Seth Godin is a creative thinker; he is “creative” because his ideas are not only unique but useful as well (the true definition of “creative”). In a recent blog, he points out that businesses do not have a telephone strategy or an email strategy or a web strategy. They have a people strategy. He comments, “We still have one and only one thing that matters, and it’s people.” All of these other things are tools or conduits that connect us to people.
My immediate response was to think about how this applies to the church. We may use different terminology but when we talk about outreach, Christian education, missions, or financial growth, we are talking strategies. The unfortunate part is that we often neglect to realize that we really need to be talking about people.
Our outreach is to people—living, breathing, needy individuals—who may benefit from being part of the body of Christ. Our Christian education is meant to develop people as believers who will “love God and serve God forever.” Our mission initiatives mobilize and empower people to serve others. Our financial campaigns should be about people becoming good stewards of the resources that God has placed in their hands.
Whenever we gather to discuss how we are going to do something as a church, we should be thinking about how it impacts the lives of people. Rick Warren did something like this when he launched Saddleback Community Church. He visualized “Saddleback Sam”—a person with specific needs and challenges. Of course, “Sam” was a construct, but he was a stand-in for all the people in the area that the church might reach and disciple. Warren’s question was always, “What will this mean for Saddleback Sam?”
Too often when we began planning, we think about what our work will do for “the church.” In this case, “the church” often means the institutional church made up of programs, buildings, budgets, and staff. What if we began instead with the question, “What will this do for people?” Our perspective will change radically.