Today, Apple released the iPhone 7, the latest model of their world-renowned smart phone. Year after year, the release of the newest iPhone is highly-anticipated. In past years, iPhone Launch Days have seen long lines at retail stores, with some camping out the evening before to be among the first to have their hands on this new product. Even though Apple has made it easier for customers to purchase their products online, Apple stores continue to be a hub of activity on days like these.
Why does Apple have a following and excitement around its products that no other tech company has? Because the company makes people feel as if they belong to something bigger than themselves. They feel that they are part of a community. This philosophy is in the company’s DNA. It’s part of their vision for who they are as a company.
A recent op-ed in the Washington Post discussed new findings about millennials and the Church. For those of you who have been paying attention, these findings will not surprise you. After interviewing over 1,300 people, the authors found that – overwhelmingly – young churchgoers want authenticity and connection. In my experience, both authenticity and connection are essential elements of a vital faith community, and should be at the core of a church’s vision and mission.
Millennials are the most highly sought-after demographic across industries, which means they are the most targeted demographic for marketers. This generation is inundated with ads – from companies trying to sell them products, political campaigns, non-profits, and yes, even the church. As a result, Millennials know when advertisers are trying to capture their attention and can smell inauthenticity a mile away.
This is why it’s crucial that churches wanting to connect with young people begin with a vision for authentic relationships and real engagement with one another at its core.
At its core, vision animates a church’s ministries and missions by describing who the congregation wants to be and what the congregation wants to do. Does the congregation want to be an integral part of the community? Does the congregation want to simply look as it did 25 or 50 years ago? In my experience, visionary churches acutely tuned to the needs of the community are the ones that experience steady growth. They build authentic relationships with those immediately beyond their four walls and find ways to be a light in those people’s lives. Naturally, these churches often become integral parts of the community, leading to increased organic growth.
People around the world are buzzing about the new iPhone today because Apple set out years ago under a simple vision: they dedicated themselves to “making the best products on earth, and to leaving the world better than we found it.” Apple knows that great products sell themselves which frees them to turn their stores into welcoming places for the community instead of an income-generating machine. The church, I would argue, has something even better to offer than a smart phone — authentic connections and the love of Christ. What are we doing to ensure that this is incorporated into our vision and into the daily lives of our churches so that one day those in our communities will line up to see what we’ve got to offer?