One of the more intriguing speakers and entrepreneurs out there right now that I've been observing runs a digital and social media marketing company, and was telling a conference audience a story when he asked this question.
As the story goes, he was meeting with a potential client (we'll call them XYZ Services), who wanted his company to develop a social media campaign for XYZ. His process is to help businesses and people develop a brand that people can relate to through written and video content, over time. Bit by bit, good advice and relatability creates confidence and credibility, leading more customers to feel comfortable doing business with organizations like XYZ Services over the long-term.
The client he was pitching from XYZ Services had a hard time understanding how this was a good strategy.
"But, what is the ROI of all this?,” she asked.
“What do I get each time I post something or create content for someone to watch or read?”
Over and over this question came up.
“How many sales would I make per post? How much money do I make per paid ad?”
She had to take numbers, proof, results, back to her boss.
Finally, he responded:
“What’s the ROI of your mother?”
The moral of this is one that I’ve been thinking about in relation to how we might think about relationships in the church, especially from one generation to another.
The client here was so used to a world where for every action there is an automatic product. A billboard here = so much revenue. A newspaper ad there = so much visibility. These 1-for-1 situations are easy in a way; you can see the fruit of your work, sooner than later. You can also go to a boss or higher-up and say “Look for this input we got this output.” You also get to hear “good job” and keep your job, all good things!
But in today’s hyper- relationship-driven economy, the reality is becoming more like your mother’s investment in you.
It didn’t have an immediate return-on-investment.
Day after day, she encouraged you, loved you, nurtured you, supported you, resourced your dreams and desires. A little word of encouragement here, a valuable piece of advice there. You probably didn’t value it or apply it a day, a week, or even a month later. But over 15, 20, 25 years of your mother’s valuable time, energy, relationship, you are the incredible and capable person you are today.
It’s a good thing she had a long-term view!
As one of a younger generation in church today, I know we need our churches and leaders to have this long-term view, too. We’re in desperate need of relationship and mentorship with those older than us.
The hard part is that relationship-building across the generations at a leadership and launching level doesn’t often fit into the paradigm of church activity and growth. The dinners together, the times over coffee, the advice, sponsorship, mentorship, resourcing. The conversations that don’t necessarily launch a ministry or get something done or meet a need right away. All these things create credibility, legitimacy, relevance, and results over the long-term, but can wreak havoc on schedules, calendars, projects, programs, metrics, deliverables over the short-term.
And none of those last items are necessarily a bad thing! There’s just a dissonance.
Here’s the punchline.
As the Church, are we willing, and able in most current models, to take the long-term relationship approach to ministry that
- develops trust and engagement in the Next Generations?
- develops strong followers of Jesus?
- develops real people and real solutions over time that have an impact 25-50 years down the road in our communities, even after some of us are gone?
- asks us to think through our next 50 years, rather than the next 5?
This isn’t a diss. It’s a real question, and your mother's ROI maybe an analogy that is thoughtful encouragement.
If what is manifesting in the marketplace proves the same in the church, then our communities and generations today desperately desire and need churches that are the result of to-gether leadership that establishes long-term influence.
That's where we need to go.
Whether you are a pastor, leader, young person, etc., your feedback and comments are important! What did you think of this article? Comment and share to spread the conversation.
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