Make Sure Your Marketing Matches Your Market

image

A friend and I went to a Reds game recently. It was a cold night for baseball. It had been raining for several days and thankfully stopped in time for the game. But, it made for a very chilly night.

It didn’t stop the stadium vendors from doing their job though. The only problem…I’m not sure their marketing matched their market.

Especially one guy.

It was almost funny. It was obvious he had a routine. A common cheer. A pitch.

“Ice cold beer….BRRRR….Ice cold beer….BRRRR…”.

It was his trademark. He would shake his head everytime he said “BRRR“…

He was good at it too. Convicting. He had the routine well rehearsed.

I got colder listening to him. Every time he did his cheer, I pulled my jacket a little tighter around my neck. I’m getting colder now, just thinking about his performance.

Now, here’s the problem. I wasn’t in the beer market anyway, but his marketing approach probably wouldn’t have motivated me if I was. I didn’t need anything to make me colder than I already was that night. I needed something to make me warmer. If it had been 90 humid degrees in the shade, he would have had a winning approach with beer drinkers. This would have been your best salesperson of the night.

But, as it appeared, he wasn’t selling much that night. Almost nothing. He even seemed discouraged. (Although now I may be reading into this because it fits the illustration.) Either way…sales were certainly down.

I wondered if it were more than the weather…if in fact part of the reason was his cheer.

Anything “BRRR…ice cold…” doesn’t grab my attention as much when I’m already cold.

I don’t know what the warm beer cheer is, but that would almost seem to have been a better one this night. :) Maybe even a cheer for hot chocolate.

It reminded me though of how we “market” sometimes…even in the church.

Sometimes our marketing doesn’t match our market

Okay, I’ll get pushback that the church shouldn’t market. (I love hearing from those guys.) Call it what you want, but we have a message we are trying to tell. We hopefully think about how we tell it. If you don’t then you can ignore this post and I will catch you next time. Marketing is the process of packaging a story in a way that others become interested in it. I think we attempt that every week.

Jesus seemed to share His message in a way the audience He was speaking to could more easily understand. That’s why He used parables. It seems to be why He used a lot of farming illustrations. (They were plentiful in His audience.)

I wonder if we, as a church, need to get better at telling our story…marketing our message.

So, with that in mind, here’s my advice:

Make sure your marketing matches your market.

Make sure your story-telling matches your audience.

To do that, ask yourself:

Who are the people you are trying to reach?

Who are the people with whom you want to share your message?

Who are the people needing to know what you know?

Who are the people needing to believe what you believe?

What do they think like? What are they interested in? What motivates them? What inspires them?

What do they need most? What are their greatest fears? With what do they struggle most?

How can you tell the story in a way that they hear and are motivated to respond?

Again…

Does your “marketing” match your market?

5 Principles of Making Disciples and Enabling Spiritual Growth

growing team

Spiritual growth of believers should be the goal of any church. We are to reach unbelievers and introduce them to Christ, but the end goal according to the command of Jesus is making disciples. It would even make sense then, that as much as we count the offering or attendance on Sundays, if we want to know we are being successful as a church, we have to somehow “count” our success at making disciples.

Yet spiritual growth is a difficult subject and can be hard to measure, because a church can offer the same ministries and attention to the same group of people and get extremely different results.

Right now there are people in my church at 3 stages of spiritual growth:

  • Those that need to mature and are not maturing.
  • Those that need to mature and have stalled.
  • Those that need to mature and are maturing.

I suggest the same is true of your church. We rejoice in the last one. We all need to mature. We love when it happens. If we are not careful, however, we can allow the first two groups of people to discourage us and make us believe we are not doing what God has called us to do as a church.

How can we know we are growing people spiritually?

I don’t know that we can ever know as clearly numerically as we do with attendance or contributions. But, I think there are principles that can help us know we are on the right track to building disciples, for each of the three groups mentioned above. These principles, when understood, can bring a sense of clarity as to whether we are truly realizing the mission of the church.

Here are 5 principles to understanding the process of spiritual growth.

Growth is possible. Every believer has an opportunity and potential to experience spiritual growth. God wants to mature all believers. No one is left out of that plan. If someone is not growing spiritually, there is a reason. Either they haven’t been discipled or they haven’t responded to the opportunities they’ve been given to grow, but opportunity exists for all believers.

People are responsible for their spiritual growth. I am responsible to lead a church that shepherds them, encourages them, instructs and teaches them, but ultimately the believer holds the responsibility of their own growth. That’s a freeing principle, because it keeps me responsible for what I can do, but releases me of the burden of what I can’t do. I can create environments that help people grow, but I can’t make them grow.

Growth occurs best in community. The best spiritual growth in my life and in the life of others I have observed occurs when people are in committed, healthy and intentional relationships with other believers wanting to mature. Iron does sharpen iron. Disciples make disciples. It was the method Jesus used to create disciples. He spent time with His disciples. (At the same time, I have been in groups where some are growing and some are not, but that goes back to principle number two. Remember Judas?) As much as I can, I need to help people who want to grow spiritually spend time with others who want to grow and are growing spiritually. I can then give them tools to use where there time together is suitable for discipleship.

Developing a person’s desire for spiritual growth is key. When a person gets excited about his or her personal walk with Christ, they will want to get to know Christ better. The more they know Christ the more they will want to be like Him. The more people want to be like Christ the more likely they will be to assume ownership of their spiritual growth. So motivating people for the desire to grow becomes a key element in discipleship. This may be done by sharing stories of others who have grown, helping people understand their potential, or continually casting the vision for spiritual growth and maturity, but creating a desire to grow becomes a key goal in disciple-making.

The goal of the teacher/leader of spiritual growth should be to enable people to achieve spiritual growth. Knowing that people are responsible for their growth, and that I can only create environments where that can best happen, helps shape where I spend my efforts in discipleship. Our goal as spiritual leaders should be to introduce people to Christ and God’s Spirit, teach them the truths of faith, and then release them to serve, mature and grow in their spiritual life.

Please understand this is not a formula and principles are not foolproof. I believe, however, that understanding these principles can help us see the process of discipleship as something doable, even “measurable”, if we continually strive to create environments conducive for spiritual growth to occur.

Any thoughts?

7 Leadership Paradigms Needed for Church Growth

7

I speak with churches everyday who want to grow again, but nothing they do seems to work. Many say it’s a vision problem, but I disagree. The church may not be living it, but we have the clearest, best defined vision of anyone. (We are to make disciples.) The obvious problem to me of these church is they aren’t really doing anything new. They do the same things they’ve always done, maybe tweaking some minor aspect, but for all practical purposes, it’s the same.

But, honestly, that’s not the primary reason for a lack of growth, in my opinion. I have learned that if you want to have an culture susceptible and open to growth, there are some common paradigms necessary. You have to think certain ways. In most every situation, an absence of certain actions or mindsets on the part of leaders keeps the church from moving forward.

What are some of those paradigms?

Here are 7 paradigms needed for church growth:

Lead with leaders – Of course you need followers too, but most people are looking for leadership, especially about things about which they don’t know. In any group you’ll have a few who are ready to move forward with the changes needed and a few who are opposed to any change you bring. The rest of the people are looking for leadership. Lead with those who are ready to move in a positive direction.

Prioritize your time – You can’t do everything or be everywhere. Let me say that again. You can’t do everything or be everywhere. That doesn’t ignore the expectation placed on you as a leader, but it does recognize your limitations. By the way, the quickest way to burnout and ineffectiveness is to ignore this one.

Never waste energy – When something is working, put fuel into it. All cylinders go. That makes sense, right? Momentum feeds momentum. Yes, in keeping the previous one that means you’ll have to ignore a few things to do the very best things. But, usually the most energy will be in a few key places at a time. Never fail to capitalize on those important moments in time.

Embrace change – You have to live in the tension of change if you want to experience growth. Change is never popular with everyone, but when you resist it, you are resisting the opportunity to grow. More of the same may be comfortable, but it seldom produces the excitement necessary for growth.

Make hard decisions – Don’t be naive. Growth brings change. Change brings momentum. And as exciting as that can be not everyone will be excited about it. If you are going to achieve the vision you’ll have to be willing to stand the test of time. That won’t be easy. With some decisions you make you’ll be choosing who buys into the vision and who doesn’t. Be willing to make the hard decisions and you’ll keep the church open to idea of growth.

Build healthy teams – You can’t do it alone. You can probably control a church that’s not growing. You can control people who don’t think for themselves. But, if you want to grow, especially grow long-term, you’ll need to surround yourself with healthy people who build a healthy team environment.

Refuel often – I find the more we are growing and the more change is occurring, the more I have to get away and gain perspective. Renew. Recharge. Sometimes even re-engage. I can’t lead for growth if I’m drowning in the demands of the present.

I don’t know that this is an exclusive list, but this is a good start. Which are you missing?

What would you add?

Danger: A Team Without a Leader…

teamwork concept on blackboard

I’ve seen many leaders make this mistake. They believe in teams, so they create a bunch of them. They charge them with carrying out a mission…an assigned task…part of a great vision.

But, the team doesn’t work. Nothing gets accomplished. There is no forward movement.

Why? They had a great team.

But, they didn’t have a leader.

I believe in teams.

I even love the word.

TEAM

It sounds cooperative. Energy-building. Inclusive.

Create great teams. I think you should.

But, make no mistake about it…every team need a leader.

Teams are great, but at some point in time, a leader needs to stand up. And lead.

An organizational team without a leader is like an athletic team without a coach.

Would you recommend that for your favorite sports team?

Of course not.

Lead by teams. But, make sure every team has a leader.

Make it a point to never appoint or release a team to do work…until you make sure a leader is chosen.

Have you seen a leaderless team flounder?

Establish Authority before Exhibiting Authority

controlling leader

A pastor went into a church and started making changes quickly. They were good changes. All of them, in my opinion. Genius a few of them. I was impressed.

But, he didn’t last two years in that church. He was run out of town. Dismissed. Sent packing with barely a severance check. A few of the leaders in the church, some he didn’t even know were leaders, decided they didn’t like the changes. And, soon they no longer liked him.

Heartbroken and discouraged he asked for my opinion on what went wrong.

Now that’s a true story, but it’s not just one pastor’s story. It’s a dozen pastor’s story. I’ve heard it so many times I can’t remember them all. I am not saying I agree with those churches who responded to a new pastor that way. I don’t. Not at all. Or, not in the way they went about things. The controlling, afraid to change mindset usually keeps churches from growing and moving forward.

There were probably better solutions to the problem. Maybe a mediator. Maybe some humility. For both the church and the pastor. Maybe a smarter approach. Maybe a little better change management. Maybe a little more grace. Maybe a church takeover. (Just kidding on the last one. Mostly.)

But it helps us understand something else about leadership.

In watching new leaders in a church or organization, I’ve noticed a sometimes fatal error occur.

They forgot to establish their authority before making major changes.

Here’s the principle to remember…this is the gold of this post learned by experience:

You have to establish authority before you exhibit authority.

Positional authority is what this pastor used. By definition, this kind of power comes with the position. He was the pastor. So he made the pastor-like decisions. You’ll need positional authority at times. Many times. Don’t be afraid to use it when necessary. You need it when protecting the vision. Or in times of crisis. And, it is especially helpful in honeymoon situations, which is what this pastor used.

But, positional authority is limited in effectiveness. This pastor abused his positional authority. People may do what you say, because of your position, but they will not always do it with as much passion. And, eventually, if not handled well, people will rebel against that kind of authority; especially when it is the only authority exhibited.

What’s the alternative?

Relational authority is far more effective. As the title indicates, relational authority is part of a relationship. It develops with trust and respect. It develops over time and experience. It develops as those you attempt to lead get to know you and learn that you are the leader and person you claim to be.

I would have advised this leader to be more intentional. More strategic. There were probably times to use positional authority. Times to get some quick “wins”. Things that were less controversial and easier to change. Things that built momentum. Things that clearly got in the way of accomplishing the vision.

But, I would have advised him to develop more relational authority before he changed the controversial issues…the sacred cows. Many times these are small issues, but they hold big sentimental and traditional values. In the end, many of these issues don’t matter. You’d love them changed, but if it takes a year…or two years…that’s okay. In the meantime, you can develop your relational authority.

Before you exhibit too much authority, make sure you’ve established your authority. The proper authority. Especially relational authority. That takes time, and the privilege is great, but it is so incredibly powerful.

Have you seen a leader try to exhibit authority before establishing authority? How’d that go?

Sometimes Boring is Better

BORING Rubber Stamp

If I’m attending a church for the first time, I want to know who you are. What are you trying to accomplish? What is your DNA? What drives the church?

What’s your vision?

If you’ve heard your vision before, then it’s probably not “news” to you.

In fact, it may even be boring if you have heard it so many times.

Repeating vision can be “boring” to those who know the vision well.

New people don’t know your vision. Occasional attenders forget your vision. Unconnected people haven’t learned your vision. Committed people need to be reminded of your vision.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

Let me repeat that.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

Again.

Sometimes boring is better.

And when it is, it is every time.

It may be boring for you, but for some, it’s fresh and vital information.

Share your vision.

Share it again.

And again.

And again.

And again.

Are you bored with this post yet?

Well, good, maybe you get the message.

It’s not true many times, but sometimes boring is better. When it is, it is every time.

10 Specific Ways You Can Support Your Pastor

senior pastor

I recently wrote 7 Ways to Support your pastor on Sunday, and it was very popular. One frequent suggestion was a post about every day of the week.

It makes sense. I know I am frequently asked how people can support me. What a tremendous boost of encouragement that question is for any pastor. From the frequency of the request, and the popularity of the other post, it’s obviously a question of many in the church.

It primarily, however, made me think most about other pastors. That is the primary focus audience of this blog. I realize I am very blessed. I’m in a good setting. I serve in a fairly large church. They afford us an adequate staff and ours is a healthy staff culture. I don’t lead alone. The church takes care of me and my wife wonderfully. Of course, there are always issues of leadership…lots of them, but I feel very much supported.

So, in case you are wondering, what can you do to support your pastor? (By the way, for ease of writing, this is written using a male connotation and the specific title of pastor, but it is equally true for any people in ministry, regardless of their title or gender.)

Here are 10 suggestions:

Let him have family time – Let him be off when he’s off. There will always be interruptions. He wants to be a part of your life and life doesn’t happen around a schedule. He knows that. But, if your situation can be handled during his normal working hours, please help him protect his family time. Most likely, like most pastors (and people) he struggles to say no to your requests, so think of his family first whenever you ask for his time.

Don’t expect him to be everywhere – Don’t even expect him to be at everything the church does. He has so many hours in a day. And, if you want him to be healthy and effective, then he needs to prioritize his time. Let him do so without feeling needless guilt and pressure.

Lower the expectations on his kids and spouse – Kids are kids. Let them be. The spouse has responsibilities unique from the pastor. The pastor has higher standards placed on him, but the family should not have unrealistic expectations placed on them.

Respect his leadership – If God called him, let him lead. If he’s behaving outside Biblical standards then you have every right and expectation to intercede. If you’re objecting to your personal preference or out of the traditions set by men, humble yourself and follow his leadership unless The Lord removes him.

Encourage him – The best way to do this is through personal notes or emails about the impact the ministry is having on your life. Don’t assume he knows or hears it all the time. Chances are he doesn’t. And if everyone thinks the same, he will usually receive far more criticism than encouragement. In fact, that’s probably true anyway, so send the encouragement now! Today!

Stop gossip – I’ve never known a church where there isn’t some talk about the pastor behind the pastor’s back. Don’t be a party to this and help stop it when you hear it.

Pay him fairly – Consider his experience, his education, and the level of professionalism, leadership and responsibility he will have and the expectations you have for him. My personal advice is to pay him adequately where he can provide for his family, without taking energy away from ministry while worrying over finances. Depending on the person, he may even need help from someone with more experiences in the area of budgeting and finance. Many pastors are not gifted in this area.

Serve with him – Don’t make him beg for you to serve the church…or give to the church. Carry out your role as someone who loves the church. Find a place to serve. Support the church financially.

Pray for him – Daily. Don’t just say you are; actually do it. Pray for him personally. His walk with Christ. His study time. His family time. Pray for his family. Pray for the things about him that bother you. That works better than complaining anyway. Pray for God do to exceedingly abundantly all you could think or imagine through him at your church.

Grow personally – This is not last as a last thought. It’s the one I want to leave you with most. The real struggle for most pastors is undisciplined, immature believers. It’s not the lost. They usually fuel his passion to “seek and save the lost”. It’s not the mature in Christ. They don’t seem to complain. They work to support the church, the pastor, and fulfill the Great Commission. It’s the ones who are in the church, but are still babies in their spiritual maturity. (We all know this, but most won’t say it.) Commit to mature in your walk with Christ. Strive daily to be like Christ. You’ll be in the best position to support not only your pastor, but the church.

Those are my suggestions. With a few genuine people supporting their pastor in this way…watch out for what God can do through this church.

Pastors, what would you add to my list?

10 Positive Paradigms in Church Leadership

Like. Thumb up sign.

I recently posted 10 dangerous paradigms in the church. Obviously, there are positive mindsets in the church also. I decided to share some from the perception of a pastor.

Here are 10 positive paradigms in the church:

We can do it Pastor – The “can do” attitude. Who can’t work with that?

Jesus will make a way – So, if that’s your paradigm, then all we have to do is follow Him…right?

It’s not about me – Wow! To hear someone say that…makes a pastor’s day.

Let’s walk by faith – Yes, let’s do. Because, without faith, it’s impossible to please God. At least, according to the Bible.

What can I do to help? – Imagine if everyone showed up at church ready to do whatever it took to make the day work. Just imagine. We can dream, can’t we?

We need some change around here – I think we do. I think you’re right. I think I’ll clone you. Sustained momentum always requires change. Always.

I know we need to talk about money – You do? Really? You recognize that it takes money to operate a church? Wow! Are you contagious?

It’s none of my business – Okay, this is a tough one, but seriously, is it? Do you really need to know everything, or do you just like information? I wonder if we moved forward with less information if we would be closer to walking by faith…which in essence means we go without seeing… Just wondering.

I’m excited about trying something new – By excited, do you also mean you’ll support it? And speak positively about it? Even behind the pastor’s back? Because, if you do, I’m gonna hug you. Seriously.

This church is awesome! – It’s simple, but it builds momentum. Believing in the church, it’s leadership, and it’s potential is a key to welcoming people who will later feel likewise.

As a pastor, those are 10 positive paradigms I would share. I realize they aren’t for everyone. But, which one would you most like to see as a pastor?

What positive church paradigm would you add to my list?

7 Paradigms of the “New Normal” in Church Leadership

Things have changed. Have you noticed?

The rest of the world has reacted. I’m not sure we have in the church…or at least as quickly as we should.

But, we must….

If we want to continue to reach people in the culture and introduce them to the God we love and serve.

Here are 7 paradigms of the “new normal” in church leadership:

We must do more with less – The resources for Kingdom work may not be what they once were. People now define generosity differently. We need to educate them. Disciple them in giving. But, just like the business community is learning, things may never be the same again. We may have to solve some problems without adding staff or new programs that cost money. I’ll be honest, as a former small business owner and church planter, this isn’t all bad and may make us healthier in the long run after we learn to adjust.

We have to think outside the walls – They aren’t coming to us any more for answers…even in times of crisis. We are no longer the first place people think about when life falls apart. We have to actually do the “Go” part of the Great Commission.

Church is an opinion, not a trusted source – The church used to be the center of discussion. Everyone wanted to know what the church thinks, especially on moral issues. Our opinion is quickly dismissed these days by many. We must build relationships to be heard.

People trust their friends…more than the churchA recent study said the most trusted source in advertising is a friend’s recommendation…believed 92% of the time. I don’t know the church’s percentage, but from experience I can tell you it’s far less than that. Teaching relational evangelism is mission critical.

Easter is for church people – Unchurched people don’t come, on their own, even on Easter (or other special occasions), without an invitation. (With an invitation they are likely to come.) We aren’t on their radar. More church people than usual show up on Easter. That’s why our numbers go up so much. The point, again, we have to invite and go through relationships.

Regular attendance is semi-regular – I’ve been noticing this for several years, even back when I was teaching Sunday school, but especially now as a pastor. Several of my friends have mentioned it recently. Two or three times a month…that’s regular attendance in many people’s minds.

Loyalty has dwindled – Just as people are less loyal to brands, they are less loyal to churches too. They can also watch us or others online without coming to our buildings. We will have to work harder to connect people through discipleship opportunities. Connected people are loyal.

Those are only seven. I know there are more. But, seven is usually my “go to” number. Please note, I’m not endorsing these or saying I agree with them. I’m simply stating some realities I see the church must consider. If we want to reach people within a culture it helps to know the culture.

By the way, it is interesting that we’ve been doing cultural training to send people on foreign mission trips for years, yet that seems like a “foreign” concept to some when it comes to training for the changing culture in our own backyards.

What paradigms of the “new normal” would you add?