I was having a conversation with a friend the other day. He’s a salesman. In his current role, he sells a technology that improves mobile advertising. In case you haven’t heard, mobile advertising is big business these days. But this isn’t an article about mobile advertising.
We were talking about his job. Companies are spending tens of thousands of dollars for what he sells to reach more potential customers. I said potential. These are the people who haven’t purchased anything yet. They haven’t even indicated they’d like to learn more. These are just people who, a business has determined, might be interested. Businesses spend a lot of money to reach the might-be-interested. They know it may generate a lead that could lead to a sale. That’s called marketing. But this isn’t an article about marketing.
My friend was frustrated because he’s had several conversations with churches to help them understand how the technology could potentially help them reach more people. None of the churches were interested. I get it. Churches tend not to embrace marketing. Yet they put signs in front of their buildings. They create websites. They mail postcards. They purchase Facebook ads. They create logos. They print bulletins. That’s actually all part of marketing. But this isn’t an article about church marketing. (By the way, it still sucks.)
Out of his frustration, he talked with another guy who has worked in church ministry for years. If I named the church, you would know the church. It’s a big one. My friend was explaining the challenge of trying to help churches embrace new technology to reach new people. He was just about ready to get to the climax of his story, and then I stopped him.
Me: “He told you churches aren’t interested in what you sell because churches don’t really want new customers.”
My Friend: “That’s exactly what he said. How did you know that?”
This is an article about reaching new customers. We don’t like to talk about ministry in these terms. I get it. But the reality is there are people in our communities who might be interested in what we have to offer. What we have to offer is the Gospel. We get to help more people experience forgiveness, hope and purpose for their lives. It’s the kind of transformation that only comes through a relationship with Jesus. We have a pretty good product… in marketing terms.
Churches don’t really want new customers, though. Why not? Because churches are more concerned about their current customers. Be honest. You know that’s true.
The current customers drive everything. They shape the worship experiences. They define the ministry programs. They establish the calendar of events. They determine what gets communicated and where it gets communicated.
Let’s face it. If we were intentional about reaching new customers, we might have to change our worship experiences. It might redefine our ministry programming. The calendar would look different. What we communicate and where we communicate it would need to change. If we really wanted to reach new customers, our current customers might have to sacrifice their preferences. They might not like that. If that happens, they might leave the church. They might stop giving.
Churches turn inward. They stop trying to reach new people. No “business” will ever survive without reaching new customers.
It was Jesus who said:
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” -Matthew 28:19–20
It’s hard to make new disciples if you’re not trying to reach new customers.
By Tony Morgan, founder and chief strategic officer at The Unstuck Group, a company that helps churches get unstuck through consulting and coaching experiences designed to focus vision, strategy and action. He writes about leadership at tonymorganlive.com. Follow Tony on social media: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn