- 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
Hey guys, asking for your help in prayer as my wife goes in for intestinal and gallbladder removal surgery in the morning. Huge thanks!!!
I know, it has been a long time. It has been a great season though. A few things of note...
MinistryCom.org: Terrell Sanders, you rock! Thank you so much for allowing me to share my heart with a great group of church leaders at MinistryCom. Church communicators and leaders need to make this an annual trek.
As well, same for NACBA.net and Rob Leacock. It is such a pleasure to sit down with people who have lived their whole lives advancing the Kingdom and yet have the drive of someone who is just getting started—true inspirations!
Excited about speaking this next week (Nov 11-12) at En-Thuse in Liverpool, England. If you can make it, it is going to be a great time. I'm excited about what God is doing with this team of savvy business giants who have a passion for Him.
Brand name overload
Its funny how churches who start to get the power of naming easily get carried away with it. What I am challenging here is not so much that you named your church "The Journey" and that your style is somewhat laid back and cool. That's potentially ok. Its what happens when every department in the church wants to do the same thing and asks the church to plaster their logo and brand name everywhere and no one is willing to tell them "no".
So we walk in your church and you have gone above and beyond and given me great signage that tells me where everything is. Good right? This is how it reads...
Go ahead... Read it fully like a visitor...
The church-savvy ones of you have deciphered the secret code language into the following...
Which of these signs helps a visitor the most?
This is all about context. When you are in the main church context, what matters to the guest is the category of things you offer, not the kitschy brand name that has no meaning to us.
When are you in the main church's context? On it's website, on its stage, inside the foyer, on it's signage and it's printed materials to start. Someone from the church has to stand up and stop the confusion--or at least categorize it. We're all fine with: "Our Youth Ministry: The Tribe". You just can't use it in the main church context without telling us what it is. Calling it "The Tribe" without categorizing it makes newbies feel like outsiders--like someone did not include them in your secret name game.
If you are a youth group, we're fine with you calling it "The Tribe". Just know that it is your job to build the Tribe brand through your students and through your own website. It gives the kids ownership. It helps them tell their friends. That's all good. Please just don't ask the church to promote "The Tribe". They should simply promote the youth ministry or youth group. Visitors just need to know you have something for their teens. The fact that you call it "The Tribe", does not add to the sell for me as a parent.
Same thing goes for the coffee shop and the book store. Have a name if you want, but please don't let your brand name get in the way. Just guide us to the coffee shop. Do you really think your bookstore's name will increase my desire to check it out? "Ooo. Wow. Their bookstore is called 'Living Stones'--I can't wait to check it out!" "Look honey, their coffee shop is called "Holy Grounds", we have to experience that!" If you are unaware, I am being a bit sarcastic.
This is what it can unknowingly come across like to a visitor...
Welcome to Journey... on your bulletin you will find a list of 32 code names to guess what ministry they belong to. We are so introverted and proud of our cool names we can hardly stand it. We doubt you will. : )
Here's the deal. A church is not graded by how many clever brand names can be traced back to it. I think there needs to be a communications police that gives a citation to churches with signs like Exhibit A. Know anyone who needs to get a citizen's arrest?
Thinking its about us
If we are firmly following Christ, it is not about us anymore. It is not about what we like. It is not about our style and our preferences. As church leaders it is not about having our pretty face on a billboard or a website. It is not about us. The colors we like do not matter. It is not about us. It is about the object of our affection; and the way we do church reveals the object of our affection. God? Certainly. Others? Definitely. Us? Not so much.
I'm not the only one who has this crazy thought. Jesus asked a question that struck a cord... "What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?" Most of us see that as a lovely plea to reach a lost sheep. But what about the 99 other sheep? Who were they? They were us. Jesus clearly advocated leaving the sheep (us church folk)--howbeit in a safe place--but His focus was not on them. His focus was on finding the lost one.
When we make decisions about sermons, design, style, decor, etc... who are we making them for? For ourselves as church leaders (based on our personal likes and dislikes)? For the flock (the loyal followers)? or for the lost ones. Which one do you think Jesus would be focused on? No doubt He always protects the flock--but He also always pursues the lost. Lord, help us as wise shepherds to tend to the flock, without losing focus on the object of your pursuit and affection. Help us to see through the eyes of lost sheep.
Brand-building without success
Church start-ups aside, one of the biggest challenges I run into on the road is a church that undergoes a re-branding in order to create momentum that does not already exist. The downfall of this effort is that to most churches, rebranding is a packaging concept. It never affects the core. If you repackage something that was not growing in a healthy way, the recipients of your message might be attracted at first, but the draw will not last. As well, your community can see through an attempt to modernize that is inconsistent with true change. If you want to re-brand, build real momentum first. Re-brand from the core out. The only way you can do that is learning how to organically connect with people and grow without an ounce of packaging. If you are not seeing success in organic growth, it means you have not mastered connecting with new people--an indication that your radar is off and you would not likely re-brand properly anyway.
Biblical thought: "...For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones." Matthew 23:27. Jesus shared this charge with religious leaders. As churches, we exist to give off His life. The number one way to increase your real attractiveness is to connect people to Christ in a life-changing way. When this becomes your core, your brand becomes a relevant bond between who you are and those you are called to reach.
For more on this topic, check out this post...
Pardon my deep, verbose interjection. I know this post seems about 5 years too late, but I am feeling quite pensive and need to brain dump... If you know me, you will see this as my need to analyze everything... well?
As a former Windows PC user (I am still one via Parallels on my MacBook), I recently began to identify the roots of MY previous Mac hatred. I do not suggest that these are the roots of other Mac-haters—but they rang true for me. When I was a PC user (6+ years ago), I was the answer man. Problems came—I fixed them. Confusing and troubling things took place—I was the one they called. Build a network, or upgrade a video card—I was your man. I had adapted my logic to flow with PC logic—stair-stepped, regimented, process-based logic. I had the “If this, then that” flow chart embedded in my brain. The longer I used PC’s the more I knew advanced levels of PC logic that I used to impress others and prove my (perceived) superior intellect.
I realize now that I had developed a large amount of my self worth from the problem solving that came as a result of my PC mastery. What is fascinating, is that now that I use Mac, I do not ever get those calls. I am not the “go-to” guy anymore. I cannot begin to describe how liberated I am from that grind—the grind that used to define my self worth. As a Mac user, the problem solving I do and the building I do is in using the computer as a tool and mastering the end result. The tool has become a solid instrument, like a vice grip in my hand. PC used to be the thing I worked "on". Mac is what I work "with". This helps me to understand the PC IT person dilemma. When no one needs to fix the computer, how am I still important?
Now if you read that as a shot aimed at PC IT people, please rethink. What made me write this is that I (for some random reason) was thinking about PC's and realized how much of my previous self worth came from my knowledge of them. It is a shot at how we find our value in anything that is subject to change.
Have you ever placed your value in something that was changing on you? Do you know the feeling of having your job be replaced by a computer, or of your industry becoming obsolete—or maybe—just maybe—of being a pastor who sees his church dwindling while all these "new" churches are now thriving in your community. There is only one thing that we can find our value in that does not change. It is in Christ alone—not in what we do and not in how we do it. He will never be obsolete. He alone makes us valuable. All the jobs might be moved offshore to another country, the worship style you lead might be replaced, but He will never leave you and thus you will never lose your value.
Our true value is in the person He has made us. How we use that should always be a work in progress. And for all the Mac-lovers out there—one day, even Apple will be outsmarted and outsimplified.
p.s. Funny thing. While I was typing this, my Mac crashed. True story. Go figure.
Michele did great in surgery. Praise God-No cancer. Removed appendix. Found a kink and scar tissue in her intestine and removed it and fused it back together. A little more than we expected but all is good. Thanks for praying!
My wife, Michele, will be going in for surgery Monday morning to have what they feel is a tumor removed from her appendix. Please be praying. Our thanks to you all! Blessings, R
What Every Church Needs to Know about Marketing: Final Thoughts: If you don't pass the people test, nothing else matters
If you do not pass the people test, nothing else matters.
Promotion without connectivity is destructive. I often share with church leaders that most of the churches in the United States should not promote themselves. Why? Simple. If your current membership is not actively inviting people or visitors are not staying, there are reasons why. If you do an advertising campaign, you are asking people to come in your doors only to realize why no one wants to invite anyone to your church. They never come back and leave to tell all their friends what they did not like about your church. This is not good marketing.
If you are connecting with people well, your membership will validate this by bringing their friends. If you are not, they won’t. The problem with your church-goers not inviting people is not their problem—as church leaders, it is our problem. It is not time to craft a message to get people to invite their friends. That is the equivalent of preaching a message on not falling asleep in church. It is our responsibility to want to make them want to bring their friends just as it is to keep people awake.
It is a sure truth that any person who has had a life-changing experience with Christ wants everyone they know to experience Christ. The problem? Most people are not ashamed of Christ, they are ashamed of their church. Having said all this, I am convinced of one thing. If members walk out of your service saying, "I wish my unchurched friend had been here," they will start to think about inviting their friend. If a member walks out of your service three weeks in a row and says every time, "I wish my unchurched friend would have heard that," nothing will stop that member from dragging that friend through your doors.
The heart of marketing is people. Don’t start with mailers. Start with people. Ask yourself, “What am I doing this week to learn how to reach people more effectively? It's time to evaluate. Are we creating an atmosphere that fosters growth or are we ministering unto ourselves?
Our love for the lost is found in how much we value them—in the time we devote to them in our sermons, in the signage on our campuses, in the red carpet we roll out to them on our websites, in the way we communicate and maximize the one opportunity they generally give us. Great marketing is founded on a heart that desires to connect to people right where they live, and loves them too much to leave them there. Ask yourself, “How can we enhance our reach this month without advertising? How can we be more about connecting with people right where they live, in everything we do?” That is where smart marketing begins.
Marketing is about people. It is about learning what makes people tick and then shaping your communication to them in such a way that you create a bridge to their hearts. Paul understood this. He told us, “To the Jew, I will become as a Jew…” He went on to say that he would become all things to all men that he might win them. Paul was a master marketer. He studied people, reflecting back to them their values in such things as idol worship, poetry and philosophy—all with a single pursuit of winning them for Christ. Paul knew what made people tick. He used those things to lead them to Christ.
In the corporate world, they know this. MTV has declared that the winner of the next generation is “the one who speaks their language the best”. They spend 20% of their budget learning the teen language and connecting with it. They are successful too often. How much of your budget is committed to understanding people? Hanging with them? Learning their hopes and needs? Do you know what makes them tick?
Jesus hung with sinners. The disciples left their comfort zone for a world of non-believers—pursuing them to believe. In the average church today, as leaders, we hardly leave the comfort of our cohorts—those who share our heart for Christ. Yet we have a marketing (advertising) mandate don’t we? To go and preach (publish and promote) the Gospel. To whom? To those who are lost.
I am an advocate for the lost. I once was lost. I work hard to remember what that felt like in spite of my current knowledge that I need God and His presence every minute of every day. My wife has had five strokes in the last seven years. I cannot imagine going through things like that without Him—yet most people do. If I were lost would you reach me? Would you understand where I was and reach me where I lived? Would you make clear to me the profound simplicity of the Gospel and tell me what the next step in my walk towards Christ is?
I sat as a consultant in a service of a strong preacher, who had crafted a message so complex that I, myself, felt discouraged in my Christianity. He coupled it with a charge of those who did not like it: “If you do not like it, there’s the door.” Several visitors took him up on that. In our debrief, we asked him how he had come to know Christ. He began to weep—remembering back to his childhood, when he had been so confused by people talking to him about God, until one VBS where a gracious volunteer explained the simplicity of God’s love and He accepted Christ. He wept for how complex he had made it. The Gospel is profoundly simple. Our labor of love is to learn how to connect others with it. Our ultimate charge is to be simple enough to be understood and powerful enough to change lives.
check back for my final thoughts on this in a few days....
Marketing is everything. The box many have placed marketing within is generally only a slice of it—or is not even marketing at all. If you see it as door hangers, direct mailers and billboards, you are thinking about advertising—a slice of the marketing pie. I remember when I told my mother-n-law that we were starting a marketing firm, she responded by saying, “Yikes! Marketing! I hate it when those people call my house at night.” This is not marketing. It is tele-marketing—an aspect under the marketing umbrella, but marketing is so much more.
Marketing is everything you do that creates the perception of who you are and what you value to your community. How well you maintain your campus—marketing. The name of your church—How your greeters greet—How your ushers ush—all marketing. If your message is aimed at the choir or to the lost—Even how your congregants live their lives—all marketing. All of these things affect how people see your church. The reality is, that even churches that do not believe in church marketing are currently marketing—perhaps just not doing it well.
In the corporate world, the scope of marketing spans from market research where data studies produce insights into buyer behavior, through decisions that define the very details of the product, it’s pricing and how and where it is sold. It likewise includes the packaging, branding, advertising and client experience. Marketing drives everything. It is the ability to define whom you are trying to reach, how you will reach them and what they will do with you after they have been reached. Have you ever developed a message to connect people to Christ? Then you have marketed—you simply just called it something else. The heart of marketing is managing the connection between you and the people you are called to reach.
Many think it is about getting people to your church. I challenge that it is equally about getting them to come back; to get in a small group; to volunteer; to lead. Marketing is everything. If you are not getting the results you desire, you have a marketing problem. Everything you do speaks. What are you telling us?
check back for more on this in a few days...
About twelve years ago God called my wife and I out of our comfortable, upwardly mobile lives in corporate marketing into a full-time pursuit of serving churches. At the time, to say that it was an uphill battle was an understatement. We left two executive level salaries and a new house that we had just built in Scottsdale, to sell our house and a car and move in with relatives just to make it. We saw our financial livelihood drop by 90%, while we were working hours and hours for churches that sometimes asked for everything for free. I did not blame them nor resent them, it was all they knew. We were a challenge to their status quo in every way. We were broke, passionate and completely insistent in our pursuit to help the church—who often times mistook us as an agent of hypocrisy.
So why did we do it? On a volunteer mission trip, in 1996, I received a calling. A soft, inaudible, still, small voice that I can only describe to church leaders as the voice that spoke to them the moment when they first knew—when they first knew their lives would never be the same—that they were being called out by God to do a work for Him. There I was, sitting on a smelly bus in West Mexico, receiving a life’s calling. At the same time, my girlfriend (soon to be wife) was thousands of miles away receiving similar words. We had both volunteered in church and worked in marketing for some time before the week that we began to see these worlds collide—yet we had never imagined what God was bringing together.
Since that time, we have been honored to work with thousands of churches of every shape, size, background and denomination. We have seen struggling churches grow again, plateaued churches reach new heights and growing churches strategically manage their climb while assimilating more people into a deeper walk with Christ. To the church out there that is looking to find your way, I would like to offer you some thoughts on marketing that might just change your perspective on… well… everything.
What every church needs to know about marketing…
Check back in a few days for Part 2: Marketing is Everything.