Friday, November 21, 2008

Churchapreneurs: worship is the key to success

YouTube - Mars Hill Worship Service Seattle
If you are really, really cool, and on the cutting edge of churchapreneuriship, this is what worship will look like. This clip of course, is taken from the "calvinistic" churchapreneur franchise of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church. Driscoll is "calvinistic," with a small "c" for Calvinism, because he, like the typical churchapreneur, is too arrogant to subscribe to any historically Reformed confession, since, after his extensive study, he cannot find one he entirely agrees with (surprise), so instead, he crafted his own Driscoll creed which maintains elements of Protestant orthodoxy while remaining consumer friendly. His real genius however, lies not in his doctrinal acumen, rather, it is in his ability to define his target demographic and provide them with just the right worship ambiance he knows they are searching for.

Driscoll, in his Confessions of A Reformission Rev., describes some of his struggles as an early churchapreneur in finding the right worship leader and worship band. In one place (p.63), he relates the day that confirmed to him that Mars Hill Church would not be a place where everyone was welcome. Apparently, a family with a troop of children, skilled in the lost art of playing handbells, wanted to have a prominent role in the worship service. After watching them rehearse once, he realized he did not want them playing, or even coming to his church. The interesting thing about this episode, understood from the broader context of the book, is that Driscoll understood that if he was to reach a young adult target audience, he had to find hip, cool music, that would connect with them, in order to both attract and keep them. This is a classic churchapreneur move: find the people, find out what the people want, and then give it to them. That does not necessarily mean you find out what the people who are currently at church want; rather, it means, find out what the target audience, the potential church wants and then make sure its in place if and when they do show up.

That last thought leads us back to churchapreneur basics: goal, strategy, and tactics. The goal is an enthusiastic and expanding customer base; the strategy is to maintain a culturally relevant worship ambiance; and the tactic is worship and programs that really connect with the target audience. Churchapreneurs are very calculating businessmen. They understand that you cannot be successful by targeting everyone, because not everyone is useful for your purposes. So, the savvy and successful churchapreneur finds his target audience first: young and cool, thirty-somethings with growing families, or baby-boomers with empty nests. Once that target audience has been established, then he will be able figure out the precise worship ambiance and tactics that are needed in order to start reeling the new customers in.

Just work with this principle for a moment and you will be able to better understand the churchapreneur around the corner from you. For instance, if the franchise has either a piano, keyboard and acoustic guitar along with a middle aged worship leader, and sings songs out of a song book that sound soft, nice, and inspiring to Ann Murray or Barry Manilow sounding tunes, you know that the target audience is primarily baby boomers with an empty nest. This could be the target because the community is located in a sunbelt area and is inhabited by retirees and AARP members. It could also be this way because the church was once "traditional" in its worship (used an organ, piano, hymnbook, and had no worship leader) but has made the risky decision to become "more attractive" to the younger crowd, so the target audience is really older people, but the ambiance says "hey, we are youth friendly too," or so it thinks. However, if the church uses multiple instruments (guitars, drums, keyboard, etc.,), projects lyrics on multiple large screens (you know, the kind people who still have good eyesight can see), and has a cool looking, fun, spontaneous, light footed guy leading the worship, you are definitely in a franchise that is targeting thirty-somethings with kids. These people are still "young at heart" but worship cannot have the mayhem of a concert because that would set a bad example for the kids. The larger band with the peppy worship leader attracts the younger people (obviously), but maintains the order and consistency that young families need, without all the stuffy formality and traditionalism of the church they grew up in.

HOWEVER, if the franchise has a concert look and feel during worship, as in the example above from the Mars Hill Church, the target audience is clearly the 18-34 demographic. In this case, the churchapreneur knows his target audience is "edgy" and wants no part of the conservative, predictable, half-cool, out of touch and out of style worship that the thirty-somethings with families want. Here, what is unpredictable, trendy (in various sub-cultures), artistic, and creative is what's going to be on tap. This sort of style appeals effectively to the college educated, organically grown coffee-drinking, young adult crowd. Of course, that is not to say that older folk wont be found here, though the ones who do gravitate toward this tend to be the life-long hippie, anti-establishment types or the mid-life crisis types searching for some venue to re-live their younger but all too tame years.

So, what is churchapreneur worship like? Easy, its whatever the target is like; taste the style and you will find the target. That is the genius of the churchapreneur, and the key to growing the business. See, for churchapreneurs, building a business is "as easy as one, two, three." Remember how the original churchapreneur Billy Hybels put it: What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer consider value?. If we tweak this pithy little phrase by changing the last question to "what worship style does the customer want?" we will understand how to make it as the next big churchapreneur.

For more information on churchapreneurs and worship, consult the following:

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