My wife and I have had our insurance with the same company for 30 years. My parents have had their insurance with the same company for 50 years.
We are loyal customers. We don’t compare prices. We are satisfied with our service.
I have had my phone service with the same company ever since I purchased a smartphone. It interfaces with my computer. I’m happy with my service. I’m loyal to the brand.
If I was not a pastor and I was looking for a church, I would look for a theologically moderate Baptist church. I am happy among those who share common values about ministry and being Baptist.
However, I am the exception. I belong more to the old school, not the way most Americans now think, especially Generations X, Y and Z.
In a survey conducted by Ernst and Young across 34 markets, only 25 percent of Americans said that brand loyalty is something that determines their decision to purchase a product.
Recently, I listened with interest as members of Generation Y sat at lunch with my wife and me.
One couple discussed their reasons for switching from one leading smartphone brand to another.
We are a consumer-oriented society, which is the reason advertisers spent $5.6 billion just on YouTube in 2013.
And my point? Few people are going to join your church because they have been looking for a theologically moderate Baptist church.
The new generations don’t care about your brand. I know it hurts to say it, but it’s true.
What they care about is whether you have the best nursery for their children. Are you prepared to receive their child, and do they believe with all their hearts that they have left their baby or toddler in the most loving and caring environment in town?
If not, they will find a church that meets this need, and it will no matter what denominational name is on the church sign.
What they care about is whether their children and teenagers are being taught about Jesus and that they enjoy it.
Many of today’s parents don’t make the decision about where the family attends church. That decision is made by the children and by the teenagers.
If parents go at all, they go where they get the least resistance.
Parents choose churches the way they choose day care centers, schools and recreation opportunities.
Which of these have the most to offer my children? Which of these is going to cost me the least?
They are looking for quality and evidence that the church wants them to be a part of their community.
Growing churches see things from the perspective of the unchurched. The unchurched and the churched, for that matter, are consumers.
Growing churches create a culture where change is expected and new people are put to work quickly.
Through attitude, body language and how they are befriended, people pick up whether members want to develop a relationship with them.
Because the growth in many of our churches is just the swapping of members, it means that one church benefits from another church’s failure to offer a product that maintains a person’s loyalty.
It sounds unspiritual to think that we are peddling a product. However, if the new generations are thinking like consumers, moderate Baptist churches will do well to think of ourselves as providers of services, along with our mandate to be equippers of the saints, conveyers of the gospel and a hospital for sinners.
As we meet people at their point of need, whatever that need might be, even if to us it seems to be a bit worldly, we first have to earn the right to share the gospel with people.
People will no longer give us that opportunity just because we are Baptists.
Jesus never got the opportunity to minister just because he was Jesus. The people of his day were no less consumers than the people in our day. They came because they wanted to be fed, healed and restored to the community.
It mattered to only a few that he might be the Messiah. That came after their needs were met.
It matters to only a few what name is on the church sign. While that may still have great significance for many of us, we must remember that our job is to introduce people to Jesus and disciple them.
However, if we cannot first meet their family needs, how can we move them closer to the Kingdom of God and keep them connected to our churches?
Not only do we risk losing them to another church, but also we risk losing them to no church at all.
Michael Helms is pastor of the First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia. A version of this article first appeared in the February/March 2015 edition of Visions – a publication of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Georgia. It is used with permission. Michael’s other writings can be found on his blog, Finding Our Way.
Michael Helms is pastor of First Baptist Church in Jefferson, Georgia.