8 Things the Churches Could Learn From the collapse of HMV

I’m sad to see that the HMV music chain is in trouble. The sadness that I feel about it though has to be accompanied with a knowledge that I’ve looked elsewhere for my entertainment recently. At one time I would have gone there to buy things for others and things for myself around Christmas. This year I never thought about going and next year my local shop may well not be there.

There was a discussion on the wireless just now about it all which included an analysis which went something like this:

The trouble is, HMV just didn’t learn during the nineties and the noughties. They just didn’t build their online presence and now they face collapse.

You know, when the history of the church in this century is written, astute historians may well find themselves drawn to similar conclusions.

Lots of people look to churches around Christmas – increasingly, some may find that the church they have nostalgia for is no longer there when they look for an annual celebration.

The truth is, it is not the fault of these people searching, that those churches may not survive. All the action points needed lie with those who currently are in charge.

Here are eight things churches could to do learn from the collapse of HMV if it wants to thrive:

  • Include a congregation’s web presence as part of its quinquennial survey. A congregation can collapse if its web presence is not good just as easily as if its foundations are built on sand. There’s a parable about this somewhere.
  • Recognise that this is not the future this is now. And it isn’t just for the young people either.
  • If your diocese publishes negative material about your congregation, get it taken offline quickly. This includes dioceses that publish directories of their churches which are not updated and which list churches as having no events and no news. It also includes dioceses which publish online “mission plans” which contain negative material about individual congregations which will show up in search engines.
  • Remember your competition is not simply the local church down the road. It is the atheists, the tennis court, the Buddhists and a morning in bed. Here at St Mary’s I long since worked out that our competition on a Sunday morning was not so much our ecumenical friends as the local private swimming baths which are nude on a Sunday morning. We’ve got to be more fun that than and look like we are more fun than that online.
  • Know that Social Media is not a fad. It isn’t going away. Trust me on this one. It is where the people are. Engage.
  • Understand that people trust personality not corporate speak. They don’t trust language about mission from companies like HMV. They don’t and won’t trust it from us. Saying you are “doing mission” may well put people off. No, really.
  • Believe that relationship matters. You have one with me if you are reading this. Go figure.
  • Learn how to use email. No really. Learn how to use it properly. Learn to use mailing lists. Learn to use subject headings effectively. Remember that if you want someone to know something you have to tell them. And then tell them again. And again. And again.