A few weeks ago, I came across this TED Talk on what consumers want. In it, Joseph Pine explains that economic value has changed over the course of history from commodities to goods to services. In the past few years, the economic value we as consumers expect no longer ends with services. Instead, our culture has added another layer to help us determine whether something is valuable — namely, authentic experiences.
As I watched the talk, I couldn’t help but translate consumers to churchgoers. If you think about it, every church is selling something. While we as insiders may not look at it that way, nonbelievers and first-time guests don’t know the joy of the Gospel and have to be ‘sold’ on it. Even ‘return customers’ have to continually reevaluate whether your church is a valuable part of their lives.
Is your church delivering a commodity or an experience? This is a question that every church has to ask itself in light of how the values of consumers and churchgoers have changed. If we want to reach this new consumer or churchgoer, we must start delivering experiences.
How can a church be more authentic? Here are a few key ways:
- Focus as much energy on supporting relational activity as you do on the weekend services and events. Small groups and community service projects are obvious examples of environments where authenticity is cultivated.
- Make getting to know people a priority. By creating the venues to learn and record what you observe — the gifts, talents, and abilities of others — you appear to be interested rather than simply interesting and thus more authentic and caring.
- Invite people to serve based on who God created them to be, not just based on getting work done. This is why getting to know a person is important. By leveraging this information, you can help people become the best version of themselves, and enable them to use their genuine gifts.
- Communicate in a targeted fashion. Stop sending everything to everybody. Creating and sending personal messages to specific audiences is key for creating authentic experiences.
- Connect people’s generosity to stories of life change — not to your desire for new stuff. If you want to create authentic experiences, share the life change that is happening because people give regularly to your church.
- Become a church FOR your community, not just IN your community. Partnering with local organizations to find the greatest needs instead of re-inventing the wheel opens your church to make a greater impact and open skeptical hearts.
- Don’t be afraid to share the ‘junk’. People make mistakes. So do churches. If you are always trying to look like you have your act together, you will raise suspicion.
What kind of experience do you create?
The modern-day churchgoer doesn’t just value ‘an experience’. They value authentic experiences. They can see right through the façades and shows. Our culture craves real.
Larry Osborne states, “If your church doesn’t feel authentic, people won’t invite their friends.” If you want to create an authentic experience, stop trying to be so polished!
Authenticity for our generation is all about relational connection and life experience. For Millennials, authenticity is about mutual respect and honesty.
Many pastors think that authenticity only comes from the pulpit, which is why they invest in it most heavily. However, the weekend message is only a springboard to authenticity. Creating authentic experiences doesn’t happen in an hour on Sunday morning; instead, it comes from adopting a mindset of authenticity in everything we do.
What are some other ways your church is working to create authentic experiences?