Karate Lessons For Churches

I didn’t plan to take Karate lessons with my son Andrew on Monday nights. It wasn’t even something I was contemplating. But around two months ago, we signed up for GKR Karate and have been going weekly ever since. Now that’s not going to be of great interest to most people, but there’s a reason why I felt compelled to blog about it. ‘Coz the whole experience of getting ‘sucked in’ to sign-up and committed to Karate lessons has provided me a few thoughts as to how this particular Karate club has gained thousands of national and international students.

As Jesus said in Luke 16:8:

For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.

So here’s my summary of some of the features of this particular Karate club that I believe churches and church leaders can perhaps gain some worldly wisdom from:

  1. Door-to-door introduction – our first contact wasn’t with a brochure in the letter box, but a karate instructor who visited each house door-to-door. And the difference between this person and a random person selling cheaper electricity plans, is that you knew that this person was doing it because they took part in it and believed in it.
  2. Prepared materials – when we invited the instructor in, she had a pack of info that she walked us through step-by-step. In the info pack were pictures, testimonials etc. Honestly, our particular instructor wasn’t the slickest and most articulate salesperson. However, she was genuine and she listened to our questions and concerns. That combination of preparation and yet personal interaction was gold.
  3. Wide appeal – what makes GKR Karate clever is, I believe, the fact that they have wide appeal. It appeals to those who want to get serious about karate and train lots and lots. It also appeals to families who might want to come and train together, but only a few times a month. It has different locations that you pay for on a per-lesson basis and so how much you want to buy-in is dependent entirely on you.
  4. Upfront but not total commitment – we paid a trial membership for four months and were encouraged to just go along to a few lessons and see for ourselves. If we wanted to upgrade to full membership (for life), we could do so after four months. There was no pressure to buy any gear, uniforms or other things while we were still checking things out. What was clever was you made an upfront financial commitment and yet weren’t signing for a lifetime membership that was more costly.
  5. Lessons were newcomer friendly – the first lesson recognised that we were new, got us involved, and yet gave us a lot of ‘slack’ when it came to what was going on. The best incentive to keep coming (and buy uniforms etc.) was provided by the other regulars who were there. They obviously enjoyed it, knew what was going on and wanted to be there. We found ourselves coveting uniforms and brightly covered belts before we knew it!
  6. Follow-up – I received a letter in the post after I joined and got a personal phone call after our first lesson. Imagine if churches all did that!
  7. Advancement and sense of achievement – GKR makes it easy to advance in the initial stages. It only takes 6 lessons for your first grading. Seeing little kids with higher belts was a great incentive to train and practise.
  8. Involvement in a community – what you’re drawn into is an extensive ‘GKR family’ that has regular tournaments and events at your disposal. Also, they have an interstate network so that if you wanted to attend training at any other centre, at any other time, you could just turn up. And so what binds you to people you’ve never even met is a shared experience.
  9. Flexibility  – there are scores of regions, training centres, times all around Australia. Some cater more for kids and families, others for adults and higher grades. I’d find it difficult to imagine anyone not being able to find something that could suit them in terms of weekly commitment.
  10. Operational strategy – this is something we don’t get to see on the ground, but if you go to the website, you’ll find out that GKR seems well-organised. It’s a business with a business plan. And yet, the business serves the little ‘dojos’ that meet in your local high school on a weeknight and manages a host of current participants in its teaching and leadership structure. That balance between multi-million dollar business and intimate ‘congregations’ must be difficult to achieve, and yet I think they’ve done it.

Now how churches might take up or discard some of these observations, I’m not going to bother blogging about. However, I reckon sometimes it is good to look outside at ‘the people of this world’ in order that we might improve what we do in ways that are consistent with the unimprovable and unchangeable gospel.

Have you had similar reflections on the ‘wisdom of this world’ that have helped or might help your church practices? I’d love to hear them.


About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on August 3, 2011, in Church, Ministry and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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