World Changers Church: Know Thy Customer

By Kim S. Nash  |  Posted 2005-12-07 Print this article Print

Megachurches like the 25,000-member World Changers of Atlanta can teach corporations the true meaning of customer relationship management. How? They can look at their data and identify members, determine who could be volunteering more, contribute how much

It's 7:30 a.m. on a sticky summer Sunday outside Atlanta; state troopers wade through the flock of early birds quickly filling the parking spaces at World Changers Church.

Young couples, women with babies, elderly men, singles—nearly 8,500 people from Georgia and neighboring states push into the church's $20 million World Dome auditorium. Inside, a six-piece band queues up and 110 gospel singers blend into one mighty voice. Four female interpretive dancers slash the air with colorful scarves. The crowd begins to stand and sway and sing out: "Glory to God in the highest place!"

Some congregants wave their palms toward the pulpit, where they know their man, Pastor Creflo A. Dollar Jr., soon will bring them God's word.

Amid the fervor, a security squad in black suits eyes the crowd. A lot of donation money, perhaps $85,000, is about to surface. Should trouble arise, the guards are ready to coordinate their response over wireless devices on their wrists and ear lobes.

Once the congregation reaches capacity, warm-up pastor Vic Bolton (Dollar's brother-in-law) takes the podium. He leads a brief prayer that includes support for President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, then welcomes members, guests and the 6,000 followers watching streaming video of the service live on the Web at www.worldchangers.org.

After Bolton finishes, out strides Creflo Dollar from stage left, looking crisp in a three-piece windowpane suit. A fit 43-year-old African-American with close-cropped hair and a neat mustache, Dollar's image beams from jumbo screens flanking the stage and 14 smaller televisions mounted on pillars that bring the action to worshippers dozens of rows back. The enthusiastic congregation opens note pads, ready to absorb Dollar's trademark "prosperity gospel," which urges his followers to enrich themselves spiritually, emotionally and—equally important—financially.

With this message, Dollar has built one of the biggest evangelical ministries in the United States, with 25,000 members and $80 million in revenue this year. It's a nonprofit organization, but World Changers Ministries, which oversees the church, works like an expanding conglomerate with Dollar as its chief executive.

While Dollar's charismatic ministering is the overwhelming draw, World Changers also has managed a business feat much of the corporate world would envy. Using an 11-year-old customer relationship management system, a network of PC servers and a 12-member technical staff, the church has attracted new followers by the thousands, with membership jumping 47 percent since 2000. The church has also moved into music recording, Hispanic worship and other new markets.

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Kim has covered the business of technology for 14 years, doing investigative work and writing about legal issues in the industry, including Microsoft Corp.'s antitrust trial. She has won numerous awards and has a B.S. degree in journalism from Boston University.

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