By: Ted Vaughn
As a trusted partner to many churches, I often hear the following, “our church serves EVERYONE; our doors are open to ALL; our ministries serve CRADLE TO GRAVE.” I love the heart and passion behind these words…and I do not doubt for one second the pure motive and intention. Unfortunately, limited resources often call into the question the viability of this ministry paradigm. After all, how can any one organization possibly reach, with effectiveness, EVERYONE?
Many of my clients are struggling through this question today. They want their church to be seen as a trusted brand where anyone and everyone in the community can find a home. They also realize that, by definition, their local church exists PRIMARILY for it’s NON-MEMBERS; those not reached yet. And even that audience (non-members) is of a size and scope too large for any single church to entirely reach. Which begs the fundamental question I help churches think through: “Who, outside of your existing membership, has God best positioned you to reach?” Because you cannot – you will not – reach all of them. No brand can reach everybody….not even Apple (this is hard to admit).
So what does it mean to ask that question? What does it mean to think about WHO you’re best positioned to reach? Well….I would challenge you to think in 4 categories:
- married or single?
- with young children, students, or no children?
- super educated or blue-collar?
- what do they value most?
- what are their hobbies and interests?
- what brands get their attention (Audi or Honda / Gap or Nordstroms / Whole Foods or Wall Mart / etc..)
- followers or seekers or skeptics
- unchurched or post-Catholic or ???
- more logical or emotional about faith
- What brands do they currently engage with? (“we drive a Toyota Sienna with cloth seats”)
- What brands do they aspire to engage with? (“we aspire to an Audi with leather seats”)
- What music do they listen to?
- Are they into local / craft / micro – or global / macro / big-box stores?
Here is my concern — many churches today have a clear target audience; their membership. As a result they answer most every question with the insider in mind – not the outsider they hope to reach. This results in a brand (identity, experience, culture, etc..) perfectly built to sustain the insider, not reach the outsider. This is a symptom of mission drift….of losing focus on why you exist…and never something any church sets out to do intentionally.
The external facing elements of your brand MUST be built with ruthless clarity around WHO you are best positioned to reach. Who is that for your church?
Ted Vaughn is passionate about helping the local church identify and break-through its barriers. As a consultant, writer, and speaker, he has helped churches in England, Canada, and throughout the USA achieve greater strategic clarity and mission impact. For over twenty-one years Ted has worked full-time in the local church. With an additional 12 years of executive leadership experience in mainline denominational churches, Ted has unique insight into church leadership, governance, healthy culture, brand alignment, and strategic clarity. Find him at http://www.tedvaughn.com/ or on Twitter: @TedVaughn.