“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.”
– Peter Drucker
We’ve all heard this before.
You know what else trumps strategy?
If you’re in church communications or marketing, you’ve probably been asked “what’s your marketing/social media/advertising/outreach strategy?” more times than you can count.
I work for a large church in New England, one of the most “unchurched” (maybe “de-churched” is a little more accurate) regions of America. Missionaries from Asia and Africa come to the Boston area to reach people. And this is a good thing! We could use the help.
So needless to say, reaching people who don’t factor church into their weekend (or annual) plans should be a big part of any New England church’s strategy. But when we say strategy, what exactly do we mean?
Strategy vs. Description
Too often, churches describe the activities they think they’re best at, and call it strategy. They start with what they’re doing, and justify it as something that meets their most important goals.
Now what they’re doing might be highly effective. It might be the result of a lot of thought and planning. They might even put it up on the walls of their church (or maybe even an evergreen web page). But if it didn’t start with a deep consideration of who – who they’re trying to serve, reach, engage – then it’s not a strategy.
Strategies always start with one question: who?
If you’re looking for the answer to who your strategy has best served, reached, or engaged, the answer is in your culture. The people who are attending on Sundays, interacting with you on social media midweek, serving and giving to your church… these are the people you’re reaching.
So next time you start talking about strategy, take a step back and ask yourself: are the people we’re currently reaching the people we are intending to reach? The ones who we most need to reach?
If the answer is “no,” then it’s probably because you’ve taken the things you already do, the things you’ve honed to the point of doing them without thinking, and you’re just calling it your strategy.
Do this instead: back up, look at your local community, and ask yourself: “If we want to reach these people, what are the most pressing needs that I can meet for them?” Then go do that.
And call it strategy.