Do Churches Need a Brand Promise?

I’ve been reading Verne Harnish again. I keep coming back to this strategic expert in the business world because I see so many parallels between what he teaches and the church world. Again, I’m not interested in getting into the debate about churches using business practices. All churches use business practices. It is a matter of degrees. If there are good business practices that are adaptable to the church I’m all for it. Truth is truth.

Here’s the latest thing I am struggling with from Harnish: The Brand Promise. In the business world, this is the one thing that a company is known for. It is that key factor that addresses their customer’s needs and sets them apart from their competition.  FedEx made their name by promising to get your package where it was going overnight. The post office couldn’t do that at the time.

Should a church have a “brand promise”? Elevate Church in Charlotte North Carolina promises to have the best worship experience. Steve Sjogren put The Vineyard Church in Cincinnati on the map with “servant evangelism” where they would gather every Saturday to go out and serve in random ways throughout their community. Originally, Bill Hybels wanted to plant a church that he could invite his non-Christian friends to, and Willow Creek Community Church was born.  They defined the Seeker Driven model for many years.

I do believe that most churches would benefit from asking a few simple questions that Harnish identifies in his work:

  • What is your BHAG? (That is, your Big Hairy Audacious Goal.) In the church world we would ask what is the vision God has revealed for your church in the coming years?
  • How do you define your sandbox? Are you a neighborhood church? A regional church? An Hispanic church? A seeker church? A church for artists? Who are you trying to reach?
  • What is the biggest need (not wants) that this group of people has?
  • What is your brand promise?  How can your church meet that need in a unique way?
  • What is the bottleneck/shortage/chokepoint? In other words, what is keeping you from fulfilling this promise? What are you going to do about it?

(taken from Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish)

I think the key here is focus. Many churches try to do so much that they don’t do anything very well. This is particularly true of once large churches that are now in decline. They desperately try to hold on to the multiple programs they were able to do in the past, instead of focusing on doing one or a few things very well.

If someone were to ask you: What is your church best known for outside of your church? How would you respond?



Young people say to church: You Lost Me

I had a great time recently learning from David Kinnaman at a conference hosted by National Community Church in Washington D.C. Kinnaman (@davidkinnaman on Twitter) is president of Barna Group  and author of unchristian and You Lost Me Of course, National Community Church  is the multi-site church pastored by Mark Batterson and his latest book is The Circle Maker   Are those enough links for you?

Kinnaman has done major research on the generation alternately called “Mosaic” “Millennials” and “Gen Y” depending on who is doing the talking. This is the generation that is coming into adulthood. Everyone these days wants to know what makes this generation tick. Marketers are constantly trying to figure out how to get their attention, colleges want their money, and churches are wondering where they are. Kinnaman’s first book unchristian focused on those young people on the outside of the church. You Lost Me is more about those young people who have left the church.

He began his talk by saying “It’s complicated” (an obvious reference to Facebook postings on relationship by many young people). His point is that the world is a complicated place, and the church isn’t helping them navigate through this complexity.  He made the comment “We’ve given them just enough Jesus to get them bored, but not enough to get them transformed.”  In the survey of 18-29 year olds with a Christian background, they found that 59% of them have dropped out of church, 38% have significantly doubted their faith, and 32% had considered rejecting their parent’s faith.

I’ll share more from Kinnaman in upcoming posts.