Congregations start nonprofit organizations for many worthwhile purposes: to feed the hungry, care for victims of domestic violence, care for and educate children, build health care facilities in distant corners of the world, and so much more. Starting a nonprofit often is the most effective way to carry out parts of the congregation’s mission. However, the relationship between a congregation and the nonprofit it creates can become a tangled mess quite quickly if they lack a clear contractual agreement.
As an advocate for using teams to carry out the work of a congregation and for eliminating as many committees as possible, I often get phone calls like this: “John, we read your book and decided to move from a committee-driven to a team-driven organization. But it hasn’t gone smoothly!” If I or other advocates of teams created the impression that moving to teams is an easy transition, I apologize. The change to teams is not easy, but it’s necessary.
Many congregations think the answer to their problems is a superstar—a charismatic senior pastor, a superb musician, or a Pied Piper youth director. Research on teams reveals a deep flaw in such thinking, and congregational leaders are well advised to pay attention to the data.
As a baby boomer, I am disappointed by church members in my generation who, all too frequently, dismiss millennials and others who describe themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” It is a theme I hear constantly in my consulting practice. “Why focus on them when they have already told us they are spiritual but not religious?” or “They have no desire to join or even attend a congregation because they are spiritual but not religious” are comments I hear every single time I work with a congregation.
Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks Coffee, believes the key to the company’s success is not the coffee but “the Starbucks experience.” A visit to Starbucks is a sensory event filled with smells, sights, and sounds—from the aroma of fresh ground beans to the greetings from the staff, from the names of drinks and sizes of drinks to the fast, free Wi-Fi. Customers expect good coffee, but without the full Starbucks experience, coffee is just coffee.
I want to suggest “rootedness” as a potential brand or image for congregations. In a highly mobile, rapidly changing society, who isn’t attracted to the idea of being rooted instead of rootless?
In strategic planning, congregations think a lot about their “brand.” What do people think of when they drive by or hear the church’s name? Do they associate the congregation with great music, inspiring preaching, effective social justice work, quality day care, or self-help group meetings? Lately, I have been recommending to my clients a brand that needs to be built by congregations across this country: A congregation where people can trust each other and will be trusted.