Are you a Jimmy Fallon or Jay Leno Type of Church Leader?

You would think that Jay Leno had it made.

He was the King of late night television.  He was (on most nights) crushing the competition.  Letterman and Jimmy Kimmel would have LOVED to have the ratings that Jay Leno enjoyed… right up until his departure last week.

But Leno was, by most accounts, forced out early by NBC.  A new article/commentary at Mashable tells why:  Jay Leno, while he was doing great in the traditional measures (nationwide TV audience in a given demographic) could not make the switch to the future (which included youtube, vine, twitter, facebook, and all the viral directions that TV and late night was going).

Enter Jimmy Fallon. Jimmy Fallon can post a self-contained short-form video to youtube and garner a couple of million views in a short period of time. Fallon regularly plays to the younger audience via social media… crowdsourcing many of his gags from the internet itself.

Leno would never turn the corner with that audience.

And… NBC needed him to in order to insure the future success of the Tonight Show franchise.

So… how does this apply to the church; and to you as a leader?

Because you might be a Jay Leno.  You might be very conventional in the way you’re approaching ministry.  And things may be going great guns now.  But that doesn’t mean they will in the future. Particularly if you don’t change.

I’m not saying that you need to take your ministry ‘viral’, specifically with any kind of technology, short video type of things.

But I am saying that the people and culture you are ministering to are changing.  And you need to as well.

Here’s the problem.  99% of churches won’t be pre-emptive in their strike to insure their own future (as NBC did in this case).  Most of the time, they’ll wait until the leader is totally out of sync with the community and culture, attendance is down, and most key leaders have left, before they suggest such a change.

If you’re a Leno… that’s not all bad.  You’re effective right now. And that’s because you’re good… you’re seasoned… and God is with you.  Just be sure that don’t keep your head in the sand in the future.  You need to grow as a leader.  You need to change with your community (not doctrinally, but culturally).

If you don’t… quite honestly, you probably won’t find yourself like Jay Leno (going out at the top of your game).  You’ll probably find yourself hosting the tonight show for another ten years and leaving (or being asked to leave) when a Jimmy Fallon kicks your butt on another channel. And you’ll leave behind a church that is much less active, much less productive, and much less able to reach their community for Christ than if you would have considered some relatively easy, slow changes years earlier.

What can you learn from Jay Leno? From NBC? From Jimmy Fallon?  How does this apply to your leadership.

(You don’t have to agree with me… the purpose of this post was to make you THINK).  🙂


Read more here…


  • Stephen Canfield February 24, 2014 Reply

    Well, its a little premature to make judgement calls, let’s see if Jimmy even works! I am cautiously optimistic because TV doesn’t have a loyal audience as in years past, there are too many other good options out there and the Boomers are going to be dying off. It might have been best for NBC to ride the Leno train into the horizon and get every last bit out of the format and Baby Boomer demographic they can…only time will tell.

  • Earl Mills February 24, 2014 Reply

    Unfortunately, for some churches, the question needs expanded — Are you a Jimmy Fallon or a Jay Leno type leader, or a Johnny Carson or even Jack Paar type leader because of how far behind culture you are.

  • Chris February 24, 2014 Reply

    Very interesting! Thanks for sparking some ideas and making me think on a Monday morning.

  • James February 24, 2014 Reply

    Excellent subject. If you’re aware, I’m sure you and Sean are with how much reading you do, of the Emergent group who have jumped into knowing and keeping current on how our culture is changing, you’ll have noticed that keeping a close watch on society, our culture and the world is essential in communicating the Gospel in a fresh, relevant manner.
    My particular church, having chosen a new pastor, is going backwards, reviving the old creeds, thee and thou prayers, way too much liturgy, and even some of the quotes from the pulpit are dated, about 20 years ago. I don’t hold out for much hope they will all of a sudden have an influx of new believers. they just don’t relate.
    The church is in conflict, many see the need to move on, be current and relevant, while others like the same, traditional, comfortable “feel” of church.
    Change is not easy, but necessary. Thanks for the discussion starter. Good correlation to the church culture.

  • Jimmy F February 25, 2014 Reply

    Or ensure.

  • Matthew March 4, 2014 Reply

    Since when does the Word of God and it’s presentation need to conform with the worldly cultural sway? The message is tried and true and yet “we” the church of today seem to feel that we must add to it and make it hip so it can be accepted. You and I are sinners in need of a savior. We do not need Hollywood or Madison Avenue or Twitter or Facebook to help God’s message of salvation and redemption be more palatable. The Holy Spirit is still the one who convicts hearts and it is our job as ministers of the Gospel to speak truth in every word.

  • Mark Simpson March 7, 2014 Reply

    My response is, who cares? Why have to use two secular comedians to try to suck some spiritual truth? Biblical discipleship is people mentoring people. It is a personal process. It is what Jesus did. He spent time with people, didn’t keep sending them YouTube videos. While trying to be more relevant all the time all we are doing is losing our relevance because we do not come to people with a fresh word from God, but rather some new tech technique. Sad. You want to connect with us? Hear and share a fresh word from Him.

  • Social media is a tool of engagement, and we need to strive to keep people engaged. People are not likely to be around others from their church on a daily basis, and the church needs to be intentional about using whatever means available to make a daily touch. Otherwise we as flawed people will just be thinking about the church on Sunday, or maybe Wednesday night when we drop off our kids.

  • Jade March 25, 2014 Reply

    I think that is some good thoughts, however that was not why Jay Leno was let go. It was a reason but not the reason.

    The thoughts though are interesting and need to be applied. The church is slow to change the way they minister to the community largely because we pastors are.

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