Innocent Smoothies and the Church

20130725-001354.jpg
These are just a few things I think the church could learn from the international smoothie-making company “innocent”.

1. It’s nice to look nice

First and foremost, the design and visuals for Innocent products are superb. Care has been taken at every level of the branding to make the products fun. They give us an insight into the creators of the product. Without knowing them, I know that they are life-affirming, interesting, and even a little self-deprecating. The syntax, language, logo, and especially the jokes on their packaging are designed to interest and yes, entertain their consumers.

Most churches could do with a bit of marketing training. Simply saying on your church flyers that your church is “fun and interesting” is neither fun nor interesting. In fact having to state it sometimes indicates that the church is neither. Let’s abandon the comic sans and clip-art posters and learn that making things look nice is actually an important, vital part of the mission. It’s not shallow to want quality aesthetics. In this age of digital-everything, not being up to scratch in these small, but crucial things further entrenches the view that the church is stuffy and out-of-date.

2. Be mission-shaped

Lets take a look at Innocent’s mission, which hung above every loo apparently so it’s not forgotten):

Be natural,
be entrepreneurial,
be responsible,
be commercial and
be generous.

Everything they do flows from these 5 values. It determines how they spend money and who they work with, right down to what plastic they use for their bottles. When I look at these values I notice three things: the values are positive, outward focused, and ontological (about being, not simply doing). These are three things the church could take note of.

Positive.
When we outline our values, it’s just better and more life affirming to focus on something positive rather than negative. For example, don’t say “serving sinners”, say “serving people”. Both statements are true, but one needn’t be on your church welcome leaflet. Does this mean you water down the gospel? certainly not. The tough language if needed can come later, when they’re welcome, and a part of the family. When the cultures biggest gripe with the church is that it appears judgemental, I cannot stress how important this is.

Outward
The values are briefly explained on their website. Pursuing each value involves a great deal of different things, but rather than droning on about it they decided to show how each value benefits others, which to be fair is probably the bit we care most about. Every single one of their values improves the lives of others in some small way. Check them out here: http://www.innocentdrinks.co.uk/us/careers).

If a fruit smoothie company can be motivated by world-improvement, then the church has no excuse. The church has historically been a vehicle for great social change. Many churches are doing great at this, but often limit themselves to causing “spiritual” change in their community. They hold prayer events, do worship meetings etc… Theres nothing wrong with that (although I dislike drawing a harsh line between what’s spiritual and what’s not), but it would also be nice if we were fiery and passionate about those basic needs too, from providing water for the developing world to planting trees in the local park.

Ontological
Innocent uses the language of being, not simply doing. This makes a much stronger statement about their commitments, (they don’t just do nice things, they are nice people) and it has the added bonus of sounding far less like they’re blowing their own trumpet. Instead of simply saying “We do creative worship” say “we are creative worshipers” and let your actions speak for themselves.

There is a significant caveat with this approach. Innocent wouldn’t say such things about themselves if their actions didn’t support their claim, and nor should the church. If you say you are something then you need to be it. Your actions don’t necessarily define who you are, but they do reveal who you are. It’s a great cliché isn’t it, “we don’t do church, we are the church”. Sound’s great, and its true, but if we’re not doing stuff we might as well call it a day and all go home. CS Lewis said: “Fine feelings, new insights, greater interest in “religion” mean nothing unless they make our actual behaviour better.”

So don’t just do nice things, be nice people.

3. Senders, not keepers.

Finally Innocent aren’t precious about people in the sense that they actively encourage people to move on to other ventures. They train and encourage their staff to become entrepreneurs themselves and in turn create their own businesses. Not only does this develop the staff, it also likely develops the company. It ensures the company has a fresh injection of people coming in with new ideas, while the current staff are leaving innocent and taking with them all the good business practices they’ve been learning.

The church could follow suit and make its chief aim to send, rather than attract. The parallels with church-planting are easy to see. Just as some of the intrinsic D.N.A of Innocent goes into new business ventures, the D.N.A of a church can go into new churches and faith-communities. These in turn become organisations in their own right, and go on in turn, to send their own people off to do new things. It’s multiplication, rather than just accumulation.

I say again, Innocent isn’t precious about people. Instead, by training, developing and sending their people they’re demonstrating that people simply are precious and that, sounds like a very Christ-like attitude to me.