Developing a deep understanding of the business you are in is one of the most important things you will ever do. Right on its heels, you must develop an awareness of who your true customer is. Without an accurate understanding of those two certainties…your only chance for success will be based on chance (or providence, depending on your world view).
So the question today is, who is your true customer? How you answer that question will determine a lot about the way your small group ministry comes together. For example, if you determine that your true customers are the members of your existing groups, you will often choose topics or curriculum that they will request, not realizing (or at least not acknowledging) that their tastes and interests do not reflect the interests of those who are not yet in a group.
Now, you get to choose who your true customer will be. You get to choose whether your true customer will be the people you’ve already connected or the people who have not yet found grouplife. Sometimes right here I know I need to acknowledge that there are advocates for the idea that to grow your business you need to focus on delighting your current customer. Let me say that while there is truth to that…it’s not a very biblical notion (Philippians 2:3-4). That’s part of the reason I’ve always gravitated toward the great William Temple line that “the Church is the only society that exists for the benefit of those who are not its members.” That said, I determined a long time ago that my true customers are those who aren’t yet in a group and I make decisions about topics based on that understanding. By the way, embracing the notion that there is no problem-free makes this understanding acceptable.
Stop and think about the topic you’ve chosen for your upcoming connection or church-wide campaign? Who will be attracted to that topic? Will it primarily appeal to the people in your congregation who are already in a group? Or will it appeal to those who aren’t yet in a group?
This is a really big understanding. And don’t kid yourself either. Although there are topics that connect with both…they are not easy to find. This is why the 40 Days of Purpose had broad appeal and Walk Across the Room did not. It is all about an awareness of the customer and careful selection of topic based on that understanding. Is there anything wrong with offering Walk Across the Room? Definitely not. Just understand that that topic will not have broad appeal (regardless of how much you believe the Great Commission is for everyone). If your target customers are the people who aren’t yet in a group…better choose the right topic.
Putting the Concept into Practice (Case Study):
One of the classic illustrations of this important principle was a church preparing for a church-wide study that had chosen as their topic the idea that the Holy Spirit could provide power for daily living. Based on the Book of Acts, their title was Catch the Wind and the cover art was a very cool image of a sailing ship with full sails. See where they were going? Is the concept true? Absolutely. Would it interest people who aren’t yet in a group? Maybe. You might be able to engage folks who are already attending church but not yet in a group. What about friends or neighbors who aren’t yet attending the church? Not a chance.
How’s Your Understanding of the Customer?
This is one of the first discussions I have with many churches. You can find out about my consulting and coaching opportunities right here.