3 Things Seth Godin Taught Me About Ministry

Just to clarify, I've never met or stalked Seth Godin. He's a marketing guru and vocational genius. I've read as many of his books as I can find, listened to lectures he has circling the internet and, of course, read his blog.

And I feel like I've learned a lot from him.

1) Permission is more effective than interruption

Seth distinguishes in his work between interruption and permission marketing. Interruption marketing is what most of us think of when we think of marketing: commercials, ads, things that jump out and interrupt our day and our thoughts and scream for attention. Permission marketing is something different, a slow steady accumulation of relationship and trust that leads to increased engagement.

Quality ministry requires us to constantly build relationship and trust. Quality ministry relies more on networking than contact work. Quality ministry is more concerned about what happens over the course of years than what happens during this meeting.

From his miracles to his penetrating questions, Jesus constantly built permission with people.  He didn't always attract or please crowds.  And he wasn't content to just get attention and baptize.  He wanted something more, something steadier, a deeper level of engagement.  That's why he constantly gave people opportunities to opt-in, to come on board, to follow him.

We should do likewise.

2) Ministry is more effective when it's unique

One of Seth's core concepts is the idea that people and companies should strive to be remarkable. Remark-able. Worth talking about.  And this requires them to be distinctive in some way.  It's not enough to do what everyone else is doing but just do it a little cheaper and a little faster.  If you want to be remarkable, you have to be truly unique.

This revelation really freed me up to make some shifts in our ministry strategy and to take some creative risks in how we went about achieving our ministry goals (without sacrificing our faithful commitment to the gospel).  Because, in reality, there are things that IV does that RUF or Wesley can do better than us.  And God's kingdom's advance is slowed when we mimic each other and overlap.  And it's a lot less fun.

I love the thought that finding our unique niche in ministry should be one of my chief aims as a Staff.  I love working with students to figure out what we do well, remarkably, and to think about how we can do more of that.  I love the freedom that comes from valuing creative over cheap and fast.

3) Ministry takes time sometimes

This is an odd thing to walk away with from Seth's work, but I've found it really helpful.  As a blogger, Seth communicates thoughts a drip at a time.  Drip drip drip.  He doesn't empty the whole bucket at once.  And the slow drip drip drip of communication allows time for him to shape and craft his thoughts, time for me to process his ideas, and time for both of us to grow and change.

In ministry there's a push for people to grow and change overnight.  For some, there are life and death situations, life-defining circumstances they're looking at.  Time can feel like a luxury we don't have.  And all this is amplified with college students.  They'll be gone so soon!

But God works his change often over time.  Drip drip drip.  I wondered today why God gave the 10 Commandments to Moses rather than Abraham and all I've got is: drip drip drip.  A little at a time, over time, drip drip drip, and we're transformed. 

Seth has helped me be more patient, which makes me more kind, less prone to envy and proud boasting.  I'm grateful for him and his work.


  1. Robert H.10:42 AM

    Re: Point 2 - Have you heard of Will Mancini and his book Church Unique? I read it this fall and found it to be a fantastic summary of why and how to pursue a unique vision for ministry.

    Great summary of Seth's thoughts!

  2. I'm not familiar with Mancini's book. I'll check it out. Thanks!