- 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
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.
I run across churches all the time that are struggling to break out of their old mold. They see flagship churches execute services flawlessly with tremendous attention paid to the details in areas such as lighting, sound, service flow, building cleanliness and guest services. They see this and think, "We are going to have to do things differently." They are no longer satisfied with how their teams execute church compared to the "model" church they have just experienced (I'll call it WillowBack). They have been enlightened and things are going to change...
This enlightenment is often followed by a knee-jerk get-together with their lead team to talk about what they saw at WillowBack and show them how serious we are about immediate improvement and the unwillingness we should all have to tolerate anything less than this perfection. Team leaders pound the table with passion and commonly say something like, "We just need to get rid of that person who does the PowerPoint. I told him to do it this way and he didn't do it." In their newfound pursuit of improvement, they become ready to eliminate anyone who does not deliver flawlessly. What is driving this leader is a picture in the leader's head of perfection and he is frustrated by those around him who cannot or will not deliver on what he sees. The once happy-go-lucky minister has become a heavy-handed enforcer in the pursuit of flawless execution (which he calls "doing things with excellence"). Does this at all sound familiar to anyone?
Here's the deal... You do not become WillowBack overnight, and the way you learn to execute well is not by creating a culture of tyranny. The secret is standards. Standards are the greatest tool for training your team and they are, for the most part, missing in the church today. Why? I think we feel so grateful for Bob (the guy who volunteers to do the PowerPoint), that on his first day, we do our best to make sure we do not upset him. After all, what if he stops coming? Then what are we going to do? No, what we will do is give him the least amount of information about his duty we can (as we do not have time to really train him) and then we will put up with him not doing it perfectly since he is so faithful (of course he has no real idea what perfection to us is), until one day we get fed up and fire him from his post and crush his spirit by telling how he "never" does it right, when we never trained him what right is.
There's an old adage: Set your expectations, then inspect what you expect. This is about training and managing based on standards. Tell the PowerPoint guy, "Thank you for volunteering, you have joined a team that has very high standards and it's an honor to be on this team. I am in charge of training you and what we will go over are the standards for this position; I will cover not just how to do your job, but why to do it that way. I will give you a vision for what it looks like when you do it perfectly, and we will make that vision into a standard. I want you to be an ace and will meet with you every week for the next month then every month going forward to discuss how well you are meeting the standards. I'm expecting great things from you."
Then, when you meet to give feedback, you are able to collaborate with Bob on how to improve things as he has bought in as an investor in the process of rising to the standard. This is a picture of what managing by standards looks like. Standards are not rules. Rules are what you must do. They are driven by consequences. Standards are what you could do. They are driven by vision. The main difference is the culture that is created. Rules create an atmosphere of fear and trepidation. Standards create an atmosphere of ownership and healthy pride in doing things well.
So here's the deal, you don't do it as well WillowBack. So what are you going to do about it? You have a choice. You can build your change around rules or you can become a better leader and train people to uphold and raise standards with vision. Standards will require more forethought from you as a leader. It will require that you create a visionary job description and give positive and corrective feedback on a regular basis. It will cause you to dedicate more to training than you ever thought you would. It is a lot of work. But, it's up to you.
In the end, would you rather be a part of a church that is known for its rules... or its standards?
There is a charming little fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen about a princess and a pea. Hang with me for a moment as I tie it into our lives in ministry. As the story goes, the Queen is searching for a bride for her son and many a young lady have shown themselves willing to oblige. A slew of candidates parade by claiming to be the future princess. In a test to find the "true princess" for her son, the queen mother takes the opportunity to place a small pea beneath 20 mattresses while a potential princess sleeps over on a rainy night.
As the story goes, the young woman is so discomforted by the pea that she is unable to sleep and claims to be bruised from this offensive object (that she feels through 20 feather mattresses). Alas, the queen determines that she has found her future daughter-n-law. After all, only the true princess could have been so sensitive to this ever-so-slight of an inconvenience.
When you first read this it seems charming and harmless enough, doesn't it? The princess was found--hurrah! Look a little closer. While scholars have argued over its premise, I personally see it as a mockery. Who but a "princess" could be affected so greatly by such the slightest bit of discomfort? Only a "princess" must have it so perfect. "Princess" cannot tolerate anything imperfect. In reality, this story is an indictment upon the princess. Think about it.
For church leaders, there are three princesses that you might have to learn to handle--each of them are dealt with in a very different way.
For one, many of those in your community are princesses by nature. Many live privileged lives and have high standards. They expect a certain level of communication and perhaps are finicky about how things are done. In order to get on their radar, they require you to speak their language and show that you value what they value. As a minister, these are those we pursue. He expects us to be like wise fishermen--understanding their often "princess-like" nature. After all, we have to remember that the nature of man is to "look on the outside" (1 Sam 16:7). Considering that they might look at things differently can only help us connect with them more effectively.
The second place we find the princess mentality is within the church. How many times have huge, healthy ministry initiatives been thwarted because they did not sit well with those who wanted it their way? As believers, its often easy to assume that non-believers would be self-centered (as is human nature), but we do not expect it in the church. Well, its in there. Many church leaders will tell you that they do not have problems with the non-Christians, its the finicky church people that keep them wound in a knot. The only way to deal with it is to teach it and challenge it out of the flock; such as how Paul taught us to be content in all things (Phil 4:6-11). He certainly was no princess.
The third place it is found is within us. It is important to realize that the various standards and conveniences of our culture tempt us all to succumb to a mentality that life should be without discomforts. We all can find ourselves becoming the spoiled "princesses." We especially find them within within ourselves in the areas where we cannot let the little things go. Let us never lose sight of the fact that God shapes us through challenges. Discomfort--the thorn in our flesh--is often a valuable assistant to guiding us into dependence and focus on Him.
Here's the irony... that while we must avoid being princesses, the object of our ministry pursuit is often just that--and we would be wise to realize it. For God, He is on a relentless pursuit to pull off the impossible... turning the self-centered nature of a princess into the heart of a benevolent King. Certainly that is what He is attempting to do with us.
In my travels I often run into church leaders who have lived incredible lives of faith. They were impacted by God and subsequently abandoned their previous walk and threw their lives into ministry. One of the things I see with these leaders is an incredible tenacity to follow God at any cost. The concept of obedience and stretching their horizons is a never-ending one. At the same time, these leaders who have pulled their faith up by the bootstraps tend to fall short in many areas of ministry.
The leader whose attitude is, "Why can't they just obey God? That's what the Bible says..." is often the same one who struggles to provide mentorship and structured discipleship for his church. Why? For one, because they were likely never mentored. They sat under a minister who taught them from a pulpit, but never walked with them and coached them through life. They find it hard to see why people need coaching. They didn't. To them the Christian walk, Bible study, and obedience was so black-and-white, that they cannot fathom why it is not so clearly black-and-white to everyone else. As a result, they often get frustrated when people do not follow simple steps of faith and they do not have the patience nor vision to provide the deliberate mentorship that they were never given themselves.
In reality, it is not fully their fault. Few of us were mentored. We really don't even have a mental picture of what that looks like. We were preached to, but churches have rarely had the programs needed to support healthy discipleship. And few men ever took the time to apprentice the young believer from their gray world into black-and-white faith. As a result, many churches have a chasm between those that "get it" (and do all the work in the church) and those who never seem to possess the same reality of God.
A few years ago, a pastor read my book and called me for help. He had pastored for about 15 years and had struggled to get his congregation over 50 people. He was an honorable man who had given his all to help people. His wife and family had stood beside him as he endured hardship year after year in order to stay afloat. He spoke of desiring to see growth, but was saddened in that he lacked strong leaders. He was a man of bootstrap faith. He listened to the preacher as a young believer and he acted on what was said. His action led him into ministry and now he was struggling with people that simply would not take the same initiative in their faith.
I asked him, "How are you mentoring leaders?" He was puzzled, responding, "Well, I prepare and preach every week." For fifteen years, he had given people words—powerful words, but had never really built people. As a result, he never had an infrastructure that would support growth. Let me challenge that the job of a church leader as a mentor is never done. Even when you have a congregation of 10,000 and hundreds of mentors leading healthy people, you are still responsible to seek a handful of people who you can pour your life into in a deeper way.
"And the [instructions] which you have heard from me along with many witnesses, transmit and entrust [as a deposit] to reliable and faithful men who will be competent and qualified to teach others also." 2 Tim 2:2 (Amplified)
This was Paul mentoring to Timothy—writing him a personal letter—teaching him to mentor others. Are you a person of bootstrap faith? What are you doing to pour you life into a small group of people that you will mentor into true leaders? For every bootstrapper, there are dozens who will need a lot more effort in order to become whom God has called them to be. As leaders, the next move is ours.