Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Consulting Part 2A

There is no shortage of griping about how Christianity has wallowed around in the unscrupulous practices of secular business models and marketing strategies.


I was so excited to take my wife to the National Youth Workers Convention for the first time this past fall. We had a great time but… upon entering the main hall to the convention center she could not stop talking about how abhorrent she found the shameless marketing going on. It really ruined a large part of the experience for her.

So today I was thinking a bit more about all this stuff. It seems to me we have developed a symbiotic relationship btwn. marketing and ministry. Think about the Purpose Driven Life for a bit. How is it that that book could saturate the planet (virtually)? Of course many would say that it was a resource directed by God. I am not interested in disputing the effectiveness of the material. I am however drawing the conclusion that this type of saturation simply would not have been possible without the complex marketing strategies available within the Christian publishing enterprises. Of course you could say that that simple dynamic is also a work of God. Let also not forget that it is also a work for profit. And that profit is not small no matter how altruistic the end result of those profits are.

Long and short of it – The purpose driven life does not become the ‘success’ that it is unless it can take advantage of some pretty powerful marketing schemes. Of course, for a skeptic like me it is not hard to follow that statement with questions about the authenticity of the spiritual power of this resource.

And here is the kicker the marketing system is built bigger and more complex with each successful run of a ‘product’. So that it is not long before these systematized marketing schemes can ‘own’ the Christian community. And for youth workers who are already under considerable performance anxiety the temptation to gobble up the latest proven material is irresistible.

You know for the longest time the buzz word was small groups (still is in places). I remember showing up at a ministerial and hearing people talk about their small group ministry and how awesome it was. I thought shoot I must be missing something. But then I realized my youth group was a small group all on its own. And do you know what so was all these other guys too (well most of them). Now I’m not saying small groups are bad. In fact I strongly advocate them but their fad status stripped some of the legitimacy of the strategy for me and proved to me that hopping on the latest ‘strategy’ train is over rated.

That’s why I think we need to walk away from these mass marketed strategies and ‘contextualize’ our ministry models to fit the culture, needs and realities we live in.

Thanks to YSMARKO for posting these pics


Paul Morgun said...

Hey Dale very good thoughts here. I would also like to echo that your and each unique community of youth, is its own group that is looking to be loved...I agree with you that many of these books have helpful ideas, but when become the BE-ALL of your ministry there is a problem a serious problem. Here is a helpful video by Brian McLaren on the industry of music/worship in our Christian society! I think it connects because its this marketing driven machine that is after money not the hearts and souls of youth...people...

Gord Penner said...

My kids enjoyed hearing you at Abundant Springs. You may have seen their "garage band" warming up before Dreamquest - yes my daughter plays bass, that radical.
As for your post on Purpose Driven life & marketing, just an interesting coincidence that I just listened to a audiobook (available on mp3 at that speaks of the marketing of that book as well as the Passion of the Christ. He says that if you ask 100 people, 1 will read a Bible, while 99 will read Christians. He uses that principle to suggest that successful marketing (read "witnessing") is a result of someone seeing the product working. Check it out for yourself if you'd like.
Blessings on your ministry Dale!
Gord Penner

Outgoing... said...

thanks for the tip and kind comments - blessing right back at ya!

Paul Morgun said...

here is that link for brian video...i forgot to link it:

Mark said...

Dale: I think I agree with you. Christian marketing is distasteful at best and evil at worst. And yet, somehow I wonder if we can ever get away from it. Some would say that teaching or preaching is itself a type of marketing. I think of it as a pragmatic necessity. The problem is when when the marketing takes over and becomes the message itself. Instead of it being an artistic expression to aid the message it becomes the message and then loses its power. Fight the power Dale!