Attractional ministry has run its course. It’s been debated over the last decade to the point of boredom. Almost all forward thinking ministries have begun the shift away from attractional, bait-and-switch styles of reaching people. While the past model has been identified as broken, no clear way has been adopted by churches.
I don’t pretend to know what the future will be for the church, but I do have my own direction that has proven to work. It came a couple of years (a little over a decade actually) after I read Seth Godin’s Unleashing the Ideavirus. In this book, Godin paints a picture for the end of another paradigm for attracting people – interruption marketing. Common commercials and advertisements, according to Godin, lost their effectiveness. The Ideavirus proposed a new way through viral marketing. It’s an old idea now, but back then it created quite a stir.
What I learned from that book applies to every ministry I have served since. My process in reaching new people, and in keeping them coming, lies in being distinctive. I say this with one caveat. My purpose is not to attract people only to gather a crowd. It’s about providing something beneficial that others aren’t doing.
Recognizing and prioritizing distinctives separates you from the crowd. It makes clear what is offered. Benefits are easily seen, and the path in is clear.
You can’t do everything and be distinctive. Trying only handicaps your growth and effectiveness. Spotlighting differences helps people see what is distinctive about your work. If you do this well, you don’t have to spend any more effort in pointing out benefits. They become obvious.
As you plan your next year or new programs or events, take some time to think about what you are doing and how it’s different. If you can’t think of anything distinctive, don’t expect much. If you see something that sets you apart from others, highlight it. Make sure everyone can see what you are offering and how it’s unlike other ways. Turn up the contrast. See what happens.