Anytime you start a new business, organization or church, it’s important to research and understand the voice of your customer. Why would anyone design a brand of services without the customer in mind? That just doesn’t make sense. However, one of the biggest obstacles to truly understanding the voice of our customer is our familiarity with our own industry.
For example, when a young man decides to plant a church, one of his first assignments is to do a demographic study so he can understand the make-up and needs of his target area. The result of that study should be a strategy to reach the lost of his community with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That strategy ultimately enables the church plant to accomplish the mission of reaching people who are far from God so they can experience life in Christ.
But in designing our church planting strategies, sometimes I think we study the popular “church culture” more than the culture of the unreached. Think about it: We’re obsessive about reading books on church planting, missional methods and outreach strategies. We’re fanatical about attending church conferences, studying trends of growing churches, and consulting with church outreach experts.
There’s nothing wrong with these practices, and they certainly add value to what we do. However, when they’re a substitute for truly understanding the unreached we fail to grasp the heart, values and needs of the very people we’re trying to reach. And if we fail in understanding them, then we’ll certainly fail in communicating our message to them.
It seems that a lot of planters are developing strategies around excellence, cool worship and flashy marketing. But I wonder, is that what unreached people are looking for? Is that what’s keeping them from trying church? Are these the things that will break down the barriers that are keeping them from considering Jesus?
I don’t think unreached people are sitting at home hoping some young, innovative guy is going to move into their neighborhood and start a cool, fresh, excellent worship service. I don’t think church or Jesus is even on their radar. But I do think hope, love, friendship and survival are on the forefront of their minds.
A church planter is at his best in God’s hands when he is a dealer of hope, a giver of love, a builder of friendships, and a navigator to survival.
If you really want to design a strategy for your church plant that’s built on the voice of the customer, it’s going to take time. You have to integrate into your community, listen to people’s stories, and build relationships with those who are unreached with the Gospel. You have to be there day-by-day on a consistent basis so they see you as a part of the community.
You have to first seek to understand the vision of community leaders rather than peddling your own. You have to serve sacrificially in a way that adds value to your community. Then, once you’ve done all of this, people will begin to trust you and be honest about their real needs. Once you’ve earned credibility with your community they will not only share their hearts, but open their ears to what you have to say.
Slow, I know. But when you really, really know people that’s when you’ll effectively reach people. The best strategy is always centered in relationship.