Consumer church. . .

I saw an interesting post on Twitter from a pastor the other day that basically asked about the effectiveness of using a Net Promoter Score at his church. If you’ve never been inside the retail world, let me get you caught up. The Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a metric used to determine customer satisfaction based on a 0-10 rating scale. A score of 0-6 is a detractor, a score of 7-8 is a passive, and a score of 9-10 is a promoter.

Practically, a company will request that you fill out a survey, usually online. The survey consists of a series of questions that ask you to rate your experience with the retailer on a scale of 0-10 (with 10 being “excellent” or “most likely to recommend”). A company’s NPS can be as low as -100 (everyone is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everyone is a promoter), with +50 being a desirable score.

The NPS is used by retailers like Apple and GameStop.

Now that you’re all caught up on what NPS is, let’s talk about the idea of using an NPS at a church. If there’s something that plagues the Church in America it’s consumerism. The consumer ideology runs so deep in our blood that it’s almost impossible to do anything without having some kind of consumeristic leaning. Even in our churches, western consumerism runs rampant in varying degrees. From the more vivid examples like Lakewood Church to the slightly less consumer-driven like North Point Community Church and even to the traditional groups.

The question I see rising up here is this: should churches allow for some consumerism? While some may differ with me on this topic, I would argue that we should do all we can to remove consumerism from the Church.

Consumerism leads people to church-shopping. They “go to” church because of what they can get from it or how they feel about it. One church has cooler music while another church has a better teacher. One church has better children’s programming while another has a better students’ ministry. They weigh their options and choose a church that best suits their needs and desires.

And the Church in the West is okay with this. In fact, across the board, churches are using our consumerism to their advantage. If they know they have a really great band, they’ll mention to you just how “rockin'” their music is. If they have a great media production, they’ll talk about how classy their media are.

To date, I haven’t heard of any church using satisfaction surveys and promoter scoring, but from what I know of the American church world, I wouldn’t put it past several of them.

Here’s why I’m uncomfortable with the idea of a church using net promoter methodology. The idea of seeing “How likely are you to recommend our church to your friends?” in my email bothers me.

Ultimately the purpose of the Net Promoter Score is to encourage an organization to improve the overall customer experience. To what end? So that the current customer will continue to patronize their company and so that they can obtain a wider customer base. Without the customers, the company will decline and eventually cease to exist. The final authority is the customer base.

Using net promoter methodology in a church is saying essentially the same thing. Why take these metrics unless you planned to do something to improve the overall parishioner experience? You want your parishioners to continue to attend and contribute to your church, and you want to increase the size of your congregation. You’re actually saying that the final authority in your church are the congregants.

But in reality you’re accountable to God for how you’ve led the church. Net promoter methodology seeks the approval of your church’s attendees. But what about submitting to the reign of Jesus? What about seeking his approval? Shouldn’t the Word of God be the final authority in your church? At the end of the day, no one else’s opinion holds any weight.

God’s purpose for the Church is to glorify himself by his Church restoring the earth and taking part in Christ’s ministry of reconciliation through making disciples, baptizing them, and teaching them to obey his commands. Do you really need to take a poll to do this?

Whose approval are you seeking?

3 thoughts on “Consumer church. . .

  1. I’m a firm believer in the NPS for retailers. It’s an exceptional survey style.

    In the church? Here’s the problem. When a church is declining, it’s difficult to know why, especially when the same leadership has been in place. My church, for example, for 8 years after we got a new pastor was growing significantly. (BTW – we are extremely Bible based and sacramental.) But for the last 4 years, we’ve been in a steady decline in attendance. As leaders, we can’t figure out why. From our perspective, we’re teaching the same biblical truths in the same way. We’re using the same style of music (we have both traditional and contemporary services). We’ve been struggling for almost a year as to what is going on, praying about it, but not getting insight.

    From my viewpoint, I think we need to ask the people attending (and those that have quit) what is there or not there that caused them to attend or not attend. It has nothing to do with consumerism. It has to do with finding out if we’re doing something that is inhibiting the Kingdom of God in our location. As leaders, I think we’re too close to what we are doing and I would love to understand what insight others can give us.

    If not NPS, what do you suggest?

  2. Nate…

    Great observations about a church-culture that can so easily drift into a corporate, spirit-less, organization-centric way of being. One way that I look at church is:


    It seems that whenever we get this backwards, God’s redemptive purposes are lost in the mix.

    Thanks for stirring this up and asking good questions. Keep up the great posts!

    Tim Mossholder

    • Thanks for the comment, Tim!

      I apologize for the horrifically late response. . . Three years?! I appreciate your kind words though, and I’ll certainly strive to keep writing good posts! 🙂

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