Going Second

This post was first featured in August 2010 on ChurchMarketingSucks.com

About a year or so ago, I read a quote from popular author and marketing guru, Seth Godin (a leader I greatly admire I might add), as it relates to the need for more entrepreneurs to become proactive concerning the services they seek to provide others with:

In my experience, much of marketing is a game of waiting on the other guy to go first. Well, if nothing happens, you go first.”

While the ‘other guy’ Seth was referring to in this case was that company or organization that serves as a leading competitor for any entrepreneur seeking to excel in a particular arena, this small bit of advice can be (at times) extremely dangerous for some of us to act on who serve leaders or perhaps volunteers within our local church. Especially without wise counsel.

Now I realize some of you reading this have the sudden urge to run and gather up a few of your fellow buddies (you know, the ones you can’t wait to wake up each morning and discuss the incredible mysteries God is unveiling through Seth and his blog) and label me as a marketing heretic.

But before you do, allow me to explain.

Following Our Leaders

What happens when ‘the other guy’ you’re waiting on to go first, is the one you work for? Or more specifically, what do you do when ‘the other guy’ is actually your pastor, or ministry department leader?

As ministry leaders, especially those who serve on staff at their churches in the area of marketing and communication, God has given us all a special gift; a gift I fear many leaders today are no longer interested in opening and embracing.

We have been given the wonderful gift of going second. God has enabled us with the vision and creative ability to provide clarity and relevance to the voices of those in our church He has appointed to go first.

We have been given the awesome privilege (and burden) to ensure that through our art, nothing our church or pastor tries to communicate from the altar is lost in translation when it reaches the porch. No matter how wide the gap.

Following Faulty Leaders

For those of you reading this today who are struggling with having to always come second in what seems to be a broken system created and enforced by your pastor or department leader, I feel your pain. Nothing can be more aggravating then to serve in a role that is restricted to simply advertising a product or service your pastor desires to sell, rather than to assist in the actual creation and implementation of that product or service.

Spending every week at the office fulfilling last minute flyer and video requests, unable to ask the whats, whys, and hows of those you serve under, can cause the most dedicated among us to one day face the following questions:

Should I find a different church to work at/for?
Should I quit working in ministry altogether and focus on more secular marketing arenas?
Is it time for me to start my own marketing business or coaching network?

Whether or not God may be leading some of you today to answer one of the above questions with a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No’—I am confident that your ability to answer correctly is deeply rooted in how you have (first) embraced having to go second.

Remember this: some of the most creative voices we have leading the church today , were once only echoes; echoes that discovered this one immeasurable truth: When our creativity is married with our humility, incredible things can happen.

So before choosing to go first, be sure you have indeed learned the value of going second.

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Milan Ford has been a leader and a survivor of ministry within the local church for most of his life. A lover of Red Vines Licorice and all things pointing North, Milan is the author of 83 Things I Wish The Black Church Would Stop Doing, and is now currently preparing to release his second book, I Still Love Those Fries, the fall of 2011. Milan and his wife Imani are the proud parents of three children: Kayla, Aliyah, and Ethan.