Earlier this year Netflix made a number of business decisions and reversals of those business decisions that made a lot of its customers mad. Many were so mad that they stopped doing business with Netflix. In the past week GoDaddy announced it’s support for the Stop Online Privacy Act. Their statement of support led to tens of thousands of GoDaddy’s customers taking their business to GoDaddy’s competitors. GoDaddy later reversed its position on SOPA (somewhat), but it apparently was too little too late and the exodus continues.
Both of these companies made decisions that they knew would make a significant number of their customers mad.
Both of these companies thought that the fallout wouldn’t be too bad.
Both of these companies were wrong.
And it remains to be seen to what extent each company will recover.
What I find interesting is that neither one of these companies changed it’s core service or product. At the end of the day you could still get movies from Netflix and you could still get web hosting from GoDaddy. What did change was how those services were provided and just as important, a message was sent as to how much each company valued its customers. I’d also be willing to bet that the demographics of these lost customers tended to be from younger generations.
I believe that the church has gone the Netflix/GoDaddy route and made a number of decisions that have caused millions of customers* (especially younger generations) to bring their business elsewhere. If you want some numbers to back this statement up, take a look at Carol Howard Merritt’s recent Christian Century post.
Like Netflix and GoDaddy, it’s not that these lost customers don’t want what the church has to offer. Millions of young adults and others want spirituality, to be in touch with the divine, a deeper meaning to life, to give themselves to something great and worth dying for. But for decades the church has been making a number of bad decisions about how we provide our services and what we think of younger generations that have made many people mad and driven them away from the church.
And like GoDaddy and Netflix it remains to be seen to what extent the church can and will recover.
*I know that there are all sorts of problems with making analogies between the business world and the church. Every analogy is imperfect and flawed, some more than others. But even imperfect analogies can be helpful. There was a man once who compared the kingdom of God to all sorts of things that it wasn’t, and some people have found that guy’s teachings of value.