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Church Strategy

Tools and Trends for Strategic Planning

Beyond the Crisis.  Last time, I asserted that many churches are set up to serve as ER doctors – available when a family is in crisis – rather than as personal trainers – a group encouraging health through accountability.

The five rules of account management will help your church manage the people whom God has entrusted to your leadership. (Image from

What Is the Key to Account Management? 

A leading book on account management – by Robert Miller, Stephen Heiman and Tad Tuleja – boils account management down to this: “the key differentiating factor is the ability to build relationships that bring your customers measurable value over time.”  In church our motives are different: We don’t want profit; we want to help as many people as possible grow in their love of Jesus.  But most churches have demonstrated that they are really bad at “bringing their customers measurable value;” many of our people are stagnant and many of our churches are stuck.  What does account management have to teach us?

The Five Rules of Account Management.  For generations, businesses have been developing the science of “account management.”  It comes down to five basic principles:

  1. Define Your “Territory.”  Account managers need to know who’s in their “territory.”  Whom do I need to focus on?  Who belongs to someone else?  Think about how you can set up “territory” in your church.  Your small group leaders could be the mechanism you use; elders could be another; or there could be a corps of pastoral care volunteers.
  2. Keep Territory Stable.  If customers believe that they’ll have the same account manager for a long time, they are more likely to share good, helpful information.  And the account managers want to go deeper with the customers.  Periodic reshuffling is the enemy of effective account management.
  3. Know Your Customer.  The account managers need to do the wonderful, difficult work of getting to know the people in their territory.  The key is to determine what each person in your territory values.  Your account managers should learn answers to questions like these: Why are they at your church?  What’s their background?  How did they come to faith?  What are they involved with at your church?  Do they have close friends at church?  Whom are they trying to share their faith with?  How consistent are their devotions?  How are their families doing?  What’s their family situation like?  What ministries should they be connected with?
  4.  Reach Out Proactively.  Good account managers set up check-in calls at appropriately intervals – once a quarter is a good rule of thumb.  It gives account managers the chance to hear what’s going on with the “customer” and to tell the “customer” news about new services and products coming up.  In church, it might be an in-person meal or coffee every six months and “check-in” calls in between.
  5. Keep Great Records… So That You Can Know Your Customer.  As you reach out, don’t rely on your memory.  Have a spreadsheet or software system or a stack of notecards that help you remember what people told you.  Unfairly, everyone expects their church to have perfect recall of any prayer request or piece of information that they’ve shared.

There’s no magic.  It is that easy.  Next time, we’ll talk about how you can launch a light, agile account management system at your church.


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