I have researched the relationship between faith and finance for many years (you can see a recent presentation on the topic here). One of the points I make frequently when I discuss the subject of money is that it is a tool and that the tool is not the problem, it is how we use the tool, that can be problematic.
Jeffrey Arrowood, a few months back, posted an article on his site, newcatholicevangelization.com, that I think is worth reading. Briefly his argument is that the Church should charge for adult education programming. And as a marketer I will tell you his reasoning is sound. People perceive more value for things that have a higher price tag. If it costs a lot, it must be good. If it is free, well you get what you pay for.
There are many reasons that parishes (and dioceses) may not charge for their adult ed programming. Some of the reasons are better than others, but the reason that I sympathize with the most is tying the Church to money (and money making). I think Mr. Arrowood’s response to this is accurate, but limited. To this end, the fundamental point is that we must create and demonstrate value. This idea itself can be offensive to the faithful. Value!? We’re talking about eternal life! What could be more valuable than that?! You can’t put a price tag on that!
Think for a moment about the truly brilliant marketing campaign conducted by VISA… the “Priceless” campaign. Their value proposition was that VISA allows you to buy the things necessary to do the things that create priceless memories. The Church doesn’t offer eternal life, but access to it. How a parish (or Diocese) provides access to the eternal is its value proposition. Classic questions to determine a value proposition are:
- What makes your product or service valuable?
- What makes it better than your competitors’?
- Why would a customer purchase it?
- How does it benefit people?
- What problem(s) does it solve?
- What about your organization enhances your product or service?
If we are going to be serious about evangelizing, which is marketing the Church, we need to understand the value proposition in a way that we can articulate clearly. Certainly one of the ways to communicate value is pricing, but there is more to it than that.
Evangelization = Marketing
It is ironic that today we have to make this reminder, but men matter. A Pew Research study recently showed that men are significantly less likely to acknowledge a religious affiliation. This and other findings in the report confirm what most of know intuitively just looking around the mass and it highlights that men matter to the future of the church.
Men don’t practice their faith, but they still have tremendous influence at home, right? When I was a kid, I had an aunt who went to mass every weekend. She brought the kids; my uncle stayed home. When his son got to be about 12 years old, he “got to” stay home with Dad rather than go to church with Mom (and his older sister). This doesn’t automatically translate to attendance and strong faith as an adult, but it can’t help.
We must do a much better job of understanding our audience. A few months back, I mentioned the book Rebuilt, one of the major changes that parish leadership did is define a particular type of man as their principle “market niche” (they didn’t use that term, but that is what they meant in my language). They recognized if they got Dad to church, they’d get families to church. The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has recently launched an effort called Catholic Disciplemen.
Our church here in CT, St. Mary’s, has launched a significant effort to revitalize the faith of men in the parish. This effort includes everything from prayer groups to mid-week, early morning basketball. What does basketball have to do with faith. Well, that depends. If the basketball is being played on church property, led by active parishioners with an effort toward building personal relationships between members of the parish and beyond… a lot.
An excellent point made on CatholicTechTalk. The author, Brad West, boiled it down on LinkedIn for me…. The question is what’s the point of attracting lots of visitors to your media?
Lots of likes may be an ego boost, but does it serve another purpose? Well the answer should be yes and that purpose should be a higher one. Likes, or traffic, are not an end in and of themselves (at least they shouldn’t be). They should be a means to engagement.
Earlier I wrote a bit of a rebuttal to the thought that technology was a negative in the church. I acknowledge that the speed that communications works nowadays doesn’t lend itself to long periods of reflection and deep thinking and I would advocate for people of faith to “go deep” more than occasionally. But it does leave open the question how do we use technology to support our mission?
It does depend a little on how we view our mission, but let’s assume for a moment that you agree with my view which is that we should be preparing and supporting disciples and evangelizing. That being the case, likes are a beginning, not an end. Our traffic should bring us to engagement.
Disciples should get value from their engagement…. And I would suggest that in this case value means depth. Depth, I think, is “long-form”. It could be a discussion with meaning or a link to long form documents. It could be “links” to resources that may be online or offline. Events are something that could be pointed to in the physical world, or developed in the online version.
All of the above could be done one-way, pushed to the consumer. Engagement denotes two-way communication. So the trick is presenting long form in a manner that creates response and feedback.
Evangelizing is the communication through which we endeavor to engage the unchurched, or de-churched. This audience needs answers; answers to questions they ask and answers to unasked questions. They need to be drawn into conversation. There doesn’t need to be as much depth to these conversations. The media should focus on making the church accessible.
Nothing above limits the more common volume generating activities, but this does raise the game substantially. And for the Church, it is no small feat, because it really hasn’t been a leader in using social media. The good news is that it be a leader in the next level of social media, without having been a leader in the volume approach.
Saving Catholic Culture from Destruction | Crisis Magazine.
While this blog is primarily to capture my thoughts regarding how to use strategic (albeit worldly) techniques to spread the Word of God, I never lose sight of the endgame. The post linked to above is a well written reminder that faith isn’t practical by worldly standards.
As a Church, I often feel we have resigned ourselves to a bleak reality. The future need not be bleak. The Church can grow and strengthen. We can feel confident as we build upon the work of generations of disciples. It isn’t easy, but it certainly can be done. I implore any person of faith who reads this to truly believe and virtually (if not literally) shout “We can do it!!” Because we can.
Call me a success. Call me a failure. Just don’t call me timid.
I’ve been part of a discussion over on LinkedIn for the last several days. The question that started the conversation was “can’t the Catholic Mass be more friendly (like Protestant services)”? There was a lot of vitriolic insistence that fun and friendliness has no place in the Mass. Eventually the conversation wound its way to the absolute necessity that the Mass be said in Latin. It was not participated in widely (fewer than a dozen contributed), nonetheless I was frustrated by the majority of the opinion.
The conversation gave me a lot on which to reflect, which I am sure I will do over the coming days. I can already identify my principal concern though. It is this- the public conversation on Catholicism seems to be generally split between the poles. On one side are those who want permission to pursue relativism with a clear conscience and on the other are those who seem hellbent on justifying their own right and goodness with the faith.
I think that latter group is trying to defend the faith. But the faith doesn’t need defending, it needs spreading. In order to effectively evangelize, we must realize it is about them. We must meet the unchurched, under churches, and dechurched where they are and bring them into discipleship. That is a long range commitment.
I have been trained in management, marketing, and finance and have applied that training in a wide variety of forums and formats. Over the years I have developed a passion for applying these areas of expertise to the practice of faith.
I believe strongly that our faith should be foundational to all our actions. I also believe that as individuals and as a community of faith we will be strengthened by considering this aforementioned foundation strategically. As individuals, doing so will help us develop our decision-making as mature practitioners of our faith. As a community, such consideration will enable us to build disciples and evangelize effectively.
Neither of these beliefs conflicts with the intensely spiritual nature of faith, in fact I am quite sure that such consideration will build our confidence to live our faith and even articulate it to others.
I have given many talks on the subject of a faithful approach to material world…. here’s a link to one: