What Churches Can Learn from Sanders’ Campaign

** ADVANCE FOR WEEKEND DEC. 7-10 ** Susan Valadez, left, and her husband, Michael, use one of the "giving kiosks" in the atrium at the Stevens Creek Community Church in Augusta, Ga., Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2006. The kiosks allow parishioners to give money using their credit or debit card. (AP Photo/Rainier Ehrhardt)

Don’t get me started on “giving kiosks” in churches.

Merianna made an interesting connection between Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign and the need for churches to also be aware of the the zeitgeist in the air (particularly among younger Americans):

“Bernie’s average donation is just $27. He hasn’t concentrated his efforts and energies in the megadonor, but has touted the power of every person explaining that every gift and every donation makes a difference. His message against Wall Street and giving power to the average person has made him popular among college-aged people as well as young professionals struggling to make ends meet.

Bernie’s financial message and his young followers is something churches need to pay attention to. For years churches have touted and even catered to the megadonors in their congregations who have formed the foundation of the church’s budget, but megadonors are a dying people group, and unfortunately they are leading churches to death’s door.”

Source: Why Churches Should Pay Attention to Bernie’s Win in NH – Merianna Neely Harrelson

Compare that to the way forward for Hillary’s campaign outlined in a memo today. I work with numerous churches, and I hear this sort of speak quite often (especially when it comes to fundraising and adding more donors to the rolls):

The way to win the nomination is to maximize the number of delegates we secure from each primary and caucus. Thus, the campaign is building the type of modern, data-driven operation that it will take to turn voters out and win the most possible delegates. That strategy includes:

(1) An analytics-based approach to determine which geographic portion within March states are likely to yield the highest number of net delegates for the campaign. Each congressional district will have its own data-driven plan.

(2) Paid organizers on the ground in all of the March states, running large-scale voter contact operations in areas where GOTV efforts will be most impactful towards increasing delegate margins.

(3) Targeted use of the right campaign surrogates in key communities in March states.

(4) An advertising campaign that will use a range of optimization tools to ensure that messages are reaching the right voters in the key media markets in the most cost-efficient way to the campaign.

Source: Hillary Clinton’s no-need-to-panic-everything-is-going-to-be-just-fine campaign memo, annotated – Washington Post

Of course, such marketing speak is not a bad thing in itself (it’s how I pay the bills!). It does feel cold and calculating though, doesn’t it? Perhaps that’s the reason I’m “turned off” by the approach outlined in Clinton’s memo despite it’s practicality.

But Sam, campaigns should be run like businesses. But Sam, churches should be run like businesses. Maybe. I just can’t buy into them if that’s the leading strategy.

I’m not alone in that regard. Churches too often turn their backs on young people who may not be able to write checks with multiple 0’s in favor of one or two mega-donors in areas of leadership, discipleship, and even messaging (sermons on Matthew 19:16-21 are often allegorized as a result of the Pastor recognizing the beauty of having a job).

It’s not a clear equivocation, but Merianna gave me something to think about.

2 Replies to “What Churches Can Learn from Sanders’ Campaign”

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