A church is called to love. Jesus said His followers will be known by our love. Yet, when the community is asked about the Church; they‘re quick to point to things we’re against.
Many are quick to say “but guiding people to avoid sin is an act of love!” and this is true. But rarely will anyone pay attention to us unless they first feel loved. And then the work of the Holy Spirit helps them shed their addiction to sin. It’s because of that love that we pursue engagement.
Here are 4 ways to start being known FOR something and for truly loving and engaging a group of people. CAUTION: Stop thinking that ministry is about yourself. It has nothing to do with you. You simply have to consider others higher than yourself.
- Identify their persona. I regularly meet people while traveling. My prayer is “Lord, use me to love someone today and share the transformational power of Jesus”. And He often does. But only when I concentrate on engagement. It starts with me trying to understand people. When meeting someone, I quickly paint a stereotypical picture based on trends, how they’re dressed, their age, and what they’re doing. Every church needs to quickly understand their community that way and create a picture of the types of people living around them. Know your primary and secondary personas for your community (the area that your church is reaching).
- Consider their needs, concerns, and goals. Often, based on demographics alone, we can quickly describe what a person or group is looking for. See a 30-something? They’re probably getting a marriage established (if they’re wearing a ring). A 50-something? Trying to understand empty-nesting or “what has life lead me to”. The moment you can quickly assess the person, the power of love can be established. “I care about you and this isn’t about me”.
- Ask them and listen. Many Pastors become congregation-absorbed as they try to lead a ministry. Somehow they shoulder the burden of getting their members to enjoy church. If you continue with an internal focus, you’ll be apt to stop growing. Instead, keep your eyes focused on how God views your community. Love them. You may feel you understand them but if you never talk with them you’ll never truly understand them. Based on your persona understanding, start having conversations with them. And listen. Don’t preach. Don’t make this about you. This is entirely a data collection to test your suspicions. Be careful though, because what I’ve found? People, by the power of Spiritual guidance I believe, will turn the conversation to deeper issues.
- Offer them solutions, benefits and paths to goals. Once you have an understanding of your personas; you can hone your message to a specific solution or benefit. Or if the person is optimistic, guide them to a path of achievement. Once someone feels you’re listening and willing to give them what they’re pursuing, that’s when real engagement happens. Where love can prevail. Start with temporal things and look for openings to bring Jesus into the conversation.
These 4 steps are the foundation for your church’s communication strategy. It’s called love. But don’t abuse this engagement. Keep your mind on our ultimate goal. Telling them about the saving knowledge of Christ. Except we need to do that AFTER they feel loved. Or the truth will be rejected.