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4 big ideas from successful startups to revitalize church


By Jeremy Steele

Successful startups are fascinating things. They have an incredible culture where people work long hours for low wages and a dream. Some startups are able to produce innovative products at a pace that rivals companies 10 times their size.

What enables them to reach such lofty heights? What can churches do to harness that same kind of energy?

Here are four big ideas to help you get on the way to building startup excitement and innovation.

1. World-changing vision statements.

Pinterest’s mission is to “help people discover the things they love, and inspire them to go do those things in their daily lives.” Twitter’s mission is “to give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers.”

Those sound very different from many requests for volunteers we hear in churches. Far too often, churches think small when telling people about a volunteer opportunity or program. Instead of capturing people’s imagination by naming the ultimate purpose, we boil it down to the task we need completed or the details surrounding an event. Learn how to tell a story that moves people to take action.

2. They celebrate frequently.

The startup culture celebrates its wins. They set ambitious goals and -- sometimes -- fall short. However, when they do meet a goal, they celebrate it in fun ways with impromptu parties, spontaneous dancing or taking everyone out on a boat. What a model to follow!

Instead of ending vacation Bible school with a request for more Sunday school teachers, what if you had a family day at the beach for the volunteers or a shaving cream battle behind the church?

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3. They major on the minors when it comes to perks.

Many startups aren’t able to give all their employees the salaries they would like, but they know that inexpensive perks can go a long way toward making people feel appreciated.

Walk into a startup and you'll find all the chips you could ever eat and plenty of free candy in the snack room. It doesn’t cost much for the goodwill it buys.

While a raise is always appreciated, it is not always possible. However, for a fraction of the amount, churches can show appreciation for their staff by offering free snacks and other fun perks.

4. Powerful, repeated branding.

Startups spend a lot of time developing their branding, especially when it comes to their logo, name and tagline. They wrestle with the colors, the typeface and the imagery. They pour over the emotions conveyed by all of these to make sure they communicate what they want. Then, they use them everywhere.

Strong branding for a church can make a huge impact, taking it from just another organization in a sea of nonprofits to a well-known entity in the minds of people all over town.

United Methodist Communications has many resources to help in this area. Check out the free branding/logo service and discover solid strategy when you use the church marketing plan tool.

Whether you decide to get serious about marketing or up your game on the perks your staff and volunteers receive, following these lessons from startups can bring fresh life into your church.

Jeremy Steele

When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Ala. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at or follow him on Twitter!