Beautiful Basics

January 16, 2007 by

Everybody’s been talking about the amazing new iPhone this past week. As you can imagine, it holds a few lessons for the church.

But first comes 37signals’ prediction for the iPhone, posted hours before the iPhone debuted:

Apple makes history not by leapfrogging everyone in terms of functionality and bells and whistles, they do it through elegance, simplification, clarity, and practicality.

I see no reason why they won’t follow that strategy with their phone. It will change the game, but not because it does more than everyone else’s phone. I think we’ll see just the opposite.

Apple will execute on the basics beautifully.

And while Apple has crammed all sorts of stuff into their phone (video, music, Internet), they did do a massive simplification (no buttons?!) and come June we’ll see just how beautiful it is.

For the church the obvious lesson is to excel at the basics. Calvary Fellowship pastor and blogger Bob Franquiz shares a similar point in an unrelated entry reviewing Al and Laura Ries’ The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding:

Narrowing your focus allows you to be known for something that you do well, rather than having a 100 things you’re mediocre at.

Most churches try to do too much. Everyone says that, but no one pulls the plug on anything they’re already doing.

Just like most cell phones are a nightmare to use because someone insisted there be a camera button and a volume button and a speaker phone button until there are so many buttons you don’t know which one to push to answer the phone–churches can often be overcome by trying to provide too many ministries.

We need a worship team and a drama team and a children’s ministry and a youth minstry and a college ministry and a young married’s ministry and a couples ministry and a sensitive-yet-lame name for the old folk’s ministry, and a justice ministry and a men’s ministry and a women’s ministry and a Hispanic ministry and it’s no wonder it’s all a little overwhelming.

Franquiz’s church sticks to five things they’re good at:

  • Sunday service
  • Children’s Ministry
  • Student Ministry
  • Small Groups
  • Couples

Even that list may be a lot for some churches. But the point is not to add ministries if you can’t do them well. What’s the point of a lame youth ministry? To placate the parents? And in the process you do a disservice to the church because resources are going somewhere where they’re not being used as well as they could be and everything else suffers. Nevermind the disservice you’re doing to the youth. People would rather have an amazing Sunday morning service and no youth ministry than a so-so Sunday service and a so-so youth ministry.

This principle of simplicity is worth keeping in mind for every venture the church does (and it’s something 37signals talks about a lot). Every event doesn’t have to accomplish everything. If the event is about evangelism–focus on that. Don’t worry about discipling the few believers who show up along with their unsaved friends or talking the already converted into baptism. If you’re trying to evangelize, then evangelize. Don’t do six other things and dilute your message, your resources and your impact.

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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4 Responses to “Beautiful Basics”

  • Jim McGee
    January 16, 2007

    Kevin — I like the Apple iPhone lesson, but I think that’s a different lesson than what Franquiz is saying — and probably a more important one. Apple is showing that you can hit on a lot of areas in ministry, but having a simple interface and a unified concept makes all the difference between appearing accessible and chaotic. Like creating a style guide to ensure consistent communications, I think larger/growing churches can develop a strategy guide to ensure that varied ministries are accessible through a simplified, consistent presentation.

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  • Mark Howell
    January 16, 2007

    I don’t know…I really love the idea that the Church, like Apple,…
    “makes history not by leapfrogging everyone in terms of functionality and bells and whistles, they do it through elegance, simplification, clarity, and practicality.”
    I believe that’s at the heart of what makes certain churches really work and others just sort’ve mill around.
    In the last year I’ve come back again and again to the idea that simple is better, that clear is better, that obvious, easy and strategic are better. There’s just a better way to be the church than menu-driven.
    That’s my take. Thanks for the post!

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  • mike scott
    January 19, 2007

    WORSHIP, COMMUNITY, SERVICE.. Our emphasis at Image. The simplification of churches is a must. Just like Apple and google the clean; not so jam-packed theme is a breath of fresh air to an over stimulated society. People need to unwind and relax but need to serve also. The less is more should be applied because it is absolutely most effective..

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  • Kevin Shorter
    January 19, 2007

    Kevin – I found your insight from the Apple iPhone interesting and was eager to read comments that started “But…”. Unfortunately those type of people probably would not read a blog called “Church Marketing Sucks.” It is interesting to me that Christians who believe in the 10th commandment have no problems thinking that their Church must do everything the Church down the road with more people does. A large megachurch can easily do more successfully than the downtown Baptist church with 100 people. God has called that downtown church to be something different than the megachurches and that’s ok.
    Churches should not feel discouraged by your suggestion to only focus on what they excel at because those areas they excel are the areas that God is using them to be a blessing to the people He has entrusted them with. By taking away resources from those areas, the church is depriving the body of Christ from God’s best.
    The one thing I would add would be for churches to pick one additional area they would like to grow. Picking one does not drain your resources from your strength, but it creates the stretching of your faith by seeing what else God can do.

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