Today, perhaps more than ever, Churches need to think critically about how they communicate, how they organize and how they use the increasingly limited resources they have access too. We all know there is no such thing today as – build it and they will come. The neighborhood Churches’ of the 50’s are forever gone, the world of euro-centric Western Christianity is being actively reshaped and technology has forever changed the way we connect, think of communities and interact.
With the increasing numbers claiming ‘unaffiliated’ to any faith community along with “nones” there are less and less people within any community interested in anything religious. According to recent Pew Research:
One-fifth of the U.S. public – and a third of adults under 30 – are religiously unaffiliated today, the highest percentages ever. In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15% to just under 20% of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6% of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14%).
Now more than ever the Church that succeeds will do so through marketing prowess and integration of long held business ideologies and practices.
There are many who scoff at the notion of seeing the Church as a business. Some of their points are valid. There is something special about Church, it’s like family. Yet, that is something most held by those already on the inside, not a determining factor for those standing outside, seeking for a place to call home.
So before I go on, I will define for the purposes of this article what I mean by Church as a business:
- Church is in the business of serving the community – inside and outside.
- Church is in the business of educating and supporting people’s search for God, Jesus and, Spirit – a truth they come to know and incorporate into their lives.
- Church is in the business of reaching the lost, embracing the found and building the body to live into what it means to be Kingdom.
- Church is in the business of using what is trusted to it wisely – stewards of the gifts, funds, endowments and, resources.
- Church is in the business of letting itself be known: declaring its mission, casting its vision and providing those who trust it a means to see its results.
Its members are not products, its services are. Services are provided according to its’ members needs as well as the communities’ it serves. The Church is chosen out of a vast number of available and seemingly perfect substitutes. The community determines if a Church is relevant, not its history or its traditions. History and tradition only mean something to those who already consider themselves as one of you. A Church that does not provide a timely, effective and enriching service (experience) risks losing the opportunity to do so again; risks moving a seeker to a member.
I have also heard resistance to seeing the worship service as a show – as solely an attraction activity. There are some who believe this is to the detriment of the message of Jesus and that it fails to build disciples. While I agree that attraction alone does nothing more than reduce the relationship between the Church and its attendee to a transaction, it is an effective way to capture the potential relationship. It provides the opportunity to move that visitor: a) to a member, b) to a disciple, c) to a leader. And that is the work, the true work of any faith community.
Without creating an effective experience that competes within the competitive market of alternatives it limits its opportunity.
So what is a Church to do? Well let’s turn now to the business of Church….I welcome your thoughts and questions. While I have gathered some information to take this to the next step; I welcome moving forward together – in conversation.
*Pew Research (Jun-Jul, 2012).