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“Sacred Truths” May Be Killing Your Organization

Nearly every non-profit or religious organization I encounter has a number of “sacred truths” that are literally destroying their forward momentum. No, I’m not talking about the Truth of the Bible, or the religious or visionary principles the organization may be founded on – I’m talking about other “truths” that in many cases are worshipped just as seriously. Sometimes it’s management ideas, other times it’s market ideas, or myths that have lasted so long, no one even remembers how they started.

The truth is, companies change, culture changes, people change, and trends change, and if we’re not questioning how we do things on a regular basis, it won’t be long before we get left in the dust.

Example: If we re-brand our non-profit or religious organization to reach younger audiences, the older supporters won’t like it and stop giving.

That might be true if an idiot does the re-brand. How do you make that transition well? Sell it to the older generation. After all, who doesn’t want to reach a new generation with a message of hope? Don’t just switch everything without any notice. Take the time to sell the change on the audience and supporters first. Make them part of the process, and share your vision with them. Remember, you don’t see 70 year olds in iPod advertising, but seniors are one of the fastest growing markets for digital music players. Everyone wants to be contemporary and cool. Let the current audience be part of the change and you’ll be surprised at your success.

Example: Churches generally appeal to an older demographic.

Where have you been lately? Obviously not to Phil and Holly Wagner’s Oasis Church or Erwin McManus’ Mosaic. The vast audience in those churches on Sunday mornings are 20-somethings, and most of them are single. If I show up, I feel like the oldest guy there. Young people are searching for faith, and if you’re smart, you’ll take advantage of the trend.

Example: It’s not the “Christian” thing to fire people.

Have you ever thought it might exactly be the “Christian” thing to fire someone – in order to help them find the real job they were born to do? Too many religious organizations and non-profits let their compassion overrule their reason when it comes to underperforming employees. No one wants to be in a job that’s not right for them, but few have the guts to quit. Help them find the right position. If they’re not performing, they’re not just hurting your organization, but their hurting themselves, because you’re giving them a false sense of accomplishment. If you do it right, they’ll thank you later.

What are the “sacred truths” around your office that you can eliminate? Don’t be brutal and surprise people, but start by letting your office associates read this post, and then start looking together for ideas, myths, and policies that are keeping you from achieving success. Then come back and share some with our readers. Your experiences might be just the thing that can expose a sacred truth to another reader out there.


  1. Phil, you just keep hittin' em' out of the park!  The church I work at, Crossroads Church ( in Lafayette, LA, went through a dramatic change 3 1/2 years ago.  We changed the name (from Bethel Assembly of God Crossroads Cathedral, which ALWAYS needed a long breath after saying it), and went for a more relevant, seeker-friendly approach.  We got a little more aggressive in our music style, installed concert-style lighting, painted our auditorium black, and really re-focused what we were doing.  We set our target audience to be 25-40 year-olds, married, with small children (we have and excellent children's ministry).  We were running around 1,400 at the time.  We lost about 100 people in the transition, but we now average around 2,300 in attendance.  And guess what our 2nd-highest demographic is:  senior citizens.  The generation that invented Rock and Roll!

    The real key to our success, though, is in what we did BEFORE we made that transition.  Our pastor gradually made changes across the board.  We had success after success in small areas, and it really built trust with our people.  Our name change and auditorium remodel were voted on and approved unanimously.  You could say that we started out slaying bears and lions, then tackled the Goliath of our identity…and it totally worked!

    I've heard it said in the ad world, that you should find out who's buying your product, then go after them even harder.  We have found success in doing just that.  We are who we are, and we go after who we've decided to go after, and we see many different demographics "getting it" and coming too.  We put away several of our own "sacred truths," and have done nothing but prosper since then.

    Thanks for the insightful post, Phil.  I see that you get it too.

  2. Here are a few "sacred truths" worth reconsidering:

    1. "Non profit" organisations do things more cost effectively than "for profits".

    2. Paying low wages keep staff humble and productive.

    3. Silence is golden.


  3. My "sacred truths" that I BELIEVE need to change.  (and I bet NO-ONE will disagree with me)…  How about that!?!?!  – ok they might not be statistically proven, but they are probably close to accurate.

    – 20% of the people do 80% of the work

    – 80% of those 20% will eventually find a "large" church where they can rest, get lost, and just "pay their tithe" and feel they have done their part…. thus joining part of the 80% of a different church. – unfortunately I believe many of them may never get back into service.

    How can churches realize this problem, and allow rest for the weary, and engage people that are just not contributing?  Or simply just "share the load" so that noone gets burned out?

  4. Not nesscisarrily the most morral follower of Christ, though my actions are less wrong than oyhers that call them selves christians that are respected memebers of what ever churh i attend. this and the fact they would rather me not do as Christ teaches, than do as they say. What suould one do?

        And I do pray that MLK, jr. dream reigns.

  5. I'm not the most sound follower of Christ< ( for II boast nit what I do, SIN. ) though my actions against others is far less wrong than the " morally sound' Christians that seem to have great song and dance for certain eyes to see. These "respected" church members pad wallets, host dinners, and ske hands very well, yet, find some one to do even remotely what the man responsible for the whole religion says to do or HIS father has commanded. WE know the out come.


    GOD, bless….

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