June 24, 2010

An optimistic view of church communications

This is an article I wrote for my organization's newspaper and online publications.

We can do better than this.
It's gonna be alright. You can do it.

In my time working for the Northern Illinois Conference, I have met with many churches, committees and groups who are worried about communications, worried about social media and worried about where they fit in this digital age. I get a lot of questions about problems, concerns and difficulties with new technology, new devices and new services. The anxiety is palpable.

But take heart, we'll talk about the problems another time. Instead, I want to give an honest, optimistic viewpoint about communications and our churches.

Three reasons why United Methodist churches can succeed in today's media culture

1. We have a clear and compelling message

Our mission has two simple components: Make disciples of Jesus Christ and transform the world. Each church may have its own take on that mission and express it in different language, but when we focus on sharing the Gospel and making the world a better place, that's a message anyone can understand.. We know how to keep our message simple, write it down, repeat it and preach on it.

2. Jesus has a lot of positive brand equity

Christians may fall short of His standard, but that guy Jesus is still top-notch, but that guy Jesus is still top-notch. I'll leave the theology to the pros, but from a communications perspective, the Gospels give us great stories, excellent advice, and very accessible imagery about life and how to deal with the problems we all face. When we we talk about Jesus, people listen. When we follow Jesus' example in our actions, people follow us. Other Christian traditions have some serious problems right now; notice that the media focus is on the failings of their human leaders, not on the source of their inspiration.

3. Each church can specialize to match its market and cooperate to leverage its resources

The rich diversity of our church lets us accomplish our mission in ways that are relevant to our particular neighborhood or town. We use diverse worship styles that are accessible of the people in our congregations. We seek different ways to transform the world, given the unique strengths of the people. Our cooperation multiplies the impact of our talents and gifts.

How your church decides to change the world and share God's love is up to you, but the good news is that you don't necessarily need to know how to use Twitter to do it.