I love how diverse our churches are. Of course, we all have the Gospel in common, and we also share many similar rites and ceremonies, but the way we dress, the type of music we use, and the way our churches operate varies greatly depending on our context.
Anytime we set out to talk about ways to manage church members’ information, targeted advertising, or other efforts to use technology in outreach, we need to start from the right perspective. None of our cleverness, targeting, or planning can make the Gospel more effective—that’s the Holy Spirit’s job, not ours. What we’re seeking to do with communication, advertising, and technology is to remove barriers to people hearing the Gospel and to ensure that God’s Word is able to speak as clearly as possible to those who need to hear it. This month and for the next several months, we will be looking not at efficacy, but at clarity and removing noise from our communications.
Sociologists maintain that you can learn a lot about looking in people’s medicine cabinets. In the same vein, I believe a narthex tells a lot about a congregation. When I visit a congregation, I notice so many things:
Nothing will stop a project faster than a lack of communication. To fill the gap, misinformation will quickly spread. This will lead to ever increasing amounts of frustration from leaders to stakeholders until overall apathy envelops the project. In turn, the project will stall out or people will come to resent it.
One of the greatest blessings we have as a church is that we have such amazing ways to share our faith. In the past, information and stories had to be passed down orally. Later on, with the invention of the printing press, books of information could be produced quickly and shared. At the beginning of my lifetime, we still received information primarily from our televisions and in the mail.
Lutheran schools and churches have always gone hand in hand. Martin Luther, all the way back in 1530, wrote “A Sermon on Keeping Children in School,” and he was quite the revolutionary as he called for the education of not only boys but girls as well.
This desire to educate our children was kept by the Saxon (and other) immigrants who would form the Missouri Synod. In Germany, religious instruction was a part of the public school curriculum. In America, however, the public schools were much more secular, or the Christianity that was taught in them was generic and watered down. So in many places, Lutherans established their schools first and then, a few years later, built their church.
We’ve all gotten them . . . the well-meaning envelope trying to notify us about an important upcoming event or to make sure we’re aware of the can’t-miss deal of the century. And you open the envelope (maybe) and pull out the letter and begin reading the message meant uniquely for you. “Dear Sir or Madam . . .”
Spring is in the air, and the church calendar is telling us Easter is almost here. But you’re not worried because you have done all that can possibly be done. The bulletin covers are ready. The Easter egg hunt went off without a hitch. Information about Holy Week has been shared. This year you even coordinated a Lenten video devotional blog for social media followers. You have a strategy for greeters when visitors arrive. Little cards are out to collect visitors’ information. Postcards are ready to be sent out as follow-up. The elders are lined up to make those follow-up calls. And let’s face it—the website was off the charts with all the awesome graphics. YOU KNOCKED IT OUT OF THE PARK! Now it’s time to sit back, pat the team on the back, and watch the strategy unfold. Or is it?
When I was young, I used to collect and trade baseball cards with the other kids in the neighborhood. The cards we collected were not really worth much money, so whenever I tried to trade for a card, I was always pursuing one of two objectives: collecting cards from my favorite player or team, or completing a series.
As an adult, I still find myself collecting things, although I have moved on from baseball cards. Now I collect technology, and if I had to guess, you probably do too.