Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Church Marketing

Whether we would like to admit it or not we market God and the church.The question is how? That isn't an intentional part of most churches. Our church spent $0 in intentional advertising. How do churches market themselves.
How many churches have marquees out in front of their churches? This is probably the place that they can talk to more "non churched people" than any other venue. What comes to mind when we see most of those signs? It is either a clever little saying or sermon title for the most part. I don't have a cure all for what would be a good thing on a church sign.
Marketing a church is very different than marketing a product we have to remember we aren't selling people some junk. Although it would be fun to put on a church sign. "Tickets to heaven 1/2 price this week only." I think there may be some double takes from people driving down the road.
Since we aren't trying to sell people a product what are we doing? In essence we are trying to tell/show people that the life we are offering is better than the alternatives they are currently trying. What would happen to them if they dared to step into the building? What would happen if they came to one of our services? Would anything be different in their lives? Would they know they were cared for, would they know that there are people that genuinely want whats best for them? Would they be challenged and inspired to change?
Churches are very interested in growing and wanting new people to come. I just don't think we are very good in knowing how to present it. If it isn't using fear/yelling on the street tactics we are at a loss.
Hear are my two cents on this issue.
1. I think in general non churched people have preconcived notions about what church and church people are like. I don't think these are 100% true but if this is their personal opinion arguing with them is not going to work.
I think we need to show them different. What does our lifestyle say about following Christ? There are two different areas that tell alot about Jesus. How are we dealing with the sins of comission and the sins of omission?
We are very consious of the sins of comission. These are the sins of our lifestyle. This is hammered on quite a bit in churches. How is our life a reflection of Jesus' morality?
The sins of omission are just as important. How are we bringing Jesus' hope into the world? Are we purposefully bringing restoration into peoples lives both in our sphere of influence and our influence around the world?
The way our life reflects both of those is a direct reflection on both Jesus and the church. Yes we are not going to be perfect but if you are someone no wants to be like than our churches will continue to shrink.

2. What does the church offer that is going to help me?
This a question all of us ask in one way or another. We as humans are very selfish, and every thing revolves around me since the day I was born.
So this question is a very important to answer. How are we going to meet needs of unchurched people?
Last night I was in a meeting and we were talking about having a booth at our county fair. In the past the church has done water give aways with the church logo on the side of their water bottles. Other churches started doing that and we as a group were asking the question of how can we meet physical needs at the fair?
One of the groups we specifically want to target is young families. As we were sitting in the meeting I had this strenge thought of how we could meet some of their needs. What if we bought a huge amount of diapers and put a St Marks sticker on the front of each diaper and then gave them away throughout the fair.
As a parent of three children who have just gotten out of the diaper stage, I realize how much money is spent on diapers. I also know the time spent putting diapers on a child where the st marks logo would be a reminder of a church that cares about these peoples needs. There are other aspects of this idea that need to be worked out.
If we are going to meet needs we need to do it because we care not so we can hope that they will join the church so they can give money.
We are in the live changing, bringing hope to people business.
3. Is what these church people believe important enough for me to invest time ,energy, and money into the cause?
Is our churches vision big enough? Are we dreaming God sized dreams? Is the church declining because there isn't enough churches that believe that God put them here for a reason? Would the disciples been willing to give their lives if they had been told to just sit in Jerusalem for the rest of their lives and just tell people about Jesus who walked in their doors? Just a question.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Stories of Teamwork

Is there stories of team work that emerge from church settings? There are many books written about the desire for the church community working together but I hear very few stories of how team work happens to accomplish a feat greater than the sum of its parts.
This is a generalization but when something great is accomplished a leader will step forward and either intentionally or unintentionally will get the credit and accolaides. Christianity still holds the lone ranger persona when we view pastors and church leaders. A pastor will either start a church from scratch or will change a dying congregation into something magnificiant. We assume that others helped in the process but where are the stories? Where are the stories of a church invested so much in to the mission that they give up the personal glory for a team. Maybe that is the reason we don't hear so many stories because there are very few out there who consciously strive to do this.
In sports often times we will hear of a player who only plays for their own stats to a detrimant to the team. Sports has such a spotlight that we can see a team that works together and a team of individual stars. In interviews athletes will talk with great respect of team mates who sacrifced for the team. Who did the little things in order to make the team succeed. Yesterday in the Patriots football game there were smaller role players who did their jobs in order for them to go to the Super Bowl.
How does this play out in our churches? Where is the teamwork? How often do we sacrifice our opinions, personal goals for the good of the team. If this was a sports team what would our team mates say about us? Are we so concerned with the way we come across that it affects the final outcome?
I think there are great stories of team work and churches working together to accomplish great acts. Maybe the reason they are not told is that they are not as romantic as a knight in shining armor riding into town and saving the world.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

A dream beginning to come true

I have had a goal/desire over the past few years to start a business with the sole purpose of making money for ministry. This idea started even before I left the Real Life. Over the last couple of years the business idea I have pursued- but it wasn't done with the intent to use the money for ministry. Here in Goshen I began sharing this idea with a couple of people and it has begun taking shape.
It is going to be a ebay/book selling business. We have already worked out a deal with selling items from a resale store with items hat would sell better online than in a physical store. We are also in the process of working out a deal with a storage unit of selling stuff from unpaid tennants.
On Tuesday I put a few items I had just sitting around and was so excited because I sold 5 items on half for $200. It is always nice when God reaffirms a dream by blessing us right away. I wish I could say this is always the formula but it isn't.
There is a lot of work to be done. Today I am talking to an accountant who is going to help with the bookkeeping part. There is also a board that I am working on putting together. The money that comes in is both going to be used in the Goshen community, other ministries, and special projects world wide. It is our thoughts,goals, and prayers to be a blessing to both our local community and partner with those around the world who are doing kingdom work.
If you would have items that you would like for us to sell on ebay, we charge a 25% of the final sale price. This money is going directly to ministry and none is used for administration fees. Let us know and we can come pick your items up.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is Money the Answer?

Last night as I was standing in line to return my dvd via red box, I saw this grizzley camo clad middle age man buying lottery tickets. From his outer appearance he looked to have lived a rough life. His greying hair was thinning and his teeth looked to have been neglected since the glory days of Night Rider. His camo had some holes in them and his smell was one of cigarettes. As I was taking in his appearance I was thinking what is going to happen to him if he was to win the lottery?
Would his life be everything that he always wanted? Would he be able to accomplish his dreams and go to the places he had only seen pictures of?
After thinking about him I had to ask myself is money the reason we don't accomplish our dreams? Say we were to get a raise or job change that would increase our yearly income by $10,000. If it was in one lump sum we may be more apt to spend on it dreams we have- but since it would be distributed throughout the year in our paycheck we have a very slim chance of spending it on anything important. We may think that we need a new car with the payments being roughly $200 more a month, we may upgrade cable or go to dish tv with that being another $40 a month. The money may disappear a little more with going out to eat at $150 a month. Of course we need another cell phone that is going to make it easier to communicate with each other at $100 a month. Just with those seemingly insignificant life style changes we have just spent $5,880 a year. More than half the money that we would recieve has been spent in ways that has upgraded our lives how?
When we make more money what happens? We change our life styles. There are always more things we want with other gadgets and trinkets that would make our lives so much better. Are our habits going to change if we make more money? Lets face it most of us need to make fundamental changes in our personal finances if we are going to accomplish our dreams.
Money is not the reason we don't do a lot of things in life. It is a convienent excuse but the reality is that spending is the reason we don't accomplish our dreams.
Would grizzly camo mans life be better if he wins the lottery? He may have all the cigarettes he wanted and the 1984 trans am that is pictured hanging on his wall.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day Trading in Prison

Yesterday was the first day I met with my prison mentee. It has been a long time coming. Between paperwork and other delays it took 3 months for us to get together. So in our 2 hour meeting yesterday I learned a lot about him and more about prison life.
When I asked him what he had been up to recently. He responded saying "taking college classes from Grace- which he is looking to end up with a bachelors in Business and he took a class on day trading." Of course the day trading comment sparked my interest so I asked him to expound on the topic.
He explained how there was a class on day and stock trading - in the class there was both an outside teacher and an inmate that shared about their stock trading experiences. I don't know the legal implications to this nor do I really want to.Many of the prisoners have stock accounts and do a fair deal of trading. He said prisoners make good traders because of their patience. So I asked the obvious what are you going to do with the money if you make money. He told me that there is a few of them in the honors dorm that want to help fund Christian ministries through their stock money.
I have no idea if this plan of theirs will work, but if it does, it is utterly bizzare and would be a very interesting way for your ministry to recieve money. I asked how he would keep up on the markets, and he said some of the inmates recieve the wall street journal and they have bloomberg tv, along with cnbc.
As we were talking about the type of ministries they would support and start- one of the ones he mentioned was an after school program for troubled teens. As he was talking about that I asked him: would that have made a difference in the choices you had made in your life? Or if there was anything else that could have changed his outcome? (His earliest possible release date at this point in time is 2079. He would be 103. He has been incarcerated since 1998.) He looked at me and said "I have no excuse. I came from a good home that took me to church and I knew about God. I got saved at a summer camp, and I just made wrong choices."
I told him after he said this that it was comforting to hear that he wasn't making excuses for him being in prison, but as a natural helper it is hard to think that there may not have been anything that could be changed from some people making the wrong decisions.
Out of respect for him I don't want to use his name.- But I would like for you to keep him in your prayers. One of the things he said he strives to do is a good influence to the other inmates. The interesting thing about our conversation that lasted 2+ hours is he never mentioned life when he gets out. He is concerned with the life he lives now and how he can serve God and be he best follower he can be.
One of his close friends and another guy who was in my purpose driven life class last month tried to commit suicide and it has been very tough on their whole dorm. Keep this church in your prayers.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Is it wrong for the church to make money?

I have been bothered of how churches finances have been run since I have been a youth pastor. How many people really understand how church finances run?
In saying what I am about to say. I do believe in God, and miracles, I believe God is in control of situations.
I also belive that God has given us minds, creative ideas, and the opportunity to generate money for God's work and kingdom.
Churches are dependent on each of their congragents desire and ability to listen to God. If these people are willing to listen to God and pay the traditional 10% tithe then it can keep a church in business. Churches base their budgets on either pledges for the year, or figuring out a budget from last years numbers.
When a church is looking to build a new building or to raise money it goes back to the people that are tithing and look to get more money from these sources.
If the money is not raised does that mean that God is not apart of the plan? The answer many times is immediately yes or that people are not following God.
What if churches started thinking more strategically in making money. What if they thought creativly and found other revenue sources other than the congregation? Is this wrong?
I know in some circles this is a taboo topic. I am not suggesting making more money so the pastor can get paid more, I am suggesting generating more money so more ministry can happen.
Let me share some of my brainstorming ideas that are not refined ideas but rather starts.
Advertising income-
This is something that would have to be well researched before embarking but there are many companies who support and given in kind donations with their companies logo on it. I have seen many gym scoreboards sponsored by pepsi or coke. What about the church van being corporatly sponsored. It will have to be companies that first off are not going to make the message of the church compromised but also someone you are proud to support.
Why isn't this done more? Other than the above mentioned fears. I think that churches in general are not organized enough to have a plan to present to an organization or business.

I can answer why churches don't do this more. The vision is so small that we have any need for grants.
Fundraising through sales-'
Of course there is the bake sale and the occassional rummage sale for youth trips etc. But what if churches intentionally started businesses through their church in order to raise money for missions on a continual basis?
For instance an ebay store or a book selling business. With donations from both the church participants and the community, and or a relationship with a resale shop the amount of money raised could be 300% times what is raised from an occassional bake sale and rummage sale.
Using the building as a resource-
Again this gets into a sticky area of what events and things that promote the church's values. With a resource of a building that in most cases is used sundays and wednesday nights with some creative thinking could make money for the church throughout the rest of the week.
When I was at real life and we did concerts. We brought in over $2,000 one night. These events was both a positive event for the community of teens and it helped pay for our annual ski trips.

Yes there is a lot of work that would go into doing any of this- but lets think about what we want to accomplish. Is maintaining an option? If we are going to be a viable option in many people's lives having a God shaped vision needs to be part of it. With that vision comes a cost and hopefully these few ideas can and will help you out.

Saturday, January 5, 2008


How often does the grass look greener on the other side? How often do we lament decisions that we made because we thought we could get a better deal, improve our life situation, or make more money? I met someone last week that had one of the biggest misperceptions I have heard in awhile.
This open mic night had the regular cast of characters. Some of the same people I had seen in Portage over the past 5 years. People still wishing to make it big by singing everything from originals to Sweet Home Alabama. The people who attend are almost as interesting as the musicians themselves. At this particular open mic night there was a person who was a little out of place. He wasn't there because he was a want to be John Mayer or was in love with the musicians, or though wearing girl jeans was still in style. No he was there because he didn't have anywhere else to go before his shift started at a gas station. Beshawn is a 22 year old from Egypt. He moved to this country a little over a year ago. One of my friends befriended Beshawn and became friends because he could speak Arabic. My friend Nasser and Beshawn playfully fought in Arabic through out the evening. Beshawn's story is one of misperceptions. I aksed why he came to America? This is the story he told me in broken English and with help from my Arabic translator Nasser.
"I came to America because of a lottery. My country has an online lottery that people can enter to win a green card to come to America. I won the chance to come here and was so excited. I was excited because America is such a "DEVOTED" Christian nation. "
This last statement really sparked my interest so I had to inquire more.He told me this part of the back story of his life.
"My father is a pastor of a Coptic church in Egypt. I was studying to be a pastor when I won the lottery. Egypt is mostly a Muslim nation and it can be difficult being a Christian there. I wanted to come here and practice my faith freely and meet more devoted Christians. Our church services are 7 hours long and their were 21 Christians in my town killed last year because of there faith."
And Beshawn wanted to come to be in a place that was more devoted to God. How much would our attendence at church change if we met for 7 hours or had 21 people in our town killed because of their faith?
Beshawn's misperception was what he thought he was getting when he came to America. Very few people have the faith or devotion that Beshawn has.I would love for him to speak at not only my church but anyone else that would have him- but he turned down my request. He said he would visit but not speak.
I need to do more research on Coptic denomination but theologically it believes the basics that mainstream Christianity does.
Pray for Beshawn, he doesn't know many people here in America, he lives with 3 other middle eastern's whose goal in America is sleeping with American women and partying.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Where does logic come in?

Is being logical a Christian characteristic? I would like to think it is a highly desirable characteristic of one who wants to emulate Jesus- but I am not sure.
What would God have against logic? This is not a definitive answer but maybe it has something to do with the fact that logic can make us think we are self reliant. Logic is how we make most of our decisions in life. This is our internal rudder which guides us through our life. I am not sure there is an absolute logic but rather a logic that comes from eaches experience,guidance, cultures standards, and our belief system. When a situation approaches we use this logic to help navigate to the right decision.
So why would the Bible be full of people who made total illogical decisions in order to obey God? Why would God ask those who are obedient to Him to make these decisions?
I preached on Joseph- Jesus earthly father on Sunday. In studying Joseph he was a righteous man meaning he held high regards to the laws and worked very hard in studying them. Why on earth did God ask Him to marry a women who was pregnant? He could have legally had her stoned which by God's law was totally acceptable. Even before the angel appeared to him in a dream his response was to divorce her quietly.
In most stories in the Bible God asked people to trust Him more than their logic. This is by far the toughest task God asks us to do. It is quick to define someone smart or stupid by how they use their logic. If I had lived in the time of Noah would I have viewed him as someone with a whole lot of logic? I would like to say great you are listening to God let me help you build your ark.
What do we do when someone says they heard God yet it defies logic? There are many of us who justify our actions by saying God told me- but what about those who really do hear from God? Are we so use to listening to the logic we wouldn't even know God's voice? Would we even listen if He did say something that went against the logic.
I know in my life it is much harder to listen to God than the logic that governs my life.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

What about those of us who didn't like school?

What would church be like if it was based on a different structure other than the American education system? Even as the education system is realizing the need for change in order for children to learn better is the church taking notice?
Even as schools better utilize technology and in some areas more practical teaching such as vocational programs can the church change also?
Should the church also? These are many of the questions that have been going through my head as I dug out of snow numerous times yesterday.
No, I have not done a complete study of the educational system in America and contrasted it with the church and the way it is constructed, but I think on the outside there are enough similarities to see that roughly they were based on the same structure.
If people are good at school, growing up in church will probably come easy to them. If one can focus,concentrate, and learn from a lecture style scenerio they will be much more apt to succeed in both settings.
But what about those who don't learn or thrive in these situations? I read a book a couple of years called Why men hate church. A better title would have been why don't active learners like church. The book in great detail talked about how church is mainly geared for those who learn in the above mentioned settings and those who enjoy sitting around and talking.
That leaves out a whole lot of the population, if someone does not fall into those catagories would they have the tendencies to think that God/Christianity wasn't for them? There is a very good chance.
When we look at our church families who do we see missing? Where are the artists, the leaders, those that think outside the box? Those are just a few of the type of people that I have seen missing from churches that I have been a part of.
Even as we emulate a educational system that is failing, are we going to have the courage to change our opinion of the basic structure of the church in order to better accomplish our mission?