The Fred Factor

No, this is not some self-grandiose statement about myself  but rather a reflection on a book entitled The Fred Factor by Mark Sanborn.   I admit that since my name is Fred, when I saw the book at Barnes & Nobles, it sought of leapt out at me.   Rarely is my name used in a positive manner in our culture.

Mark Sanborn is an international speaker on motivation and leadership development.  He speaks to corporations on how to improve customer service.  This book was inspired by Mr. Sanborn’s postal carrier, named Fred.   He begins telling the story of how he met Fred.  Fred introduced himself and asked a bit about Mr. Sanborn.  When Fred learned that he was away on speaking engagements, he offered to bundle the mail and hold it on those days he was going to be away.  Fred was offering a service that was beyond the ordinary scope of a postal carrier.  Other postal carriers and we have all had them, stuff the mailbox till it is over flowing alerting any would be burglars that we are not at home.  It was this type of service that endeared Mr. Sanborn to Fred.

Mr. Sanborn describes what he calls the Fred Principles.  They are simply stated:

  1. Everyone makes a difference
  2. Success is based on relationships
  3. You must continually create value for others
  4. You can reinvent yourself regularly.

I began wondering if we could apply the Fred Factor to our congregations.  Rev. Michael McGee in a sermon delivered to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington,  told a story about a UUA consultant who was speaking with a Mormon Official.   “[The] Mormon official ended the conversation by saying if Unitarian Universalism could retain even half of the visitors who come to us we could become the most dangerous church in America!”  

What would the Fred Factor look like in our congregations?  How do we show (not tell) that everyone makes a difference.  We show this  in how we greet others. We show this in how receptive we are to hearing their story and withholding our opinions unless asked.  We show this by focusing on them and their needs and not pushing our church agenda on them. 

How do we build relationships?   People come to church to fulfill some need.  Maybe it’s because they are new in town and want to meet new friends.  A church should be a safe place for them to this and feel welcomed. 

How do we create value for others?  People join congregations for lots of different reasons but one of them has to be that there is some value that is being offered to the person joining.   Mr. Sanborn offers these tidbits to adding value:

  1. Tell the truth  (seems simple enough but if inviting a visitor to a midweek adult religious education class, make sure it is still meeting)
  2. Practice personality power  (be genuine with others, say ‘We ‘re glad you’re here!’ and mean it whole heartedly)
  3. Attract through artistry (Care for your building. Is it clean or cluttered? Is it in need of repair? What do the grounds look like? Nurtured or neglected?)
  4. Meet needs in advance (Anticipate the needs of the visitor in advance and have them ready.  I visited a church once in a rainstorm and the greeter came out to my car with an umbrella.  He anticipated my needs.)
  5. Add good stuff  (Make the experience enjoyable.   Good singing. Good music.  Enthusiasm and humor in conversations.)
  6. Subtract bad stuff (Don’t make them wait for the service to start. If the service is scheduled for 10:30 then start at 10:30.  Be there in advance of starting time.  Have everything ready, flowers in place at the altar before the prelude begins.)
  7. Simplify (Make the process for joining easy to follow.  Make it meaningful but don’t make them jump through unnecessary hoops.)
  8. Improve ( reflect on how the congregation is doing and do it even better.)
  9. Surprise others (A thoughtful gesture that is unexpected.  I was surprised at the greeter meeting me a the car door with an umbrella.  It was unexpected and thoroughly welcoming.)

Recreating ourselves regularly.  This is not asking us to be different than who we are but rather to strive to be the best of who we are.  When we miss the mark we can begin again.  Reflect on how well we are doing and learn from the mistakes that were made.  Reward others when we get it right.



  1. The Robin Factor

    Yes, this IS some self-grandiose statement about me, myself, and ever so narcissistic *I*. 🙂

    [Robin, I didn’t realize that was you on the cover of UU world! Thanks for the good natured poking of fun. Blessings, Serenityhome]

  2. You’re welcome Fred.

    Thanks for being a good sport!

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