Your church, whether you know it or not, communicates to two different audiences: the people who are part of your congregation and people who are in your local community. For the purposes of this article, we’ll call them insiders and outsiders. Knowing how to communicate to those two unique audiences is important and requires both care and a clear strategy.
People in your congregation are a captive audience. Depending on their schedules, you’ll get anywhere from 2.5–5 hours of their uninterrupted time each month (well, minus crying babies and their cellphones). While you try to communicate a lot in a church service through the worship experience, the message, the church announcements, and other communications in print, video, or other means, I think the goal for most churches is simple: we want people to take the next steps in their spiritual journey. Every church may have different language around it, but the end goal is always seeing people connect with God and with others.
When you’re communicating to insiders, you have an opportunity to speak straight to the core of what matters and hopefully encourage them to take the necessary steps in their spiritual journey to be more Christ-like. How that happens totally depends on what your church offers, but the message you communicate should be clear.
What happens too often, though, is that we become consumed with our own agendas (as well-intentioned as they may be) instead of thinking about the needs and realities of the people in our churches. People today live busy and complicated lives. Your church should be a place for them to rest and replenish. People are bombarded with thousands of messages and things demanding their attention. Your church should help them see and hear Jesus clearly.
How do I do this, you ask? It starts by de-cluttering how you communicate and, instead of giving people so many options that they feel overwhelmed, you help point them to a few simple next steps they can take. Don’t overcomplicate the options or the ask. Make it clear what people can do next to live out what you’re challenging them to do.
Imagine if the next time your church does a relationship series that you host a marriage retreat, hold a singles event, or host a group helping those who have been through divorce.
Similarly, when you’re talking about stewardship, why not offer classes to help people manage their finances. Instead of filling your church calendar with activities, what if you were strategic and planned around what you’re teaching on the weekend so your programs and events all sync up?
When you communicate to insiders, you have grace to challenge and motivate them to live better and to share their faith with their friends. The messages you communicate, in large part, happen the most through your services, email, social media, and other things that are largely within your control. So, do all of those things very well. Be clear, be concise, and don’t overwhelm people.
While conquering inside communication may seem like a feat, the real challenge comes when you communicate to the outsiders.
Communicating to people outside of your church is a different challenge because you don’t have their attention. They may know of your church or people who attend or drive by and see your building, but they aren’t coming or have chosen not to attend. Or worse, they’ve never heard of you in the first place.
That’s where things get tricky.
People who attend your church live busy and complicated lives, and people outside of your church are just the same. But for whatever reason they haven’t chosen to give your church their time or attention.
So, while ‘our battle is not against flesh and blood,’ the battle is for the time and attention of people who don’t attend, convincing them that it’s worth it to come check out your church.
So, how do you get their attention?
First, understand that the key way to communicate to people outside of your church may not be as obvious as you think. Sure, having a great website, social media, and doing other forms of marketing matter are important. But I am convinced the most effective way to communicate to people outside of your church is through people who already attend your church.
We all know that most people will come to church on the arm of a friend. So imagine if you cast that vision to your ‘insiders’ and equipped them to invite their neighbors, friends, and co-workers.
Barna Research recently did a survey of unchurched Americans and found that most churchless Americans said that the thing that would compel them the most to attend a church was seeing a marked difference or transformation in the life of someone they knew. That’s why getting communication to your insiders is key. As they engage with their faith and change, it will speak louder than any marketing campaign your church could invest in.
But all of this isn’t an out for you to also be more intentional with things like your website, branding, and other communications. Those should all be done with excellence.
Communicate clearly, be compelling, and accurately show (with words and images) what people will experience when they come to your church. And ultimately, use all of those things as resources and tools for your people to spread the word about your church to others.
Be intentional with what you can control and encourage your insiders to do their part to help make outsiders a part of what God is doing through the life of your church.