Selling the Christmas Service

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When I saw this banner outside our local church this morning it got me thinking.

I find the way ‘management speak’ has seeped into every aspect of our lives fascinating and disturbing at the same time don’t you?

The curious thing about a dominant discourse is just how natural and obvious it seems. So much so that we stop talking about the world in alternative ways. This means that we all make sense of the world ‘as if’ it always ever should be explained through the words of ‘management’.

Why do we do this? Is it to symbolise that we ‘belong to the management club’? Is it to give the impression that we have professional management insights that the lay person doesn’t have? Is basically to announce that we are compliant and have no desire to be different?

Don’t misunderstand me I have no issue with the sentiment on the banner outside the church. I am simply curious as to how managerial language is so easily used without any sense of where it comes from or how it shapes our world.

Business management has done a great marketing job. It has sold it’s approach and language successfully around the world. We have Philip Kotler see Kotler, P (1972) A Generic Concept of Marketing. Journal of Marketing, 36, (April), 46-54 to thank for this. Oil company, retailer, school, hospital or church we all ‘do marketing’.

So here we have a banner that tells us about a ‘family focused service’. Nothing wrong in that eh? But why interject ‘focused’? That is management speak, a word that infers deliberate managerial attention, a word from market research. Why couldn’t they simply announce they are holding a family service?

We are then told we are having a reflective service. As if a spiritual service would be anything else! Reflection is also a hot management idea soon to be usurped by ‘mindfulness’ (which spookily has spiritual origins). Reflective practitioners (cf Donald Schon) are claimed to be better practioners. Does this mean that reflective members of the congregation are better than non reflective ones? I wonder how that might be measured.

Maybe the church has got something though! What if we are so inured to management speak that it is the ‘new normal’. This means that in order for the church to communicate it has to use language that resonates with it’s intended audience. An audience so uncritically immersed in the discourse of managerialism it doesn’t ‘hear’ any other messages. Now that’s something to run up the flag pole isn’t it.

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