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The Problem With WOW Experiences

There’s a really popular business principle that many have carried into the church world. It’s the concept of creating “wow” experiences.

These are moments when you exceed your customer’s expectations and make them say, “Wow.” When you exceed a customer’s expectations, they remember the experience fondly. That turns into repeat business and, even better, word-of-mouth marketing.

The church takes that and applies it to what they do.

Kids ministry: We impress parents with our exciting kids rooms and volunteers.

Retention programs: We give visitors a call during the week from the pastor or some other high-ranking member of the church staff.

We apply it to our worship services, our signage, our parking teams …

Creating “wow” experiences within the church is really about caring for the people God sends our way. We care about them enough to anticipate their needs and break down barriers that might keep people from engaging with our services. I’m not necessarily knocking “wow” experiences.

The problem comes when we forget the purpose of the “wow” experience.

We get clever with it, but forget what we’re communicating. We can’t allow cleverness or “wows” to overshadow the message we’re communicating. We aren’t in the entertainment business. We’re in the communication business.

Cleverness is great for entertainment, but it makes for lousy storytelling. For instance, you’ll never remember the story a magician tells you. You’ll only remember the mindboggling trick that accompanies the story. You don’t remember why he cut his assistant in half, you just remember her body with a few feet of air where it shouldn’t be.

The magician is an entertainer. The point of his work is to make you remember him and his cleverness. It has nothing to do with his story. The story is just filler.

We are not magicians. We are not entertainers. We’re tasked with communicating the greatest story ever told. People shouldn’t walk away from our services remembering only our amazing jokes, worship music, stage design, kids ministry …

There’s nothing wrong with any of those things. But if that’s all they remember, we were merely entertainers. People will leave the church singing our praises—not the praises of the One that matters most.

And that’s not what we’re called to.

We have phenomenal tools available to us. We have technology. We have creative thinkers. We have great bands. But the point of our tools is to help build the story. 

A light show isn’t the point. A band isn’t the point. A hilarious joke isn’t the point.

The point of it all is our message. Don’t let cleverness overwhelm the message.

Let’s have people leave our services saying, “Wow.” But we won’t leave them saying good things about us. They’ll be saying, “Wow. What a Savior!”  

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jonathanmalm@churchleaders.com'
Jonathan Malm is a creative entrepreneur and writer. He is the author of Created for More, a 30-day devotional to help you develop a more creative mind. You’ll find him in San Antonio, Texas, roasting his own coffee beans and enjoying life with his Argentine wife, Carolina. You can follow him on Twitter @jonathanmalm or check out more of his writing at his website – www.jonathanmalm.com.