I often get the proverbial “tilt of the head” when I talk about this part of my work history: “And then, for 7 years I was a pastor.”
“You were a pastor?” people ask, the question now rhetorical.
“Yes, and you wouldn’t believe all the things I learned that apply to good marketing.”
Today, I work in marketing, but it’s been the privilege of serving God and people in the role of pastor that gave me the grid I have today for the work I do.
Maybe many of you have also worked in different fields or roles in your career. Certainly, you have worked in different environments, some with strong cultures, others maybe not. And, you’ve done different kinds of work (great fit or not, inspiring or not), and you’ve had different kinds of supervisors (skilled or not, supportive or not). And, you too have learned wisdom along the way.
Taking the time to write out what I have learned at one job as I roll into the next job, or even just reflecting on the things I’m learning in my current job–this has been a great exercise for me over the years. As you read my list here, consider, “What are 10 things being a [one role] taught me about [next role]?” And then, would you consider sharing these discoveries with me? (Email here: email@example.com with the subject line: What my job taught me).
So, for those 7+ years I spent as a pastor, here are the first 5 (of 10) things I learned that have helped me to be effective at marketing (#6-10 in next blog)–
- The story is the most important thing: Hospital rooms, weddings, funerals, and many, many times around the dinner table, our most important values are revealed in these places. It’s where the real story happens and gets talked about. Marketing—true marketing—is about understanding people’s stories, what they care about, what they have experienced, and realizing how sacred every person’s story is.Being a pastor taught me empathy, shaped in me a commitment to honor people’s dignity and the mystery of each life. In marketing—true marketing—we bring this same respect to the people we are serving with our products and services, and it makes all the difference in the world.
- Commit to truth: I’ve seen pastors make courageous decisions—standing up for the underdog when it cost them a popular board member’s allegiance–and their monthly tithe check. Authenticity, courage, and candid exchanges about real results–I’ve learned these are the only meaningful bricks on which to build a strong foundation. Marketing—true marketing—avoids posturing and posing, and instead digs deep into the data to find out what is really happening, honoring that truth every day.
- Give—always: The vast majority of pastors I have known in my life are really good at giving, First, from a salary standpoint, pastors typically make 50% of what they could make in the for-profit world. They share their time, their dinner table, and many holidays with folks who might not have anywhere else to go. As a pastor I learned to– give credit to teammates, give compassion to employees who are going through a tough season in life, give time to others by looking them in the eyes–to really listen.
- Value creativity at every step of the process: I was amazed over the years in m role as pastor what incredible talent and creativity resided within the church community. Artists, children’s workers, thespians, singers, musicians, and poets—I was blessed to lead in churches rich in creativity, and to serve on leadership teams who valued this creative energy.As a result, I saw the transformative impact of creativity on otherwise normal ideas and activities. Marketing—true marketing—values creative input at every step of the challenge, not just at the conceptual stage but through to the problem solving, optimization stage.
- Yes is the most powerful word: A big part of the life of a pastor is getting people to say “yes,” and, for the right reason. Yes to volunteering in the youth ministry, yes to contributing to the financial needs of the church, yes to reaching out to less fortunate members of the community, yes to living for others instead of oneself. These are important challenges, and frankly, are the key to ushering in a new way of seeing and experiencing life. For wise pastors, helping people say “yes” was about helping live in a story larger than themselves.There’s an art of helping people say “yes” for the right reasons. It’s a big skill I use in my work today in marketing–carefully honoring each person’s own motivations and values. Maybe marketing 20 years ago was about manipulating people (remember all those discussions about subliminal advertising?). Today it’s about serving people with the products and services that fit them.
Here’s the preview for #6-10…
6. No is a powerful word too
7. Your job is an assignment, not your identity
8. Servant leadership is the best approach
9. Core values are the language of the heart
10. It’s not about me:
What are your experiences? Consider sending me your answer to this question: “What are 10 things being a [one role] taught me about [next role]?” (Email me here: firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line: What I learned).