We have a small restaurant near our home. It serves… er… ah… food. Its name doesn’t contain any descriptors to let me know what kind of food it does serve. Occasionally, they post a poorly-made handwritten sign boasting the special of the day. I seem to see the sign when I don’t want to stop for food.
Don’t get me wrong, I obviously get hungry and I eat out more than I should, so I should stop in. When I drive by though, I rarely see cars in their parking lot. That screams something to me. Oh wait! They went under. As I drove by them this morning, they had their doors closed and their sign taken down.
Poof. The restaurant’s gone.
I wonder what’ll go into that location next. I hope they’ll have something I’m looking for.
Wait! This is a Church Communications blog — why am I writing about restaurants?! The scary truth is that I could be writing about the local church.
Everyday a person from your community drives by your church, looks in, and realizes that you are a… er… ah… church. Your church sign says so. You probably even look like a church. But they don’t know what you’re serving. Or if they do, they suspect it’s hatred, intolerance and crazy religious rules.
Mmmmm. That’s appetizing, eh!?
Communities are growing while almost 80% of churches are in stagnation or decline. Several polls have shown that less than a quarter of our communities go to church regularly. According to a Pew study a couple of years ago, almost a quarter of our population has no affiliation with ANY church (and that’s increasing every year). I guess that’s why about 4000 churches are closing their doors every year in America.
Poof. Who cares?
And the community drives by and wonders what’ll go in to the empty building. Hopefully something that they’ll need.
This is the reason for effective church communications. Except for a few churches that want to change perception of “church”, the community doesn’t know why anyone would want to go into that building they pass daily. They don’t “need” anything they think you’re offering.
Our signs don’t tell them, our websites are confusing with internal church words and acronyms, and our social media bombards people with announcements and religious material that the community wouldn’t want. Or we’re not consistently communicating. Some stuff is great, others are lacking.
Maybe we need to think wildly different. Maybe we need to go in our communities and serve them. Give them things they do need. Maybe they’d consider going to a meeting and engaging with a group of kind people who have loved on them for awhile. Maybe we need to fix our communications so that they’ll know.
If you’re a church communicator who wants to do it better, bravo! Let’s start doing church communications effectively so we can reach our communities and reverse the crazy numbers of disappearing churches. Let us know if we can play a part in it.
This post originally appeared on the Church Marketing Sucks blog. Mark MacDonald is a regular writer for this and other national publications about effective church communications, church websites and digital hubs (social, web, email).