In the opening chapter of What Would Google Do?, Jarvis quickly separates Google from the others stating, “Yahoo and AOL, each a former king of the online hill, are already has-beens. They operate under the old rules. They control content and distribution and think they can own customers, relationships, and attention. They create destinations and have the hubris to think customers should come to them.” He clarifies in the book that the old way of doing things online is to assume you can direct me, the user, the way you want rather than the alternative viewpoint of you simply looking to facilitate me doing what I want. Jarvis says “Google is the first post-media company. Unlike Yahoo, Google is not a portal. It is a network and a platform.” Google rules state that the “customers are now in charge. . . Enabling customers to collaborate with you – in creating, distributing, marketing, and supporting products – is what creates a premium in today’s market.”
Go check out Yahoo. You’ll see a plethora of links, stories, feeds, and advertisements that are Yahoo’s attempt to direct you and suggest what you might want to see. Rarely are these things actually what you have gone to the website for. Now contrast that by going to Google. There are no ads, no suggestions, and nothing that says “look here.” It is simply a blank canvas asking you “how can I serve you today?”
I actually remember several years ago when my father-in-law, Robert Lopez, pointed me to Google. He was always using different search engines trying to find which one he liked best. He used AOL, Yahoo, Altavista, Ask Jeeves, Netscape, and I’m sure others I don’t remember. Though he often would point out the new online tools or search engines he found, I distinctly remember when he found Google. He pointed out how much he liked the fact that there were no ads. Then when Gmail came out, he was similarly enthused. I even remember him saying that “this is gonna be the next best thing.” He was right.
How does this relate to Church Ministry?
Today, I went down to a ministry/job fair at Southwestern Assembly of God University in Waxahachie, TX. Much like all the different companies jockeying for your online business, there were dozens of churches and ministries looking to recruit SAGU students to come and be a part of their respective ministries. The tables were set up on a first-come, first-serve basis. When I got there, I could tell everyone was fighting for the prime real estate – in a “we are all pastors and so we need to smile as we snatch the table you are going for, and then ask how your church is doing and respond with a ‘Praise God'” kind of way. I decided to set up in a corner where there would likely be less traffic. I purposely did not bring any candy to attract students or use any ploys to really fight for students attention. I set up a few lights, to show that I was a production ministry, and placed a black fabric on the wall with a small 11″x17″ piece of paper with our sign. My intent was to potentially weed out students who simply wanted candy or free stuff and find those who we might actually be able to facilitate in ministry. Rather than try to get students to fill out forms and give me all their information, like pesky websites that I know are just going to spam me, I didn’t ask for any information – just like Google.
My table seemed to have far less students that came by. I’m OK with that. However, the six to ten real conversations I had felt as if they may actually pan out. One specific one was with a young man from Salt Lake City. Instead of pumping him full of “how great our church is” conversation, I decided to take a chapter out of the What Would Google Do? book. I simply asked him, “how can we facilitate you in ministry?” I wanted to know what he was already passionate about.
In the Google model that Jarvis lays out, I would be best served in the ministry that I am a part of if I can let our ministry serve his ministry. Obviously he is young. Of course there needs to be oversight and some collaboration. But some of the things that he indicated he had experience in and was passionate about are things that my church does not currently do and hasn’t ever worked towards. Had I said, “what I need right now is . . .” I would have lost a potentially great student who can benefit our ministry while we serve and facilitate his.
Though I did not get his information, he did take mine. A few hours later, I received a text from an unknown number. “Hey Josh! This is Gavin May. We met today, I was from Utah and we talked about me helping you, your church and ministry out.” That surprised me a little because I remembered being intentional to ask how we can serve him. It was interesting. The text went on to say, “Just wanted to say what a pleasure it was meeting you and Everette!:) I look forward to the future God has in store for you guys and your church and I would feel truly blessed if I get the opportunity to be a part of it!” Everette is my pastor at Abundant Life who was with me at the table.
I know I’m not the smartest guy or the best ministry professional; but I felt pretty good about this.
It all makes me wonder how a Google-like church would do? What if the mass decided what songs we sang rather than the leadership? What if the congregation collaborated on topics to preach on? I know that there would be a number of kinks to work through in this type of scenario. If nothing else, it’s at least an interesting concept to ponder. What do you think?