How Christian Leaders Can Learn From Apple’s Long-term Strategy

chanthachhimCreativity, Leadership, Technology1 Comment

You have to admit, if there is a company that has become a house-hold name, it’s Apple Computers. Whether you use an iPad, iPhone, iTunes, iMac, iPod, or other Apple products, you have fallen in love with its easy to operate devices, clutter free thinking, and stable operating system which runs efficiently and mindlessly in the background. As we understand the momentum shifts of today’s churchgoers and seekers alike, we must thoroughly understand how to relate.

My unofficial disclaimer, “I know this is a little geeky and nerdy to write such an article. However, my prayer is that you will understand the heart of the matter.” Despite it’s geeky parallel of leadership and Apple Computers, I think that many can still relate.

1. Have a Core Operating System

OS X, one of the world’s most stable operating system has become known for its above par standards in user interface. Your ministry must have a core method of operations and administration in order to facilitate rapid growth and ministry effectiveness. Time and time again, I have seen ministries that have grown exponentially but sadly also see a rapid decline because the systems that needed to be in place to contain the growth just simply was not there. Vision alone does not suffice for growth. You must have a plan of action and a core base and belief to sustain your growth.

2. Continued Inventiveness

The previous understanding of church growth has always been on doing the same things as we have been taught and seen. This relates to our method of operating, organizing, and offerings (ministry offerings-not money). Generally speaking, these leaders stick with traditions and make minor tweaks with time and but not necessarily launching out into the deep. The long-time standing philosophy is to do it the way that we have been taught. I have come to challenge the thinking of this methodology of leadership.  Haven’t you heard of great simple quotes such as: A leader is one that makes the way when there is not a way. A leader is one that sees the way when there is no way. A leader is one that is willing to go against the flow. A leader is one that is willing to invent and attempt.

3. Remove Dynasties

In an apprehensive spirit, we continue to look at our “line of products” and say, “Well, we must keep going. I’m sure that God will bless if I am steadfast and faithful.” I reference line of products to ministries and staff. Sometimes, you just have to let it go. You are holding on to something out of sheer emotion rather than concrete vision.

Allow me to further give more insight please. There have been many product launches for Apple. Some great and some not so great. Some you have heard about and some you haven’t heard about. For example, only a handful have heard of the Apple Newton or the Apple Pippin. These are products that have seen better days. Apple didn’t do to well with these products. They were expensive. They were bulky. They lost more money than they made. They were cumbersome. They were too complex to operate. So what did Apple do? Keep tweaking it until it was better and lose more money? No! Instead, they realized early on that they needed to scrap it and start from scratch. Sometimes (not all the time), you must be willing to walk away from it. Realize that your program and person is costing you more than you are able to pay. In other words, remove that ancient product line and come up with a better solution. Having a ministry and losing money year after year is not a good thing. You are a steward of God’s finances, people, and ministry. Are you being a good steward? Are you effective and producing with what He has given you? Do you remember what Christ said about the unjust steward in Matthew 25? If you are wasting God’s monies all in the name of doing good, you are still considered an unjust steward. Christ cannot richly bless you or your ministry if you do not handle what He has given you. You must wisely invest your talents (money) in your ministry to be as effective as possible. “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.” – Matthew 25:21

4. Imagination

Imagination fuels and compels Apple to always be at the very edge of technology. How many more products will be launched in the coming decade that Apple has patented that would cause us to say, “What would I have done without this device?” Think about, a phone that allows you take pictures, video, listen to music, play games, read email, surf the internet, calendar, read books, voice memos, oh yeah…make phone calls too. That is just barely scratching the surface since Apple has 200,000 apps available to do just about anything. One word: imagination! Disney had it! Ford had it! Apple has it! Imagination fueled the corporate office when Apple set out to build it’s flagship store in Manhatten, it was thorough in it’s branding–build a retail store that customers can see our ingenuity in the form of a tangible store and not just the internet.

5. Customer Focus

Apple has always been about community. Since the early adopters of the MAC cult of followers, Apple has always maintained a great relationship with it’s consumer, engineers, and corporate headquarters. They listened to the frustrations of the typical Windows users and they realized that this is “what not to do”. That is listen, listen, listen. They focused on what their customers were telling them. After all, haven’t you heard the mantra, “The customer is always right.” When you get the point that you know more than the customer, you get to the point that you have started to slowly die as an entity. If you are not listening to your church members about their concerns, struggles, and care, then you will slowly drift into a stagnant ministry. Ministries that are going somewhere listen more than they do speak. Oft times as leaders, we tend to speak a lot and expect to be heard, but great leadership is when you can understand more than you are understood.

6. Keep It Simple

I learned something early on in my marketing and design company, it was the KISS method. Kiss? Yes, Kiss! Keep It Simple Stupid! Apple certainly has kept everything simple. Why? Because simple reduces all the noise and shouts the main message. I enjoyed reading Thom Reiner’s book, “Simple Church.” It was refreshing to see how Christian leaders are starting to understand more and more that they are unknowingly cluttering the message of the Gospel with all their music, programs, and ideas. It truly is about one thing and one thing alone-THE GOSPEL. How can we communicate the Gospel without clouding the Gospel?

7. Master the Mindless

To the best of their abilities, the engineers at Apple have realized that the difficult and cumbersome tasks of operating their products would cause frustration in the user. Hence, in the background of their Unix operating system, they have tediously and mathematically mastered the art of crash free operating systems.

So how does this apply to you and your ministry? Well, think of it this way, you ought to put yourself in the place of your parishioner or follower and ask yourself and your team all the questions that they would ask prior to launching your idea.

8. Offer Superior Support

No. They are not the Geek Squad or the Nerd Herd, or Rapid Dogs, they are known as Genius. How clever, because they are genius in what they know. Consumer Reports and Consumer Best Buy have rated Apple’s customer support as being premiere. You don’t have to call India or the Philippines and speak to foreigners with a fake western name and accent. All you have to do is call a simple 800# that essentially will solve all your consumer problems. Because Apple engineers much of their own software, hardware, and other devices, you can easily contact them and not be pushed to contact another vendor because “it’s not their issue.”

chanthachhimHow Christian Leaders Can Learn From Apple’s Long-term Strategy