More Lessons for the Church from U2

December 1, 2005 by

I admit it: I’m a U2 freak (I have an entire category for U2 on my personal blog). Which means I like to write about the world’s biggest rock band. Especially when it comes to what we can learn from them. I covered a lot of this material before, but the New York Times has a few more.

Here are some business lessons the NYT pulled from U2, with some extra application for the church:

Meet the Consumers Where They Live
In the old days U2 had the fanzine Propaganda, but in 2000 they launched a massive web site with subscriber features. The point is to meet the audience where they’re at, whether that’s mailings, online communication, or whatever works for your audience. For the church that means we need to reach people where they’re at. If your community is online, you better be online.

Apologize, Then Move On
Of course the subscriber web site didn’t go so well for U2 and diehard fans were cheated out of tickets. The band apologized, tried to make ammends, and moved on. The church has more than its share to apologize for, and sometimes hearing Christians admit they’re not perfect is all people need to hear.

Embrace Technology
While other bands (and the record execs) were cursing the Internet and technology, U2 put out the industry’s first downloadable box set. Likewise the church needs to explore what technology might help further our mission. I’m not saying the church should jump on every techno bandwagon, but fearing technology isn’t the way to go either.

Don’t Embarrass Your Fans
Bono has a standing promise: “Two crap albums and you’re out.” If you’re going to do something, do it right. Don’t do a halfway job that will embarrass your congregation, or worse, potential visitors.

Be Careful How You Sell Out
Everyone likes to accuse a rock band of selling out, especially when U2 appeared in those ubiquitous “Vertigo” iPod commercials. But keep in mind that U2 didn’t receive a dime for that appearance and they’ve turned down as much as $25 million to use one of their songs in a commercial. We all know the church shouldn’t sell out, but sometimes a partnership can have the appearance of selling out. And in those cases, the church needs to be as innocent as doves and as wise as snakes. Partnerships are great, just make sure it’s benefiting the church over the long haul.

Embrace Politicians, Not Politics
Not only is Bono a rock star, but his social activism has awakened a generation. But notice that Bono doesn’t play politics. He talks with politicians as people, always focused on his greater purpose, not which political party he’s catering. Churches could learn a thing or two here, especially during elections.

Aim High
During the Vertigo tour U2 has asked people to join the One campaign in the middle of the concert by texting their names to a number flashed on the screen. Later in the show those names appear on the screen. Suddenly it’s more than a rock concert. The church, of all places, should be aiming high.

(link via Inessentials)

Post By:

Kevin D. Hendricks

When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998, runs the hyperlocal site West St. Paul Reader, and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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7 Responses to “More Lessons for the Church from U2”

  • Greg Vennerholm
    December 1, 2005

    Fantastic insights from the New York Times, and wise actions from a band that I still respect, even after I purged most of my music catalogue in favor of gospel and praise and worship.
    What I’ve long admired about U2 is the way they handle things is (more often than not)… with a clear honesty of what they’re about.
    The lapses in judgement as being busted with substances they ought not have not withstanding. (By the grace of God I have been deliverd from such habits.) That aside, there are certainly lessons to be learned from their efforts.

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  • Jeremy Curry
    December 3, 2005

    I think U2 are to be admired by the church. They show us that the living the Christian faith is about being real, open and admitting that you’re not perfect as much as anything else.
    I love your point about “Embracing Politicians, Not Politics”, very true.

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  • Tony Dean
    January 9, 2006

    Far from being admired I think U2 should be outed by the church quite frankly!
    Bono was recently exposed peddling his syncronistic, universalism hoo-ha at a recent concert leading his adoring ‘fans’ in a mantra like chant that went, “Jesus, Jew, Mohammed – all true. Jesus, Jew, Mohammed – all true…”
    Wakey Wakey people.

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  • Peter Hamm
    January 10, 2006

    Check your facts. That is a misquote. He said something more like “JJesus, jew, mohammed-it’s true. It’s true-all sons of abraham.” It’s from the live in chicago Vertigo Tour DVD that is recently out.

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  • Gene Mason
    January 10, 2006

    The thing about U2 is that they stay “on message” in an almost religious way–they are so clear in what they communicate from stage, and the passion of Bono toward his causes motivates others to be involved. U2 are evangelists for what they believe, in a sense. And they are so innovative in their presentations. The church could learn a lot (functionally and practically) from U2, if not philosophically.
    I really like U2’s music. Too bad that, based on what I have heard and read of them, I do not believe they serve the same God that I do. I don’t think it’s “Christianspeak” or hokey to say we should pray for band. They are bold, brilliant and unapologetic in their presentation. But the message is just wrong.

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  • Tony Dean
    January 15, 2006

    My ‘facts are accurate Peter, here’s the URL . . .

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  • kevin
    January 16, 2006

    Let’s point out that we’re not looking at U2’s philosophy or spirituality. We’re looking at their business, marketing and artistic choices. They could be Buddhists for all we are.
    Learn from their marketing and debate Bono’s theology somewhere else.

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