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Why Your Church Needs a Purple Cow Ministry

Is your congregation engaged in “purple cow ministries”?

In 2002, Seth Godin published his best-selling book, “Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.” This marketing book emphasized that to be successful it was important to stand out.

When all the cows are brown, it becomes pretty boring, and people stop noticing. However, if you have a purple cow in the field, people are going to stop and pay attention.

In this classic book, Godin linked success to doing things worth noticing.

Cal Newport has written a book titled “So Good They Can’t Ignore You: Why Skills Trump Passion in the Quest for Work You Love” that I’m currently reading.

In one chapter, he writes about how one computer programmer took Godin’s words to heart and looked for ways to stand out.

As he sought to develop a program that would truly be remarkable, he finally achieved it when he created an open-source artificial intelligence program that writes and plays its own dance music.

How does this thinking apply to local church ministries?

Much of what churches do today often receives little notice. We tend to approach ministry much the same way we did in the past. We offer the same programs at the same times and in the same ways we did two, three, even five decades ago.

In one of my seminars, I like to ask the attendees, “Why would anyone want to attend your church?”

I then explain that a Baptist church stands on every gravel road in the county where I live.

If every one of them sings three songs, has a couple of prayers, takes up an offering, has a sermon and an hour later sends everyone home inspired to eat lunch, what difference does it make which church you attend?

These churches are like a herd of brown cows out in the field. People stopped paying attention to them a long time ago.

But, what if you drove past the field and saw a purple cow? You would probably stop, take a picture and call your friends to come and look at this purple cow.

Churches become purple cows by offering purple cow ministries. They don’t try to copy what every other church in the area is doing. They don’t do so many things that they cannot do them with excellence.

Note this well: Ministries done with excellence are purple cow ministries. These are the ones that will change people’s lives and cause people to take notice of your church and what it’s trying to do.

Maybe it’s time to look at everything we’re doing in the church and ask if it’s a brown cow or a purple cow.

When we begin to think of new ministries to launch or new approaches to old ministries, let’s stop and ask ourselves how we can make this a purple cow. Maybe it won’t be a purple cow when we first launch it, but we should never stop tweaking it until it becomes one.

When Jesus was here on earth, people could follow him or reject him, but they could not ignore him.

Among all the religious leaders living at the time, he stood out as someone unique. When he finished the Sermon on the Mount, we read that the people were astonished at his teaching because he taught as one having authority.

The people were further amazed at the miracles he performed and the changed lives that resulted.

If you’re tired of people ignoring your church, if you’re tired of the ministries your church offers having such little impact, it’s time to begin thinking how to turn those ministries into purple cows.

If you want people to be amazed at how people’s lives are being changed as a result of your ministry, transform what you are doing into purple cow ministries.

It’s only when people are amazed at what you are doing will they begin to want to hear what you have to say, and when they hear the gospel, they will have the opportunity to respond to it and have their own lives changed.

Dennis Bickers is a church consultant and author. He served previously as the bivocational pastor of Hebron Baptist Church near Madison, Indiana, for 20 years followed by a 14-year ministry as a resource minister with the American Baptist Churches of Indiana and Kentucky. A version of this first appeared on his blog, Bivocational Ministry, and is used with permission. You can follow him on Twitter @DennisBickers.