Imagine you are in the grocery store, looking at the peanut butter aisle. You see all the different brands, formulations, packages, shapes, and sizes. Your task is to pick one. Which do you choose?
How you choose depends entirely on why you are choosing. Some folks look at peanut butter entirely as a consumption item. As such, they weigh the cost against the benefit. Is the reduced-fat recipe better for me? Is it better enough to off-set the sacrifice in taste? Is the national brand sweet enough to be worth paying more than the price of the generic? Which brand goes best with grape jelly? Which brand is best for cooking? Will I finish off the big jar before it starts to turn, or should I buy a smaller jar and pay more per ounce but throw less away? How many more miles will I have to jog to burn off the extra caloires in the better-tasting peanut butter, and is it worth the extra effort?
Cost versus benefit. Or, in the language of sales, “What’s in it for me?”
A rare few, however, look at the peanut butter aisle with an entirely different eye. Instead of asking only consumption questions, they are always looking for an opportunity to invest in something. A new formula might work well in a niche market. The price point on a generic brand might not offset the production cost. A new bottle shape might help this brand, where a new logo might help that one.
Improvement. Profitability. Or, to twist around the sales language, “What’s in me for it?”
How you choose thus depends on why you are choosing. Are you merely looking for something to consume, or are you looking for an opportunity to invest?
The same quandry faces church members as they make decisions about whether to attend a particular church assembly or function. As they look at all the available ways they might spend that amount of time on that particular day, how they choose depends entirely on why they are choosing.
For some, the question is “What’s in it for me?” They approach a church assembly wondering what they are going to “get.” An inspiring sermon? An uplifting song service? Food? (Don’t laugh; just look how much attendance goes up in your church on Potluck Sundays.) For these, church and spirituality and religion are something to be consumed. Thus, the choices they make will be based on cost vs. benefit. If the benefit is not there, or is not present in sufficient quantities to justify the cost, they’ll simply do something else with that time.
On the other hand, you have the folks who are asking “What’s in me for it?” They come to church not because they are looking to reap some benefit for themselves, but because they believe they have something to contribute. They see their presence as an opportunity to serve, not to be served. They want to help the church grow, or help save souls, or help encourage others, or whatever else. The investors seek to give of themselves so that the church will be better off.
With ERICA, an elder or ministry leader can learn to differentiate between a consumer and an investor. ERICA’s goal is to Evaluate the Ratio of Investors to Consumers using Attendance figures. If you look at the right numbers, and look at them in the right way, you can tell a lot about how invested your congregation’s membership is in its growth and prosperity. You can also get a sense of how appealing your congregation is to the consumer, and how effective it is at turning consumers into investors.
And all the data you need is probably in your church bulletin.
Next week, ERICA, Part III: What a Simple Nose Count Can (And Can’t) Tell You