As kids of the 1980s we lived for the weekend at the mall. Walking the halls, visiting the food court, hanging out with friends was a rite of passage when you hit the middle school/high school age. Now days the malls are no more, and so are the stores that paid the rent. Have you ever wondered what happened to some of these brands and why the decline so quickly?
Sears kept the lights on for the local mall; that is until they couldn’t keep their own lights on. The signal that the end was near came in 1993 when they ended their catalog/mail-order business. For over 100 years, they had sold everything from hubcaps to houses via mail order and shipped them all over the country. Amazon was founded in 1994. Sears had all the pieces in place (its own credit card, insurance company and a partnership with IBM for the internet) but couldn’t manage to keep afloat. Without even realizing it, Amazon grew from the ground up to do essentially the same thing Sears dominated for years.
Kodak film booths were in every mall; that is until they decided they didn’t need digital. They banked everything on the instant and film media for photography. Everyone soon embraced the digital trend and Kodak has been digging out since.
The A&W story is one of my favorites. A&W created the third-pounder. It was the same price as McDonald's quarter-pounder. It bombed massively. When they tried to find out why, it was discovered that Americans thought they were being cheated because three is a smaller number than four. A&W — realizing they can't explain grade school fractions to fully grown adults without coming across as condescending to customers, they simply took the burger off the menu and soon exited the food court.
These are just a few of the examples of what happens when you don’t stay in tune with the latest trends and when you are not brave enough to break from the pack. Those who stay ahead spend time listening to their customers and taking risks by forward looking. Churches are no different. In each of the cases above there was nothing wrong with the product, the problem was with management and marketing. If the Church does not listen to what is going on in the culture or if it changes the “product” it too will go the way of the local mall. Just as the Lord doesn’t change, we cannot change the message. It’s not ours to change to begin with. We should, however, examine how we do things and how get the message out. What message are we sending in how we worship, how our building looks, and how we engage people when they arrive? All of these things factor in to how a Church is perceived by someone new.
The first task is to make sure the Biblical message is clearly presented. The next is treat people how you would like to be treated. Being friendly doesn’t cost anything. Giving guests the attention they need can mean the difference in their return and the future of the local congregation. In addition, don’t forget about those who got you there. Those who helped build the local church to where it is in the present are still your biggest investors. Take care of those who take care of you! Everyone working together with the same mission in mind will result in a healthy and influential ministry for years to come.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25
Serving the Savior,
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