Kevin D. Hendricks
7 comments | Posted: 3 December 05 in Interviews, by Nathan Smith
Note: Throughout this interview, CMS refers to the name of Kevin’s website, and not the typical Content Management System acronym. Thanks, read on.
Awhile ago, I asked Kevin D. Hendricks, founder of Church Marketing Sucks if he would like to be interviewed for this site. Due to some the hectic process of becoming a non-profit organization, it hasn’t been until recently that he could finally fly me over on his private Monkey Jet to do this interview. Okay, so maybe we just emailed, and it went something like this…
What’s with the name Church Marketing Sucks? Would you mind briefly defining Marketing and Sucks, in your own terms?
The name really says it for me. Church marketing is in a bad spot, whether it’s done poorly or done slickly. It needs to improve. That’s what we’re all about. When we first started I honestly thought a lot of what the site would be doing is pointing to all the examples of church marketing that sucks. But we’ve quickly learned that isn’t very easy to do and it’s not very effective. Anyone can laugh at a bad design, but it’s a lot more helpful and a lot harder to look at a good idea and notice what’s working.
Marketing is basically communicating. It’s not just advertising or selling something, it’s everything to do with communication. It’s paying attention to what you’re saying and how you’re saying it. It’s about trying to find the most effective method—not so we can rack up the numbers—but so more people can hear about Jesus.
A lot of people think marketing is a bad word and they just recoil at the idea of churches doing marketing. The problem is they’re fixated on bad examples of marketing. Sure manipulation and lies and deceit are bad. Church marketing that does those things sucks. Marketing is all about getting the message out, and that’s exactly what evangelism is about.
And sucks? There are a few definitions of that word and we get a few angry e-mails about that one. We’ve explained our reasoning for using the word and we stand behind it. Our intended meaning, and the one that prevails today, is something that’s not good. It’s bad, it’s crap, it’s a bummer—it sucks.
I’ve run into that myself, pointing out poorly designed websites and inaccessible code. I have found it is not the best way to make friends, and that we need to help educate the church. That is of course, what you are doing with the marketing angle.
Besides Church Marketing Sucks, you also run Monkey Outta Nowhere. Is content consultancy via MON you full-time gig, or do you parade as a mild-mannered employee somewhere during daytime hours?
In 2003 the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, where I worked, relocated to Charlotte, NC and I didn’t. I used the opportunity to start my own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. That’s what I do full time, and sometimes more than that.
Describe the vision behind CMS and what made you decide to try it out. It recently celebrated its 1st birthday. Where do you see it heading in the future, and when can we get T-Shirts?
The vision for Church Marketing Sucks really came from Brad Abare. He’s always thought the church could do so much better, and this was our opportunity to finally do something about it.
It actually started out of an idea to launch a marketing company to help churches. As we brainstormed different approaches, we came up with the idea of Church Marketing Sucks, and it was originally going to be a vehicle to help promote a new marketing company.
But as we got in to it, it became pretty clear that wouldn’t work. One of the reasons people respond so well to CMS is because we’re not promoting ourselves. We’re not trying to get churches to hire us. We realized if we aligned CMS with a particular company, neither of them would work.
That independent spirit seemed to resonate with people. Now we’ve taken the idea and gone non-profit with it. We’re now a part of the non-profit Center for Church Communication. That will provide some backing for CMS that will allow the ideas to breathe a little bigger and broader as we help churches communicate. There are plenty of things we’re not doing well on CMS, like the Don’t Suck list, that I think we might be able to do better with the wider resources of the Center for Church Communication. Plus being a non-profit really fits with what we’re trying to do.
We’ve got a lot of big ideas, but if we’ve learned anything over the past few years, it is that we can’t do it all, we certainly can’t do it all at once, and we can’t do it alone.
Like T-shirts. It’s funny that you asked that since we recently ran a poll asking if people would want to buy a CMS T-shirt. We’ve definitely thought about it, but I think it’s a matter of time. I don’t know if we’re big enough to sell T-shirts yet, if it would be a worthwhile investment. Someday I hope we do. I’d love to have one.
Well, put me on T-Shirt pre-order, in case you guys get big enough to sell them. Large, poly-cotton mix, thanks. Let me just say that I appreciate the vision of CMS, and have tried to model that at Godbit. My attitude is, “We’re here to help, keep your wallets shut.” Or, if we inspire you to spend, give to a local church. Anyway, would you share your testimony, and how you came to faith?
My mom always took my brother and I to church, but it wasn’t until I went to the Awana kids program that I actually understood the Gospel and became a Christian. I think my mom convinced my brother and I to go because they were having a banana split night, which is odd because I’m not a big fan of banana splits—but I guess ice cream is ice cream.
It was either that night or the next week that we sat around a bonfire and a guy with a guitar talked about John 3:16. It was all pretty simple and clicked in my second-grade brain and that’s when I became a Christian.
It’s been a long road since then, involving yo-yos and Christian rock bands and really figuring out my faith.
I can definitely identify with that. I had a meandering spiritual walk until I went to a Christian summer camp as a teenager and finally got serious about God. Even then, it’s a rocky road of faith as we learn to pick ourselves up. Is there anything else you’d like to add before we close?
That’s such a great catch-all question, isn’t it?
I guess the one point I would make is that we’re really humbled by all the interest in Church Marketing Sucks. When we first started we thought we’d be writing a book, but instead it’s turned into this huge conversation. It’s so beyond Brad or me or any of the other people who contribute. We’re not geniuses and we don’t have it all together. We can’t tell anyone the best way to market a church. But as this conversation continues, as more and more people engage, maybe we can help a few churches communicate better.
That’s the same way I feel about this Godbit.com, people have taken a liking to it, despite our own fallible efforts. It’s nice when the Lord smiles upon our crazy endeavors. Well, thanks for the interview, and for anyone reading this that hasn’t seen Church Marketing Sucks, go check ‘em out.
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