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A Reminder, a Preview and a Concern

A Reminder, a Preview and a Concern

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1.  A Reminder

If you haven’t already, read our newly released eBook.  It’s an easy, quick way to catch up on all the prior blog posts and get a “blueprint” for revitalizing your church.  If you’re a pastor, lay leader or church member, this eBook is for you!

Download Now! The 5 Steps to Revitalize Your Church

2.  A Preview

In this blog series, now in its 20th week:

  • We spent the first 10 weeks building our case for why the Church in America is declining in size, impact, influence and perception.
  • Since then, we outlined some critical high-level principles that will bring your church into alignment with Biblical mandates and organizational behavior best practices.

Now it’s time to get down to brass tacks and spend the remaining weeks getting our hands dirty in specific steps to truly become a church where the “members are the church and the community is the customer”.  The turnaround stories in business are those who decide to reassess and reinvest in meeting the needs of their target customers.  It’s no different for churches, particularly when most are struggling today because they’re largely ignoring the target “customer” defined in scripture.

Shifting from the current definition of “customers” to the appropriate one requires new budgets, resource allocation, performance measures, roles, and potentially organizational structures.  A sincere change of heart and change of mind is validated by a change in actions and behaviors.

This is where the rubber meets the road – yet a bumpy one and not for the faint of heart.  It takes a great deal of faith to follow the Lord’s plan for His church, whatever the outcome.  The future trajectory of a church that decides it’s time to reorient toward the model behind the fastest growth in the Church’s history and the most successful companies is not a straight upward-sloping line.  However, the benefits for your church and for the Kingdom far outweigh the costs.

Here are some examples of the types of changes and steps we’ll be unpacking in the coming weeks:

  • Budgets – What does it mean to be a “generous church”? Is yours one?  Do your church’s fixed costs permit it to spend enough on your true “customer”?  Are your members generous?  Would they be more generous if they fully grasped that they are the church and the community is the “customer”?
  • Resource Allocation – How did so much time and energy at your church wind up diverted to the wrong “customer”?  Was it a gradual process or a conscious decision?  Are your pastors, staff and physical assets engaged more in building an institution than building disciples?  If so, how do you reallocate?
  • Performance Measures – What should you be measuring under this new paradigm? How should you reevaluate your goals and priorities as a church?  How can you rally everyone in the church around these common goals?  What are appropriate proxies for measuring impact and influence?  Can you really hold members accountable to a higher standard of “performance”?
  • Roles and Responsibilities – Do your members evaluate church in terms of what it does for them or what they can do for the Lord?  In turn, does your leadership evaluate members more like employees charged with living out the Great Commission or like volunteers they hope will keep coming back (i.e. “customers”)?  Are your leaders willing to diminish their status and standing in the church and elevate those of all others by comparison?
  • Organizational Structures – Is your church decentralized and taking ground or a centralized gathering place?  In other words, is it rooted in the people or the building?  What types of structures are optimal for maximizing community engagement and impact?  How can you make members feel empowered, fully leveraging the power in your pews through flattening the organization?

3.  A Concern

The feedback on this blog series has been overwhelmingly positive.  It seems we’ve struck a chord with readers and leaders across the country.  Nearly everyone agrees that the church today is feeling the effects of redefining its “customer”, increasingly focusing on attracting and retaining rather than challenging and deploying.  Our conclusion that no organization can succeed if it spends the bulk of its time, energy and money on the wrong “customers” seems to resonate far and wide.

Yet we’re hearing some people comment, “I agree we have too many consumer-driven churches”.  Or “Yes, those darn mega-churches”.  Or “Thank the Lord my church isn’t doing those things!”

However, this blog series is not about “consumer” or “prosperity” churches who “give the rest of us a bad name”.  Our contention in this blog series is that:

  • it’s actually rare to find a church in America today that truly treats members as the church and the community as its “customer”
  • overall, there’s been a radical shift in the role of members in the church and the role of the church in America over the past 100 or so years
  • church growth models taught by seminaries, high-profile pastors and coaches have permeated almost every church today, big and small alike, perpetuating this incorrect definition of the church’s “customer”
  • smaller churches, who have a hard time “competing” with the services, programs and facilities of larger churches, may even be finding it more tempting to try to hang on to people than larger churches – who seem more content with a revolving door

This response feels like the public opinion polls about Congress.  Most voters view Congress as “ineffective” (of course most choose a far stronger term than that, but since we’re on the subject of politics I’ll be politically correct).  Yet the majority polled say they like their representatives!  Why do Jeff Foxworthy “redneck” jokes get a laugh from everyone in the audience?  Because no one thinks the joke is about them.  Some of them may be wrong, right?

Others contend that their church is more about building disciples than building an institution.  Yet, they go on to mention that the church is not growing – in number or impact.  It begs the question – is that discipleship emphasis producing disciples?  Disciples by definition are eager to share the gospel and serve others.  Are those pastors going as far as they should to train “insiders” to pursue “outsiders” in line with how Jesus modeled and envisioned the Great Commission?

This “it’s a good thing that doesn’t apply to us” syndrome is dangerous.  It allows church leaders and members to ignore (and fail to address) the “root cause” issue at their church.  It leads them to place band-aids on gaping wounds.

It’s your turn…

What could I provide to you or what questions could I answer in the coming weeks to help your church through this transformation?  Would a more detailed strategic roadmap, consulting, self-assessments, or progress-tracking charts be useful?  Any other ideas?


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The 5 Steps to Revitalize Your Church

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The 5 Steps to Revitalize Your Church

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Root cause for the Church's decline & its path to Revitalization

“Any organization not focused on its customers, or focused on the wrong customers, cannot succeed.” – Jim Morgan