Monday, April 27, 2009

The Service Concept and Traditional / Emerging Churches

There’s a saying that churches and schools are both facing the same problem. If time-travelling space aliens were to fly to the 17th century and back to the 21st, they’d notice something pertaining to both these institutions: There is almost no change in over 400 years.

What little ‘progress’ made in terms of infrastructure or method reflects ever so starkly the rule of immutability rather than any on-going trend of the newly developing.

Although many religious conservatives eschew any link between the ‘spiritual’ world and the ‘business’ world (“You can’t serve both God and Mammon”, can you?), I think church leaders would do well in examining the service concept. I’ll contrast the traditional Christian churches with emerging ones against the 3 questions usually asked of/by this concept:

  • What benefits does our service provide to the customer?
  • Who is our customer or market segment?
  • How do we deliver the service?
The comparison above may be a little harsh on traditional churches, but I think there’s value in (over)-sharpening our focus a little to see what’s normally unseen.

Also, whilst granted institutions like churches and NGOs’ are not competing for members - and there really needn’t be a ‘zero-sum’ mentality - one wonders if it may still help to think in terms of ‘competing’ against worldly developments.

Churches, especially, are facing a storm of secular, cultural and technological change and, IMO, face every bit a huge a challenge as that of businesses. Thus, thinking of the world as its ‘customer’ is NOT a waste of time as:
  • it forces the church to ask what more it can do for the world (and takes away the natural tendency to judge and condemn it) i.e. it puts a ‘missional’ spin on the purpose of the church and constantly reminds its leaders that its mission is to be for the world and not against it

  • it keeps the church asking what questions people have and whether or not it remains relevant, engaging and helpful (as opposed to 'isolationist', irrelevant and/or plain boring)

No comments: