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 real 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).
This is very, very important. And it is not the way many of us think.
For the sake of time, I want to skip ahead to the customer issue today. Although you might have a different idea, let's just say that the business we are in is building environments where real life change can happen. Once we have that understanding, the next conviction we must develop is an awareness of who is our real customer.
So the question today is, who is your real 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 real 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 real customer will be. You get to choose whether your real customer will be the people you've already connected or the people who have not yet found a group.
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 real 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 Transformed and What on Earth Am I Here For? had broad appeal (that extended will beyond the usual suspects) and 40 Days in the Word 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 40 Days in the Word? Definitely not. Just understand that that topic will not have broad appeal (regardless of how much you believe the Bible 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.