by Michael Lukaszewski
Walmart doesn’t invest a lot of money in store displays or fancy lighting. Do you know why? Because their target customer is more interested in low prices than nice environments.
Nordstrom, on the other hand, invests more than the industry average into customer service training. Why? Because to them, the overall shopping experience matters much more than price.
What does this have to do with church and family ministry?
Because knowing your audience is the first step in reaching your audience.
Every preaching workshop, writing workshop and business workshop I’ve attended talked about how important it was to know the audience.
That leads me to ask a really important question. How well do we know the people in the pews?
Do we know their hopes, dreams and fears? Do we know what kind of music they like? Do we know their faith stories and how much they know of the Bible?
This really matters.
If we don’t take the time to get to know people, we’ll create programs to meet needs people don’t really have. If we don’t know what parents are struggling with, we’ll create curriculum that doesn’t connect with children. If we don’t know who is listening to our messages, we’ll use examples that not only fail to connect but actually harm our credibility.
A quick example: Did you know in 1950, 43 percent of households in the United States were married couples with children. By 2010, that number had dropped to just 20 percent. (Source: https://nyti.ms/jQKBnz) In other words, most families in your church are not comprised of a mom, dad and children. Yet, how many sermon illustrations incorporate the traditional family? Of course it’s not wrong, but it might be a sign we don’t know our audience as well as we should.
When you communicate with your audience in mind, your communication is more effective.
When you know what the children and families of your church like and don’t like, you’ll be able to build trust at a much deeper level.
When you understand the real needs of the people in your church, you can design church services, special events and ministries that lead to impact, not just attendance.
Let’s talk about three ways you can get to know your congregation.
Start with a survey.
It’s really simple, but a short survey can help you get to know your church. Why not take three to five minutes in a church service and ask people to give you feedback. Think of how valuable this could be.
A survey can give you demographic (who are they) and psychographic (what do they like) information on the people who attend your church. You can ask them their favorite songs (they might not be the same as your worship leader’s answers), or what topic they would like to hear in a sermon (that might be surprising to the senior pastor).
Do this at least once a year and make it a big deal.
Here’s a simple PDF you can use: Getting To Know You Survey. Change it, customize it, and make it fit your setting. Or come up with your own.
Create environments where normal conversations can happen.
While a survey is a great place to start, there’s nothing like a real conversation to help you understand people.
Don’t be so busy on Sunday that you miss moments to interact with real people. You might not have time for a deep conversation, but you can take it one level deeper than small talk. Here are some questions you can ask people:
What’s been your favorite message so far this year?
What are you most excited about next year?
Do you have a big trip or vacation on the horizon?
Do you have friends in town that don’t go to church?
How could be better serve your kids or teenagers?
These kind of questions could lead to quick conversations and really help you understand what is going on in the life of the people at your church.
Schedule intentional conversations where you can learn.
You can learn a lot from surveys. And quick conversations can give you a lot of insight. But periodically, maybe once a month, why not sit down with someone and have a more in-depth conversation about life.
You don’t know what it’s like to be a school teacher, insurance agent, or cashier. And you may not remember what its like not to be a Christ-follower. That’s why intentional learning conversations can be so valuable to you as a church leader. Meet with someone over coffee and ask questions like:
What are your biggest questions about the Bible?
What are you most worried about in our society?
What’s it like to be a Christian in your work place?
What do you see in our church that needs attention?
It might require a little bravery, but you’ll find people are usually willing to share their experiences and talk about their lives. And what you learn will help you minister to them and dozens of others like them.
When you truly get to know the people in your church, you might just find that your ministry to them becomes far more effective.
Michael is a speaker, writer, coach and consultant with various organizations. He loves helping people discover and develop their dreams. He’s been married to Jennie for 15 years and they have three children. In his free time, he enjoys playing the guitar, gardening, reading, and going to the movies. Connect with Michael on his blog of via Twitter.