I love using brevity as a tool for blogging. There is nothing more obnoxious than reading a blog post that should have ended 1000 words ago. However, there is so much that I wanted to talk about from my chapter that I wrote out nearly 1500 words of self-indulgent prose. After an hour or so of debating, my wife convinced me to cut it down. After all, I am writing on a chapter called “The Myth: People Care About What You Say”.
In my opinion the overarching theme of chapter 5 was this: You don’t know anything about the people you are trying to reach and that should bother you.
For decades we have bought into the ridiculous notion that people in our church are sitting on the edge of their seats waiting on us to deliver tiny sparks of brilliance in the form of announcements, newsletters, and bulletin inserts. We have treated our congregations like a heard of cattle that all drink from the same pool of information. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
There is no formula for universal communications. There is no one way to make everyone know everything that they need to know. In order for us to effectively communicate to people we must get to know them. What does this look like?
1. Fight Your Bias: We all have pre-conceived notions about things based on how we see them. We need to stop assuming that we know how people will receive our information. This is especially true when dealing with external communications to non-Christians. Example:
My city hosts a large, annual motorcycle rally. The weekend of the motorcycle rally a local church purchased a billboard across the street to put up an ad to reach out to the bikers and invite them to church. The billboard featured a photograph of a small child on a toy bicycle with the caption “We Are Biker Friendly” (in comic sans, of course).
I’m sure they were thinking to themselves “the bikers will appreciate the cute kids and the irony of the photograph and choose to come to our church”. However, this is what the billboard communicated: “The only bikers we want at our church are little kids on bicycles”.
2. Get Outside of Our Circle: The only way to combat bias is to get to know the people we are talking to. If we want our church’s billboard to communicate to bikers, we should spend time with bikers first. If you spend time with people you will learn more about them than you could have ever deduced on your own.
I really admire churches that take the extra step to gather opinions about their marketing from non-Christians. They are the people we are trying to reach, after all. Their opinions should be the most valuable to us.
3. Narrow Your Scope: We must learn to stop carelessly spouting universal messages through all channels of communications and hope that people filter out what they need to hear. If a majority of your audience doesn’t need to hear an announcement, don’t make it in that forum.
We live in a world of smart phones and 24-hour cable news. We are constantly inundated with information. If people see that you are giving them too many messages they will shut down mentally and accept nothing.
Our church’s facebook group is filled with young, stay-at-home moms. When I want to advertise an event for our children’s ministry I start there… not from the pulpit.
To communicate more effectively we must communicate less information, less often, more precisely.
So, what is the point of all of this?
When Jesus wasn’t busy healing the sick, calming the seas, and raising the dead he spent a lot of time hanging out with people. He chose his company carefully; He chose to hang out with prostitutes, swindlers, and social outcasts. You know what’s awesome about this? Prostitutes, swindlers, and social outcasts still exist. And, much like in the time of Christ, they still need to hear about the healing freedom that is found in the resurrection of Jesus.
If we are imitating the life of Christ we have a responsibility to live our lives alongside them, regardless of what other people think or say (Pharisees still exist too, you know).
You can’t reach people you don’t spend time with. For the sake of the Gospel I implore you: get to know your audience. They don’t relate to you and they don’t care what you have to say.
1) What can my church do to engage (and therefore understand) the culture of my community better?
2) In what ways do I live my life that makes me un-relatable to people outside of the church.[image by graymalkn]