Do You Have a Church of Abercrombie People?

I’ve been watching the controversy surrounding Abercrombie and Fitch the last couple of weeks.

First, CEO Mike Jeffries made some comments which confirmed what everyone knows: that they don’t actually want most of us wearing their clothes.  That backfired.

Then, Greg Karber tried to make a clever statement by giving used A&F clothes to homeless people.  A lot of us (including me, I admit) thought at first glance that it was a cool idea, until we looked closer and realized it wasn’t.  That backfired too.

No one appreciated Jeffries’ bold honesty about his company’s vision.  So, what does a clothing store for the coolest kids in school have to say to churches?  Maybe more than we might think.

Not My Style

I’ll be honest.  Abercrombie and Fitch is not marketing to me.

I don’t feel comfortable entering the Abercrombie store at our local mall.  I don’t feel comfortable walking past the Abercrombie store.  Something about the oversized photos of half naked models in the entrance clues me in that I don’t belong there.  I never was part of the crowd that they are going after, and I never will be.

But I also get the feeling that I’m not the target market of Hollister.  Or Hot Topic.  Or Gantos.  Or Forever 21.

I think I’m part of Kohl’s target market.

Think about it.  Every store has a target market, a specific niche of people who they want to buy their products.  There’s nothing special about Abercrombie’s strategy.  It’s just that when their CEO admits what is usually implied in such a crass and cavalier fashion, it offends our desire for inclusiveness.  It’s hurtful to people like me (and I’m guessing perhaps you) who aren’t “cool” enough to be included.

Homogenized, Pasteurized Friends

Now, let’s ask a tough question, and get ready to be honest.

Who is in your target market?  Like, as the CEO of your life, what niche of people are you generally spending your time with?

I’d like to think that my target market is pretty diverse and inclusive, but the results show otherwise.

I’ll go first and admit that my friend-group is pretty darn homogenous.  My close friends come from generally the same socio-economic level, have about the same amount of education, and behave in a way that I find, in general, socially acceptable.

At times, I have tried to be inclusive.  But there are many more times when I have not.  I have taken a step back.  I have withheld myself from people because they are a little too different from me in one way or another.

As embarrassing as it is to admit, I realize that my target audience is people who are sort of like me.  Maybe that makes me a horrible person.  If that’s the case, then maybe my target audience is horrible people.

The _________ Church

Now, let’s ask another tough question.

Who is our churches’ target audiences?  Can we really say “everyone?”  Why do so many of our churches looks so homogenous then?  Even if your church bucks the trend and looks pretty diverse, is there someone who would have a hard time fitting in at your church?

Is it that homeless man who hasn’t had a shower or clean clothes in months?  Is it the mentally ill woman?  The guy with the left-field theology?  The family with the special needs child?  The teen mom?  The alcoholic?  The guy with the “alternate” lifestyle?

It’s a struggle that churches have had since the New Testament was still being written – how do we help people belong who don’t usually belong?  The alternative is to admit that, on some level, we are running Abercrombie churches:

where of course everyone is equally welcome…

…but some people are more equally welcome than others.

So what do you say?  How diverse is your friend-group?  How diverse is your church?  Who do you think is your church’s target audience?

Read more from Matt here.

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Matt Appling

Matt Appling

For starters, I am an elementary art teacher, guiding children ages five to twelve in creative pursuits, as well as high school art history. I consider my job to be providentially arranged and a calling from God. I am also a seminary educated pastor, and lead a wonderful little house church. Over the years, I have taught in a variety of places. I have been a youth pastor, and a freelance graphic designer.

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What say you? Leave a comment!

VRcurator — 06/30/13 6:51 am

Thanks Jay! Matt was dead-on target. As we say at Auxano, "Clarity isn't everything, but it changes everything."

Jay Hawes — 06/29/13 8:21 am

I couldn't stop laughing after "I think I’m part of Kohl’s target market!" Great post which brings up some interesting questions: 1. Is our vision so focused that we know who are target audience is? 2. Is our vision so unfocused that we have no idea who we're attempting to reach? Again, thought-provoking. Thanks!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I am a senior citizen who has lived in many areas of the US, the farthest south being Virginia DC area. There are several church plants in the area--some failed, some doing well. One of the sadist failures was a plant in NW Washington near a large Presbyterian Church (I had been an elder in the church, so I knew the area) where changes in church doctrine was driving many away from the PCUSA churches. There were many mature Christians who lived in the area who were very willing to participate and give generously to the church. Its failure was a loss. The pastor and his wife lived in a VA suburb, wanted something that would appeal to their tastes, which included "praise music". There was a professional piano teacher and several people who had sung in choirs in the area. Their suggestions were completely ignored. Forget that there was joyous participation in singing hymns and silence by many for the praise music. The experienced church leaders that were attending were expected to seek the wisdom of the pastor who did not live in the area rather than have any role in leadership. There is another church plant in Northern Virginia that seems to be going the same way. My take: the pastors should get past their high-school and college days culture and get to know and appreciate the people of the community. Do not try to reproduce Intervarsity or Campus Crusade. Hymns are not a sin and "uneducated" (never graduated from college) should not be ignored as uninformed or stupid. People who have served in and/or live in the area are needed in leadership and not just to serve coffee and give. We all need to pray together and serve God in the community in which there is to be a plant. Glenna Hendricks
— Glenna Hendricks
comment_post_ID); ?> I like it Mac and do agree with your opinions on the matter. Thanks much
— winston
comment_post_ID); ?> In this era, we have the opportunity of professional church staff today who utilize their gifting to shape the image and atmosphere of the church organization. But the 100% real impact on the church visitors is genuine evidence of changed lives by the gospel and the active growing discipleship (just as it was in the first century church). One demonstration is financially rich believers ministering equally together with poor believers (how odd, and incredibly miraculous; all humble and bow at the foot of the cross.). It is the awesome contrast of church members vocations, race, gender, age, maturity, gifting, humility that demonstrates to visitors "there is a Spirit in the place". That first-time guest list of 10 are "physical excuses", not spiritual excuses. Those don't tell the story. The condition of facilities and publicly greeting people have zero to do with it. The power of God in and through believers lives dedicated to impact other people with their relationship bridge-building of acceptance of the lost around them. Empowered believers are infectious, loving, helpful, giving, self-less, dynamic, compelling, bold, Christ-filled. As I have been in many church settings domestically and internationally, the facilities can be poor, and yet the fellowship can still be rich. We need to operate with first church humility. People come to Christ on His terms, not on our human abilities of hospitality. A huge catastrophe in a community, disaster relief brings lots of people into churches – many come to the church in those terrible conditions no matter the physical condition of the local church. Off the condition of facility, and onto the condition of God's people (living stones).... and everything else will grow.... and the other physical issues will be corrected by the staff.
— Russ Wright

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