The Roman Catholic Church has been accused of
mounting a “Wall Street style” takeover of the Church of England.
It is hoped that it will not be thought irreverent if we
follow that analogy a little further. To the religious, we say that we honestly
believe that the Church might benefit from a little business thinking. To those
with no particular interest in the Church, we say that it might, quite apart
from anything else, provide a useful case study in organisational change and
Christianity has been phenomenally successful over a long
period of time, but there is a perception that it is a tired brand. The real
competition is not Islam or militant atheism but consumerism. Potential
customers see consumption rather than religion as the basis of their lives.
Yet many see the inadequacy of such a materialist lifestyle.
They express a desire for some form of “Spirituality”. This gives the Church a
huge potential target market.
However, if the Church is to supply that demand, it must
start thinking in radical new ways...
1 It needs to
replace outdated medieval management structures with global and local networks
that maximise the efficiency of its resources, and which combine unity and
diversity. It may be no bad thing to have autonomous divisions – or
“denominations” – which market different models of the same basic brand to
different target markets, but they need to co-operate better.
2 The denominations
need to agree on the factors that make Christianity special and relevant to
potential customers – “Unique Selling Proposition” – and keep emphasising them,
instead of arguing about trivial points of doctrine.
3 No business will
sell anything if it selects top executives who do not appear to have confidence
in its product. Is the present Archbishop of Canterbury a bit of a Gerald Ratner?
4 Capital should be
invested less in buildings and more in people. This was the successful strategy
of the First Century Church, which owned no real property, but which gave
generously to the poor.
5 Church attendance
is irrelevant. It is an established trend that people are less interested in
organised social activity of all types. Accept it. Many, even within the Church,
dislike ideas like televangelism and online
services, but they do appear to be meeting a demand.
6 The Church must
become more sophisticated in its use of modern media and marketing. There is,
in fact, nothing new in this suggestion. St Paul, the great salesman of the
early Church, made a point of preaching in all sorts of different places,
tailoring his message to suit his different audiences. “I have become all
things to all men,” he said. Not a bad marketing strategy that.