Mixed Blessings

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

With two Rolls-Royces, a private plane and the happenstance of his last name, Dollar stirs controversy as his ministry expands.

In addition to being senior pastor, Dollar is CEO of World Changers Ministries, the umbrella organization over the church and three other groups: International Covenant Ministries, a federation of churches that pools ideas on church management; Arrow Records, a for-profit recording company for Christian music; and Creflo Dollar Ministries, an outreach group that promotes conventions and print, video and audio products, as well as Dollar's School of Prosperity.

Critics such as Aaron Spiegel, information-technology director at the Indianapolis Center for Congregations, a consulting group for religious organizations, say media-savvy, technochurch leaders such as Dollar want to use donations to build empires, not spiritual communities.

"The strategy of the megachurches is—and this is not what they say—'Come be a part of our congregation. Get your fill of God on Sunday, and we don't require anything of you other than your body and your money,'" Spiegel says. "I'm not saying there's anything wrong with what megachurches are doing, but other churches are more interested in using technology to build up the existing community."

Dollar doesn't apologize. World Changers thrives, he says, because God wants it to.

Nor does he back away from his "total-life prosperity" teachings that believers are entitled to riches, including the monetary kind. Still, skeptics rankle Dollar.

He occasionally uses a few minutes of a sermon to decry critics. One Sunday in October, he pointedly told the congregation, "Notice you didn't see any cash machines in the lobby. Nobody asked you for your tax returns. All those lies that the devil put out, I condemn those lies right now."

Meanwhile, Dollar's church keeps growing. There's a bookstore, e-commerce sites, TV studio, conferences, events, a private elementary school, fitness center and a second church at Madison Square Garden in New York, where Dollar performs services on Saturday nights, ferried to and fro on the private plane. There are offices in Canada, Australia, South Africa, Nigeria and the United Kingdom, and plans to expand a Spanish-language service he started in June.

By knowing how to market and whom to target, Creflo Dollar has sown some hearty seeds. As he might add, "Heh, heh, heh, hallelujah."

Next page: World Changers Base Case

Story Guide:

Main story:

  • The Principle and Practice of Prosperity:Pastor Creflo A. Dollar Jr. built a congregation on a message of prosperity and conservatism; he built an organization on the practical application of those principles.
  • Megamodel:The size of megachurches seems impersonal, but the customer-relationship model is as high-touch as you get.
  • Pastor's Proposition:Give to the church and you'll prosper; buy a CD and you'll learn.
  • Using Technology to Minister:Live Webcasts of sermons, Bibles on handhelds, daily e-mail blasts, online donations, and—everywhere—collect data to know who your congregants are and what they need from you.
  • Keep Attendees Involved:Getting them to services and into volunteering is only the start of an effective member-loyalty program.
  • Quick Member Integration:Right after first contact, the church reaches out to potential members with packets of prayers and information tailored to their interests and even their proximity to the church.
  • Meet Customer Needs:Give 'em what they want and they'll keep coming back for more.
  • <ZIFFARTICLE id="166841" page=**

Senior Writer
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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