“The community isn’t listening to my church.”
It’s a difficult statement I hear from many pastors. Is it that the church message is wrong? Is it that people don’t want spiritual truth? Or are there other reasons the community isn’t listening?
It’s important to make sure your gospel message isn’t ignored, since the church often can be blamed for the way a message is communicated. If you find your community isn’t listening to church messaging, there usually are 3 reasons why:
1. It’s a noisy world. People are bombarded with so much information every day — desired and unwanted, promotional, entertaining and informational. In fact, notifications interrupt online communication to redirect us to even more information. TV has information scrolling over talking heads with informational graphics behind them — all at the same time. It’s impossible to keep up with everything. In fact, if you try, you end up missing details. For sanity, people have to decide what’s important and what’s ignorable. If anything feels like it’s adding to the noise for no perceived benefit, it’s simply tuned out.
SOLUTION: Calm your messaging and designs for all channels. Rather than several disconnected and complex items, speak in unison with one main beneficial message (across all ministries) so you become known for it. People tend to spend more time on calm webpages.
2. You’re not talking to them. We’ve been there: a busy room with lots of discussions. You end up ignoring all the communication channels because nothing feels directed to you. Until someone says your name. Then you listen. In our loud, noisy world, if messaging isn’t directed at specific people in your community it usually will be ignored. Then, when your community isn’t listening, it’s difficult to get them to pay attention again. The sad truth? Our communities stopped listening a long time ago as church communication focused internally on the congregation using acronyms, insider language or clever sub-brands that didn’t connect outside.
SOLUTION: Know who you’re talking to in your community (“personas”) and say their name (i.e., parents), their pain (i.e., Have problems finding time?) or a solution to their needs (i.e., Finally, a night out on us.) and you’ll get their attention for a few seconds. It’s in that brief engagement that you need to provide beneficial information.
3. You’re saying too much. Attention spans are dropping drastically. A study from a few years ago determined they’re as low as 8 seconds. The community isn’t listening because they lost interest faster than it took you to deliver your message. Stop talking before they stop listening. It’s difficult to say everything we want because the Bible is full of great messages.
SOLUTION: Edit your communication to attract and engage. Only after they trust you to not waste their time can you give them more. Even then, edit, edit, edit. Lead with their name, concern or goal, then give them a snippet so they will click to find out more or keep listening because you understand and love them.
MacDonald is communication pastor, speaker, consultant, bestselling author, church branding strategist for BeKnownforSomething.com and executive director of the Center for Church Communication, empowering 10,000-plus churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites and social media. His book, “Be Known for Something,” is available at BeKnownBook.com.