I’ve broken both arms. Not at the same time but in separate accidents (involving a tree house first and then a bicycle). Both falls resulted in broken bones requiring casts.
I can remember how aggravating it was to have an itch deep inside the cast and not have the ability to reach it. I would knock on the cast and even try to scratch the opposite arm hoping to mentally cure the issue. Finally the cast was removed and I was able to scratch, and scratch, and scratch.
Your audience has many “itches” that can’t be easily scratched.
Effective church communication is all about scratching itches (or helping them scratch the itch). Do that properly and people will need you and keep returning. Here are 4 steps to do it well:
- Identify your Audience and Focus on a Subset. Jesus can solve every need for everyone but your local church can’t. God’s placed you strategically within reach of an audience. The smaller the audience the easier it is. You have 2 audiences at your church: congregation (internal) and community (external). Identify them as concisely as possible — there will be many potential subsets; but choose a large, growing group to focus on. We call that a communication persona. Define them as stereotypically as you can. Remember you don’t want too large of a group but you want enough (so you can grow your church if you reach them). You can have a couple of groups (if that makes it easier to decide). Remember though that your primary and secondary personas still won’t define 100% of your congregation or community.
- Identify their Concerns, Needs, and Goals. Your persona definition should concentrate on an itch. What are they waking up regularly concerned about? What do they need? Do they have huge goals? These are the itches that for some reason they can’t reach. They need help like I needed help with my cast. Define your persona group based on their needs, concerns, or goals. For example; your primary persona could be “Parents of young kids wanting to raise kids so they get along at school and become good citizens of their town.” Have fun and choose a group that needs your help in a unique way. Consider other organizations that are trying to target the same itch. Can your church help them differently?
- Scratch, Scratch, (help them to) Scratch. Like my arm in a cast, people often dedicate a lot of time thinking about the itch with no way to scratch it. It drives them crazy! Your personas have nagging needs, concerns, and goals, that they want to achieve with your help (if they don’t want help, you’ve picked the wrong needs, concerns, and goals). There are 3 ways for your church to scratch: a) Offer to do it for them, b) Assemble a group with similar pains so they can encourage/support each other, or c) your church can enable them to scratch the itch themselves.
This is where the magic happens (what true outreach and evangelism should focus on). People will pursue your church; looking for your ministries.
The missing ingredient that the world needs and you have? Jesus. Be sure to point to Him. We need that divine scratching for our nagging sin problem that causes a lot of our itches. This is how the church can be relevant to a world that has lost sight of church benefits. Scratch their itch and they’ll listen again.