>> January 11, 2011
Not long ago, I went to my local Christian bookstore to pick up some bible study lessons. And I was reminded of a challenge that has troubled me for years. The most colorful sets didn’t have great content, and the more solid biblical studies looked like they’d been mimeographed in the 1950’s.
I thumbed through several, finding none that appealed to me, and finally settled on an old standby. But I was left frustrated at all this gospel message on the shelf – with less than zero visual appeal. From conversations with friends and fellow ministry wives, I've learned I'm not the only one who feels this way.
Time was, when our grandparents’ generation didn’t care what information looked like. They wanted to know what was right. What was true. But that era has gradually morphed into the visually addicted society of today. Our generation.
Our generation isn’t attracted by mimeograph. Who cares whether the facts are great, if it looks boring on the outside?!? Our generation didn’t grow up reading books where single sentences were a paragraph long. Many of us were nursed on fast-paced television commercials and split second subliminal images.
Our generation buys movie tickets only if the trailer looked smashing. And so Hollywood plays to our fantasies, and we keep forgetting over and over that the previews are almost always better than the movie anyway.
What has this got to do with church, you ask? Think hard. When was the last time you looked at your church’s event posters? Or website? Or bulletin?
Our generation is the postmodern generation. We tend to think that if nobody bothered to make something look good, then we shouldn’t be bothered to notice it. With so many visually compelling images competing for attention – why should we focus on what doesn’t measure up?
Does this mean the gospel needs to be transformed into a slick commercial machine? No. Am I suggesting that churches should pour oodles of money into fancy gimmicks? Not at all. But could it help if we learned more about the people we’re trying to reach and then sought to meet their needs? Definitely.
There are a few fundamental techniques that professional marketing agents understand, which can only help Christian communicators be more effective. These are:
1) know your audience
2) know your audience
3) know your audience
Sounds redundant? It isn’t. Our audience - both inside and outside our congregations - is shifting constantly. What is normal today will be outdated tomorrow, leaving pastors and gospel communicators in a mad scramble to keep up.
In that scramble, simple is often best. Genuine relationships, straightforward communication, selfless service and interest in others. But simple bible teaching doesn't have to automatically mean looking old-fashioned and outdated either.
More about that in part 2, next week...
the February 2008 issue of Practicing Communicating,
a journal for Christian communicators
adapted for reposting on CLUTCH
by Sarah K Asaftei,
former associate director of the
Centre for Secular & Postmodern Studies
Use allowed by express written permission only.
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