Two conversations. Two very different people. One powerful perspective for the pregnancy help community.
The first conversation was with comedian Robert G. Lee, in town to perform on the Huckabee show, which is filmed just a few minutes from our home north of Nashville. Because he’s a good guy, Robert dropped by for dinner, and as we talked, he mentioned an axiom for performers he keeps in mind: Every five years, you must reinvent yourself.
There’s a lot of truth in this. Sure, there are tried and true stories or bits which audiences love, but if a comedian performs the same sketches for 10 years—without adding or changing any material—he or she becomes stale. Same old, same old doesn’t get it in the long run.
An example in the acting community might be Tom Hanks. His early movies in the mid 80’s were mostly comedies such as Bachelor Party. By the late 80s and early 90s, he was a detective in Turner and Hooch. A few years later Hanks was a widowed father in the love story, Sleepless in Seattle. He moved on to playing a mentally-challenged hero in Forrest Gump, an astronaut in Apollo 13, a pilot in Sully—we could go on. Today, we see Tom Hanks as everyone from Woody in Toy Story to the kind Mr. Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.
Tom Hanks continued to reinvent, never locking himself into one genre or character. He finds the changing needs of audiences and meet those needs, even if he must break out of his comfort zone to do so. Not surprisingly, he is one of the most successful actors on the planet.
My second conversation was with someone I won’t name. He is passionately pro-life, cares for the hurting and broken, has the ear of hundreds of thousands of young people through a massive social media platform. He knows something of pregnancy help ministries. He is not on the “inside” of our work, but he knows plenty to form opinions.
He pointed out something we already know. Those in the abortion industry are extremely good at reaching their target audience. We agreed, the Planned Parenthoods of this world have a lot of money to invest in marketing, and they use it well.
His heart breaks however, because of his perception that a number of pregnancy help ministries attempt to reach today’s potential client with messaging out of the 70s, 80s and 90s. His blunt assessment? “A lot of it (marketing) is total crap.” Ugh. Didn’t want to hear that.
Some of his analysis made me want to push back, to show we are working harder than ever to reach those vulnerable to abortion. Yet there was so much truth, too.
This man is in the middle of the youth culture. He knows what they are thinking. If his perception of many pregnancy help organizations is that we must be more relevant, he likely has a point.
Are we doing better than we were 10 years ago? Darned right, we are. Are we better at creating relevant marketing campaigns? Yep.
Are many of us looking at every facet of our ministries—from the waiting area to the ultrasound room to the classroom—and thinking less about our agenda and more about her need for comfort and a peaceful haven during a turbulent time? Yes, and yes.
But if we had this all figured out, we would own the lion’s share of the market and Planned Parenthood would be bordering on insolvency.
So, here’s fact: If our destination is owning the market, we’re not there yet. Let’s not sugar coat this fact, let’s own it and keep working to change the dynamic.
Both of my friends, coming from vastly different backgrounds, brought the same perspective: if the pregnancy help community is going to be successful in our mission, we—without question—must be willing to break down any barriers keeping those who need us from calling our number.
Tweet This: For the pregnancy help community to be successful we must be willing to break down barriers keeping those who need us from calling our #.
We must—regularly—reinvent ourselves. This may not mean re-branding, but it could. We’re all in different locations with differing needs calling for slightly different approaches. While many principles will be the same, the pregnancy help center in the inner city needs a different marketing strategy than the one in South Dakota.
If this means re-branding, we do it.
It this means we need more funding for marketing, we find it.
If this means re-imagining our services, we make it happen.
In short, as long as we hold fast to our ethics, we must wake up each morning willing to change if it means reaching more.
Reinvention is rarely comfortable. In fact, it is usually terribly uncomfortable because it means stepping on toes and killing sacred cows. And it means some of our own will walk away because we’re not doing things as they’ve always been done. When this takes place however, we’re in good company. Jesus walked this road throughout His entire ministry.
Tweet This: Reinvention is rarely comfortable. In fact, it is usually terribly uncomfortable because it means stepping on toes and killing sacred cows.
Let’s look around our offices, our mobile units, our maternity homes. Look hard. As we do, let’s ask, “Is this the best way to successfully impact our culture?” Or, in other words, “Is this working right now?”
If we’re honest, we’ll know. We’ll see what is good, and we’ll see what must change. Because let’s be real enough to admit, we can all grow and learn. Show me a ministry that has it all figured out and I’ll show you a ministry divorced from reality.
When we see room for improvement, let’s not beat ourselves up. Instead, let’s seek solutions and get to work. The lives of moms, dads—and children—depend on us.
As my two friends pointed out, let’s reinvent when we must. The more we change, the more we reach. The more we reach, the more we change our communities.