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The Whiz-Bang Factor

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Are you ready for a controversial topic? One you could possibly disagree with. If so, fasten your seat belts and prepare to dive into the Whiz-Bang factor.

In this episode we dive into the topic of church marketing, how it compares to communication, and where that hits on technology. Marketing and technology seem to be two of the hot topics of the day and have a rather large intersection church. In this episode we dissect that intersection.

We do have a request before everyone gives their 2 cents on a topic that has the potential to cause controversy. Please listen to the disclaimer on the podcast, prayerfully consider any passionate response, and only respond with comments that will build others up.

Okay, I guess I'm going first

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I'm glad you guys chose to dig into this topic. I absolutely agree that each and every church needs to sit down and wrestle with these questions. I don't fully agree with all of your conclusions, because I think you mixed message with method a little too often while defining the difference between marketing and communication.

If the message is to communicate Christ and community, the efforts are fruitful. If the message is strictly self-promotion, then it's pure vanity. When the message is to attract unbelievers to an outreach event, or to communicate ways that your church offers discipleship and community to those seeking a church home, then you pray for the Lord's leading, and that He be glorified in all you do, and then go try to create content that conveys the correct message.

Listening to this podcast brought me back to the parable of the banquet in Luke 14:16-24. In verse 23, "the master said to the servant, 'Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.'" Webster defines the word compel as "to drive or urge forcefully or irresistibly" or "to cause to do or occur by overwhelming pressure." Should we compel people to come to our church instead of the one they already attend down the street? I don't think so, but we do need to create a compelling invitation to the unsaved, and need to present ourselves as accurately as possible to those seeking a church.

I heard a statement on the latest episode of the FaithTools Podcast that I've really taken to heart. The vision defines the technology, the technology defines the budget, and the budget is made up of time, people and physical resources.

We get into trouble when we find a new Whiz-Bang and try to shoehorn it into our ministry. (In all honesty, the same is true in education and business.) The flow is all wrong. It needs to start with vision of what God wants to do through each local body, then determining which tools and methods are available to fulfill that vision while matching the flavor of each individual church. The church should then complete the task with as much excellence as possible within the constraints of their chosen method, technology and budget.

We're including time in our definition of budget, and that means the pursuit of excellence in one area shouldn't be to the detriment of another. If there's a conflict, then it's time to go all the way back to the vision and decide what is skewed. The vision is not what font to use in the logo, or what color the carpet should be. Those are important, because they help convey (not define) who we are, but they are tools, not results, and should be treated accordingly.

I've already had my say about logos and branding in the discussion we had on Daniel Murphy's blog, so I'm not going to repeat that here.

One final thought, going back to episode 100 and the church being a refuge from technology, since it was my email that started that topic. All I was saying was that maybe in ten years, people will be seeking solace from technology overload, and if so, the church might be a place where that can happen. If so, it would only be genuine for those who took that time to step away from the world and seek God's presence. For everyone else, I think it would just be eerie silence. I wasn't suggesting that we should move in that direction, but only that some people might.

Micah

I don't disagree

In some ways I think we are talking past each other on this. I think the issue is a matter of how. First, there is a big difference between marketing and communication. This happens in attitude and perception. Are we trying to communicate Gods message in a strong and compelling way? Yes, but is the Whiz-bang really the way to do that? And, what's the difference between Whiz-bang and marketing?

This goes to a deeper question of what compels people? What compels non-Christians to go to their fathers house? This is a much deeper question and one that I don't think we explore enough.

What we have learned (though many have a tough time accepting) is that the high on entertainment services and seeker style services are really attracting Christians from other churches who are looking for a more exciting and entertaining worship. That's some Whiz-bang and it's not working for the mission of the church. It's not compelling people to come to God. The experts, the metric trackers, and all of that point that it's not working.

Now, I'm not saying it shouldn't be there. This is where things can get hazy. Should you market or advertise your awesome service expecting it will compel non-Christians to check God out at your worship? This is different than having a rocking worship for the members to worship God in. It's a difference in the way the Church is presented to the public, the way outreach is handled, the printed materials are done, the website is laid out, and more. This gets into the difference between marketing and communication.

There is another rug on this ladder and that is the heart of the people attending. Those people who come to your amped up service from another church because it's more rocking... where is their heart. While I can't speak for everyone, many of the ones I have spoken to about this are in it for the entertainment value and not the worship element. Some for themselves and some for their kids. In churches with an amped up service there is always that danger. How is than handled? How is that dealt with before the mole hill becomes a mountain?

We can take this to places like video as well. How to videos help the members of the church go out and live and act in a way that compels others to check Christ out? This goes beyond what we want it to do and beyond what we think it should do. What actually happens post the videos? In my experience, most of the videos I've seen in churches don't impact this. This may not happen everywhere. I would actually love for church to find a way to objectively measure this or observe this.

It turns out that most pastors and church leaders are out of touch with the average person, according to Barna. When it comes to knowing what's going on and subjectively seeing impact those in the loop can be pretty bad at seeing it. This leaves me with a lot of wondering on what we should do.

In the end, marketing churches, showing off the cool services, have sweet outreach events with Christian bands, and other stuff like this doesn't bring people to Christ statistically.

When I look for ways to reach people it's a matter of how can I serve them? Is someone lonely (1 in 5 people has no real friends and over 50% of kids feels abandonment)? How do we go into that and serve them? Note, having a lot of people in one place doesn't solve lonely. That needs personal relationships.

Or, there are hungry people who have real physical wants. How do we go to them and serve that?

These are the types of things that compel people. Us living a life of service to others because of what Christ has done for us. If we live as everyone else (statistically that's how Christians live), go to churches, and talk about how cool our worship is it's not going to come across as Christs love and good work. It's going to come off that we are like them, that's our activity, and there's a show going on.

Does that make sense? Sometimes I think I'm not very clear on this stuff.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Great Show

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I enjoyed this show thoroughly. This particular subject is one I have been wrestling with for a long time. I feel as though when we "brand" or market the church we are treating the church as though it is business in the competitive sense. And, as we know, competition means survival against your competitors. Is this really the message we want to be sending? What if we focused only on being the church instead being our church?

Additionally, I loved the discussion on being cool. I go to a church that never-endingly stresses how cool we are. I think this is nonsense. Yes, Jesus was cool, but only because of his uncoolness. I do, however, think there is a difficult line involved here - we do want to do things to the absolute best of our ability. God has given us tremendous gifts and we are to use them to the utmost glorification of Him. This means we should strive to make immensely useful, featureful websites (and whatever else) that are capable of glorifying Him. But, at the same we shouldn't do these things for the sake of how cool they are, because then it becomes a glorification of us. As you two said, there should always be a purpose and goal at the forefont of any church endeavor.

Finally, we must be careful not to be arrogant and portray a prideful attitude in our ministries and churches, whether it be with technology or not. Not to rag on the church I attend too much, but in past years, there was a rampant prideful boasting about "serving people with tremendous acts of kindness" and "reaching 10,000 people in our city." Both of these are examples of being overly prideful and the second is an outright lie, in my view, as their is no possible way of determining such a thing (well, actually, there is: attendance on Sunday morning, which was hovering around 100; those numbers don't add up).

Cheers,
Cole

Bullseye!

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I was prepared not to like the message of the Whiz-Bang episode. However, as I sat there listening as each minute passed, I just thought, oh, another good point. I could rehash everything that you said, but in the end it's pretty much just ditto, ditto, ditto.

Let me say just this one thing, however, which should amplify my thoughts on several of your points at once. That is, most of the current technologies we're using are just tools. Just as the churches of our parents and grandparents integrated the use of the bulletin, telephone, road sign, sound system, radio, television, 15-passenger van, and copy machine, we have learned to use these technologies of the computer age to assist us in the communication of our message. The key is not to act as if we have just discovered fire. These are tools and they may help us do our job better. It is a worthwhile question to ask how best to use these tools and not just assume blindly that it's the way to go.

Marketing and Communication

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Your premise is absolutely right on. The point is to effectively communicate the gospel, not market our individual churches. However, many of the greatest communicators in the world work on Madison Avenue. The trick is to utilize the tools without feeding the comsumer mentality of the Church in America circa 2008.

The point shouldn't be to have a snazzy logo that people look at and go... oooh! Cool! Although there's nothing wrong with people looking at your logo and going ooh cool every once in a while. The point is this: "Branding" your ministry forces you to evaluate your mission, and focus your goals. We all think we know what they are, but in churches, so much gets in the way all the time. The process of branding can really help a pastor and a congregation examine in depth their ministry, see the holes and the pitfalls and the wasted efforts. It can really help a church streamline its ministry back down to core values.

Branding can be a powerful force for good in the church.

Tony

Our congregation has been

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Our congregation has been coasting for decades. Numerically, we've been up and down, but we've done very little in terms of outreach, and this episode may just be what we need to get the ball rolling.

I wish the episode were just a bit shorter so I could slap it onto a CD and distribute to our non-techie people for whom MP3 are sponsors for today's episode of Sesame Street, not audio.

So I'm still brainstorming what to do right now, but I think I'm going to edit down this episode just to hit on the highlights, then put together a Bible Study to discuss the mission of the church. After that, and I may need to do this during the Bible Class time, although I'm reluctant to do so, we'll have a brainstorming session on the mission of the church and how to proceed from here. The reason I'd have to do it during that time is because that's the only time we can get enough people to attend.

We'll look at the mission as a whole, and when we brainstorm those elements, I *will* suggest "put butts in the pews" just so it's out there, and we can agree that it should be stricken from the list during the evaluation process.

After that, we'll talk about how we want to proceed, what activities we want to plan (as in outreach to the community through acts of service, and I'm really liking the "Churches Suck" model to listen to the community's needs), what we want to do with the church website (that we'll have one is a foregone conclusion, but it looks like something out of the 70's right now, which incidentally matches the building's paneled decor) in order to serve the community and bring Christ to them, and yes, I want ot talk logo, because I think discussing how the logo should look will help us understand the mission of the church as we try to communicate that mission with an image.

Wow, I'm really excited. Pray for us that God will work through this process.

I assume that the show's license allows for editing and redistributing,,,?

License

@doulos12 - I totally forgot about license. You can take this episode, cut it down, and share it. Go figure we would talk to much. We'll put something together to clarify in the future.

I wish you luck in your project. One of the hardest things about outreach and serving is learning to look past our own noses. To see what others do. To know what's going on with them in order to reach them.

I'm interested in the "Churches Suck", too. But, I'm not sure I would phrase it in the same way. Instead of being self deprecating I would just try to do good for the people I can serve.

How do you plan to learn what the needs are in the community so you can start working to help there?

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

I think our people know the

I think our people know the community well enough to figure out through brainstorming what our community needs. It's a small community, so everyone basically knows everyone else, so that's not a problem.

OK, it has begun. I edited

OK, it has begun. I edited the show down to about 48 minutes, burned to CD, and distributed to our church council with a cover letter. Yesterday at our voters' meeting, we did some brainstorming on what we need to make our focus, and I ended with a talk on making the Gospel and outreach central to *all* that we do, so if we're having a dinner, the *first* question is, "How do we use this to bring Jesus to people?" and the second question is "What will be on the menu?" or whatever.

I meet with the Board/Elders tonight to discuss this further.

Elders' meeting went great.

Elders' meeting went great. The head elder, who had a chance to listen to the episode already, was really excited. He loved it, and he didn't think it was techie at all. He just went on and on to the elders how we need to look at what message we're sending. Awesome.

Interesting...

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Thanks for the podcast guys - it's great to hear a bit more of your personal perspectives on life (vs. the technology side).

Just a few thoughts on communication.

Rob - you mentioned the need or desire to be able to see/study some people who effectively communicate truth of the gospel. I'm not sure what spheres of Christian culture you are in, but I can recommend a number of people worth listening to who do just that. They're doing it in a way that draws people to Christ without sacrificing truth - and in turn more and more peoples lives are changing.

I would also be curious to hear you guys clarify the idea of excellence with some of the ideas you share in this podcast. I may have misunderstood, but it seemed that you were saying that if something appears to be done with too much excellence, it can be mistaken to be too whiz-bang (or appear that way).

Finally, having just left full-time (being paid for it) ministry, I think that there is a place for creating unique environments. Again, depending on which Christian sub-culture you find yourself in, you may or may not recognize this mission statement:

Lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ

and strategy:

By creating irresistable environments where people are encouraged and equipped to pursue intimacy with God, community with insiders, and influence with outsiders.

I think (from experience) that the creation of those environments is a big piece - as long as they lead to the encouraged and equipped part.

Death to Christian Subculture?

@avr - In my neck of the woods I don't know many people who are good at communicating Christ to non-followers. I know people who think they are and I know Christians who think they know people who are good at it. But, I think the reception from the non-believers shows this isn't the case. I really hope there are people out there who are better than what I have experienced.

Wrapped up in this whole Whiz-bang idea is Christian subcultures, most of which are actually not healthy for us and need to die. Christians are called to go into the world, serve others, and share the message of Christ. Yet, so many of us stay back in our Christians circles and do things with our Christian friends at our Christian activity centers (a.k.a. churches).

Whiz-bang can go hand in hand with this. We are looking for fun "Christian activities" to do. Those places need to be advertised to Christians, right? So Christians know the Christian places to go do things. This stops us from going out into the world where it isn't so safe and nice. Our Christian subculture holds us back from doing the mission. It needs to die or change into a subculture of people who serve others and live out in the world instead of our safe communities.

This is a tough one to deal with.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

Christian Sub Culture...

Matt,

Thanks for the reply. A couple of clarifying thoughts on Christian sub-culture.

In my original thoughts, I only mentioned subcultures in order to not tarnish people's perceptions of certain churches (by specifically naming pastors/churches). Much like Rob and your clarification about mainline and evangelical churches and conversion experiences. The contexts in which we find ourselves can also greatly impact the perception of 'marketing' and effective communications strategies. And...I agree that Church isn't a club - that's what I spent 6 years in college ministry teaching students.

Also, along the idea of creating unique environments. My experience comes from my time of ministering in Western Europe (Germany). Where, believe it or not, there is no Christian sub culture - because there is no Christian culture. We worked very hard to create environments where non-followers would feel comfortable not only showing up, but also inviting their friends. In some sense, these environments were communicated solely through marketing. Our experience showed that by creating these environments, we were able to engage people with the truths of the gospel in a way that wouldn't have happened without some unique crafting. And...not only were people interested in checking things out, they brought their friends and were exposed to Christ.

To clarify, these environments also never had special video, lighting, sound, etc - and perhaps that separates them from the "whiz bang" idea you're talking about.

On a more domestic note - my other experience in effective communication is through the church in Orlando, FL, my wife and I attended- right near Disney World. If there were ever a temptation to rely on whiz bang strategies, this would be it. However, the church didn't pursue anything along those lines. Instead - a few songs, 40 minutes of teaching, and we're done. Again, effectively communicating truth in a way that makes people want Jesus - not to be "cool" or some kind of prosperity gospel. Just truth. The church is growing and lives are changing because of the way the church is impacting the community.

All that to say - I don't think I have total clarity. BUT...I think my experiences may be different than some in that I have experienced incredible communication without the whiz bang factors.

Sharing The Message

What I see in this was that you were trying to create a place where you could share the message with non-followers. That's great. I love it.

Personally, I separate my time of worship and my time to share Gods word with non-believers. Sharing his grace, as I see it, happens out in the world with the people God gives me an opportunity to touch. Once they are ready to learn more I feel comfortable bringing them to worship. Before that, it seems out of place.

Our goal, after all, is to share Gods grace with them not to get them to come to church.

Creating an atmosphere where people can be comfortable sharing Gods message is important. According to the experts, worship isn't the place for that.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

church marketing blog post

How timely. Tony Morgan posted this one today. I think it is on topic:

http://tonymorganlive.com/2008/12/18/when-does-chu...

Thoughts?

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

Preach the gospel always, and if necessary use words...

Can I simplify this!!!

Preach the gospel always, and if necessary use words...

Russ

Quick Link

I ran across this article on sitepoint.com about Church marketing the web. I thought it was very well written and for the most part, right on the mark.

The Role of Design in Modern Church Marketing
http://www.sitepoint.com/article/design-modern-chu...

Blessings
jason

A few thoughts on the whiz-bang podcast

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1. I agree that we as church technologists, leaders, worship planners, etc. should make sure that marketing, communications and tech are used effectively for the mission of the church. I also agree with Rob's comments that we should always be asking why we are doing things?, what are the goals?, etc. Just to keep us in check that the focus is on communicating the Gospel, outreach, etc.

We also have to keep in mind that we have different audiences for our marketing/communications efforts. One audience may be the unchurched. Another audience may include regular attenders and members. Understanding the audience for a video, web promo, etc can help to target the marketing efforts and do a better job of fulfilling the goal(s).

2. I go to an evangelical church. I dig loud worship music. I worship and experience God through the music and teachings on Sunday mornings. I wear shorts and tshirts to church and God still loves me. :) That is where I am comfortable bringing my family and serving the church and our local community. Some may say that we have whiz-bang. I think we do, but it is Jesus focused whiz-bang. That is what is important to me. I have heard so many stories of attenders who were not comfortable at other churches (for various reasons). They feel comfortable and later found Jesus while attending my church. If the whiz-bang can do this, bring it on :) The next phase is to focus on maturing that new Christian through further education. Very important!

3. I grew up in a traditional Methodist church. I love that church and the foundations it gave me. I recently went back to my home church as my daughter had Girl Scout Sunday there. They had recently installed a video projector. That was as whiz-bang as it got, but you know what? That church community loves Jesus and serves the community. I just don't have hangups that some do between traditional and contemporary church if people are coming to know Jesus through either.

3. On a related note, Hybels has been taken out of context quite a bit on blogs in regards to his experiences at Willow Creek. He was not saying that whiz-bang seeker sensitive services are bad. He does say that only catering to seekers leaves a large void for new and old Christians who want to learn and mature in their faith. I have just noted that many blogs took his comments and made it sound like churches like Willow Creek have failed.

4. IMHO, it should be about Jesus, community and people. If the tech is supporting these priorities, it is hard to go wrong.

Just some random thoughts on a the podcast. Thank for doing it guys!

Mark Shropshire "shrop"
Geeks & God Forums Moderator
http://geeksandgod.com/users/shrop

The Trap

I whole heatedly agree that we have to communicate to the specific audience we have in a time and place. The group that comes to worship is different that outsiders.

For the high energy services there is a trap...

Not to long ago I realized a bunch of my friends were attending a local whiz-bang filled church. The loved the church and thought it was great. When I asked them about it they talked about the high energy. They thought it was a lot of fun. They loved the music. What I never herd was the topic of the message. I never herd about the mission of the church. I never herd about the Christian education. They loved the atmosphere but missed the message.

Every church has certain pit falls that can come up. With Whiz-bang based services one of them is the entertainment factor for a lot of their members. Sadly, this just happens and is a strong draw in our culture.

Churches like this need to have a way to actively address and target this issue. If they are honest as a community and working to really build people up for Christ and the mission of the church they simply have to.

Do you know churches that address this? I would say the church near me that my friends go to isn't simply by the responses of a number of members. This danger and pit fall needs to be addressed.

As for worship evangelism, I think of Sally Morgenthaler and her stance in recent years. You can read the jist about it at http://joeburnham.com/sites/all/files/morgenthaler....

According to Sally, worship evangelism doesn't work do bring new people to Christ. For those of you who don't know her, she used to be one of the biggest proponents of worship evangelism and a go to person to learn how to do it. She has since changed her stance.

Matt Farina
Geeks and God Former Co-Host
www.mattfarina.com

I completely agree that the

I completely agree that the mission, the vision, is paramount. The problem is not related to type of service as all types lose their way and all types can fulfill their audience. All types reach a certain segment of the population and can bring the lost into a relationship with Christ. I go to the loudest, whiz-bangiest, church I could imagine (therevolution.tv) - BUT - the vision is paramount. We do not care if we use rock, country, string quartets, or lights, videos, skits, tattoos, whatever. If it brings people to Christ and does not involve anyone sinning to pull it off, we will do it.

I think most of us agree with the above, the question you presented is, how do you address the entertainment value?

We feel we have to use the Whiz-bang because many unchurched people have no natural affinity to walk into a "typical" church and sit on a pew. A church is to sinners what a steakhouse is to vegetarians. Some will come for entertainment and that is by design. I do not know how you identify them except you MUST engage everyone on a personal level. We push Celebrate Recovery for our addicts and hurt families, we have Home Teams, we compel people to serve the church and the community. The serving teams, home teams, and CR teams are close knit teams that share life and ultimately that is what transforms lives through Christ. A preacher *telling* them they need Christ is usually not as compelling as people they know *showing* them.

So, we shouldn't care what visitors are doing when they first come to our church. The question is what are you doing to get them there and what are you doing to keep them there long enough to show them who Christ really is.

Oh, BTW, the Whiz-Bang should not be a big draw for your friends. They should already be halfway there from knowing you and your walk with God and how that has transformed your life.

The Church's use of Tech

Slightly off topic, but this video gives a good summary of the Church's use of tech in the past, and provides and example of where it can be used to communicate:
http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/special/videology

Paul Vaartjes

Resources for Thinking Critically about Tech

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I'm super late to this discussion. I'm behind in listening to G&G, but I've been looking forward to this one. I appreciate that you guys stretch out into philosophical and theoretical topics. I think we really need a place to do that.

A book that has really blown my mind away on this topic and dug much deeper than you guys have and maybe you have even thought through is Shane Hipp's The Hidden Power of Electronic Culture. I tossed up a review in the review section so others could check it out.

God used this podcast in my life

5

I am the volunteer IT dept for my church, and in the past 2 years, we have implemented a website and podcasting our sermons. We have been looking at upgrading our sound board and adding more video. In discussing this with some of my clients, one invited me to his church to see their video/sound team production. His excitement was "they just added a fog machine".

After listening to this podcast, I decided not to go. That type of setup may be fine for their church, but ours is not like that. I want to make sure that technology fits our church is for praise and worship and not for entertainment. It took this episode to convict me and put to words what I new I should be doing, or not doing.

Terminology

I just listened to the podcast (still catching up on some of the older podcasts)...

I agree with the core ideas that were discussed. We are Christians first, and then whatever... Perhaps the name of the podcast needs to be changed to "God and Geeks" instead of "Geeks and God" ;-) I think we need to be careful about the 'cool factor' and making that our focus instead of the underlying message of Christ's love for us.

Something that jumped out at me are people's perceptions of what marketing is. It seems that a lot of people consider "marketing" as just selling something, or possibly just 'advertising'.

Marketing is a much broader field than that. If you look at the definition of marketing according to the American Marketing Association... "Marketing is the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large."

Communication is a part of marketing. So, it is a bit of a misnomer to say don't do marketing but focus on communication. Good marketing tries to communicate value in a way that the recipient can receive, relate to and understand, ie good communication.

Just my two cents...

Keep up the good work. I don't always agree but I always enjoy listening to the podcast.

Don Cranford
Sterling, VA