I just launched my personal website: www.jamesdalman.com and will be writing my personal views there from now on and will post on church branding and marketing topics at Church Communications Pro. I suppose I’ll leave this blog up for now since it’s free! I hope you’ll check out my new site or CCP!
Life can get pretty chaotic at times and we never know what is going to be around the corner. And sometimes I think that people who write about balance and having equal “pieces of pie” in our life are really only full of it or just selling books. I don’t think that our lives can have balance in that we are able to segment the different roles of our lives in equal proportions. I have tried and failed miserably! I think that we have times where we must work more, have days where family and our spouses come first or get more of our attention, and other days where we give more to God and other’s less. Life is a roller coaster.
However, I do believe that we can simplify and throw off the things that really aren’t important to focus on the ones that are important. I am passionate about being simple (though you might not be able to tell at times) and am making new steps to do so. BTW – Leo Babauta of Zen Habits has great advice on simplifying and goals.
Recently I had a new opportunity present itself that aligns with my personal and professional goals. I also have been in discussion with some great business people who share some of the same visions I have and we are trying to bring the pieces of the puzzle together to complete the big picture. It means that once again, I must simplify and let some things go in order to go on this journey. Those of you who know me and have read for a while could probably attest to the fact I am a person of change!
So what am I doing to simplify?
- I am letting go of the good ideas and going with the God ideas. There are a few dreams that I feel I must complete and I have to let the others die or I will never move forward.
- I am purging my computer and file cabinet of unnecessary items. Bookmarks, idea papers, print collateral, and possibly even some books from my library are going away. Anything that will distract me from the main things really don’t need to be around anymore.
- I am bringing my web presence to one place. This is a big one and I have wrestled with this more than any other decision. The reason is that the old school thought is that you should separate business from personal life; you can’t be professional and personal. I think this is changing however (as seen on many great, well read blogs) and my life is all mixed together. I am not corporate in any form so why not simplify this? By having my website under my name it allows me to keep up one shop and also eliminates a bunch of expenses to name a few.
- I am partnering with others. I have been a lone-ranger for a long time! I want to share ideas, work, dreams, and milestones with others. I have never been one to be greedy and I believe that there are some opportunities that, by teaming up with others, will be beneficial on a bigger scale for all involved.
What this means for this blog that has gone through many transitions since I started it is that I am going to have to pull the plug. Instead of writing and posting on Church Communications Pro, Branding Shed, this blog and other little pet projects it just makes sense to bring it to JamesDalman.com when it’s ready for launch. If you agree with the Long Tail Theory then having several blogs makes sense but I am thinking for long term sanity reasons.
I’ll let you know when the new site is ready for launch and if you want to follow me over there that’s great and if not, that’s great too. Either way I’ll sleep better at night. 🙂
In part one of “Is Church Marketing a Sin” I talked about if the problem of marketing a church is wrong or a sin. While I came to the conclusion that marketing in and of itself is not sinful and that the Bible verse I have heard used in arguments against this topic doesn’t address this issue, it makes me wonder why so many people reject or have spoken out about church marketing.
I think this may be for three main reasons: worldliness, jealousy, or because some church communication efforts are just plain cheesy. Here’s a quick breakdown on each reason:
Worldliness. I understand that some church members and Christians view using the tools of the world as evil or that we are supposed to be in the world but not of it but this does not apply to this situation because these methods or tools can be used for God’s glory. God gave us talented people whose purpose is to tell His Story through art, design, media, storytelling, etc. If the focus is Jesus than are we really being worldly? I believe Paul would have considered blogging or direct mail to build the Kingdom. Don’t you?
Jealousy. I think that there are Christians who are envious of other Christian’s work or success and they become bitter about it. I shamefully admit that I have acted this way in the past. A person I know became wildly successful with an idea we had discussed and I become so jealous that I bad mouthed their business and the person. I did seek forgiveness and the relationship has been restored but it did cause a lot of pain. Unfortunately we are susceptible to these types of temptations and we should be happy when God gets the glory even if it means a church has better media stuff than we do.
Cheesiness. I think this is the big issue. There is a lot of crap when it comes to secular marketing and there is an equal amount when it pertains to church communications as well. I have seen brochures, advertising, and websites that just reek like Lindberg cheese. They look like materials that a snake-oil salesman would use and definitely reflect no emphasis on giving their best to God. I understand that not all churches have the budget, talent, or knowledge to have nice stuff. And in no way am I saying a church that has 1960’s brochures cannot be effective at reaching people with God’s Word. I think some people are turned off by bad marketing…but this can also go to the other extreme.
There are churches who have placed all their trust and money into looking uber-hip or being so slick that theiR communication tools look like you are going on a carnival cruise or trip to Disney World. There are even a few innovative” churches who are really pushing the edge on what may be acceptable and not acceptable for Christian marketing – such as using sex to sell a message or draw people in. I am all for discussing all aspects of scripture including sex, but I don’t think we need to use sexy images or innuendos to preach the Gospel. That is a sin.
I propose a balance. I believe that we can glorify Jesus Christ and His Church through excellence in media. We can take it up a notch and do our best to tell His story in a way that resonates with our culture including marketing and design! However, I also believe that we need to understand and remember that it is Jesus that transforms lives and not our marketing, worship experience, or dazzling media display and if we start placing our trust in these tools as a savior, taking them to the extreme, or idolizing these methods in any way then we can be justified in saying that this is a sin.
I have to break from part two of my series on whether “Church Marketing is a Sin” to rant about how Christianity in America has become a highly lucrative business. Check out the current list of church conferences on the calendar this year (and this isn’t all of them):
- Healing Place Church Experience (have I ever said how sick I am of hearing the word experience and church together?)
- Unleash 2008
- Q (very short name I’d say but at least this looks like it actually has a bigger purpose)
- Orange: We hope you will join us this year for an authentic, dangerous and UNCENSORED experience! (Does this mean they’ll drop the F-Bomb?)
- Coast 2 Coast
- Externally Focused Conference: Transform your community. Transform your life. Hmmm…
- The White Board Sessions: You can get a whiteboard for under $20 at Staples.
PLUS, and I love this one…I can spend two days following the Senior Management Team of Granger Community Church for a cool $1,500.00 to get an inside look at how they do ministry. Are you really serious?!?
Please understand that I do not mean to sound harsh towards any of the people or their teams presenting at these conferences. I personally only know one presenter out of all of them (who has an ego the size of Texas) but I am sure that most of their hearts are for helping others build the Kingdom. I also ask Jesus for forgiveness in that this may not be the most Christ-like post or way to communicate my feeling about this topic. However my question is this:
Do we really need all these conferences to tell us how these leaders do their ministry or how to be effective at ours?
I don’t know whether it’s a conviction of the Spirit or common sense but it grieves me to think at how much money will be spent to attend and hear these speakers. I did some number crunching based off of an average on each conferences fees and the number of attendees they allow or “guestimate” based off the size or speakers at the event.
My very rough calculation = $2,185,940.00. That’s over two million dollars not including airfare, hotel, meals, and the “I was there” t-shirt.
Do we really need to spend over two million dollars to follow teams around for a day and watch how they interact with each other or to have churches who have been blessed with great growth tell us how “they” did it? Is it worth going to another conference to hear about another innovation, theory, or technique that may or may not work for our individual situation – or one that a church staff will never implement because they’re still working on the method from last year’s conference?
I know of many church planters who have been called to plant in their community who are doing a great work but are struggling because of financial support. I see people in my city who can’t afford a hot meal or warm place to sleep for one night. I know of single mothers who are working at least two jobs just to feed their children and keep the electricity on. I could mention the fact that some “on-fire” Christian leaders give more to buying conference tickets, books, and lattes than sending support to missionaries who look death in the eye every day for fulfilling the Great Commission.
I pray that church leaders, their teams, and congregations will wake up and realize that “the Church” has become just like corporate America. We have been blessed way beyond our dreams and we are now taking advantage of it. We talk of being missional yet some of us can’t even break beyond the missional motivation speech. Shame on us! American prosperity has definitely been a curse.
How about we spend more time in prayer, fasting, serving in our community, and listening to the hurt of others over spending more money on an expensive trip to tell us how we might do it and give it to better causes? And I point this to myself – an addicted lover of books and technology. Maybe it’s time to just go out and do it and learn for ourselves. After all, experience is the best teacher and Jesus Christ the best leader we could follow.
Is Church Marketing A Sin? This question seems to be one which has lead many people to my blog and I think it is definitely worth discussing here.
I think we first have to look at the word “marketing”. Dictionary.com lists two main definitions:
- The act of buying or selling in a market.
- The total of activities involved in the transfer of goods from the producer or seller to the consumer or buyer, including advertising, shipping, storing, and selling.
Nothing there seems to go against the Bible – unless the activity might happen to involve something immoral or illegal. The Bible also contains stories of people who would more than likely sell their products or services; artisans, weapon makers, blacksmith’s, fishermen, doctors, shepherds, etc. Marketing in an honest form appears to not be sinful in and of itself.
The next roadblock and some of the arguments against church marketing are usually based off of Matthew 21:12-13; Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, ” ‘My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a ‘den of robbers.”
Does this scripture really apply to marketing a church? After all, the money-changers were selling their goods in the temple for a dishonest and unfair gain which is definitely wrong. The temple also wasn’t a place of worshiping God anymore and instead became a market place. No doubt this would upset Jesus and dishonor God because coming together as a church is for the purpose of worship, disciplining, and fellowship not for business transactions and networking.
But if we base our church marketing argument on this piece of scripture it would also be possible to think that Jesus meant He didn’t want people hocking their wares in church at all. Could selling goods in the church – baked pies, sermon messages, books, or worship CD’s be sinful activities? Most people would say no because these acts are not done in a way that dishonors God and actually helps spread the Gospel.
So what is the case of people thinking church marketing is a sin? What is it that doesn’t fit with the two words church and marketing? I’ll explore my hypothesis in the second part of this series.
This question and request came from Becky who happens to be a talented designer and a wonderful friend of mine.
I’d love for you to talk about “targeted marketing.” I’m working with a church who doesn’t have a clear vision of who they are trying to reach and what interests, motivates, or captures the attention of that group. So, I end up designing based on the psychographic of the elder board. Not effective for outreach.
What’s the best way to uncover the mindset of a target? I don’t think the Church leadership spends enough time with the unsaved or de-churched to know how to market to them (which may mean they shouldn’t even try). I’m pushing a big rock up a steep hill and I’m about ready to quit.
The first problem is that this church doesn’t know their vision and purpose. If they don’t have a clue to what the target is, you obviously will never be able to hit a target. The first thing that needs to be done in this case is they need to spend time figuring out who they are, what God’s called them to do, and where they desire to go in the next three to five years.
There is nothing wrong with branding or designing with the current demographic of the elder board or congregation in mind because people are going to see through the cosmetic upgrades anyways. If you paint a house without scraping the old, flaky paint off first, your new paint will only stick for a bit before it reveals the shoddy underbase again. The church may want to spend a season of prepping themselves to ensure they aren’t selling a pretty facade over a cracked foundation. It doesn’t mean they should stop trying to reach others but disclosing all the facts, good and bad.
The best way to discover the mindset of any audience is hanging with them. Maybe it means going to bars (and guys, places with a fire pole are not included – unless it’s a fire station), sitting in the smoking section, learning to skydive, signing up to help at Boy Scouts, hanging out at truck stops, or dare I say it -getting your hands dirty and serving where there is a need outside of church. Jesus didn’t hang at the synagogues and say “come to me right here and I’ll meet your needs” or read a book on his target audience…He went out into the world and learned first-hand the needs and mindset of the people. I don’t see any other way to do this other than being physically present and intentionally missional in our community.
Keep up the great work and if you feel the rock is going to roll over you, it might be wise just to get out of the way and let it roll on!
Wow! What a Monday!
This weekend I had a big flair up with a common chest pain that I have had on and off the last year but for some reason this time it just felt different. I had also been feeling nauseous a lot and even though I look pregnant at times I am sure that this couldn’t be the case (unless of course I was abducted by aliens and made into an experiment). So last night I did what most smart people do…I got on WebMD.com to make my own “professional” diagnosis. The results came back as angina (which doesn’t sound manly at all) or heart attack. I then did the next best thing I could think of: I went to sleep and decided to call a doctor for a visit this morning.
My appointment was scheduled for 3 p.m. but my chest starting hurting again and I got a really bad feeling. I called the doctor to see if I could get in ASAP and I was told to immediately go to the emergency room. Don’t finish my coffee, don’t do one more design, don’t make whoopee – get there now!!! And I can’t say that I didn’t contemplate whoopee. After all, I am a red-blooded male and figured what better way to die?
Two hours after being scanned, stuck, and hooked up up to a machine like a dead battery I emerged from the emergency room. The report and tests all came back good and they think it was just a bad case of stress or anxiety. While I don’t think I am stressed I am grateful to God that is wasn’t something worse. My dad died from a massive heart attack at age 51 and some of my mom’s family have been diagnosed with rare forms of cancer so naturally I was just a little cautious this time.
This whole situation isn’t a new reminder of just how precious life can be; I already know that and am thankful for every breath of every day! But it is a reminder. The hardest thing today was watching my children get upset and that hurt worse than the actual pain.
My goal of this post is not having a pity party for myself. No, this is about telling people how you never know what each day brings and that we must think of every day as our last. Material possessions, awards, job titles, money and bills – they don’t make a damn bit of difference in life. As John Ortberg’s book title says, “When The Game Is Over, It ALL Goes Back in the Box!” The stuff that does matter and makes a difference is focusing on God, relationships, and loving others.
Please don’t wait before it’s too late to do what matters. Don’t put off being with your spouse, spending time with your kids or family, inviting a neighbor to lunch, visiting the forgotten elderly or sick, telling someone you’re sorry, or stopping just to be present with someone you love. Tomorrow might not come, but today you have every opportunity to do what matters!