnection between how we do things and the people we’re trying to reach. Our thought was to showcase the visitor experience in a completely different context and in doing so, we might help churches realize how they might actually comes across to the world we are called to reach.
Sometimes it takes seeing something in a different light to really get it. With this thought, my team and I made a little video called “What if Starbucks Marketed Like the Church? A Parable.”
We hope you like it and share it with others. Come back soon or subscribe to our feed to get more insiders notes on the video. We'll have fun breaking it down together.
What if Starbucks marketed like the church?
It seems like churches these days have seen the power of marketing and branding just enough to jump onto the band wagon. Churches everywhere are sliding onto the re-branding table and looking for a quick-fix for their "growing" concerns. A few recent conversations have illustrated the often missing link in a church's preparedness to go under the knife for a branding make-over.
Now, before I get into this, please note that true "branding" goes much deeper than skin deep. True branding is a plum-line from the core of who you are to the people God has called you to reach. It is a promise you deliver on in all that you do and is seen on the surface as your communication, design, image or brand. With that said...
I was teaching a session on branding last week at the National Youth Workers Convention. I normally speak to senior pastors, so I jumped at the chance to hang out with youth leaders for a few days. It was a blast. I was challenging on the need for churches to become successful without a branding effort and that the best brands are those that learn how to connect to people and grow organically first—and then build their brand around that. A youth leader visited me afterwards almost in tears. He had recently taken a position at a new church and, as what he (and much of the church world) thought was norm, decided to launch a new youth group brand. He built that brand around a new look, new logo, new name, new everything. He developed the image of this great brand before he had built trust in his youth and momentum through his ability to connect with them and see growth. He then attempted to launch the brand with a huge event and watched it all to fall flat. The results were a disappointment for him and now his youth group is struggling and shell-shocked. He was heartbroken.
What this represents is surface re-branding. It is an epidemic. It is the concept that if we are not attracting people, it is because we do not have the right name or image, and therefore, we need to change it and re-design our look. With all the love I can muster, if you are not growing what you have, it is not because of your logo. If you are not connecting with people that come through your doors in a way that causes them to come back and bring others, no amount of design can create a long term fix. If you do have momentum however, the right brand can be a catalyst to new levels of growth.
This stuff is not taught in schools. In February, I sat down with a doctoral student at Dallas Theological Seminary who interviewed me regarding his doctoral thesis on church brand development. His brilliantly written thesis had a fatal flaw—it omitted that re-branding should only take place after momentum has been generated. To simply re-brand a church when it has not found its traction is generally just an indication to your community that you’ve tried everything else without success and in your last attempt, you’re changing your style and/or name in order to reinvent yourself. Branding done right is not a "fix". It is a swagger. It is a well-communicated sense of self built on successfully connecting with others.
Here’s the deal: if you aren’t currently connecting with people right where they’re at, no amount of branding/design can solve your problem. Re-branding without momentum is kind of like dressing up for your prom and forgetting to court a date. Think about it.
Design cannot obtain what a disconnected ministry cannot reach.
© Richard L. Reising
Following up on my last post, when you’re hanging with the masses, one thing you should keep in mind: they aren’t going to clearly say profound things about what drives them. People don’t normally talk in a straightforward manner about the real, deep-rooted issues that actually control their decisions about life or church—aka what they are really thinking. You’ve got to learn to interpret what you do get from them. The Mountain Dew Mandate (mingling with the masses) can be broken down into the following examples:
1. Your church normally reaches a lower-middle class crowd (good people, unpretentious, but just not the "Joneses") but many middle to upper-middle class people are moving into the community and you feel that God has called you to reach them. Mingling with the masses might just be having your leadership go out and play more golf. I’m serious! Of course they shouldn’t go out as a group together, but individually spending time with members of that crowd in a place where they are found to be comfortable. You want the country club group? You have to go where they are in order to learn from them. You might feel a little weird and awkward at first, but over time, you’ll feel more comfortable and gain much insight. If you listen long enough, they will reveal how to reach them.
2. Your church is mostly middle class and you really would like to be more effective in reaching a much lower class part of your area. Spending time with the masses might mean a couple of trips to the unemployment office. There you could observe and gain insight into their experience and viewpoint. Some other options could be spending time at stores you don’t normally go to. When you’ve done all of that, you’ll have an understanding of their mind-set and your target can be geared toward connecting with them.
This research is valuable in the concept of becoming as one to win one. You will gain more understanding by watching them in their element than you could by reading about them or asking them directly. You’ll understand their underlying struggles and victories. Mountain Dew didn’t read the book about their target audience—they wrote it from experience.
© Richard L. Reising
The other day I saw someone drinking a Mountain Dew. My initial thought was “people still drink that stuff??” Then my mind wandered to Mountain Dew’s prime time. Does anyone remember how Mountain Dew completely dominated the extreme sports craze? This started in the late eighties and nineties. Mountain Dew sponsored pretty much every skate park tournament that was out there. If something “extreme” was happening, they were totally involved. Their promotional advertising was all about the “Been there! Done that!” theme. They basically created the “wild man slacker” culture that so defined the mid to late nineties. It was extremely successful for them.
The most fascinating part about it is how they created their connection with that generation. The Mountain Dew brand was purchased in the mid-60s from Pepsico and their sales were low for several decades. However, their marketing research process for their huge launch in the 80s was phenomenal—it created the foundation for their brand.
Mountain Dew plunged into the minds of a generation by lingering with the masses. They basically hired a group of college-age kids to put on Mountain Dew gear and go to some local high school campuses in black Hummers decked out Mountain Dew style. These were their tasks:
1. locate the popular, trendsetting teens
2. give them free stuff and ask them to hang out at the Hummer
3. take as many notes as they could on everything they said, did and wore.
The end result: learn what the coolest kids in school thought was cool—what was the new cool thing. What Mountain Dew did was amazing—they observed teens in an anthropological way. They paid close attention to the kids who were early adopters—cutting-edge leaders and trendsetters. Those influencers were the ones who always seemed to be ahead in hairstyles and clothing choices—introducing them before they became the popular thing to wear. The cool teenagers at the time had one thing in common that Mountain Dew milked for all it was worth: a respect for the lack of fear.
When you reach the leaders, you reach the followers. Who are you studying? How can you dedicate more of your time to learning what drives people? How can you convert that to influencing others for Christ?
It's time to mingle with the masses. We can't keep our light hidden. It's a mandate.
© Richard L. Reising
In my last post I talked about Jesus being an aerobics instructor, as well as asked us to become the master aerobics teacher. On a more serious note, remember Jesus’ ministry to the multitudes? It is the perfect comparison for the beginner, intermediate, and advanced aerobics classes.
The Beginner Class
Jesus challenged the five thousand with stories and parable and gave them physical food as well. The miracle with the fish and bread was the home run for them. Jesus was inspiring and reached them in the upper deck. This was like a beginning aerobics class. You know, where it’s pretty surface, but still a fairly good workout. The beginner class is the least embarrassing to go to and you usually drag your friend along. If you’re an experienced attendee, and you really want your friend to go, you’re not going to make them go to the advanced class with you. You’ll go to the beginning class for a couple of weeks and stand by their side.
The Intermediate Class
Jesus went across the lake and not all of the multitude followed, but many did. Those were the ones that took the next step, committing more and moving to the lower deck. Jesus taught them there and increased the depth of His ministry. This can be compared to the intermediate class. Many commit to move forward in their aerobics ability, but not everyone will. This might be what you would go to after you feel like you’ve conquered your beginner class and still want to get a good workout.
The Advanced Class
Many lingered after Jesus walked across the lake and it was time for Him to see who would move from the lower deck to the playing field. His next sermon topic was about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. Those were deep, spiritually discerning, inner-court words that only His lifers (disciples) could handle.
Jesus adjusted his ministry based on whom He wanted to connect with at the time. He found people where they were, ministered to them and challenged them toward the next level. He had different topics and preaching styles for different audiences and He put Himself in their shoes. He knew where they were and spoke on their level in accordance. It’s kind of like the stadium principles that I talked about.
Think about it. How can you reach people at all levels?
© Richard L. Reising
Everyone who knows me knows I’m a thinker. My brain is constantly going and you can always tell by the look on my face. My mind often wonders over to really random and sometimes bizarre things like aerobics. I am a little overweight--depending I guess on which city I am in. In Paris, I was the fattest guy on the street. At home in Dallas, I feel pretty good about myself. When I was faced with the dilemna of getting back in shape, the risk of showing up for the wrong class struck me--maybe not too unlike what people feel when they decide they need to be in church for the first time in a long while.
At my gym, I was pleased to find separate classes for beginnners, intermediate and advanced. What a novel concept. What if we could do that in church? Wouldn't that remove a lot of intimidation for the visitor? Wouldn't it be the goal to reach someone where they currently were and progress them to the next level or class?
Is that not a mirror of the Gospel? That Jesus meets us right where we are but does not stop challenging us to grow? Step by step. faith by faith. Precept upon precept.
How lousy would I feel if I walked into a "one size fits all" aerobics class and could not keep up? Would I come back? No way.
As a pastor, I am sure you are wishing you could just have different services: for beginners, intermediates and advanced Christians. Many churches are actually doing that. Different services are casting nets at different levels. But suppose you can't do that and you were left with one "class" to teach all levels. How would you connect with the spiritually "unfit" and still challenge the advanced crowd?
Ok, imagine that you are an aerobics instructor. I know, I know…it’s a stretch (pun intended). But seriously, imagine if you were an instructor who held regular workout classes and wanted to see growth—meaning, more people working out and being pushed to the next level, but you had to train them all in one class.
So how would you hold your class? If you cared about the people, you would start by explaining all the aspects of the class and communicating that beginners should not feel obligated to overdo; nor feel intimdated if they cannot follow along. You would make sure there were some "light" exercises just for them. You would let them know they are welcomed and give them grace to join in at their own pace. You wouldn’t just yell at everyone. You wouldn’t tell them that they are not doing a good enough job—people would feel terrible about their progress and not return. Your heart is to see people move up the highest level, but that is done one affirmed step at a time.
If Jesus was an aerobics instructor, I’m pretty sure that’s how He would do it. (By the way, I think He would be the best aerobics instructor ever). Seriously. What do you think?
© Richard L. Reising
This is the third installment in The Stadium Principle. Let’s finish this off.
After many years of playing, usually someone with great talent develops—from little league to college to the big leagues. Picture a rising star with me. He’s like a Nolan Ryan or a Roger Clemens. He’s Randy Johnson. Ok, imagine it’s the bottom of the ninth inning at game seven of the World Series. We’re talking intense—the President of the United States threw out the first pitch, Grammy-award winner sang the national anthem like you’ve never heard it before, the game has been back and forth, back and forth. Bottom of the ninth and everything is on the line. Randy’s on the pitcher’s mound and it’s the moment of a lifetime for him. All of the years or little league and college ball have built up to this. Randy has lived baseball—eaten, drunk, and slept baseball. His friends love the game and they love how he plays the game. Bottom of the ninth—it’s a full count, two outs, one strike and we win. People are tuned in around the world watching this.
Do you think Randy Johnson, at this moment, remembers what it feels like to not care about baseball? Do you think he’d be able to relate to someone who has never been to a game at this moment? Just like Randy, do you think pastors who have lived church—eaten, drunk, and slept church—with friends who love God and admire them…do you think they remember what it’s like to be a stranger to church and to not know God? Do you think most pastors routinely remember what it’s like to hear about Jesus for the first time? It is almost counterintuitive. After all, as church leaders, we spend most of our time with church folk.
I say this in prayer that we never forget what is going on in the hearts and minds of those people in the upper deck. Those are the most overlooked and least connected with. It’s easy to pitch for the lower deck—they are the cheers we hear the loudest. A good pitcher learns how to make the game great for people at all levels of the stadium. God give us a heart for the upper decker and allow us to never forget the first time we heard the crack of the bat.
© Richard L. Reising
Last time I gave a baseball analogy and talked about how I went from making fun of the baseball freaks to actually becoming one. I talked about the fact that I didn’t get there overnight. It was gradually through baby steps. I went from hating the game, to giving in and actually going to a game, to discovering that baseball might even be enjoyable, to going back to another game, to buying season tickets, and joining a softball league.
These baby steps could be paralleled to many people’s experience with the church and accepting Christ. I thought I would never set foot in a church until my friend pleaded and I gave in. I sat there feeling empty and full all at the same time. It was obvious to me that there was something more and when the pastor spoke, it was like that home run—in my heart. His words inspired me and I returned.
Later, I committed my life to Christ and I found myself more and more sold out. I was investing more--paying more for my seats. I wore the Christian t-shirt and I had the leather Bible. God was working in my heart and people began to see a change in me. I joined the church and solidified my commitment.
One day, as I was growing, God called me out to the playing field. I now find myself serving any time that I can. I can’t wait to see all of my friends and family come to know Christ.
Sometimes, like Paul, God completely knocks you off your horse and you go from disconnected outside of the ballpark to the playing field in a very short time. Unfortunately, this is not the case most of the time. It’s a matter of progression over time. During that time, God works in our hearts and minds to change our perception. Now I am not saying we are not all immediately called to be witnesses, I am saying that we grow and progress in our walk with Christ at different rates, but in similar stages.
So what can we, as a church, do to help those outside the ballpark make it to the upper deck? What about the upper-deckers moving to the lower deck? How do we challenge the lower deck to get on the playing field and be part of the team?
I’m sure you’ve seen the parallel that I’ve made by now and I pray that you understand I am not belittling the church with this illustration. My heart is simply to understand that perceptions are quite varied in our churches. Whether it’s unbelievers, or scholars, we’ve got to learn to reach people right where they are and motivate them to the next level. Are you thinking about that every week as you prepare your messages? Make it so.
© Richard L. Reising
A scenario: ok, you and I are good buddies. You are the world’s biggest baseball fan. I am on the other end of the spectrum. I can’t think of a more boring game than baseball. I’ve never even been to a game before, but I am absolutely convinced that I wouldn’t like it. You ask me constantly to come with you and I can’t wait until you’ll stop asking, but one day I give in to your request in the midst of a weak moment.
So I’m going to this game with you, but you are most definitely buying my nosebleed ticket that’s approximately $2 and my hot dog as well. We sit in the upper deck on a blazing hot day—you’re completely happy and I’m pretty much in agony. I’m eating my hot dog and slurping my drink when suddenly, the home team knocks one out of the park. We jump up and high-five each other! I’m totally caught off guard. Somehow the hit inspired me and I’m thinking that maybe I like baseball after all. Not what I expected at all. I might have actually enjoyed a baseball game.
Of course you ask me to go again and I surprisingly commit. This time I’ll buy my own ticket and hot dog. I’m willing to spend that much, but not enough to sit in the lower deck with the $80/seat baseball freaks. They are just a bit much for me at this point. Although I like baseball, my commitment is minimum.
After returning for a couple of games in my cheap upper deck seats, my passion for baseball builds. Now, the $80 seats don’t seem so expensive and I could even catch a foul ball down there. I find myself decked out in all the gear—hat, jersey, leather glove, the works. I’m a sold out fan. I push it even further by getting season tickets. I want to make sure I don’t miss a single inning. People at work now know me as one of those baseball freaks and I’ve even joined a softball league. I plan on coaching my kids’ softball team.
The thing is, I didn’t get here overnight. I got here with baby steps. Something to think about and chew on for a few days. Were you ever the person who hated a particular thing and made fun of the so-called “freaks”? Paul was. And even he spent a short season getting prepared for the transition from onlooker to first baseman.
© Richard L. Reising
Everyone has a blog. I never wanted one. I am not a big fan of the value of "opinion". Research, data, theory... those things get me excited, but not the concept of people venting what "they think". Perhaps I was running across the wrong blogs. As a result, I thought I had found a definitive scripture that was written by Solomon that was a prophetic word about future blogging: Prov 18:2 "A fool finds no pleasure in understanding but delights in airing his own opinions."
I wrestled with God for some time on that. I do not want to be a venter or a philosophizer (Zoolander word). I desire to see real change and shine the light on the dynamics of growth that have alluded the church. That is my purpose as a person. It would seem blogging would be a waste of time. This was my case and I had pleaded it with God (and my co-workers) for years.
In my day to day life, I get to work with pastors and church leaders and help them solve the problems that effect health and growth. It is incredible to see what God does. We see a church that had once plateaued, now growing at 30%, we see the church that was dwindling become revitalized, and we see the the growing church become more effective and strategic. I am blessed. I love my life.
It’s a passion of mine to call to attention the granular realities that produce long-term, sustainable growth--the things we explore as we travel the globe serving pastors. My heart is to join the pastor and his leadership—to offer them solutions in their struggle to fulfill their God-given visions.
Then one day it hit me. That could be the purpose behind my...
And that’s why I’m starting a blog.