What Churches Can Learn From Politics: The Proudness Factor

What Churches Can Learn From Politics: The Proudness Factor

November 6, 2012 by

It’s election day in the United States. No matter who you voted for, or if you voted, I hope you feel proud about your choice.

I’m fascinated by both the world of presidential politics and church marketing because I’m fascinated with how brands influence people. In recent months we’ve seen relentless advertising and 24-hour media coverage of the election. It’s a battle for hearts and minds.

Make Me Proud
One of the most significant developments in the presidential race has been the debates and some shifts in people’s enthusiasm. Whether you’re happy or sad about it, most agree that Mitt Romney won the first debate in a pretty memorable way. A CNN poll counts 67% who felt that way.

This, according to most polling, boosted his popularity. I attribute that to what I call the “proudness factor.” Whether it’s people, causes we support, or products we buy, how proud we are of them affects our actions. This has applications for churches and non-profits, too.

Back to the presidential race. Did these newly vocal fans suddenly change their minds or party affiliation? Doubtful. I believe they simply became less timid and more proud of their candidate, which changed their public behavior.

After that first debate, many fans of President Barack Obama had a tougher time being enthusiastic about their candidate, to put it mildly. (Some ardent supporters, like Andrew Sullivan, actually unleashed some rare words of angry disappointment.)

Church Politics
What does this have to do with church marketing and communications?

Is your pastor prone to frequent “Joe Biden moments”? Does your worship leader have the diplomatic grace of Ann Coulter (or the real grace of Special Olympian John Franklin Stephens)? Is your treasurer grumbling about “the 47 percent?” Are staffers as friendly as secret service agents? Does your building have the warmth of a post office?

These kind of issues become engrained in a church culture, and result in people not being proud of their church. Sure, they love their church, warts and all. But they won’t tell anyone about it. No yard signs or bumper stickers.

“Proudness” Factor
Last week a church asked me for advice. Their numbers had flat lined for many months and they wanted to “do some marketing” to grow. I reminded them that if their members were not inviting friends, there were probably issues within the church that no marketing could overcome.

Remember that in October, 90 minutes of live debate had at least as much impact as nearly $2 billion of campaign spending.

It comes down to this: Are your people proud of their church? They want to be. Improve the “proudness factor” and people will community organize and vote with their feet every Sunday.

This means being brutally honest with yourself and staff. No matter how healthy your church seems it’s good to ask “Why would (or wouldn’t) our people be proud to tell their friends about this church?”

The hurdles can range from stained facilities, weak websites, lame music, all the way to those dysfunctional staff donkeys and uncomfortable cultural elephants in the room. People want to be aligned with a winner.

Losing Faith
Just look at the decline in the number of people who identify themselves with the main two parties, and the increase in the number of independents: A Gallup poll last week showed Dems and GOP nearly tied at 35%-36% and independents up to 29%.

Now think about the decline in overall church attendance, especially among young people. How much of that might be related to being proud of your church—or the Church in general?

The best path to growth, whether it’s a campaign or a church, is simply to remove obstacles. No fancy marketing blitz will ever replace a heartfelt invitation from a neighbor. When people are proud of their church (or candidate) they talk about it with confidence, share on social media and take action.

Are you ready to deal with the root issues in your church? It’s tough. But if you’ll address them, and communicate openly about it, you’ll see your poll numbers rise. It really is a battle for hearts and minds.

Post By:

Mike Loomis

Mike Loomis is a church and nonprofit consultant, writer, literary agent, and senior team leader with Vaughn Street and www.MikeLoomis.CO.
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5 Responses to “What Churches Can Learn From Politics: The Proudness Factor”

  • brad
    November 6, 2012

    I think you’re really on to something here, Mike. I’d like to make the counter-intuitive point that how proud we can be of our church tends to be inversely proportionate to how humble our church is.

    Churches who don’t face their internal issues at the leadership level where real change can be made, are arrogant. Churches that put more attention into their marketing than their ministry are arrogant (a phenomenon that you’ve alluded to above). And churches that trumpet numbers and achievements, but who have somehow lost track of people’s needs and hearts are also arrogant.

    An arrogant church doesn’t not breed the healthy kind of pride you’re describing. It breeds shame. You’ve talked about love of the church as a given, and I agree with you. But there’s a limit to how long you can love something you’re ashamed of.

    Paul tells us that we boast in Christ, and not in our own strength. If we continue to exert that focus in all of the talk and action of our churches, then we will arrive at something we can be proud of. May that be more so for more of us.

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    • Mike Loomis
      November 8, 2012

      Some real gems there, Brad! “how proud we can be of our church tends to be inversely proportionate to how humble our church is” !


      “But there’s a limit to how long you can love something you’re ashamed of.”

      I think that’s what we’re seeing in some segments of the American church. May we have the courage to focus on the real core issues, as you mention above!


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  • Joe Wickman
    November 7, 2012

    Brad, I think what’s being referred to here is a sense of healthy approval of people involved in the particular church, rather than sinful pride. The fact is that believers who are truly pure in heart and intention will well up with pride when they believe they’re part of a church that’s effectively bringing God’s Kingdom to effect here on earth.

    In order for the average believer to sense that espirit de corps that stems from uniting in mission, we must remove all the distractions that keep the main thing from being central. In that way, I completely agree that taking an unfiltered look at every system in our church is essential to fomenting the kind of healthy pride we want to facilitate.

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    • brad
      November 7, 2012

      Yep, I’m totally with you, Joe. :-)

      When God’s Kingdom shows up in our church, it’s never quite like we expect it. It’s beautiful, but surprising. I only say that to remind us all to hold our expectations loosely, even while we pursue Christ wholeheartedly.

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    • Mike Loomis
      November 8, 2012

      Thanks, Joe – I SO agree. Brutal (and humble) honesty is our FRIEND!

      (and kudos for using the word “fomenting” … I almost had to look that up!)



      P.S. I also have a free branding guide available on my web site that deals with some of these points.

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