After 30 years
of experience with holistic church marketing and community outreach,
working with churches and ministries across nearly 100 denominations, in
every state and in many other countries. Drawing on that wide
experience, this article outlines what they’ve learned to be the
12 most common mistakes churches make in Christmas outreach.
can takes active steps to avoid these mistakes and dramatically
increase the effectiveness of their outreach. Christmas outreach done in
the way described here will positively impact every other facet of a
church’s ministry, and many of the recommendations provide smarter ways
to plan for the whole year.
Mistake #1: Not planning for something great.
Seth Godwin calls it the Purple Cow.
Tom Peters calls it the WOW principle.
George Lois calls it the Big Idea.
Seeking a change of
scenery, you drive a new route through the countryside. The first cow
you pass draws attention. If kids are along, they practice mooing and
laugh. Everyone watches for the next cow. Yet after an hour of cruising
along pasture fences, who notices anymore? Not that the cows have become
any less effective at being cows. But to a passing motorist with
passing interest, all those cows begin to seem familiar and ordinary and
nearly invisible. The only thing that would get new attention and
strong interest would be a purple cow. We live in a world of
extraordinary things. The mistake often made is to settle for the
ordinary, familiar….or safe. Familiarity does not always breed
contempt. But settling for the ordinary and the all-too-familiar may
breed something else.
Invisibility. Invisibility among the
unchurched, invisibility in the community. And even low visibility among
your own people. This is not about being bigger or more spectacular or
more outlandish. But it is about breaking through to your community with
a creative and imaginative message conveying something truly remarkable
and unexpected. You don’t need to outdo
the church famous for its two-story singing Christmas tree. You don’t
need to sponsor top-dollar TV ads on Christmas Eve, or reserve every
billboard in the county for a Christmas message. And you certainly don’t
have to give up now because you didn’t start way back on Labor Day to
plan something incredible and beyond your resources. The Big Idea does not
necessarily mean big budget, or big staff, or big splash. Small can be
remarkable. Start by
applying the “Big Idea” principle to.
what you and your church will do at Christmas,
what your message is, and how the unchurched perceive that message
how you will make your community, and especially the unchurched, aware.
ideas are not ends in themselves. Big Ideas breed unforeseen
opportunities. Big Ideas often lead to something new and powerful. They
can elevate opportunity beyond the original strategy. Over time, Big
Ideas spawn more big ideas, until being extraordinary and having an
extraordinary impact has become part of your DNA. Big Ideas have a way
of leaping beyond limits (even budgets) to transform the nature and
focus of a church, or of a community.
—– The Incarnation was one
of God’s Biggest Ideas. Create a new Christmas tradition, that of
birthing new remarkable ideas. The best ideas take risk, the best ideas
reach the heart, and the best ideas are transformational.
Doing little or nothing during Christmas.
is clutter. That’s a fact. With all the messages crowding for
attention, all the competing distractions, all the busyness and demands
for time and focus, it’s tempting to decide not to try anything special
during Christmas. Of course, every church will expect and welcome
visitors during Christmas. And if any visitors happen to be unchurched,
most every pastor will follow-up.
—– But here’s another fact. Visitors only visit churches they are aware of.
—– It’s hard to get
around this detail. Awareness is the most basic – and most overlooked –
underlying factor for attracting visitors. Unchurched people in the
community who decide to visit a church, visit a church they know about.
—– Even word of mouth
(expecting your members to invite friends) can be exponentially more
effective if the people they invite are already aware of the church, if
people have a top-of-the-mind awareness of the church that is positive,
attractive, even unique.
—–Here’s a corollary fact.
It’s not just that unchurched people only visit a church they have heard
of. Unchurched people motivated to attend a service (say, at Christmas
or Easter) are almost certain to choose a church that has captured their
awareness at that particular time. To maintain high awareness, a church
needs to have a strong community presence during the strategically
important Christmas season.
Planning outreach without a plan.
—–Your strategy for Christmas does not have to be time-consuming, comprehensive or complicated. Just don’t overlook the basics.
———-“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard
———-people say, “People will find us. We don’t
———-have to promote what we offer because it
———-is good quality and just what they want.”
—– The comment is from Joyce
McClure, who coaches community organizations nationwide that promote
local use of solar energy. Her advice has surprising crossover value for
—– —– No idea, no product, no service, no belief
—– —– was ever successful without a strong
—– —– communication campaign. Unless you
—– —– tell people what you’re offering, very few
—– —– will ever “find” you.
—– —– And if you want people to know about your
—– —– offering, you need to make a plan – a strategic
—– —– marketing plan – that will serve as a roadmap
—– —– to reach your goals.
—– 1. What are your broad goals for Christmas?
(The first answer may not simply be a number.) The answer may be to
communicate with every household in your key neighborhoods (that in
itself is a Big Idea). Or to reinforce overall awareness of your unique
image within your community. Or to use the Christmas season as a first
step to introduce a more well-defined image.
—–2. Does your plan match the scale of your goal? See Mistake #4
—–3. Who are you trying to reach? Think
long and carefully about your intended audience. It is critical to
determine if the image and message you are communicating is both
relevant and genuinely appealing to the people you want to reach.
—–4. What path of responses do you seek?
Work back from your end results to what you hope will happen first. Do
you want people to go to your web site, experience an event, participate
in a community project, visit for Christmas worship, ask for something
that will build a relational connection and help them remember you,
bookmark your site for later reference? Is there a strategic path to
your final objectives?
—–5. Have you considered timing and schedule?
If your goal is to motivate unchurched people to visit on Christmas Eve
or Christmas Sunday, inviting them earlier in December may be a waste
of effort. The unchurched who do think about attending church on
Christmas, think about it a day or two or three before. It’s largely an
impulse decision. Time your invitation or reminder to arrive
—–6. Does your plan fit your budget? Or in the other direction, does your budget need to be re-examined in light of your Big Idea?
—–7. Have you pre-evaluated the true cost of your strategies? See mistake #11
—–8. How will you track and evaluate results?
You will eventually want to evaluate not just the immediate results,
but also residual attendance, the increase in community awareness, image
perception and appreciation, and each preliminary response step.
—–9. Are you planning broadly?
Because communication works in the larger context that surrounds it,
you will also want to plan and evaluate every other factor that can
affect results. If your effort is specifically designed to bring people
to an event (or Christmas service), you will also want to plan for
creative and thoughtful follow-up and post-event momentum-builders.
Breaking the Law of Large Numbers.
—–Here is a
powerful principle of city reaching. We call it Norm Whan’s (of Church
Growth International) Law of Large Numbers after the man who, for over
30 years, has repeatedly demonstrated it to be valid for churches. It’s a
fact. In any region or large community, during any given Christmas
season, a small but definite percentage of the unchurched population is
ready and open to your message, and is in fact open to connecting with
or visiting a church just like yours
—–The actual percentage
varies widely depending on many factors, but the underlying principle
holds. If your church communicates the right message and image to enough
people, with the right support strategies, a definite percentage are
out there ready to respond. Now. This Christmas.
—–The key is finding them –
and you can. Here, the statistical Law of Large Numbers must be applied.
If you sample 20,000 households, you may uncover 1% to 3% who are
receptive now. That represents 200 to 600 households – finding and
reaching them could have significant impact for your church.
—–But distribute 100 flyers
(or hope your members do), or mail out 500 “impact” cards, you may not
find any of the prospects you are seeking. That is because prospects are
never evenly spread through a small population. The smaller your total
sample, the more random and accidental your chances of connecting with
the right people. Conversely, as Norm Whan has repeatedly demonstrated,
the larger your scale, the more likely you are to find the prospects who
are immediately receptive.
—–Economy of Scale. This is
related to the Law of Large Numbers. In almost every scenario, the
larger the scale, the less unit cost for each impression. Consequently
the cost of each actual response decreases as quantity increases.
Finding a way to think bigger almost always improves cost effectiveness
of your impact.
—–Saturation or Large Net
Marketing. When the strategy is direct mail, covering every household in
a given area dramatically enhances cost effectiveness because of the
way postal rates are discounted for saturation. Saturation is also
measured in readership. Direct mail enjoys almost total readership, even
if only a glance. The person receiving the mail always looks at the
outside to decide whether to open or toss it. With a well-designed
postcard, the outside is the message. Done properly, saturation mailings
to entire neighborhoods, zip codes, or communities will cost far less
per unit than almost any other method., as low as 16 cents per home
reached, postage included.
Mistake # 5
Trying to do too much.
This one thing I do… (Phil 3:13)
—–It is much
easier to be complex than to be simple. Marcello Serpa, a Brazilian
famous around the world for creative marketing ideas that succeed on the
simplest essence, offers advice so plain it’s tempting to skim past.
The key, says Serpa, is “having an objective and trying to reach it with
minimum resources, getting there by the shortest route, with minimum
energy.” For making strong community connections, this applies equally
to the plan and to the message.
Within any given timeframe, you can only do a few things well, and only
one thing very well. It’s a mistake to implement every good idea you
have between now and December. Decide which ideas can keep until later
and which have limited shelf life (things you can’t do the same way in
January because the window of opportunity will have passed). Then
evaluate which ideas most authentically represent you and your church,
which ideas will have the most long-term impact, and which ideas are
most likely over time to be transformational.
Whatever strategy you choose, avoid information dump. It’s tempting to
cram everything in, but too much information invokes the Law of
Diminishing Returns. Say one thing, say it well, and you are more likely
to be heard.
—– Your Long-term Impact.
Relating this to the longer-term, the “one thing” your plan and your
message should do is support the “one thing” that best conveys who you
are – that one unique, authentic image position every public impression
should seek to build and reinforce.
Sending a Christmas Message.
Christmas, probably the biggest mistake is to send a Christmas message.
Let us explain. This does not mean ignoring Christmas, that would be a
bigger mistake. The mistake is doing what everyone else is doing, or
doing what people would expect a church to do – relying on a typical
Christmassy look, oft-repeated themes, typical Christmas activities, and
well-established Christmas sentiments.
That’s like fighting clutter with clutter.
—–Doing what’s expected.
Doing the expected is based on a rational urge to play it safe. But if
you really want to reach your community (at any time, but especially at
Christmas) there is nothing more costly than playing it safe. You can be
safely lost in the sameness of the pack, mostly invisible to those you
want to reach.
—– Consumers in Western
nations are bombarded, even pummeled with marketing messages every
waking second. In defense, people have adapted highly-effective coping
capacities inside their brains to filter messages. No matter how
beautiful or season-appropriate, the familiar messages that look like
everything else are essentially invisible messages.
—–What to look for. The
Edelman Company, a global PR firm, completed a study on what types of
messages make it through people’s internal filters. What characteristics
will cause people not only to notice a media message, but actually
Newman, a creativity guru and author of Creative Leaps, says all great
communication “has an element of novelty (doing the unexpected),
generates positive feelings (they are likable), and has meaning
So, what to do. . .
different – churches think they have to look and speak Christmassy to be
heard at Christmas when in fact just the opposite is true
—–2. Be very intentional
about communicating with the heart. The unchurched don’t turn off their
basic needs at Christmas, some of those core needs just come nearer the
—–3. Be relevant. Make sure
you are speaking to felt needs (surface needs) in the language of the
unchurched and in a way that breaks through to the core needs of their
—–4. Be unique. If you
contract with an agency, ask for and insist on an exclusive license, so
your entire communication is guaranteed to be uniquely yours in your
community. Work with your media team or agency to build on and thread
this image through everything (and that means everything) you do.
Always trying something new.
—–We talk a
good deal about the power of being distinctive and fresh in your
communication. But if this principle is misunderstood, it can lead into
another very common mistake: promotional habits that lead to “the church
of many faces.”
—–Your strategy and message
and graphic images and ideas should be distinctive, creative, and
fresh, but your positioning and identity should remain very consistent.
This is not about some PR spin to manipulate your public image. It’s
about knowing who you are. In fact, the “identity positioning” concept
challenges a basic idea at the heart of commercial advertising – that
the primary purpose of advertising is to sell. That’s not your primary
purpose. In the words of Al Ries, the man who originally coined the term
“positioning”, rather than advertising to sell in the marketplace of
ideas, your media should “establish and reinforce a position or identity
in the prospect’s mind.”
—–Applied to churches. For
communications intended to build relationship, the goal is not so much
to communicate details about the church, but rather to create a unique
image position in the mind of the unchurched in your community that in
turn, leads to appreciation, a special bond, and an ongoing
relationship. The first thing to know is that if any awareness of your
church exists, an image position already exists. In the simplest terms,
there are three broad position categories the unchurched have for
|a distinct and appreciated image|
a distinct and negative image
an unclear image that because of its lack of distinction
becomes associated with whatever general image (positive or negative)
the unchurched have of all churches.
image position is about who you really are. The strongest positioning
is an authentic reflection of your true identity. Making connections
that create relationship requires a clear and distinct focus.
to your church. Without going too deep into the Law of Positioning,
here are some suggestions. You may have already done this at least in
part, but the first step is to discover or clarify your unique identity
and calling. Aside from the first call of every church (we might
describe as a call to discover, nurture, and offer as worship the
individual “purpose-driven” call of their members), every church also
has their own unique corporate call to purpose. There is a distinct role
you are to play matched to a special need you’re called to fill. In
other words you are called to be unlike any other church in your city,
not just to be different for difference sake, but to be truly effective.
Identifying and clarifying your unique difference–who you really
are–can make all the difference in the world.
—–First, ask yourself this… what
is it that you do best as a church, what are you especially gifted or
equipped for, what passion drives you, what burden moves you, what
vision excites you, and to what need are you drawn? Your next step is to
find a remarkable and memorable way to communicate your identity within
your community’s marketplace of ideas. One way to do that is to ask
yourself (or better yet the unchurched) this question: How are these
needs continually and deeply felt by the unchurched and how are they
generally expressed in their own words? Answers to these two sets of
questions form the core foundation for your positioning strategy–your
‘difference’ in the things that ‘really’ matter.
Finding your voice, or your own unique, creative, remarkable,
memorable, authentic, and sometimes even audacious way to communicate
that difference will create the endearing bond that makes every message
and every ministry so much more effective. It’s the difference that will
make you stand out even in the blur of the Christmas rush.
Doing Outreach instead of Withreach.
ways outreach is no longer working. And in the way we generally do it,
maybe it shouldn’t. Outreach defines problems (in the lives of the
unchurched) and announces answers. Withreach seeks to discover God
already at work in lives, and to join God in what He is doing in that
life. Instead of “you have a spiritual need, I have the solution,” a
Withreach mindset sees each person as a treasure who has much to give.
Withreach seeks out those treasures, to come alongside people, to
discover the story of God being played out in their story, and together
reach for the purposes of God. In this way people come into the Kingdom
naturally and with a better understanding of God’s heart and ways, as
genuine relationship is built in the context of real-life community.
—–Outreach tends to focus
on locating unchurched people who need God and zeroing in on either
immediate conversion or membership or both. Withreach tends to awaken
the desire for God through a direct experience of God’s essential nature
and ways, such as participation in an Isaiah 58 ministry or by
experiencing community first hand. Withreach communicates “We are in
this journey of purpose together, I’ll come along and help. We both have
much to give, we both have much to learn.”
your Christmas activities, community media and ministry, the events,
the invitations, the way you connect with visitors, the way you
follow-up, the total atmosphere, in light of Withreach thinking.
For a closer look at Withreach read Why Outreach No Longer Works
and the ongoing discussion at withreach.com.
Not making Christmas
—–There are four primary themes of Christmas: Kids.
Kids. Kids. Kids. That is…
One, the children
all around us (in our neighborhoods and in our church, happy kids
and hurting kids).
the child heart of our Christmas past (good memories and bad, and
the unfulfilled dreams to which they are tied)
The Child that was “born unto us” and all that that means for us.
the child heart of faith, the citizen-child of the Kingdom.
of Christmas is about children, a fact which may hold within it
an essential truth. We say we want people to experience God, yet
we may at times withhold the God-qualities of joy, freedom, spontaneity,
honesty, and uninhibited spiritual energy best expressed by children.
Even at Christmas, if we are not careful children can be more like
window dressing, moments of kid stuff dominated by hours of adult
Christmas sufficiently children-centered requires creative intentionality.
One large downtown church has a 35-minute Christmas Eve service
(the only Christmas Eve activity at the church). It is planned by,
mostly led by, and entirely centered around children. It’s an annual
tradition, and always packed – with children and with their adults.
It is scheduled early, at 5:30 PM, so family Christmas Eve events
can follow. There is no sermon, choir, or praise band. The pastor
opens the gathering by inviting parents to relax, and allow the
children the freedom to be themselves. Small children stand on the
pews to see, giggles and laughter burst out spontaneously, the manger
scene pageant never quite goes right, the hymns are children’s carols,
and people (adults especially) say it is the best church service
of the year. It represents Christmas, and a celebration of joy and
life, and community in a real way.
reveals that the unchurched long to experience life and the feeling
of being alive. But most tend to view the Church as dull and lifeless.
Is it possible that our best, and most overlooked city-reaching
assets, are children? Think of the many ways children could participate
in other creative bridges to the community. Consider all the possibilities!
for that matter, maybe we should ask children how they would want
to do Christmas at church? In fact, if you were given permission
to dream, what would you really rather do for Christmas? Most likely
it would be the kind of thing that would be highly appealing to
the unchurched as well, and create that WOW effect we talked about.just
the thing that would put you on the path to becoming truly remarkable!
Communicating a heart-less message.
meltdown. Remember the “Love Bug” virus?
Back in the year 2000, a virus attached to an email with the subject
line “I love you” spread to 45 million computers worldwide in just
a few hours. Why? Because so many people, even tough business executives,
couldn’t resist opening an attachment that arrived with the subject
line “I love you.” It was a message that instantly broke through
the clutter, slicing swiftly past caution, alertness, training,
experience, and common sense.to the heart.
—– Discussing that phenomenon four
years later, Australian columnist and lecturer Michael Newman wrote:
—– —- “It was all over
in seconds. Over 40 million
—– —- computers worldwide
melted down from the
—– —- heart. In lives
increasingly experienced via
—– —- monitors, there’s
a hunger for genuine empathy
—– —- and direct, personal
contact. People live in a
—– —- cold, scary and
often heartless world. Companies
—– —- fire them. Spouses
divorce them. Institutions
—– —- stitch them up.
Fear stalks the daily news.. . .
—– —- There is an incredible
and untapped need for love
—– —- out there.”
—–Why is it, then, that so many of
the unchurched have a perception of church that is decidedly mixed
when it comes to an image of love? To cut through clutter, slice
past caution, and be heard by the unchurched, requires messages
that connect with the heart. This is not the age of reason. People
are not so much seeking explanation as they are connection. People
are attracted by churches that respond to their God-created inner
need -a deeply embedded inner desire – to experience community,
authentic relationship, and the mystery of love.
writes the author of a major new book on advertising, “most advertisers
were preoccupied with finding the logically right answer, instead
of the emotionally real answer.”
Heart at Christmas. Ask an adult to identify
his or her very earliest memories. Invariably, at least one of those
first treasured and fragmentary childhood memories is wrapped up
with Christmas. Christmas, for those who grew up in our culture,
is attached to deep-seated meaning from youngest childhood, a never-quite-lost
connection to wonder and anticipation and joy and celebration, promise
and surprise. And for most, to family and warmth and love. Depending
on personal history, Christmas may also tap deep-rooted memories
of insecurity, pain, or loss.
Christmas in our culture, the heart of man becomes more accessible
than at any other time of the year. There simply is no other time
when more unchurched people are more open to a message that reaches
out to the heart.
Choosing costly options.
—–The strategy with the lowest cost may in fact be the most
costly. Consider these factors to help you avoid the mistake of
getting less-than-optimal value for your investment.
—–SCALE: Economies of scale for marketing mean that as
you increase the number of impressions, you decrease the cost. Larger
numbers generally provide lower cost per impression. Conversely,
small plans have higher unit costs. To analyze this factor and apply
it to your own plans, see “Breaking the Law of Large Numbers” (Mistake
—–MEDIUM: Not all media formats deliver equal results. For
example, a broadcast spot may come with a huge volume of potential
impressions — everybody who lives within the reach of the station
signal. But that’s not the whole story. Further factors to consider
are how many will actually be tuned in and paying attention at the
moment of your spot (and not flipping channels or hitting the mute),
and how many of those live within driving distance of your church?
Newspaper also is losing cost effectiveness and circulation numbers
do not translate into readership, far from it. The Internet is becoming
a powerful media tool, but a web site is a cobweb without something
to drive traffic to it.
30 years of using and studying all types of media, we’ve come to
increasingly recommend direct mail (used in the context of other
community-specific strategies). It not only provides one of the
best cost-to-impact ratios, it’s also highly adaptable and target-able,
offers the best way to insure widespread first impressions and facilitates
sustained and multiple impressions with each retained hard-copy.
But, to be most effective, it needs to be used strategically, as
part of a holisitc, city-reaching plan.
—–CONTENT: But by far the best way to lower unit cost is
to increase the effectiveness of the content. Double effectiveness
here and you cut your response cost in half, sometimes with no increase
in cost at all. It’s important to remember that, contrary what we
routinely think, the effectiveness scale of your creative content
or approach should not be thought of as being on a scale of 1 to
10. Instead, you should view it as a–10 to +10. Here’s why. The
wrong content or strategy can just as easily turn people away rather
than attract them. That would be a strategy that achieved a result
far worse than doing nothing at all.
should write this in large, bold type at the top of every city reaching
plan: The most expensive strategy is the one that does not do what
it is intended to do.
Not Connecting Christmas with Easter
—–Don’t overlook this common mistake. In American society,
there are two times of the year when people who rarely go to church
are most likely to think about going to church. One is Christmas,
the other Easter. Whether this is connected in their minds, or not,
it needs to be connected in yours. To help understand and explain
why, let’s illustrate this mistake (and how to avoid it) in the
context of an actual plan:
Early impression. At Christmas, you choose
a creative message that doesn’t merely announce your holiday plans
or invite people to visit, but connects with the heart while introducing
or reinforcing your identity and image within the community. Let’s
say you choose a strategy of Large Net saturation [see Mistake #4],
mailing to a substantial number of households during Christmas,
thereby gaining the economy of scale. Thousands of people see your
message, even if only briefly (it takes hardly three or four seconds
to form an impression). Hundreds or thousands who receive your postcard
(even those who then toss it away) will form an early – but positive
– impression of your church from the image and message on the card.
As yet, they may know little about your church. Even though a percentage
will visit based on your first mailing, others will not. But, they
now have an early awareness and impression.
Reinforcing the impression. The next time
many of these initial non-responders will most likely think about
going to church will be three months later at Easter. Do they still
have your card from Christmas? Some might, but most won’t. But many
will have a lingering impression. But, the positive impression you
generated during Christmas, though real, could be wasted if you
treat the Christmas message in isolation. But if you have a built-in
plan to send the same households another unique message at Easter,
a message that reinforces the same positioning and identity you
presented at Christmas, then the reaction is a positive “Oh, yeah,
I remember that church. . .” (even though they may not always be
able to recall why). Your goal at Easter is to build on what you
successfully started at Christmas.
Moving Target. Norm Whan’s Law
of Large Numbers (see Mistake #4) shows
that within any given timeframe, a small but definite percentage
of the unchurched population is open to your message and unique
image, and is in fact open to connecting with or visiting a church
just like yours. It is important to realize that this opening is
not frozen in time, not a snapshot, but is a moving target. When
Jesus told Peter to cast the nets on the other side, Jesus was pointing
him to a moving target at just the opportune moment. Quite possibly
Peter and his companions had tried that spot before during the long
discouraging night. But Jesus knew what was happening below the
surface. In a part of the lake where there had seemed to be no fish,
now there were many.
you launch an effective community campaign at Christmas, there will
almost always be an initial response group of ‘first attenders.’
But not all people who form a positive first impression from your
Christmas message will be ready or able to visit your church at
creative content is good, you will have succeeded in generating
some ‘first attenders’ plus a much larger pool of people with positive
awareness — but the job is not done. A few months later at Easter,
as the Holy Spirit continues to work beneath the surface, people
who had that positive first impression are likely to be open again.
Some, because of what is going on in their life or their heart may
now for the first time be ready to visit. ‘Connect the dots’ by
reinforcing your original image position and build upon that positive
awareness you already generated.
right, six months from now (after going through two of the best
community-connecting seasons of the year) your church can be miles
ahead in your goal to reach the unchurched in your community and
create that special bond and endearing relationship with them, securing
a unique and appreciated place in their minds and hearts. And that
result will impact every other facet of your ministry.
C. Michael Johnson is President of Breakthrough Media Group
(www.Breakthroughchurch.com) a mission-focused, marketing ministry group focused
on community outreach. Over the years he has coached many pastors and nonprofit
leaders in reaching and engaging their communities. Michael welcomes dialog with
pastors and missional leaders on creative strategies for moving beyond the walls
of the church to become 24/7 villages that bless and transform their communities