I recently received an email from Netflix with the subject line, “What to watch after The Crown.” Clicking it for a quick read, I saw: “You finished The Crown. Let’s find you something new to watch.” They were right. My wife and I were new converts to the acclaimed series, having recently completed the first two seasons and now eagerly awaiting new episodes to be released.
Following the nature of The Crown, the email suggested other Emmy-winning dramas featuring a strong female lead, 2018 Netflix Golden Globe nominees and award-winning dramas set in London. In other words, they took notice of our past viewing and customized suggested next steps.
I didn’t resent it; I appreciated it. I really liked The Crown and was open to their suggestions.
And they were smart. Anyone who binges their way through two seasons and 20 episodes is obviously a candidate for more viewing.
While I am consciously aware that the entire process was automated, it doesn’t matter. They were still using automation to customize things for me. In a day when we expect such customization at every turn, the church should take a page from Netflix. In this particular example, it only involved three steps:
- Develop some kind of system that captures the spiritual “viewing” of those in your church’s orbit. Capture what classes they have taken, attendance patterns, what children’s ministry events they have participated in, small group experiences, serving opportunities and more.
- Carrying the Netflix parallel out, once you know what someone has “watched,” think through the kinds of next steps of high value and interest that would logically flow from their “viewing” history. If they participated in a one-day Habitat for Humanity workday, they might be open to exploring a longer, more spiritually robust mission trip to build homes in Jamaica. If they took part in a parent-child dedication, they might be willing to consider a four-week class on parenting.
- Communicate those next steps in non-invasive ways that show you’re aware of their activity and that you are thinking about how you can add value to their journey.
These three steps may seem disarmingly simple, but very few churches have invested in this process, much less enacted it. But just like Netflix would like for you to keep watching after something like The Crown, wouldn’t any church like someone to keep experiencing spiritual growth and encouragement after they have taken an initial step into that growth? For Netflix, watching more TV made it worth the effort and outreach.
For the church, I would hope we have a little more incentive than that.
James Emery White
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on Twitter and Instagram @JamesEmeryWhite.