In the 1950’s Canada’s population moved from the center of the cities to the suburbs and so did the churches. As realtors like to say: “Location. Location. Location. Location is everything.” In 2014, the best location is whatever screen is in front of the religious “consumer.”
People are busy and do everything on the internet, from shopping to seeking help with a problem. The church that gets their attention will be the church that gives them something they will find useful. Forget about what you want them to do and think about what they would find interesting… not necessarily your church. If you can give a person something that they will actually want and use, they will follow you forever and they will tell their friends.
It doesn’t have to be sexy, but it has to be useful. It has to simplify a person’s life, or make it less stressful. Put yourself in their place and think about something that you could really use. If you are a parent of young children or a senior citizen, you need to know the location of public was rooms in your town. But what if you were visiting a different town? Someone came up with an app for just such a need. Put “Sit or Squat” on your iPod and you will never be stuck again. There is a map and you even get to add your comments about the condition of the facility. Every time you use it , the first thing you see is a cover page with the name of the App’s creator. You bet people will tell their friends about it. It doesn’t have to say, come to church… they will know what church to turn to if they have a personal or religious need.
If an app is too much for you to consider, 26 % of apps are only downloaded and opened once, you can still make use of Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram. Take a look at what is trending… what people in your city or neighbourhood talking about or interested in now. Join in the conversation. What can you give them that they will find useful? You probably have a list of what to do or who to call in cases of sickness or family distress. Perhaps a list of organizations concerned about climate change or in getting people out to vote? Maybe you will even have a list of public wash rooms within a 1 km radius of your church or a popular shopping mall?
What would you find simple, useful and stress reducing? Others are looking for the same things. Get it out there on the internet and people will tell their friends where to find it and more.
For years churches have been loosing touch with the younger generation. Now days, that could mean most people under the age of fifty. What can a church do to turn this around?
Forget about traditional advertising.
Start listening to people and building a direct relationship with them.
Have a good webpage and a social media presence.
Focus on who those people are: your true fans, and on how the church can connect with them.
Go to where they are, and where they are is on Facebook, twitter and You Tube.
Don’t look for likes on your Facebook page, but like their pages first.
Be active on every blog that relates to church activities, but don’t expect everyone to come to you.
If your twitter feed is nothing but announcements about coming events and no one is sharing your content, think about adapting your content strategy.
Get creative. You can answer real questions, and give customers a sneak peek into your church and into what it will look like in the future.
- deliver value
- be open
- be clear and consistent
- create a mutually beneficial world
Find and nurture your true fans. Your heavy users will become evangelists for you and then you will begin to experience a network effect .
In order to continue in these time of rapid change organizations, including the church, need to recognize some basic theories about how social and cultural organizations change. One such theory is known as the double loop theory of change . As one institution approaches the end of its time, innovators from within evolve in new ways, eventually replacing the old organization with something new and different. The following illustration shows how it works: (clicking on it may help you see the details.)
Some innovations fail, but others succeed and communities of support form around them. As these new communities evolve they gain supporters from the old organization who help steward the process as it continues on.
There are many organizations and processes in Western society beginning their descent to oblivion. In these rapidly changing times we need innovators willing to risk the leap and, in so doing, keep our culture from decay.
God has a voice for every generation and through years of warfare Christian leadership responded to the call to servant-hood. In this generation the call has changed, from sacrificial love to friendship.
For many older Christians, their earliest memories from Sunday School include the prayer of St Ignatius:
Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to ask for any reward, save that of knowing that we do your will.
How many men and women went into ministry with that prayer in their hearts. No one taught them how to lead; the words of Jesus in Mark 10:42-45 simply re-enforced the dedication to sacrificial love that was already part of their Christian identity.
…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Soon they were all things to all people. An expectation developed that they would entertain, have charismatic personalities and display more spiritual gifts than any one Biblical character ever had! No wonder burnout and stress induced moral failure is rampant and has destroyed many lives. It is almost beyond their understanding that there are other forms of Christian leadership.
Enter the present post-modern generation, where friendship and not sacrifice is the most important thing required in a relationship. In a world of rapid change what is there to hold on to, if it is not friendship? It is a need reflected in the growth and success of social media, and friendship has Biblical precedence. Towards the end of his ministry, Jesus told his disciples:
I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business.
Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.’ John 15:15
Friendship is a direct implication of the grace and the love of God which influences every aspect of our relationship with others. Modern day disciples, called to leadership in the community of followers, are called to Friendship.
As the apostle John said:
Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another
(1 John 4:11).
It is spring in Victoria, as new life pushes aside the decay of yesterday and offers the promise of future abundance.
So too this blog, at personalhistorian.ca, rises into being. Building on the experience of many posts on so many blogs now past, I hope it will become the central blog from which many contributions will spring forth.