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Does your community know what you are FOR or what you are AGAINST? | Jeff Henderson

Does your community know what you are FOR or what you are AGAINST? | Jeff Henderson

I believe the world needs more growing, healthy organizations – growing, healthy churches, growing, healthy nonprofits, growing, healthy businesses.

Think of it this way. What creates a vibrant community? A vibrant community has healthy, growing businesses, churches, schools, people.

This is a big deal. In fact, one of the ways the world improves is one community at a time.

The way communities improve is one organization at a time. And the way organizations improve is one person at a time.

You can’t have growing, healthy organizations without growing, healthy people.

I want to talk about the two questions that grow organizations – whether it’s a business, church, or nonprofit. These two questions help reduce the mystery of positive, word-of-mouth advertising and help us create a salesforce for free for our organizations.

But not only that, we’re going to talk about how these two questions can have a personal impact on you, growing your career and life, moving you closer to your potential.

Now, there are certainly other factors that play into growth. For example, a business has to have a great product and service. A church must have a heart for prayer. All of those are non-negotiables. And yet, there are businesses that have great products and services, but they do not grow. There are churches who pray but they do not grow.

It’s why I believe every leadership team of any organization needs to understand these two fundamental questions. When a business, church or nonprofit understands the power of these two questions, they begin to take the mystery and elusiveness out of positive, word-of-mouth advertising and they begin to create a salesforce for free who willing spreads the word to their network of friends about the work you are doing. When this happens, growth follows.

Question #1 is this:

What do you want to be known FOR?

This is your vision, your unique niche in the marketplace. As Steve Jobs with Apple once said, “This is your dent in the universe.” When people talk about your organization, what do you want to be known FOR?

It seems like a simple question and the good news is that it is. But don’t make the mistake of thinking simple is easy. This is a hard question that multi-billion-dollar organizations can sometimes miss.

In his great book, FOCUS, marketing consultant and strategist Al Ries talks about the time he was hired to help Burger King, a quick-service restaurant. They asked him to help them increase their chicken sandwich sales. In the first meeting, he asks everyone to go outside and read the sign on the front of the building. At first, everyone is a bit confused. “Why are we doing this?” they thought. But Al kept pushing them. “What’s the sign on the building say?”

Finally, someone timidly said, “Burger King.”

“Exactly,” Al Ries said. “You want to be known for being the king of burgers. Here’s my question: ‘Why are we selling chicken sandwiches?’”

You can’t be known for everything, but you must be known for something. And if there is confusion in the office space about this, there will be confusion in the marketplace about this.

“So, what do you want your organization to be known FOR?” This first question is the one you and I answer. The second question is for your customers or members to answer:

“What are you known FOR?”

This question helps us understand people’s experience with our vision. This question is theirs to answer.

When the answers to these two questions match – when what you WANT to be known FOR, IS what you ARE known FOR, you harness the greatest form of advertising and growth engine the world has ever seen– positive, word-of-mouth advertising. You create a sales force for free – people have experienced your compelling vision, they are better because of it, and they tell their friends.

It’s that simple. And it’s that hard.

The reality for any organization is that there is currently a gap between those two questions – because there are no perfect organizations. It’s why the goal of any business, nonprofit and church leadership team should be to close the gap between these two questions.

I often encourage leaders to walk around their organization and do a vision inventory. This simply means you walk around and ask this question, “What do you think we are known FOR?” Asking this question will give you an idea of your starting point, and the work you have to do.

Now, I know I’ve been talking a lot about business but let me share with you how these two questions have impacted our church in Atlanta, Georgia.

In 2011, we started Gwinnett Church. It’s located in a northern suburb of Atlanta and is campus of North Point Ministries. In the early days of the church, before there were Sunday services, before we even had a name, we did the same thing I’m asking you to do – we began with these two questions.

Since we weren’t up and running yet, we asked these questions from a global perspective: What do you want the Church to be known FOR and what is the Church known FOR?

There were only five of us at the time trying to start this church. It was a great discussion but there was a comment that stopped all of us.

“Many people are more familiar with what the Church is against, rather than what the Church is FOR. We should be known for what we’re FOR.” We all just looked at each other for a moment.

How did we get to this point as a global Church? How did the most inclusive message, the most loving message, the greatest message the world has ever known been turned upside down to the point that many people are more familiar with what the Church is against rather than what the Church is FOR?

Now, I know the Church isn’t a business but if we can put it into business terminology, we would say that the Church has a brand image problem.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can change this. We must change this.

It’ why in our context we began to brainstorm answers to the question: What do we want to be known FOR? And the answers began to flow.

We’re FOR Gwinnett families.

We’re FOR Gwinnett students.

We’re FOR Gwinnett businesses.

We’re FOR Gwinnett adults.

We’re FOR the people of Gwinnett because God is FOR them. And that’s been our message ever since.

Not only that, it’s been incredibly encouraging to see so many other churches jump in and begin to share the same message with their communities. By doing so, we are trying to reach people who have said no to church. Something powerful happens when people who’ve said no to church realize the church is still saying yes to them.

In the early days of our church I had an artist draw this illustration of a man on a couch with his back to the church. This man did not just represent men. He represented families, adults, students who had no interest in church. I told our staff that our challenge is to shrink the gap and give him a reason to turn around and consider our church. To do that, we have to be inclusive in our messaging. We have to include him, to show him that we have more in common with him and them than they might think.

Practically speaking, what does that look like?

Well, when we purchased the property where our first location is and started the construction process, the city where we’re located said we could put up a sign that said, “Gwinnett Church. Coming Soon.” That’s exactly what I did NOT want to do – at least not our introductory message to this community.

Instead, we created a sign that talked about what we’re known FOR. Instead we had the guy on the couch in mind. What message could we create that would include him as he drove by the property on his way to work?

Instead of Gwinnett Church Coming Soon, we put up this sign.


Understandably, there were a few people who were puzzled by this. I was asked, “How are they going to know this is a church?”

“Exactly” I responded. I want there to be some mystery. I want them to have to figure this out.

Then, we gave our volunteers t-shirts that said For Gwinnett and asked them to wear it around town but to be ready when people asked them what For Gwinnett means.

One of my favorite stories came from Kim, one of our family ministry volunteers. She wore her For Gwinnett t-shirt into the grocery store one day and a man in front of her in line asked, “For Gwinnett. There’s a big sign up there on the property up the road. What’s it going to be and why does is say For Gwinnett?”

Kim responded: “It’s going to be a church.”

“A church?” he said. “Why does it say For Gwinnett?”

“Because, she replied, “many people are more familiar with what the Church is against, rather than what the Church is FOR. We want to be known for who we’re FOR.”

To which he responded, “Do you have a card?”

Kim was part of the sales force for free – people who were communicating the vision of our church which helped grow our church. This is an important point for churches and businesses: the more vision-carriers you have the more vision-casters you have. In the grocery store that night, Kim was both a vision-carrier and a vision-caster.

It’s why knowing what you’re FOR and being able to communicate it is such an important value and lesson for any organization.

But it’s even bigger than that. Here’s what I want to challenge you to be a part of – in a hyper-critical, cynical world that’s often known for what it’s against, let’s be a group of people known for who and what we’re FOR.

— Jeff Henderson, adapted from What Are You FOR?, Session 1 of Know What You’re FOR

How to Use This Study

Your church can experience tremendous influence when you close the gap between the two game-changing questions Jeff Henderson talks about above and in his five-session video study. Henderson makes it clear that if we want to change the world with our mission, then we must shift the focus of our messaging. Rather than self-promoting, we must transform our organizations to be people-centric. This sounds like a no-brainer but looking closer shows just how little this is true and how impactful the change would be if it were. Know What You’re FOR will help you – and your organization – thrive. Learn more at