Netflix is one of the greatest conveniences of our day. Netflix has revolutionized the entertainment industry, providing a convenient avenue for renting games and DVDs. The gurus behind Netflix cornered the rental market and were the proverbial “kings of the world.”  At the pinnacle of their success they made a series of mistakes that cost them dearly. Fox News reported that 1,000 shares of Netflix stock was worth $118,840 on October 21, 2011.  By 11:48 a.m. on October 25, 2011, that same 1,000 shares of Netflix stock would be worth $77,690 – a loss of $41,150.1 There was a mass exodus of consumers from Netflix in a very short period of time. I believe that the modern church can learn a great deal from the mistakes of Netflix, improving member retention.

Netflix, new to the rental industry, skyrocketed to success with little competition. They developed a large consumer base very quickly. They established an affordable baseline price for their service, which included DVD and streaming service, quickly setting them apart from their competitors. In the early part of July, Netflix was at the top of their game. Shareholders were happy with the way things were panning out and Netflix stock was almost $300 a share.1 It was at this point that the leadership of Netflix started making some poor decisions.

Netflix lost sight of the consumers that catapulted them to success. They decided to depart from the model that had gained such a large fan base, ostracizing Netflix from their loyal users. They made the decision to change the plan, increasing the price by 60% without any added benefit, betraying the trust of consumers. This action was taken during an economic recession, confusing subscribers nationwide. Netflix then informed the masses of the company’s intention to split the Netflix plan into two services, one for streaming and one for DVDs. This sparked outrage and was handled carelessly by their customer service representatives. It soon became apparent that this was a catastrophic decision, sending the Netflix think-tank into a tailspin.  The best idea that they could come up with is to say “never mind.” They tried to act like nothing happened, but this only branded the corporation with a wishy-washy image. Netflix has not recovered.

The modern church can learn much from this comedy of errors. If a church makes significant changes, without showing the benefits, they will lose some members.  Change must be gradual, bathed in counsel and prayer. Abrupt changes give the impression that the church is not concerned with the opinions of the congregation. Unlike Netflix, churches need to be conscious of all aspects of their congregation: economic, personal, and corporate situations. It is important to balance the cost of implementing change with the benefit of making change to gain a healthy, holistic perspective when deciding the best course of action. When you lose sight of the people you serve, you will soon lose the people you serve.

One thing that Netflix did correctly throughout this situation, an unsightly blemish to their corporate portfolio, was to eliminate the unsuccessful practices. When Netflix implemented a program to split the streaming and DVD services, they lost 800,000 customers.  Someone in the company had an epiphany: “Maybe we should not be doing this.” Although a great deal of damage had already been done, they salvaged a portion of their relationships. Churches must always maintain the ability to adapt every aspect of their ministry. There is no point in continuing with an unsuccessful program that has already run its course. It is a better use of church time and resources to focus on implementing programs that your congregation wants. When a church, much like Netflix, realizes that their great ideas have lost touch with the people, it is wise to take an exit poll or online survey to gauge what programs would be of interest to their congregation.  By considering the mistakes of Netflix, churches will be able to avoid the same pitfalls and better serve their congregations.  .

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