If you want to reach people who are not listening, it can feel like an overwhelming, impossible task. There are a few reasons people don’t listen:
- The world is noisy so as a defense mechanism, they can’t listen to everything. Instead they pick and choose what they want.
- They tune out messaging that’s beyond their shrinking attention span. Say too much, and they end up not listening.
- They ignore content delivered by someone perceived as unneeded or irrelevant. Perception is critical to getting someone to pay attention.
So is the church doomed? Sadly, our ministries often violate all three. It’s no wonder our communities stopped listening years ago. Let’s fix that.
How can the church reach people not listening? We need to pursue a brief interaction — just to get them to look up and listen for a short time. If done correctly, it will help them understand we are relevant and needed.
3 steps to improve listening
Here are 3 steps to helping them listen again:
Say their name. Even in a loud room, if someone says your first name, it breaks through and gets your attention. That’s why good conversationalists naturally use names when they meet people. But how does the church do this for a group? It’s fairly easy. Ensure you understand the stereotypical group (communication persona) that needs to hear what you’re saying, and identify what they call themselves. This persona’s name needs to preface important messaging (i.e., “Parents with young kids? We have a night out for you.”).
Speak their pain. When you care for your persona (that sought-after stereotypical group) like God commanded us to, you must understand what they’re struggling with. To reach people not listening, you need to talk about their pain, concern or challenging goal. In a crowded room with lots of talk, simply mentioning “back pain” will instantly gain the attention of those who have been afflicted with back pain. It demonstrates that you understand them. The church needs to identify their persona’s needs, concerns and goals and weave those items into the messaging (i.e., “Parents of young kids, we know you want the best for your child, so we’ve created a short video with daily tips just for you.”).
Solutions to proclaim. If you quickly pivot from saying their name and speaking their pain to suggesting a surprising solution, you will certainly hold their interest. This requires the church to couple solutions to prominent felt needs once their engagement is gained (i.e., “Parent, it’s difficult to raise children, but the church wants to give you free access to entertaining videos that teach Bible principles.”).
EDITOR’S NOTE — Mark MacDonald is communication pastor, speaker, consultant, bestselling author, church branding strategist for BeKnownforSomething.com and executive director of the Center for Church Communication.