Playing Devil’s Advocate for the Church

Playing Devil’s Advocate for the Church

August 27, 2014 by

Editor’s Note: I’m thrilled to introduce Robert Carnes. He works at Dunwoody United Methodist Church in Atlanta and joined our last Certification Lab in June. He had good things to say about the event:

We hope you’ll consider joining our next Certification Lab, coming Oct. 13-14 to Southern California.

Devil’s advocate is not a popular position in the church. Christians are strictly anti-devil. All joking aside, too many churches are also anti-inquisitive. In some churches, questions are uncomfortable and unwanted. ‘That’s how we’ve always done it’ is the unspoken, untouchable status quo.

Regardless, it’s critical to constantly inquire why the church exists and investigate the purpose behind our actions and activities. When others don’t grasp the importance, this responsibility often falls to the resident church communicator—so here are several important questions to ask:

Why do we exist?

A few churches have clear mission statements. Too many do not. Before doing anything else, it’s vital that everyone understand the purpose of the church. Why was the church founded? What was Christ’s original intention for the local church? How closely are you following that idea?

Clear purpose leads to focus in strategy and decision-making. This question of why we exist should always be at the heart everything the church does. This purpose should drive steady progress towards a mutual goal.

What are we trying to accomplish?

We cannot accomplish anything without first recognizing what we’re trying to accomplish. This should be a tangible goal that we are constantly striving toward. Are we trying to reach the unchurched in our community? Are we trying to mobilize our congregation into community missions?

All decisions should somehow support this overall goal. Constantly ask: how does this event help to fulfill our purpose as a church? How does this help us reach our ultimate goal?

Who are we?

Churches with an identity crisis are never effective in ministry because mixed messages only lead to confusion and distractions. So ensure that you’re on the same page internally and externally.

What is our church called? What different ministries do we offer? Who is responsible for the various programs within our church? The name of the game is consistency. All of these elements should support one another, not compete for attention.

Who are we trying to reach?

In other words, who is our audience? The better we know our audience, the more effectively we can communicate with them. What are their needs? Desires? Expectations?

This means understanding both your congregation and your community. Churches are not buildings; churches are devoted groups of people. We need to know these people in order to reach them. Further more, we need to know the larger community if we wish to grow our congregations.

How are we perceived?

Even in the church world, perception is important. This is where branding and marketing come into play. In order to have effective branding, we must understand what our audience thinks of us.

This question should be closely followed by: is this how we wish to be perceived? If not, what can we do to change this perception? Remember—branding is based on our reputation to our audience and everything we do affects it.

Clarify Your Purpose

For some, the answers to these questions are obvious. For others, the answers are not what we expect.

Too often, these questions have never been considered before. We get too busy carrying out the daily tasks of the church without stopping to wonder why we do them. Either way, they help to establish a clear purpose to our existence.

Only by discovering our purpose can we achieve it. So ask questions—it’s the only way to get answers.

Photo by Stephen Murray.
Post By:

Robert Carnes

Robert Carnes is the managing editor at the Orange Group and also serves as an assistant editor here at Church Marketing Sucks. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. Previously, he worked in communications at two United Methodist churches in Metro Atlanta.
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