church communications

Does Your Church Start with Why?

start with why book
Written by Paul Steinbrueck

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start with why bookLast week, in The Secret to the Success of Apple, MLK and the Wright Brothers, we kicked off this series discussing a revolutionary principle which Simon Sinek outlines in his book Start With Why.

To review, Sinek says, “All the great and inspiring leaders and organizations in the world all think act and communicate in the exact same way and it’s the complete opposite of everyone else.” Almost every organization starts by telling you what they do – the feature of their product or service. Some then explain how they do it – their differentiating value proposition. Very few communicate (or even know) why they do what they do – their purpose or cause. But the inspired leaders and organizations do just the opposite. They start with why. They are looking for people who will join them in their cause.

Churches That Start With “What”

Now you might think that most churches start with why. After all, the local church has the most important cause in the universe – reconciling disconnected people to God through the love and grace of Jesus. But that’s not usually how people introduce you to their church.

More often than not an invitation to church (whether it’s a personal invitation, a radio commercial, a billboard, or the church’s website) sounds like this:

Our pastor’s teaching is biblical and practical, the music is inspiring, the children’s ministry is top-notch. We’re friendly and open to everyone. We invite you to check out a service on Sunday.

Good preaching, music, children’s ministry, and welcoming new people are all important, but they are what the church does.

Invitations like this do not inspire anyone to join your cause. This “starting with what” appeals to consumerism, to a “what’s in it for me” mindset.

People who join your church because if what it does will leave when they get tired of it or find what some other church is doing more appealing.

Churches That Start With Why

Churches that start with “why” invite people by saying things like this:

We believe God loves everyone and loves the whole person. So our purpose is help those disconnected from God to get connected, to bring healing to those who are hurting emotionally, and to help those with physical and financial needs. We do that by teaching from God’s word principles that apply to all aspects of life, by worshiping in ways that will help you connect with God, and by serving and caring for each other and for people in our community. We invite you to come on Sunday and see for yourself what God is doing through us and to see how you might join us.

Do you see the difference?

Churches that start with why invite people to join their cause.

Do you see how much more inspiring and God-honoring this is?

Which are you?

Pastors, church leaders and church communicators, I challenge you to do two things.

1) Examine at the way you are describing your church to people. Look at your invitation cards, your billboards, your website, your evangelism training curriculum and anything else which describes your church or invites others to your church. Don’t just think about them; actually look at them with your eyes. Do they start with what you do or why you do it?

2) Think back to the last time you invited someone to your church. (You do invite your friends to your church, don’t you?) Did you start with what or why?

Now, which church do you want to be – the church that sells people on services or invites people to join your mission? Do you need to change the way you describe your church?

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About the author

Paul Steinbrueck

Paul Steinbrueck is co-founder and CEO of OurChurch.Com, husband, father of 3, blogger. You can follow him on Twitter at @PaulSteinbrueck.


  • Paul –

    I want you to know that this post has been stuck in my mind everyday since I read it. I am beginning to think of what vs. why every time I write content now. So simple, yet so powerful. Thanks.

  • Paul,

    Thanks for sharing.

    I am in the process of bringing the Why message to our Lutheran church retreat center, for which I am on the board.

    Any ideas on the best way to do this?

    Thanks with God's blessing
    david leaver
    914-261-5174 cell

    • Hi David, that's awesome! My suggestion would be to start by showing this 19 minute TED video in which Simon Sinek explains the main points of Start with Why – Depending on how much time you have and the size of your group, you could then have a handful of questions prepared to start the group discussing the concepts and how to apply them within a church. Where can churches start with why? In the announcements in their services, bulletins/programs, on the website, membership classes, other places?

      Then for those who are on board and want to start with why in their churches, what's the next step? Real the book? Watch and discuss the video with the church leadership team? Put together an action plan to implement?

      Hope that helps! I would love to know how this goes. Please contact me and let me know. Would make for a great blog post!

  • Paul, thank you for sharing this post. I thoroughly enjoyed and agree that the “why” is important for retention of the new body of believers, especially the millennials who are desperately looking to be an impact.

    However, I struggle to start with the “why” to people who just have no taste for God whatsoever. That “what”, whether it’s a guest sports athlete, 100,000 egg drop, or comedy night seems to be the only method of getting them in the door.

    I was not a believer until my mid-teens. The “why” was irrelevant until i became a Christ follower. I guess my question is how to start with the “why” and still appeal to non-believers.


    • Hi Nate, the bible tells us deep down all people, including unbelievers, have a yearning for God, plus desires for forgiveness and meaningful purpose which only come from trusting in Jesus. Some people may have learned to ignore this yearning or have sought to fill it with something else, but it’s there.

      I don’t recall Jesus ever having a guest sports athlete, 100,000 egg drop, or comedy night. But he also didn’t just wait around for people to come to him to hear him preach. He went from town to town, meeting people, going to their houses, healing them. When people saw he genuinely cared about them, many of them wanted to hear about his “why.”

      But the reality is most people don’t want to give up their comfortable self-focused lives to live for Jesus. Even Jesus who at times taught crowds of 5000+ people had only between 100-500 actual followers when he died.

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