Monday, April 27, 2009

getting people in "the funnel"

More on the Reveal study from Dale Buss in the WSJ...

Religion, like marketing, has its funnel. And many evangelical megachurches have spent the past quarter-century focusing on the rim, attempting to get spiritual "seekers" just to sample a service -- and hoping that they will at some point join the faith. These churches have grown by staying away from hard-core biblical teaching and instead have lured the curious with slick multimedia presentations and skits, sermons with the cultural relevance of "Saturday Night Live," and maybe an iced cappuccino for the trip home.

But now the leading exponent of this approach, Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, has plunged its Sunday-morning services much deeper into the faith funnel. More music is provided for worship, not just ambience; and more messages target "mature" believers, not just new ones....

This shift constitutes a megadevelopment in the world of megachurches. For over 30 years, Willow Creek grew explosively thanks to its obliqueness toward Sabbath-day orthodoxy and quickly became the standard-bearer of a powerful new movement in evangelical Christianity. Thousands of churches sprang up in its wake and grew the same way.

But recent market research showed Willow Creek's leadership that some great weaknesses lay beneath the surface even while average weekend attendance had grown to 23,000 people. Too many of their flock, Mr. Hybels and his staff discovered, considered themselves spiritually "stalled" or "dissatisfied" with the role of the church in their spiritual growth, and huge portions of these groups were considering leaving Willow Creek because of it....

Southeast is a cousin of the Willow model, but not as seeker-sensitive and more discipleship-focused.


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