Day: February 7, 2009

Does the Law of Mobility apply to churches?

The Law of Mobility, generally credited to Russ McGuire and also known as McGuire’s Law, states –

The value of any product or service increases with its mobility. – The Power of Mobility, Russell McGuire, p 42.

In his book, McGuire cites several examples of companies that increased the value of their product or service by increasing its mobility:

  • Domino’s Pizza.  Domino’s took a very familiar food item, pizza, and added wheels to it by creating the first delivery-only pizza chain.  Prior to Domino’s pizza delivery was available, but as an added service from a pizza parlor.  Domino’s changed the culture with their “30-minute guarantee” to deliver a fresh, hot pizza to your door or your pizza was free.  The company later dropped the time limit for safety concerns, but by then Domino’s dominated the “mobile” pizza market.
  • Avis Roaming Check-in. Avis moved rental car check-in from the rental car office out into the rental car return lot.  Within seconds of arriving, and stepping out of your rental car, Avis handed you your receipt and you were on your way to the shuttle bus.  As a frequent flier, I appreciated this new service which all major rental companies have since adopted.
  • The Sony Walkman.  Sony designers faced initial corporate resistance to the Walkman because it did not have a record feature.  Some were still thinking of the Walkman as a full-fledged tape machine, while Sony designers were thinking of the Walkman as a mobile music machine.  Sony changed the way music was delivered from a fixed location or device (remember boomboxes?) to a personal, mobile music player.

One question mobile device makers ask is, Does our customer take our product with them 100% of the time? With the convergence of cell phone, camera, GPS, internet navigator, email device, and mp3 player customers can now carry one device instead of six or more.  By 2020, industry watchdogs predict that mobile phones will be the primary means by which people around the globe access the internet.  In some developed countries, that goal is already very close.

What implication does the future of mobility have for churches?   How can churches make their ‘services’ more mobile for a mobile generation?

Here are some of my predictions about our mobile future:

To use the Domino’s analogy, churches will “deliver” opportunities for service, prayer, bible study, and community through mobile technology using social networking media.  Imagine  getting a text message from another church participant that your bible study group is going to meet for lunch today at the deli around the corner from your office.  Or imagine that your Friend Locator app alerts you that four other church members are a few blocks away.  Starbucks is within 5-minutes of all of your locations, so you text the others, inviting them to meet you for coffee and a quick rundown of your next ministry project.

I believe that churches will provide opportunities for “as you go” meetups for church members which will have the same validity as Sunday church attendance does now.

Participants could twitter their small group attendance and outcomes to the church Facebook page, allowing others to keep up with their progress.  Of course, our 5 hypothetical members will be checking in on Facebook, too, to track what other groups are doing.

Prayer  requests get Twittered the instant prayer is needed.  The church YouTube channel runs creative videos of church members sharing personal experiences of what they like about the church.

Church may meet once a month for a big gathering, or once a quarter, but the big meeting is no longer the only way to access church.   Community participants, no longer called  ”members,”  get and give regular feedback on their groups, or join other groups spontaneously for prayer, bible study, and service projects.

Big gatherings are held once a month, or several times a month, in different locations depending upon the size of the group.  The church is fluid, functioning, and financially sound because overhead is very low.  Money is invested in people and projects, not buildings and upkeep.

Discipleship materials are also always available.  Online mobile Bible applications,  study guides, and other resources appear as an online menu.  Participants can read the Bible while waiting in line at the grocery, the carwash, or the school car line.  Study groups can meet face-to-face accessing that week’s topic via their cell phones, and texting participants not able to attend.

Participants invite their friends to become fans of the church Facebook page, creating a wider network of potential participants who can be called on for community service projects, or just invited to lunch.

Does The Law of Mobility apply to churches?  Look at the ministry of Jesus for the answer.  Of course, Jesus did not use a cell phone, but he was out among the people most of the time.  The gospels only record a couple of instances of Jesus in a synagogue or the temple.  His ministry was mobile before anyone understood its implications.

The 21st century explosion of mobile technology offers the church a wide variety of opportunities to create and sustain community in an increasingly mobile culture.  The challenge will be to take advantage of that opportunity for the Kingdom’s sake.

(This post originally appeared at Outreach2Go.com, which I have taken down for now.  If you’re interested in mobile technology and how it affects our culture, including churches, go to MobileJPROF.com, a joint-venture with my friend, Dr. Jim Stovall, distinguished professor of journalism at the University of TN.)

A different take on Michael Phelps

Youth culture sees the Michael Phelps pot-smoking incident much differently than the adult world does.  Three Billion, a blog about youth culture, says,

You’ve got to feel sorry for Michael Phelps. A lifetime of training, early mornings, injuries, pain, performing on a global stage to billions of people to ultimately become the worlds greatest Olympian. And then…he’s brought down to earth with a bump after pictures of him smoking a bong are circulated around the world.

That’s a big contrast to the Kellog’s company who terminated their agreement with Phelps this week, saying that his actions did not fit their corporate image.  It’s also a different take than USA Swimming’s suspension that they handed Phelps.

The Three Billion piece explains it this way —

The great thing about being young is that you experiment, you try new things, you do things differently than your parents and teachers. This experimentation means that you sometimes walk with one foot in illegality (would it be as much fun if you weren’t?).

They key is that this doesn’t apply to a small section of the youth population, it applies to pretty-much all of them. Whether that be drugs, sex, climbing buildings, stealing stuff, driving too fast…we’ve all done it and they are certainly all doing it. Young people are not criminals, they are just young people. It’s the universal indiscretions of youth.

In order for those of us in church to even begin a conversation with the younger unchurched, we need to hear their rationale and consider it seriously.  Ed Stetzer’s new book, Lost and Found, is the best resource I’ve seen addressing the issue of 18-29 year olds who are unchurched.

I expressed my views on this subject here earlier this week.  I wanted you to get the view from the other side, too.  What challenges does the prevailing youth culture present to the traditional church today?  How do we deal with that point of view that says, “It’s the universal indiscretions of youth?”