Shout-out To The Neighborhood Or Speak To A Neighbor?
December 13, 2017
Have you ever had the feeling that nobody was listening to what you were saying? Though there were words coming out of your mouth that were important to you, the person (or people) on the receiving end didn’t quite feel the same way?
No matter how skilled, experienced or creative a communicator is, all of us have had the feeling of being unheard. Local churches are no different. The best of churches have a pretty clear vision of a preferable future and an on-point mission statement that describes how they will see that vision come to life. But are people listening? Do they get it?
If we sense they don’t, many of us resort to the age-old strategy of talking louder. Or faster. Or with increased information. Or with broader coverage. But does that really work for a world that more and more finds our message irrelevant and out of touch with their lives?
Ed Stetzer recently shared some findings from a December 2008 LifeWay Research project. A survey was conducted of 15,000 adults for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Church to try to determine which of 13 approaches is the best-received when a church wants to be heard.
Conclusion? The best-received means of “marketing” one’s church without question is the personal invitation. The survey found that 67 percent of Americans thought a personal invitation from a family member would be at least somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church. Additionally, 63 percent said they would respond favorably to an invitation from a friend or neighbor.
Let that sink in for a minute: nearly two-thirds would be willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member. And the same survey uncovered that 56 percent would be willing to receive similar information from a neighbor or friend. That is good news for every church that values outreach!
Stetzer reports, “Trailing by a good margin is the reception Americans give to various forms of media advertising. Those who said they were somewhat willing or very willing to receive church information via newspaper ads stood at 46 percent; radio ads rated 41 percent, while television ads were at 40 percent. Outdoor advertising came in at 46 percent, and 45 percent viewed letters mailed to the home positively. How many think such ads would be at least somewhat effective at getting them or others to follow through and visit a church? About 20 percent less than invitations from family or friends.
Even “new media” efforts prove ineffective among most Americans. Only 30 percent say email would be at least somewhat effective in getting them to visit a church.
Still, the revolution that has occurred in social media since 2008 [nearly half the U.S. population is on Facebook] has changed the church communications landscape. A LifeWay Research study in September 2010 sponsored by Digital Church partner Fellowship Technologies found 47 percent of Protestant churches actively use Facebook today. The study found that 62 percent of churches use social networking tools for “interacting with individuals outside of the congregation.” Stetzer concludes by saying, “We do not know what will be the next great social media revolution, but it will once again challenge the church to rethink how to interact effectively and contextually with our neighbors. Regardless, a critical lesson for us is that marketing and media efforts help but can never replace personal relationships.”
So what does this mean as we are 10 days away from Christmas Eve weekend, which is the second most attended worship gatherings historically at Journey, just behind Easter weekend? It means you need to pick up several of these and hand them out to your family, friends, co-workers and neighbors. It means if you do that, statistically speaking at least, two-thirds of them will receive your invitation well and most likely attend one of our services. It means reaching a neighborhood starts by having conversations with one neighbor at a time. It means there is a great opportunity for us to reach hundreds, if not thousands, more people…if we just give them a personal invitation.
Melissa Mashburn is currently serving as our Interim Communications Director (BTW: we have recently hired a new Communications Director who will be joining us next week! More info on her in another column.) Melissa wrote a sample of a Facebook invitation you can post on your homepage to invite people to join you at one of our Christmas Eve worship gatherings.
If you’re in the Central Florida area and are looking for a place to worship this Christmas season, then I’d love to invite you to join me at Journey Christian Church Apopka for one of our 4 identical Christmas services. If you’re not going to be in the area, then we’d love to have you join us online at journeychristian.com/live.
How many show up at our Christmas Eve gatherings in large part depends on how many we personally invite. Not all will come, but a surprising number of them will. We just need to ask. The New Testament writer James says, “You don’t have, because you don’t ask.” Conversely, when we do ask, we often see God move in some ways beyond even what we asked or imagined! And that’s at the heart of what Christmas is really all about: inviting others to experience this good news of great joy for all people!
P.S. A portion of our Christmas Eve Offering will be directed to helping with a life-changing and unique mission work in Southern India. Journey member, Anand Paul, works with Awakening To God Ministries based in California. Anand, along with his wife Sheen, are natives of Southern India. Sheel Amin, another Journey member whose family is also from India, joins Anand and me on this brief video explaining how, for just $2,950, an entire village in India can be changed. Please take a few minutes to watch this video and prepare to give the most generous Christmas Eve offering you can.
Click here to see serving opportunities at our Apopka campus for Christmas weekend.