- 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?
I recently attended a few conferences in which significant church leaders berated the concept of church marketing and defamed it as pure evil. I sat there stunned as I had significant respect for these guys. What puzzled me the most is that both of these men of God had great PowerPoint slides. They had sharp websites. Their books were published by giant companies that spent thousands on book cover design, not to mention the PR campaigns and the magazine ads that I witnessed--even the churches they pastored had websites, brochures, logos and a receptionist that answered the phone--yet they stood and denounced "marketing". I sat there more than a little puzzled, simply unable to reason how if marketing was "so evil", it could be apart of everything they were doing.
I pondered. These guys are not bogus. They were the real deal. What I think they were trying to say was really a legitimate issue. They were trying to get at the heart--but I think they might have inadvertently sent much of the crowd away feeling that any effort to reach people for God is impure. It need not be.
Allow me to clarify... Has anyone ever told you that "money is the root of all evil?" They were wrong. It sounds very close to scripture, but it is not scripture. 1 Tim 6:10 tells us that "The love of money is the root of all evil." Get that? "The love of..." is the root. Guess where the root lies? In the heart. You see, money is not evil. Money can be used to spread the Gospel, feed the homeless, and pay the electricity at the church. It is not the use of money that makes it evil, it is the motive behind the money that matters. Money becomes evil when our affections turn toward it and our motives sour--when our hearts are not in check.
So does marketing. Marketing is a matter of the heart. Does God want us to represent Him well--certainly! Does He need us to communicate to reach people with His love right where they live? Of course. Does He want us to manipulate to get there? Does He want us to relentlessly pursue bigger numbers just so we can stroke our egos? How about to ensure that the church down the street does not get larger than ours? No, no and more no. Just like in the analogy above, marketing is the "currency" of communication. To use it is not wrong--to be honest--if it really was, these guys were the biggest hypocrites around. They were not, they just made the mistake of calling out the method instead of the motive. Marketing is not evil, but the motive behind it can be.
That being said, check your motive. Why do you desire to grow your church? Is it really for the love of the lost? Have you laid your life down before Christ and said, "I will do anything you ask, even if I never have a mega-church?" Your worth is not in how many people attend your church. If you are marketing out of the wrong motive, you are in error. May the root of marketing never be about us, but may we use smart communication wisely to capture the eyes and attention of a world that looks on the outside, while God looks on our hearts (1 Sam 16:7).