Continuing some thoughts about the satellite ministry concept and the FBC Jax "brand".
From a marketing perspective we can say that our "brand" - the "FBC Jax brand" - has lost market share BIG TIME. The population in metro Jax is growing fast, and thus our stagnation means we've gotten a smaller and smaller slice of an expanding pie. Other churches have come in and seen growth in numbers and in locations in the past 10 years while FBC Jax has been mostly stagnant in worship attendance and Sunday School attendance.
Certainly since Mac arrived, we've tried to re-make our brand somewhat and give it wider appeal (maybe what some would call PD), but the changes have been mostly superficial - we tried the kids dropping robes in choir, we had our choir members wear pastels for a sermon series, we feminized the ushers for a few weeks making them wear aprons (some just a bit too "snug"), tried more contemporary music (but not too much), we've had Jim Smyrl "boldly" stand in the pulpit Wednesday without a tie and criticize those who didn't like that he didn't have a tie - why we even have our deacons "tieless" on Wednesday nights! We even brought in a preacher who was more "redneck" like Jacksonville - we were told he drives a pick-up, eats Krispy Kreme, carries his own groceries, and picks his teeth with business cards. All somewhat moderate attempts at remaking our brand image.
But the sad thing is this: what little changes we've made to our brand to perhaps give it wider appeal and maybe to undo the image that the unchurched in Jax have had of us as being overly-strict, a group of Christian that blindly-follow-the-bossy-preacher, a church more interested in money than souls, a church for movers and shakers....it turns out that the actions of the pastor and our lay leaders (and the exposure of these actions by nosey bloggers) during Brunson's first two years have served perhaps to negate these changes and ironically have actually served to PERPETUATE the image of the "old brand" of FBC Jax! Those who have been members for a long time have heard so many of the stereotypes of our church: that its only for the rich and powerful, that the more money you give the closer you can sit to the front (yes, I've had serious people ask me that in years gone by), that to join the church you have to submit your tax returns, you had to agree to sign a pledge that you would agree to tithe, that Homer Lindsay was like the Bakkers and Swaggerts building the church to make himself rich and build "shrines" to himself (who can forget the "Homer Dome" comments), and even that our church bought up all the "liquor licenses" to try to dry out Duval County in the 1970's and 1980's. Oddly enough, the past two years have served to CONFIRM some of these wrong stereotypes in the minds of our "market" rather than shatter them.
Now comes Mac Brunson - a new day, right? He'll be the one to lead us to shatter these old stereotypes of our church, to make the necessary changes to show Jacksonville what we're REALLY all about. Unfortunately what our church was NOT but was thought to be, has now turned on us and we NOW are what we WERE NOT but the city wrongly thought we were (might have to read that again). The city sees the new pastor not driving a pickup, but he and wife are driving luxury automobiles. They see him not coming into town to roll up his sleeves and get to work winning the lost, but he came here to live on Amelia Island in a luxury multi-million dollar beach front condo his first year. During the first year when Jacksonville was sizing the new preacher up to see what he's all about, the city finds out that perhaps part of his "calling" here to Jax included a $307,000 land gift given by one of our church members. The city sees a man start building a million dollar mansion within WEEKS of moving to Jacksonville. The city now sees that part of the deal was jobs for wife and son with no stated ministry responsibility, which looks like so many of the televangelists that turn people off! They see him sign up for duty on the crime prevention steering committee, but blow off all but 2 of 7 meetings. Those that are listening to him on TV hear a man screaming about people not bringing bibles, preaching the tithe as doctrine and a requirement for God's blessings...and the city says: SAME OLD FIRST BAPTIST JACKSONVILLE. Angry preacher, going to tell me that I have to give 10%, all the while he's getting rich off the deal, and wants me to dig deep. They're hearing that he ram-rodded bylaw changes through creating a discipline committee without any explanation...and oh yes even less detail now on the financial matters. Why he even saw fit to build a new office suite for $100k in the prime location of our church property - the new children's building. Our "market" looks at this and says No thanks, looks like its not a "new day" at FBC Jax like the A-Group logo says - instead in the minds of our market, its "the same old day" down at the old church.
This is the frustration Mac has faced. He and the A-Group knew to get FBC Jax back growing again the "brand" was going to need some modernization. But Mac has sensed opposition to many of the modernization techniques that he knows are necessary. Some changes have been made, but other changes have been resisted. He has resorted to blaming his congregation.
So what to do? 1. Spend $500,000 to start a school that has a brand name that carries lots of baggage, and 2. Start satellite churches even though our growth is stagnant and we have plenty of excess capacity in our downtown location.
Part 3 tomorrow I'll discuss in more detail the phenomena of church satellites.