The #1 reason why your business or church will fail

(Surprised I put those two organizations together? Read on to see why...)

We must remember that most decisions we make in life are based on our drive to get our needs met.

I was sitting in the crowd as a consultant told about fifty church leaders the reason why churches fail.

"People these days think the church is boring." So, work hard in your worship service; make every sermon a home run. (The implication is clear: you need to be entertaining.)

Nonsense.

Yes, some people are bored. I've visited churches that I find more soporific than warm milk and a massage.

It reminded me, yet again, of every single conversation I've had with non-churched people about why they aren't involved in church. What are the bottom-line, real reasons why the average person stays away from church? Because they see the church as:

(1) uninvolved in the needs in the world

(2) judgmental/close-minded

So many in this generation have a real need to make a difference to others in the world. All the while, you don't see churches on TV when the hurricanes hit; you see Unicef or Red Cross or any other like-minded organization. If I want to support a cause--and this is an absolute fact about 18-35s!--you can do that through any number of companies and agencies. Of course, those involved in churches see the great impact of many, many churches around the world. Christians give billions and serve millions of hours of service each year. But to outside people: churches are just irrelevantThey get their needs to make a difference in the world by many other agencies (which, in turn, meets another need of theirs: to find purpose and meaning in life).

Why are they judgmental/close-minded?  Because humans have a great need to feel accepted and loved. Nevertheless, when you do see churches in the media, they're busy condemning people. Movies, TV shows, radio interviews, and on and on constantly display Christians as the condemnatory, judgmental punks of the world. There's no surprise why the new Pope is making headlines each week. "Wow! He hangs out with poor people! He is nice to homosexuals!" Again, churches are seen to be irrelevant. They get their needs to feel accepted by many other social groups.

I just have two reflections:

First, I concede these two critiques quickly: a pernicious plague that infects too many churches is a deep irrelevancy to real needs in the world, and there are too many people who have taken on the script of "God" in their judgments. Yes. This is all true. Of course, I also know of far more churches that are deeply relevant to real needs in their communities and to the world; and that are incredibly graceful to any and all wounded. And to be clear: Christianity, like all religions, has certain moral imperatives. And these imperatives will always come across as "close-minded" to those who do not aver such imperatives. Oh well.

Maybe you disagree with me about what needs a person is trying to get met at Church. So what. The bottom line is, they perceive of the church as irrelevant to meet those needs, whether they think the church can't meet the needs or won't meet the needs. Otherwise, they'd be lining up to join your church. (To see a fuller, thoughtful treatment of this issue, be sure to click here.)

Second, when it comes to businesses in general, it is certainly still true: 

If you want to keep your company afloat, you must not ever, ever become irrelevant.

Unlike for churches, people don't usually go to businesses to make a difference to the hurting and broken, and to find real acceptance. Usually, people search out businesses to meet various other needs. The second I don't need to burn a CD with my songs on them so that I can listen to them in my truck is the second that CDs become irrelevant. The second that I don't need to pick up the white pages to determine someone's phone number is the second that those lists become irrelevant. Really, think for a second: how many things do you not use whatsoever that you used to use all the time? Here are some for me: YellowPages, desktop computer, land-line phone to my house, actual humans in a bank, tapes, CDs, VHS, camcorder, the library (except during my 12 years of graduate school). Every single day a need of ours is being met by some other means. This makes the former means to that end irrelevant.

This is the most important question for you to ask:

What needs does your company meet?

And the corollary questions that must quickly follow:

  • Am I aware of how my clients/members/customers get those needs met?
  • How are other companies trying to get those needs met?
  • Are our ways better at making their needs? (If not, why are you in business?)
  • Have the needs changed? Has the economy, my personnel, technology, software, hardware, etc. changed the way we need to meet those "needs" we've been meeting?
  • The million dollar question: Are you prognosticating so that you can plan to meet needs they don't even know that they'll have in the future?

What's the main reason why companies and churches fail? Because they no longer meet the person's needs. They become irrelevant.

Are you?