Part one started this listing of mistakes is both a report and my commentary on a presentation at the Outreach Convention in San Diego, November 2010 by Phil Cooke, a writer and commentator on media, faith, and culture.
The first three mistakes (available by clicking here ) were:
Mistake #1: Thinking that that value of your message means people will pay attention to it
Mistake #2: Bad writing
Mistake #3: Lose the Lingo
These aren’t the only mistakes we make in communication, so let’s continue. . . .
Mistake #4: No recognizing that media has become a 2-way conversation
Phil Cooke talked about the significant difference social media has made especially for the younger generation whose parent’s raised them to believe everything they did was wonderful. They were raised wanting to be heard and believing they were special. They want to have a voice; they love discussion and feedback.
In addition they are the first generation to grow up with computers. Combine those two ideas and it is no surprise that 96% are connected to social networks. An obvious application for church communication is to have places on your website for comments and interaction; to have Facebook, Twitter and other social media interaction opportunities for your church members.
My comments: church leaders of my baby boomer generation are used to making decisions and statements and then expecting people to listen and obey based on their position. Often a question is heard as a challenge to spiritual authority and the person asking is the subject of subtle or severe discipline. This attitude is death to interaction and communication with today’s audience.
All of us in the church who lead and teach, no matter what our age or position, need to provide opportunities for feedback and interaction. We need to look at questions, not as sinful rebellion, but as an opportunity to engage with people who may see things in a different way than we do. This is not easy, but it can provide exciting opportunities to learn from others and help them perhaps grow in coming to know Jesus.
People will react and talk to each other—why not work to make that part of your church?
Mistake #5: Forgetting that Everything communicates
Everything that we do and say, how our building looks and smells, (don’t think about that very often do you?), the state of repair or cleanliness, if we have adequate handicapped parking or access—everything communicates.
Phil Cook reminded us that if your usher is a jerk—he represents your brand. No secular company would intentionally allow rude and cranky people to stand at the front door--a bit of training in hospitality and kindness may be in order.
My comments: I often remind pastors that they may be the greatest communicator in their city and if they preach the gospel clearly, they are sharing the most important message ever. But in most churches people have to walk through an almost literal mine field before they even get to the listening to the sermon. The parking situation, finding child care and bathrooms, where to sit and when to stand, making sense of a bulletin without an order of service (a current trend in some churches and a huge mistake if you want to reach visitors), all of these things must be conquered before the sermon begins.
No matter what your position on staff, pray that the Lord will enable you to walk through the path, meet the people and look at the communications people encounter when they come to your church with eyes that are open to see if all these things represent the gospel message in a way that is honoring to your church and our Lord.
Mistake #6: Forget the power of a niche
Phil Cooke reminded us of how many options people have in how they will choose to spend their time and attention. If we want to capture them, he reminded the audience for their church to focus on what they are really passionate about. He challenged church leaders to ask themselves, “What is the ONE thing you would preach about if you could only preach about ONE thing?”
Once you decide on that one passion, you have an idea what your niche might be.
My comments: others might refer to this as vision, but no matter what label we use, it is incredibly important. I constantly encourage church communicators to be who YOU are, and communicate the particular way of sharing the gospel that the Lord called you to share to the group He called you to share it with.
On a practical note, that is why I think it is so important for churches to create their own communications. I can give you ideas and samples, but always take whatever advice is shared and tailor it for your people. If God expresses his creative joy in making every snowflake, every fingerprint, every person different, do you really think He wants you to preach sermons downloaded from the internet or to buy tacky bulletin covers, when you can create your own of both and be YOU, not a carbon copy of someone else?
Finding your niche isn’t just good marketing, it is about being true to your individual calling.
IF you’d like to listen to Phil Cooke’s complete presentation (which was fantastic) with so much more content and without my comments, click here to go to the Outreach Download site. http://www.outreach.com/print/List.asp?rpp=43&N=41+292+4294966036