3 Lessons from FUBU

A friend and I were talking about the FUBU philosophy that so many churches have. The letters in…


A friend and I were talking about the FUBU philosophy that so many churches have. The letters in the clothing company FUBU stand for “For Us, By Us.” Here are 3 dangerous lessons that I see in the story of FUBU.

Lesson One: It’s not about us. The acronym FUBU, meaning “For Us, By Us” never sat well with me. It seemed exclusive and a little racist to be honest. Can you imagine if there was a clothing company for white people only? That’s another story. This lesson deals with the concept that too many churches are inwardly-focused. They plan each week for “their people” and don’t keep guests and specifically non-Christians in mind when designing a worship experience. This is something we’re going over in detail with our staff each week as we study Deep and Wide as a team.

Do you design services where people far from God can encounter the Living God? Do you design your facility, meeting space, kids’ classrooms and restrooms as a welcoming and warm environment for guests? Do you intentionally take out churchy words from your vocabulary – your announcements, your welcome and your signage? We have recently restructured our welcome time at the beginning of the service to simply make guests feel welcome and tell them about the communication card they can fill out. We don’t do any announcements during this time. The goal is simply to tell people we’re glad they’re here and put them at ease. We then say, “Let’s continue to sing!” – NOTE: We don’t say “worship.” Again you’ve got to read Deep and Wide. Andy Stanley goes into much more detail on this.

Lesson Two: Widen the net. FUBU made an intentional and strategic choice to go after the African-Americans in America. How did they do? They actually had a pretty good business going for a season, until they peaked in 1998. It’s been all downhill ever since. I think the lesson to learn here is to widen the net. Do you know how many African-Americans make up the United States? 13.1% according to the United States Census Bureau. Do you what the percentage is for those classified as white? 77.9%. Say what??!!! Does FUBU make a quality product? Absolutely. I think their clothes, shoes and hats are very stylish. The problem is they were so exclusive, they shot themselves in the foot. They missed an opportunity to sell product to nearly 78% of the purchasing public.

This happens all too often in churches. Leaders focus on pleasing the 99 and forget to target the 1 lost missing sheep. The sad and sobering reality is that most numbers in churches across America are reversed from the Lost Sheep Parable. Most churches focus on the few, instead of the many outside their walls and in their community. Ever heard us four and no more? Yeah. Not good. Lesson? Widen the net. Start strategies and initiatives to reach the lost, the hurting, and the broken in your community.

What if you don’t make the intentional change? Remember lesson one from my Netflix articleAdapt or die. When I checked FUBU’s website, they had attempted to adapt over the years, but they didn’t widen the net and they are no longer effective or making an impact. Their website hasn’t changed since the beginning of 2011. Read that again. 2011. That’s sad. Their Twitter account hasn’t been updated in almost a year! Side note: Your church website must be dynamic. If it looks the same today as it did in 2011, that’s a problem! Nobody is going to continually check a static website. Your online presence (website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.), must be alive and active – constantly updated and interactive. Don’t just post announcements. Ask questions and shoot for engagement. 

Lesson Three: Simplify. Keep the main thing the main thing. I could write at length about this and I have in the past. I’m a huge believer in the Simple Church book and philosophy. When I did some research on FUBU, I found they started a record label. It lasted two years and then was shut down. If I could go back in time, I would have advised them to stick with clothing and fashion – that’s their strength and that’s their “main thing.” I’ve consulted with other companies in the past that had a “main thing” and tried to branch out and start a whole new division or company. I begged them to reconsider. They proceeded and it flopped. I’m not going to name names, but you’d know the company. The point is when churches don’t keep it simple, they end up doing many things poorly, instead of a few things really well.  

You would not believe how many leaders and pastors I talk and meet with that feel they have to keep people at their church busy. They fill the church calendar with a different activity every night of the week. Most of these churches never break the 500 barrier, much less the 200 barrier. I was recently coaching a church planter who plans to start with a very busy and active church doing lots of things. This is a clear signal that we’re probably not a good fit and I probably won’t be able to help or relate to him as a coach. You can’t plant a brand new church and try to do a lot of things in the beginning. That will kill you before you start. You’ll never get off the ground. It takes all your energy and effort just to make Sunday morning happen. Yes, I know that’s a very attractional statement, but it’s true. For churches like us that connect and resonate with books like Deep and Wide, it’s all about Sunday and creating environments where people can connect with God and others.

*** So what about you and your church? Are you a FUBU church? Do you put the needs of your few ahead of the needs of the many in your community? Are you inwardly-focused? Do you need to widen the net? Do you need to adapt? Do you need to simplify? Do you need to stop doing some things so you can focus on doing a few things really well? I don’t have the answers for you – just tough questions to wrestle with. Please wrestle, pray, learn and then act.