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Jun 22 7:32 AM

Target Marketing (Part 2): Defining the Target

Jun 22 7:32 AM
Jun 22 7:32 AM


As church leaders, we are not necessarily taught to study and understand the variances between different people, different cultures and different mindsets. Perhaps it is seminary oversight, but I am amazed at how this inherent part of Paul’s ministry is not pounded into us. Not only was he able to “become as a Jew to win a Jew”, his letters to the Galatians showed us he had a handle on their struggles, lifestyle bents and mindsets—yet, they were clearly different than what he was able to see in Corinth or Ephesus. Paul was able to distinguish lifestyle patterns in people that they did not see in themselves. This is a developable gift that made Paul much more than a preacher—he was a reacher. He reached people below the surface, right where they lived. And as a result of his tremendous passion and traveling exposure, he was able to understand the variances between people types and use it to help them see Christ.

There is a life being lived by church-goers and outsiders alike that is often below the surface to us as leaders. This is not about token “church relevance” where we feel hip by naming a sermon series after the latest movie. This is about understanding what makes different people tick. Even more, as the average church leader is more strapped with preparing messages, holding onto people through life’s struggles, and keeping the ship afloat, the ability to devote time to truly understanding who is and who is not in our churches is lost. This cycle of struggle eats away at one of our strongest assets in understanding people—exposure. Like Paul, when your exposure to different patterns increases, you are able to see more clearly what you yourself are dealing with. And be assured, every church has definable patterns of culture affecting its health and growth whether they recognize it or not.

Know your strengths: Whom do you reach naturally?
Part of the challenge is that we rarely understand our congregants in their day-to-day context. We do not know them as “socially passive”, “upper-middle-class”,  “distinctively un-pretentious”, “good-ol-boys” or as “yuppies”. We know that Bob (an arbitrary member) is a kind and supportive, outgoing volunteer at church—but we do not know that he is really an introvert and challenged to feel confident in social settings in his day-to-day life. Does this matter? You betcha! It explains why Bob, while being such a great helper and worker, has never invited anyone from work to church—ever. And if you have a church full of Bobs, you will probably never lack for volunteers, but you will also never see substantial growth. Bobs are reliable; they just are not necessarily influential outside of church.

Do you reach Bobs? Why do they feel most comfortable at your church? Not sure whom you reach? Maybe to understand the types of people you have in your church, you should start by looking into your surrounding community and defining who is not coming to your church. What are they like? When you think of the big church down the road, what kind of people go there? How are they different? Now, look at the people in your church. What are some of their common attributes—socially, economically, in their personality and predisposition—what about their age? Industry? Heritage? Knowing whom you resonate with is a key to understanding your strengths and weaknesses.

Even more, a high concentration of Bobs might make it hard for non-Bobs to feel comfortable. This might have nothing to do with the minister, it might be that you have a Bob-driven culture—a church where Bobs feel comfortable and flock together, and that those with a different social disposition never really feel at home.

Know your calling: Whom do you long to reach?
You can always be stretching to reach more kinds of people, but you must be truly honest about whom you are good at reaching (of note: “good at” might be an insight into your calling—it might also be an insight into whom we have gotten “comfortable with”). Knowing who you are good at reaching is not enough. Paul was a mega-Jew—certainly good at reaching them, but deep down he considered himself an apostle called unto the Gentiles.

God is trying to put people on your heart. If you can find an intersection between your strengths (whom you reach naturally) and your calling (those your heart draws you towards), you have a sense of your target. If you decide that you are not willing to consider the target question, what remains is to water down your pursuit of all with those whom you have little ability and little heart to reach. Doesn’t sound very productive, does it? This is why the targeting question is so important—it causes us to analyze who we are and build to our strengths and calling. Following God’s unique calling for your church might ultimately require that you accept that God can use other churches to help reach those you might not be able to.

Knowing your target strengthens your resolve and clarifies your methods.
We are fishers of men. Like good fishermen, we must start by understanding the type of fish we are going after. Then we determine if you need a net, a rubber worm or a fly lure. The target is found from being open to understand people and hear God’s voice. He is crying out for all of them. He has equipped you for reaching certain ones with a unique gifting. Who are they? Is your church equipped to serve them? The method (how you actually “do church”) follows the target. Get this. This is the most important thing. The method follows the target. What color should the carpet be? How long should we worship? What should we preach on? What should the logo look like? It all becomes easier. Who you are trying to reach? Once you know who you are pursuing, how to pursue them becomes much more clear. 

Jun 11 1:43 AM

Target Marketing: Finding Your Focus

Jun 11 1:43 AM
Jun 11 1:43 AM

Ok. Ok. I am almost back in the saddle. Last article (this is part 1 of 2 :)) I promise. 

Taken from an article I wrote for Ministry Today, July 2008.

Target Marketing: Finding Your Focus

As a church, whom are you called to reach? …to be?

Once you get past the initial fear that many churches have about marketing, the next hurdle tends to be the discussion of target marketing. It sounds insane that we would target certain people and therefore exclude anyone from our pursuit. After all, Paul, our marketing guru-of-old, shared his heart about being “all things to all men.” (1 Cor 9:22) On his missionary journeys, it was incredible to see Paul’s ability to understand the needs and habits of different people groups and adapt his message to meet them right where they lived. He serves as our role model in his pursuit of all men. On the other hand, Paul considered himself called to be “an apostle to the gentiles.” (Rom 11:13). Sounds slightly targeted doesn’t it? How do we reconcile these two pursuits—to reach all and yet to focus only a segment?

Believe it or not, it was not spiritual bigotry that Paul was guilty of in his pursuit of the gentiles. This was a pure sense of Paul understanding his strengths and his calling. Every church has strengths at reaching a “type” of people in its community. While that might strike you as unjust, its truth defines both our strengths and the areas we need to grow in. Whether you are a church that is known for young families, old money, the upper-class, the working-class or the struggling-class—whether you are known for deep followers, surface seekers, empty nesters or down-and-outers—there are tendencies to whom you draw.

Bear with me as I use a non-church example of two famous target marketers in order to paint a picture. Eminen is a mid-thirties rapper who has a number of platinum albums. In America, if you asked anyone from age fifteen to thirty if they knew who Eminem was, you would get over a 90% familiarity rate. Emimen is extremely targeted and he has almost fully saturated his young, pop-culture target. As a result, everything that he does is extremely aimed at the values of a decade’s culture and style. If you are 65 and know who he is, odds are, you do not like him. He does not care. You are not his target. He dresses young and angrily and he raps young and angrily. He appeals to the young and angry.

Now lets look at Josh Groban. He is in his mid-twenties and sings with operatic undertones. A significant amount of you knows who he is, but, despite his youth, he is just as (if not more) likely to have sixty-year-old women listening to his music than he is a sixteen year old. He wears linen suits or nice jeans with a wool turtle-neck and a sports coat. He sings songs of love and inspiration. “You Lift Me Up…” His target audience is spread wide amongst ages and styles. He will never reach a 90% familiarity rate with any one group. He does well by spreading his style thin to reach a little of a lot. This is in juxtaposition to Eminem who reaches a lot of a little. They both sell millions of records, but they both have different target audiences.

Much of what you see succeeding in churches today are those churches who have committed to specific people groups (targets) and styles by which they will pursue them. There are those that succeed with a wider range—targeted more like Josh Groban, but they must maintain to an exhaustingly extraordinary level of ministry to pull it off. After all, Groban would not be able to have such a wide appeal if he did not have one of the greatest voices of all time. Trying to serve all people at once when you are under-staffed and under-resourced is enough to put most churches under. It is harder to appeal to a wider range of people. Eminem does not have Groban’s voice—he just knows which buttons to push. Remind you of any churches?

It is often easier to reach people with common values than it is to attempt to relate to all people. Numerical growth is often the result of ministers committing to whom they are going to reach and developing an attractive style around it. That is why many ministries with less tenure and testing are often numerically successful. They are not better ministers, they just know whom they are trying to reach and are staying true to it. They are spiritual Eminems—focused target marketers. Their true talent is knowing the values of a certain group of people.

If you have been the church that tries to reach all at once, don’t be upset with the church that targets—that brings an angle of style and cultural value to their ministry. The fact is, they will reach certain people even better than you—and you…them. Working together, that makes us the Body of Christ. If you are hungry for their success, do not copy them. You will only be seen as posers. Find your own way. Chances are, in your pursuit to reach all; you’ve been more successful in reaching a certain some. You might just not recognize who they are yet. And in your quest to reach more in His name, be as Paul… becoming all things to reach all, but knowing deep-down who God has called you to reach.

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