How would you respond to messages like this:
Here are lots of vegetables—free vegetables—eat all you want!
The vegetables are here for the picking, be sure to take as many as you can carry.
These are vegetables kids really like! Help yourself!
Most likely your response wouldn't be overwhelming. You know how to get vegetables; maybe you even have a neighbor with a garden that gives you extras.
After a while, even the offer of free vegetables can be tiresome, and then it becomes an irritation.
Bible Study Resources are no different
Most people know they should study the Bible or read it, but simply badgering them about a free resource without telling them why they should use it or what they will get out of it, may not produce the response you want.
I'm writing this blog because of some feedback I got from an Effective Church Communication reader. Here is what she asked (and though I don't tell you enough, if you have questions or experiences like this, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org--I won't publish your name and I usually change some of the details, to not embarrass the efforts we all make--most questions I get apply to many of us, so I turn them into blogs like this and we all benefit). Here is the situation:
I don't know what to do. My church signed up for a service (without asking the congregation if they wanted or needed it) that produces hundreds of free videos on various Bible topics. Then they notified us of it. I went to the site and had to give my information to just look around.
It looked OK, but much of what was appealing was already available on YouTube or the websites of the various ministries.
I thought that was the end of it, but oh no. Then the emails started, recommending this or that. Today I got a postcard from them.
All of them just tell me what is available--lists of names, titles of videos. No more information about them and no reasons why I should care, other than they are good for me.
I don't have kids, but apparently a lot of people on the list do because I've gotten lots of recommendations for videos for kids.
I'm getting really irritated and feel bad about it. If I tell them to take me off the list, will they tell my church and think I don't care about the Bible?
What should I do?
My suggestion is to put the emails in a "Forward to your trash" that way you won't be embarrassed if they would report you (and I have no idea if they do or not) also, with that if you want you can periodically check your trash to see if there is anything of interest.
That answered her question but let's look at what we can learn from this.
Bible Study Resources aside, it's a learning opportunity for us
We can't assume that simply because we come up with something and tell people it's there they will immediately flock to it and use it.
Tell them WHY they should bother with what you have to offer.
Whatever we offer our people, we need to always remember WIFM—the question everyone asks out loud or not and that is, "What's in it for me?"
We must give people reasons why this is useful for them, is it to help them grow as a disciple of Jesus? And a way to do it in short chunks that fit into a busy schedule?
Is it to give you an alternative for your kids to watch when they are bored? Is it a source for curriculum for busy homeschool families or group leaders?
You most likely had some good reasons to make whatever it is available to your people, let them know the reasons that excited you and what you hope it will do for them.
Have a church-wide why
One of the things that concerned me greatly from what this person shared is that the church that sent it had NOTHING in any of the materials how this tied in with anything the church was doing other than a vague reference to "discipleship."
Many have lamented how church members have become distanced from their church families during Covid and this resource did not seem like a way to reverse that trend. Yes, it listed resources for group study, but nothing from the church as to how groups in the church would use it, what the pastor or any of the staff thought about it, or recommendations for studies or resources the church could learn from together even though they might be separated in person.
Without accompanying communication from the church as to the why, the purpose, and some guidance in how to use the materials, a valuable resource like this will not achieve its possible potential.
And then HOW to access it.
Most people in our congregations (which if you are a typical church, the majority of members are not tech-savvy) need specific instructions on accessing content that might be obvious to you.
Show them how to use the resource on their desktops and on their phones. You can demonstrate it on Sunday or in group times and a person to call (a tech volunteer) would be invaluable to provide personal help.
It is always a significant amount of work to successfully launch a new resource
If you don't take the time and thought to do it properly, no matter how valuable it might be, it will be perceived as spam.
And like vegetables that are good for us, but that aren't prepared properly it will end up in the trash.
Please share your thoughts, comments, questions!