Church: Be You (Always)
Google "Apple." Go ahead … do it!
One of the first things that comes up is the Apple website. If you click on it, you’ll find a slick, streamlined experience meant to inspire the user to feel powerful and full of life (and to sell electronics). On the home page you’ll find a video called “Parenthood.” Watch it. It’s a feel-good short film that paints the lives of everyday parents, and shows them conquering life’s biggest adventures with their iPhone. They don’t sell the product. They sell the experience the product gives you. And they do that by being authentic.
No matter how you interact with Apple, you get the same Apple experience. From the look of their logo, to the feel of their commercials, to the customer service you get when you walk into a store, you can feel the Apple brand. They are consistent. They are authentic. Even holding an Apple product in your hand gives you an experience.
I interviewed six people to help me define the Apple brand. Here are some of the words they used:
- Cutting edge
- Reliable (This came up five times.)
Despite the fact that I only interviewed six people and regardless if you’re “a Mac or a PC,” I think most of us would agree that the Apple brand is all of these things.
Could we say the same thing about our churches? Would an anecdotal sampling of six people at your church show this kind of consistency and authenticity in the way people describe their experience with you and the words they’d use to define who they think you are?
What People Would Say About Your Church
Recently, Aspen Group, as a founding member of the Cornerstone Knowledge Network (CKN), partnered with Barna Group to conduct a study on Millennials and church architecture. This forthcoming research reveals that one of the biggest things a Millennial looks for is authenticity.
For example, in the Barna/CKN study, 46 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, “The people at church are tolerant of those with different beliefs.” Nearly the same number (44 percent) said, “The church seems too much like an exclusive club.” Worse, two-thirds of Millennials believe that American churchgoers are mostly or somewhat hypocritical.
If authenticity means "being actually and exactly what is claimed,” Millennials aren’t feeling it. But it’s not just age that defines this trend; it’s culture. Thanks to the growth of social media and the access to information we now have through the Internet, people are forming their impressions of who you are and what your “experience” is before they even meet a single person from your church.
Where Authenticity Begins
One of the easiest ways to spot whether or not your church is authentic is to visit your website. Church websites often unwittingly convey that the church is out-of-date, uneventful, and lacking life—that the church cares more about giving information than it does about sharing life. And yet most churches I’ve encountered would say their goal is to share life, encouragement, and hope, and that if people would just visit, they would feel that.
But it’s not enough that we simply use online tools to point people to our events anymore. People are online sharing life with each other, experiencing brands, and interacting with organizations without ever seeing them face-to-face. They expect that who you are portraying online is exactly who you are in person.
How many churches out there would hope that people would simply visit your website to find your address and get service times, and then come meet you in person to make their first impression? Because of today’s culture, that just isn’t how people use websites anymore.
There is hope, though! If your motive is simply to get people into your church, they will know and feel that. But if the goal of your website is to share the love and hope of Christ with them, and give them the same interaction and experience they would get on a Sunday, your authenticity will shine through!
At the 2014 Alignment Conference, Lindsay Dudeck, my colleague at Fishhook, and I will unpack how authenticity matters in your church. We’ll uncover how it’s not just about the authenticity of your people anymore; it’s about your building, your website, your logo, your blog...your reputation.
Learn more about the 2014 Alignment Conference and register today!