Church Ministry – Google Style

I’m currently working on my masters degree in communications from Regent University in Virginia Beach, VA. One of the required readings is a great book by Jeff Jarvis, “What Would Google Do?

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.B2SB13 (43 of 112) 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?

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9 thoughts on “Church Ministry – Google Style

  1. Letting the body make these decisions would be interesting to say the least, especially given our multi-ethnic, multi-generational church. I would love to see what direction that would take 🙂 I liked your approach to the fair but also feel…”cautious”…. like I wonder if you missed any gems but i do understand why. I always enjoy reading/viewing your articles/blogs/videos, thanks for sharing!

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  2. I’m sure I did miss some gems. There are a lot of quality students there. But just like businesses online, there are tons of people viaing for there involvement – especially at an event like this with dozens of other churches trying to get the students attention. Most of the students likely already have a church and were simply passing through the lobby to get to chapel, lunch, or class. They are in Bible school so that isn’t a far-fetched assumption. Like Google, I wanted to serve them if they were interested rather than try to tell them why they wanted to serve my ministry/business. I don’t know that my approach today was the best. However, I do know that if I annoyed students to give me their information, the likelihood is that I would not contact them or do anything productive with the information anyway.

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  3. Interesting piece, Josh. Servant Leadership is the most biblical paradigm for the church to model. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” However, carrying out spiritual oversight does not require handing over all decision making to the body of believers.

    The challenge is not to decide whether to serve OR lead; the challenge is to discover how to serve AND lead at the same time.

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    1. Great word. There is no question that being a spiritual leader requires leading. I think in a “Google” church, the music might be one of the first things that was a group effort. It would be on the pastor, or music pastor in this case, to make the final decisions on whether to follow what the majority seem to prefer as it relates to their worship style. – PLEASE DON’T MISREAD THAT. Worship is not for the people, but for God. However, there is something to be said about worship styles being selected to best foster a successful worship atmosphere.

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      1. Both discernment (vertical) and responsiveness (horizontal) help spiritual leaders make the best decisions for their people. And, I agree about worship styles. While worship is for God, prayerfully choosing a style will help or hinder that “worship atmosphere.”

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  4. Good article, Joshua. I’m sure there are points you’ve made that should be put into practice in one way or another. I assume that the Google mentality predominantly serves the American culture and I’m not sure that’s always What Jesus Would Do. That being said (and giving great caution to ensure that churches never go headless), I know in my heart of hearts that the Holy Spirit in us has the potential to cause great unity within a church. Whether or not the American church can be trusted to simultaneously follow the Holy Spirit’s lead….is another issue entirely. Google may have individuals in mind, but congregations are different. I’ve heard it said that a single person is reasonable but crowds of people can get crazy. My wife is a worship pastor at Victory Church which is extremely diverse. There are some worship styles which she simply cannot emulate while there are some that she is magnetically drawn to. She has developed a great habit of choosing a middle ground. Instead of pleasing sects, she is trying to pull attendees to a common ground. If our church were left to select it’s own worship style, it would develop into division instead of unification. So, this may not the direction you’re going with this article, but it got me thinking…THX.

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    1. In reality Jerry, it sounds like your wife and I are very close on our thought process. I am extremely intentional to be inclusive while trying to make sure that I am pulling people to that “common ground.” I actually have at least one hymn in every service – even if it may be a more contemporary version of it. I also try to include new songs that are fresh and spiritually grounded.

      The discussion and thought process of the “Google Style” is really more to get a thought process going. It is very possible that none of the “Google” practices will work in a quality church. But one has to wonder if there are things we can learn from the cultural lessons that Google can teach about the direction our society seems to be going. If we are truly aimed to make the biggest possible impact in the lives of those we are capable of, then we should do everything we can to reach people. It is too easy to carry on with the “norms” that we have been doing for generations. But the reality is that our entire world has changed in radical ways. Unfortunately, much of the church world has not. So, possibly the bigger question is, “how can we more effectively reach more people without watering down the Gospel in a ‘seeker friendly’ way?” In reading the book mentioned in this post, I think we can perhaps learn some things from Google.

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