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Church Strategy

Tools and Trends for Strategic Planning

Monthly Archives: May 2010

How are you, as a pastor, spending your most precious resource? (Image from lisisoft.com)

Where Your Time Is, There Your Heart Is.

  The most limited resource in your church is the pastor’s time.  While your Finance committee scrutinizes every disbursement check, how are you – as a pastor – deciding how best to allocate your time.

The Effective Executive.  Peter Drucker, the late great management thinker, explained that “effective executives know where their time goes.”  Candace Walters tells us that these executives watch out for “time wasters” like:

  • attending endless meetings,
  • putting out fires,
  • mediating disputes,
  • micromanaging talent issues,
  • devoting time to other matters that would be better delegated, outsourced or ignored.

She points to “time traps” like:

  • Championing an initiative.  Let someone on your team take the lead instead.  It doesn’t need to be you.
  • “Open door” policies.  Everyone should not be able to take your time whenever they wish.
  • Rolling up your sleeves.  Squandering too much CEO time in the interest of “teamwork” is a misguided use of time.

Then how is an effective executive – or pastor – supposed to allocate time?  Walters breaks executives into a 2×2 matrix:

High Energy, Low Focus.  These are the “Distracted” executives.
Low Energy, Low Focus.  These are the “Procrastinating” executives.
Low Energy, High Focus.  These are the “Disengaged” executives.
High Energy, High Focus.  These are the “Purposeful” executives.

Listen to her description of these executives:

“Ten percent of managers were found to be highly energetic and highly focused, the researchers conclude. These managers select their goals carefully, and arrange the external environment to support those goals. They do not let other people or organizational constraints set their agendas. To maximize the value of their time, they may corral e-mails, phone calls and visitors into certain times of the day. When challenges mount, they slow down and reflect on what they most want to achieve. They choose their battles carefully. They’re skilled at reducing stress, typically through physical exercise, hobbies, avoiding unnecessary battles and/or discussing concerns with a colleague, friend or partner.”

The Application for Pastors.  So what does all this mean for pastors?  Surely these principles don’t hold, right?  Wrong.  The brilliant folks at Lifeway have completed a study of how 200 pastors spend their time.  They compared the ways that effective pastors use their time.  They defined effective as those in the top five percent of conversion growth.  (So small church pastors could qualify as “effective” if conversions are growing.)

See if this sounds familiar:

  • Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing. Effective pastors recognize that the Sunday sermon is the centrepiece.  They spend 22 hours prepping for the sermon, compared to four hours for other pastors.
  • Protecting Balance.  Effective pastors spend 22 hours a week with their families, compared to 18 hours for other pastors.
  • Focusing on the Many Rather than the Few.  Effective pastors spend ten hours per week in pastoral care (counselling, hospital visits, weddings funerals), compared to 33 hours for the comparison group.
  • Their One-on-One Time Is Focused.  Effective pastors spend five hours per week personally sharing their faith, versus zero hours for the comparison group.  (This means that nearly half of the ten “pastoral care” hours are spend focusing on those outside the faith.)

 As you lead your church, effectiveness starts with your personal faith and intimacy with Jesus; it then spills over into the time you spend with your top priority – your family; next, it’s about using your limited time on activities that bless your entire flock; finally, when you are spending one-on-one time with people, make sure that it’s got a clear focus.

Your Next Steps.  First, recall your key priorities.  What are you really trying to accomplish?  Second, look over your calendars from the last few weeks.  How big is the mismatch between your priorities and the way you spend your time?  Third, identify people to whom you can offload the less-strategic items on your plate.  If you want to talk it through, I always love hearing from you.  Drop me a note at: Cameron@church-strategy.com.

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C.K. Prahalad, 1941-2010, shaped the thinking of leaders and strategists around the world. (Image from businessweek.com)

The book that most shaped my strategic thinking is The New Age of Innovation: Driving Co-Created Value Through Global Networks.  The author was C.K. Prahalad, who passed away on April 16 at the age of 68.  In honor of Prahalad, I’d like to take a quick tour through three ideas that I’ve learned from Prahalad’s work.

Core Competency.  Prahalad, with Gary Hamel, coined the phrase “core competency” – understanding the key things at which your organization excels.  Applying this idea to church, we have talked about the importance of “Giving Your Church an Identity” and being able to finish the phrase, “We Are the Church That….” 

God has blessed your church with special unique things. Maybe it’s something about the gifting of your congregation.  Maybe it’s a collective passion for evangelism, or the poor.  Maybe it’s a great piece of property, uniquely situated to serve the neighborhood around it.  Figuring out your distinctives – or “core competencies” is the beginning of church strategy.

Co-Creation of Value.  Prahalad talked at length about the “co-creation of value” – the idea that a business and a customer can work together to make something better.  For example, when Dell provides you with the opportunity to “build your own” PC, that’s co-creation of value: you give something (your information about what you want), Dell gives something (PC feature options and a website) and together you create something valuable: just the right PC for you.

Cold Stone Creamery co-creates value by letting customers make their own ice cream confections. (Image from sun-sentinel.com)

Other examples are Cold Stone Creamery: they provide all the flavors; you mix them as you like.  Amazon.com takes information that you provided – your book preferences and prior purchases – and uses them to give you a better experience, “You might also like….”  Netflix provides a platform that allows you to pick and choose whatever movie you like; you customize your experience.

You get the idea.

How does this apply to church?  Recognize that different people will need different things from your church.  It’s not that you need to be great at everything; you don’t.

For many in your congregation, part of a great church experience is serving.  Without the church, they don’t have the place to serve; without them, you don’t have people serving.  There’s a chance to co-create value with your people.

Some people will love your small groups; others are looking for counseling; still others need good, biblical teaching from the pulpit.  By offering an array of these “features,” you are allowing different people to navigate your church in ways that fit their own needs.

N=1, R=G.  These two formulae are the basis of “The New Age of Innovation.” 

N=1 means that the “number” (n) of each customer segment is 1.  Firms are striving to make each customer feel unique, and to treat them uniquely.  Nike sent me an e-mail a while ago encouraging me to “build my own shoes.”  They can track, through Nike+iPod how far I run, and when , and send me encouraging messages, or remind me to get new shoes.  They seem to know me.  How odd for consumers to live in a world in which their shoe company knows them, but their pastor doesn’t!

R=G.  R=G means that “resources” are “global.”  In the new economy, businesses are bringing supplies from around the world to meet the needs that I have.  Target is filled with goods from around the world; I can find virtually any kind of music on iTunes; my iGoogle page features diverse resources pulled from across the Internet.

How do these formulae apply to your church?  N=1 means figuring out how to help your church really know each person that comes through the door.  It’s not about personalizing e-mails and letters with “Dear Jim….”  That’s a form letter. 

In church, it’s about making sure that people have the ability to be known as well as they care to be known.  It’s not filling out “Guest Cards” or online surveys, though those can be a great first step.

Look at the way that Jesus “segmented his market” (to impose an anachronistic phrase).  His encounter with Andrew is nothing like his encounter with the woman at the well.  The woman with the bleeding disease gets a different conversation than Nicodemus.  Jesus learned each person’s needs and responded appropriately, and personally.  N=1 is straight Jesus.

What about R=G?  Applying this one to the church, R=G is about being Kingdom-minded.  Your people are starting to be fed by podcasts from around the world; they are participating in mission trips with different parachurch groups.  The more that you are creating opportunities to connect them to the wonderful work being done by Jesus-ish people around the world, the better.  Churches that try to force all giving through “proprietary channels” – like denominations or home-grown programs – will suffer.

Old Apple emphasized controlling its platforms. New Apple succeeds by allowing customers to access apps and music from anywhere. (Image from drexel.edu)

Think of Apple: old Apple tried to control everything in the name of quality.  They ended up with high quality and no customers.  New Apple couldn’t be more different.  Apple has opened up the App Store, allowing its customers to access a wide array of products from developers around the world.

The church equivalent is this: You are a Lutheran church and encouraging everyone to attend Lutheran colleges and Lutheran high schools.  Your guest speakers are all Lutheran.  You go to Lutheran conferences, support Lutheran missions.  And in your bookstore are books by Lutherans and – just for some variety – Luther.  That’s old Apple.

Platforms are becoming less controlled.  Consumers – and congregations – are becoming more accustomed to meeting their needs in their own way.  Recognize it; encourage it; suggest books; talk about great work other churches in your community are doing.  When our church opened, a Presbyterian church down the road sent us a check to help us get going.  That’s thinking Kingdom first.

So there are three strategic concepts for you to work with: core competency, co-creation of value, and N=1, R=G.  When you use them, do so with gratitude to God for the great mind He gave C.K. Prahalad.

Moving from big sermons to a series of short sermons. (Image from bp.blogspot.com)

With attention spans shrinking, it’s likely you won’t even finish this blog post before you’re off to something else.  The proof of shrinking attention spans is everywhere:

The average YouTube clip is 150 seconds.   More than 1 billion singles are sold every year, which is nearly double the number of albums.   DVRs have people skipping the commercials to get through light sitcom fare in 22 minutes.  iPhones feature the “2x” button, which allows users to listen to podcasts twice as fast.

And yet your sermons still run 25-35 minutes. 

What’s the Ideal Sermon Length?  Who Cares?  There’s a long-running debate about the proper length of sermons.  Some traditions think that, given the importance of the subject matter, we should speak for an hour or more; more content must be better, right?  (There’s a nice post on the subject here.) 

Shortsermons.net, obviously, has a different take; the idea is that shorter sermons are more likely to land one point.  Winston Churchill’s famous graduation speech makes the point.  Here it is, in its entirety: “Never give in. Never give in. Never, never, never, never–in nothing, great or small, large or petty–never give in, except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

But longer versus shorter is the wrong debate.  It’s not that people can’t absorb a lot of content; they take in more content than ever.  It’s that they can’t absorb it in long chunks.  Snippets and soundbites are on the rise.

What does this mean for the preacher?

What Can the Congregation’s Minds Absorb?  John Medina, author of Brain Science, talks a lot about the fact that attention spans are just ten minutes.   Churches are starting to catch on.  Video testimonies, short announcements, clips and stories to engage the audience.

Experimenting with Mini-Sermons.  Let me propose something a bit more extreme: Have a handful of short sermons scattered throughout the service.  It recognizes that your audience is not used to sitting through 30 minutes of anything.  It gives you the chance to be more explicit in your sermon architecture – introduce the thesis in the first snippet, point one in your second snippet, points two and three in your third snippet, and then wrap up and recap the points.

I don’t know your style or what your liturgy allows.  But I do know that lectures are on their way out… even in lecture halls.  Professors feel the need to be more engaging and entertaining.  I’m not saying to cater to eroding intelligence or to “dumb it down.”  I’m saying that our long-form sermons don’t recognize what we know to be true: people have trouble focusing for long periods of time.

You don’t need to roll out changes dramatically or irreversibly.  Just start playing with your sermon structure and try breaking it into smaller pieces.  If it doesn’t add to their comprehension and internalization of your message, let me know at Cameron@church-strategy.com.

Every church has its critics, judges, and haters. How you respond makes all the difference. (Image from sunderlandbookgroup.wordpress.com)

Enter the Hater.  You have some “haters” in your church – people who want to criticize or snipe at whatever’s going on.  There are names running through your head right now.  They think you should do more/less hymns; they think you should have sermons that are more topical/biblical; they think liturgy should play a bigger/smaller role; or they just read a new book that you must read.  (Aside: Why does everyone need to suggest that their pastor read a book, just because they did?)

Let’s look at how two companies have been handling haters and see what we can learn. 

The infamous Toyota floor mat, which made stopping difficult. (Image from cnycentral.com)

Unstoppable: Toyota.  Toyota has taken heat for suppressing customers’ concerns as it became increasingly clear that certain models of Toyotas were difficult to stop.  The jury is still out, but the growing sense is that more and more customers flagged issues, and that Toyota has known about the issues for years.  Toyota didn’t take the concerns seriously, and didn’t act quickly to fix the problems.  Now Toyota faces slower sales.  Toyota is spending millions in fines, and millions more to advertise to repair its once-sterling reputation.

P&G's portfolio of brands. No one is better at branding and marketing than P&G. (Image from crowdsourcinglinks.com)

Changing Diapers at P&G.  Proctor & Gamble (P&G) is a name you may not know, but it’s the company behind all the brands you do know – Tide, Pampers, Charmin, Duracell, Gillette, Downy, Bounty, Pringles, Head & Shoulders, Olay, and lots more.

No one is better at building brands and doing marketing.  P&G rolled out a new brand of Pampers – Pampers Dry Max.  Parents across the country are pointing to the new diapers as the cause of their children’s rashes.  P&G has spotted this on blogs, and has been aggressive in trying to understand the problem.  They have concluded that it’s being “perpetuated by a small number of parents,” though they are continuing to investigate the issues.

P&G is taking the vocal minority seriously and treating them with respect.  But then they take those critiques and work to verify them, with other parents, and in their research labs.

What Can Churches Learn?  Companies – like churches – get accustomed to enduring a certain amount of static.  There’s always someone griping about something.  Rightfully, companies – and churches – learn to ignore it.  If they reacted to every critique, they’d spend all their time on defense.

First, Have a Normal Feedback Loop.  Most customers – or parishioners – won’t go out of their way to tell you things are OK.  They’ll just quietly keep buying Toyotas, or Pampers, or coming to your church.  If you have a standard approach to gather information from your congregation, then you’ll be able to put critiques in context.  “This person says they hate our music, but 85% of the congregation says the music really helps them worship.” 

This could be an annual survey, or it could be a series of conversations that you have with people from various parts of the congregation.  This should not be your same old circle of close advisors.  As pastor, there will always be a group of people who want to be your friend and will tell you what you want to hear.  You need to dig deeper. 

Most church people are so nice – and genuine critique isn’t seen as being very Christian.  So you need to ask questions like, “If you could change one thing about our church…” or “What’s the top reason that you wouldn’t invite a friend to our church….”  Create the space for genuine critiques to emerge.

Second, Discount Your Serial Critics.  We all have a ratio of compliments-to-complaints.  When you find someone for whom that ratio dramatically favors complaints, be wary.  Do they really have the best interests of the Body in mind?  Have they bounced around to a lot of churches?  Are they speaking in terms of their personal preferences or  Kingdom impact

Once you recognize a hater, be kind and respectful, but discount their comments.  If you want to bounce their critiques off of a couple other people as a check on yourself, that’s cool.  Just don’t overreact.  Haters need to either get on board with where God is taking your congregation, or they need to find another place.  Spiritually, they are under the church’s authority; not the other way around.

Third, Admit Mistakes.  Some ministry ideas don’t work.  Some outreaches don’t reach out.  Some new hires don’t pan out.  It’s OK.  Your people will be rightfully skittish if you can’t admit that you screw up now and again. 

This week, even mighty Google admitted that it made a mistake.  Google – one of the smartest and best companies in the world with unlimited resources – thought it could build its own cell phone, “Nexus One” and sell it by itself.  “The strategy met with lackluster results, including poor customer service and weak sales.”  If Google made a mistake, so will you. 

Here’s where our doctrine causes problems.  Will God use our mistakes?  Of course.  Will even failing ministries touch lives?  No doubt.  Does that mean that the failing ministry was actually a good idea?  No.

Of course, God can redeem any mistakes we make – including strategic mistakes – but that doesn’t alleviate our need to admit that it was a mistake.  You will find your people much more excited about following a leader who is authentic than one who insists that having a five-year-old deliver the sermon on Youth Sunday really was a great idea.

Thanks for your leadership and for all the arrows that you absorb from your people.  If you want to chat about any of this, drop me a note at Cameron@church-strategy.com.

OK, so you can't do a leveraged buyout of a youth group, but what capabilities should your church acquire?

Getting the Capabilites Your Church Needs.  On Friday, I looked at why companies merge, and how they might choose to develop capabilities – through building, buying, or allying.  We then applied that model to churches, specifically as they try to find places to worship.

What I really want us to think about as we look at mergers and acquisitions is this: What are the “capabilities” that your church needs, and how should you get them?

Some churches of which I’m aware have shut down their own midweek youth groups.  Instead, kids will gather at their church, get onto a van, and go a couple miles to larger youth groups.  This is the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” approach.  They’d been losing their kids – and eventually families – to the larger churches anyway.  In my mind, this isn’t losing; it’s just admitting the obvious:  “Our church isn’t going to be the best at everything.  We’re going to be quick to acknowledge that and celebrate the resources that God has given other churches in our area.”  It’s wonderfully ecumenical and ties the city’s community of believers together in new ways.

That’s one example of churches realizing that they’re not likely to have a youth group capability soon. 

First, what are the things you’d like to see your church be great at?  Ideally, these should connect to strengths you already have.  For example, let’s say you meet in a beautiful facility, but that beauty isn’t reflected in the singing or decorating.  Or perhaps you’re great at outreach and being in the community, but aren’t good at connecting people to your church body once they show up on Sunday.  Or you have dynamic children’s ministry, but then drop the kids into a middle school program that’s half-baked.  Maybe you’re great at hosting 12-step programs, but don’t have follow-on counseling abilities.

I don’t know your situation, but think about your current capabilities and the adjacent capabilities that connect to those.  What do you discern God is leading your church to develop?

Second, if you could acquire some other church’s capabilities in that area, what church would that be, and what capabilities would those be?  “I like the Cars ministry that x church has,” or “The day care that y church has would be a great complement for our preschool program, “ or “Z church has an awesome ministry to seniors.”

Third (here’s the bait and switch – sorry), since you can’t logically “acquire” that capability, how could you go about tapping into that other church’s strengths?  Maybe their website is awesome and you want to hire their web guy on a contract basis. 

At our church, Restoration, we don’t have counseling resources, so we’ve set up a process through which our congregants who want counseling meet once with a counselor who assesses their needs and then refers them to other Christian counselors in the area.  If there’s financial need, some funding from our church might follow along with them.  We’ll end up paying a bit in counseling, but it’s a lot less expensive than having a counselor on staff, and it gives us the chance to recognize that different counselors excel at different kinds of problems, so we’re presumably ending up with better results for our congregants who need some help.

Another congregation in our area does a great run to support our local ministry to those in need of food assistance.  For us to replicate their “Turkey Trot” would be dumb; instead, we partner and help support their efforts.

What are the capabilities that you would acquire if you were a company?  And, since you’re not a company, how can you get access to those capabilities anyway?  To prayerfully brainstorm, drop me a note at Cameron@church-strategy.com.

If your church could merge with another to acquire new capabilities, what capabilities would you aim for? (Image from blogs.oracle.com)

Feeling the Urge to Merge.  The business section of the paper is once again brimming with merger news.  IBM is returning to its software roots and scooping up small software firms (Reboot: IBM Turns to Software, May 13).  SAP is buying Sybase so that its sales people have more products in their bag (Tech Firms Vie to Widen Product Lines, May 14).  Continental and United Airlines are merging to have a broad set of routes (United Airlines, Continental to Announce Merger, May 3). 

What’s all this about?  And what can mergers and acquisitions (known among people cooler than I as “M&A”) teach us about church?  (To give away the punchline, I’m not going to suggest that you  actually acquire another church.) 

Defining Capabilities.  Think of companies – and your church – as a series of “capabilities,” or things you can do.  Ministering to kids is a capability, having great small groups is a capability; same with preaching, music, arts ministries, pastoral care, and so on.  

Companies do the same thing.  SAP is a company that makes “enterprise software” that basically tries to connect all of the processes in a business.  Their important capabilities are building massive software systems, selling their software, and implementing the software (making it work at a company).  Those are all capabilities. 

What Other Capabilities Would You LIKE to Have?  A critical part of strategy is having your strengths reinforce one another.  If you’re trying to do women’s Bible study during the day, you need to have great childcare, or young moms aren’t going to want to come.  If the Sunday service is your centerpiece, it doesn’t really matter how good your music ministry is if your preaching is bad.  If you are trying to minister to Spanish-speaking immigrants during the week, your Sunday services need to connect with that.  So the question for your church is what other capabilities would you like to have?

 

Let’s take the three companies I mentioned above:

SAP.  SAP has a great sales team.  They’re meeting with top-level decisionmakers at all the important companies in the world.  SAP has decided it can make even MORE money if its sales people can, in the same conversation, say, “While you’re thinking about this SAP software, why not also consider these products from Sybase?”  Sybase has capabilities that SAP doesn’t.

United is uniting with Continental to cover more of the continent. (Image from boston.com)

Continental and United.  This is a merger about geographic markets.  The two airlines have hubs in different cities and serve dozens of markets that the other doesn’t.  Since slots at airports are limited, the best way to penetrate new markets is to buy up another airline that has them.  Apparently, Continental has a “Cleveland” capability that United doesn’t.  And United thinks it has a “Chicago” capability, though frequent travelers through O’Hare may beg to differ!

IBM.  Since the 1990s, IBM has focused on services over software.  They are amazing at it.  Now, they have decided that they are well positioned to offer data-mining software to help companies make sense of the reams of data that websites and software systems generate.  So they’re buying up capabilities from smaller players.

Build, Buy, or Ally?  Having decided what capabilities they’re missing, companies next decide how best to get those capabilities.  Do we build from within, and just try to figure out that capability ourselves?  Do we buy a company that’s already good at it?  Or do we set up some kind of partnership with someone who has that capability? 

Examples.  One of the most important capabilities for churches is “having a place to meet.”  Church is an inherently inefficient use of space.  Hundreds of people need to gather in one place once a week.  Facilities with episodic uses are always expensive and tough to justify.  (See stadiums and concert venues.)  And so churches spend a lot of time thinking about how to pay for big spaces. 

The build model is straightforward.  You decide to build a new facility.  That’s what I was discussing with Silverdale Baptist Church in Chattanooga, TN, last week. 

The “buy” model is where mergers and acquisitions come in.  The challenge is integrating two bodies. 

Growing up, our little church, Gresham Hills Baptist, was growing, but renting space in a Seventh-Day Adventist church.  Across town, an older church had some great property, but was too small to thrive.  And so the two churches actually merged.  Our pastor became the senior pastor, and their pastor led a lot of worship and taught on the occasional Sunday.  Together, they became Grace Community Church, which – 25 years after the merger – is still thriving. 

The Village Church in Flower Mound, Texas, was recently approached by a struggling church in Dallas.  The struggling church has now become the Dallas campus of the Village Church. 

The ally model is the favorite of young churches.  Meeting in school auditoriums (allying with a local school), or leasing space from another congregation (as Gresham Hills Baptist did with the local Seventh-Day Adventist congregation). 

So churches have become pretty good at figuring out build/buy/ally for real estate.  But what about other capabilities?  Let’s tackle that on Monday.  To talk about your situation, always feel free to drop me a note  at cameron@church-strategy.com.

Look into Trends' Magazine's technology crystal ball (Image from me414.files.wordpress.com)

Trends Magazine is one of the better publications helping business leaders look ahead.  Their note this week caught my eye: 9 Technologies That Will Impact Your Bottom Line.

Three of the more interesting emerging technologies make great thought experiments for church leaders:

Mobile Applications.  Right now, developing your own iPhone app seems a bit daunting.  But ten years ago, you thought having a website was hard, right?  Some sites are already making it easy to develop your own apps.  (Check out MobileAppLoader as an example.)  A few months or years from now, someone at your church will tell you that, for a low, low price, you can actually do something pretty cool. 

What should your app presence be?  Would you want your church’s app to be directed at believers?  If so, you might load it with your sermons, a stream of upcoming events, maps to small groups, or Bible reading schedules.  Perhaps it’s full of tools to support daily living – like tips for parents of children, or financial management principles.

Maybe it’s built around creating community.  So it’s about video and photo uploads.  Perhaps it creates virtual Bible studies in which your members are typing their thoughts on a given passage.  Maybe it connects people’s resources and gifts with others’ needs based on profiles that your members have loaded into the system.  So if someone needs help moving this weekend, they’d see the list of people in the congregation who are willing to help with things like that.

Or perhaps your church’s mobile app is a service to the community.  What if the best information about your community – best restaurants, dates, babysitters, music venues – was on an app that your members and staff filled with information?  Jus t some ideas to get you started.

Automated Language Translation.  You thought satellite campuses were a big deal.  What if your church could be broadcasting to everyone, everywhere in their own language?  Paging the Pentecost. 

You’ve been  supporting missionaries and churches around the world for years.  What if they were actually participating in your service on a big screen?  Or what if you were participating in THEIRS?  During the course of your service, you could have your congregation eavesdrop on different services – translated into English – and experience what worldwide Christianity feels like.

Neuromarketing.  As scientists use CAT scans and other brain-based technologies to understand our brains, churches will face decisions about how to interact with brain science.  Marketers use brain science to create commercials and retail experiences that make us more likely to buy.  Would you use those kinds of techniques to make someone more likely to accept Christ?  Would that be manipulative?  Or is it the same thing as playing soft piano music during an alter call?  (Or maybe that piano music IS manipulative?)

Brain Rules by John Medina, one of my favorite books on brain science. (Image from historytech.files.wordpress.com)

My favorite book on this is Brain Rules by John Medina.  One principle for preachers: People can pay attention for only ten minutes at a time.  If you don’t re-engage the emotions every ten minutes, you lose people.  So, every ten minutes, find a way to tell a story, or get people mad, or surprise them, or get them to think back to a time they did x.  If you leave more than ten minutes, you’ve lost people.

That’s just one example of what our growing knowledge of how God made our brains could increase your effectiveness.  (To see the directions brain science is headed, be sure to check out the “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought…” when you look at the Brain Rules entry on Amazon.)

What Do YOU See on the Horizon?  Churches tend to be late to a lot of these parties.  Think ahead a little about how you might use new technologies to glorify God.  You don’t need to be on the Isle of Patmos to get a bit of a vision of the future.