Your Church Should Consider a Blue Ocean Strategy

This month in the Pastor’s Book Club, we are breaking down Blue Ocean Strategy.  In addition to a breakdown and discussion guide you can use with your team, there’s a video with ministry insights.  Learn more about The Pastor’s Book Club here.

Strategy can be a clarifying factor for your church.  It’s the bridge between vision and execution, and it’s where you answer the important “how” questions of church leadership.

The ideas in this book, a classic among the business strategy books, provide a different way to look at competition.  And while you’re not competing with other churches, you’ll still see the opportunities here.

Ultimately, finding blue oceans are about finding new ways to reach people.  That’s something every church leader should attempt.  Not innovation for the sake of change, but innovation for the sake of the mission.

Most industries are driven by cutthroat competition. This results in a bloody red ocean where rivals fight over shrinking profits. Blue Ocean Strategy offers a systematic approach for making the competition irrelevant by creating uncontested market space.

Current markets represent all the industries in the market today. 

The boundaries are accepted. 

The rules are known.

But in reality, these oceans are flooded with competition. This cut-throat battle leaves the waters bloody. This is the Red Ocean.

In the red ocean, you closely follow what everyone else is doing.

Blue Oceans are unknown, untapped, unexplored markets. 

They might be hidden in plain sight.  Or they might be close to what you’re already doing.  But they are new, and there’s less competition and noise.

Taking a Blue Ocean approach means your goal isn’t to outperform the competition or be the best of the best. Instead, your goal is to redraw the boundaries and operate in a new space.


Two Examples of Blue Ocean Strategy

  • Cirque du Soleil:  It wasn’t about animals and cotton candy, it was something else entirely. While kids are still part of the target audience, the higher ticket price guaranteed the primary customers would be adults. Cirque du Soleil did not attempt to be another circus with clowns and performing animals—its Blue Ocean Strategy completely reinvented the market.
  • iTunes: When iTunes entered the market, they solved the big problem of illegal downloads by making it easy for people to download single songs.  As a result, they created an entirely new category of consumption. Today, streaming services are swimming in a new, Blue Ocean.


The disruption many churches are facing due to COVID are giving us a reason to look for new ways to do ministry.  In some ways, COVID is leading us into Blue Ocean opportunities.  Are we brave enough to go there with purpose?


Here are some questions you can ask as you consider new ways to reach people.

Question 1: Which of the factors that the industry takes for granted should be eliminated?

By eliminating something that everybody else is fighting over, you can re-allocate your focus and your efforts to improving the more important and more valuable things. 

In your church, eliminating some ministries could free you up to double down on others.  See the Keystone Ministry part of the Building Your Ministry Plan course for more details.

Question 2: Which factors should be reduced well below industries standard?

Every part of your organization isn’t going to be perfect.  In order to win in some area, you’ll likely need to compromise on others. So if you can’t eliminate (question 1), are there places were you could de-scale or de-scope?

Just because the larger church you follow online does something doesn’t mean you need to emulate.  You can’t copy their vision, values, team, or budget…so is it really necessary to try?


Question 3:  Which factors should raise above industries standards?

By eliminating some things and significantly reducing others, you have spare resources leftover that you can allocate to being exceptional in a few things.

On our Two Page Plan, there’s a section for you to highlight your distinctives, the things that make you unique from all the other churches in your area.  These are probably areas where you should excel.


Question 4: Which factors should be created that have never been offered?

What is something that no one else in your area is doing? What’s something brand new that your community cares about? 

Are there new ideas you should try?  Are there things working in completely different organizations that could work for the church?  

To read the full breakdown of Blue Ocean Strategy, check out the Pastor’s Book Club.  Each month, you’ll get a book breakdown of an important business book and a ministry insight video you can share with all of your leaders.