I just spent the last hour on a conference call with a development team I am a part of for a ministry organization that has been around over 125 years. For the last several years, they have been trying to find, focus, and forecast a future that is contextualized within a past that is perhaps bigger than any other movement among young people I am aware of.
How does an organization so old, with a history so rich, position itself to last another 125 years? What can a terrific past teach us that would not otherwise be learned as we grow our churches?
The past smells while the future is odorless. Looking back helps as you look ahead but looking ahead while looking back can be costly.
After being around for so long, the tendency to think that marketing will work itself out is natural. After all, the longer you exist, the more people that know you, the more people will “buy” into you, right?
Unfortunately, that doesn’t work. Anybody remember Montgomery Ward? If your church has been on the same corner for the last 50 years, don’t assume everybody in the neighborhood is aware of your church, not to mention what you’re all about.
What would it look like if older churches promoted/marketed themselves as vibrant, thriving, healthy churches with a passion for God and a zest for seeking and connecting community? What if the history of the church came through in the rich stories of the people that make up the church and not etched in nameplates, smelly pews, and fall-asleep preaching?
Maybe history was meant to be discovered. Not treasured.