While the gospel message is universal, it’s delivery method can’t be. We need to be mindful of the unique perspectives and biases that different people carry into discussions about Christianity. Communicating the gospel is so much easier when we become good listeners and are deliberate in the way we invite people into our community.
The apostle Paul said it this way:
To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Cor. 9:20-23).
Paul is telling us that it can be helpful to think about people in terms of demographics. You can cater your communication in a way that overcomes each group’s distinct obstacles and appeals to their unique needs.
Here are four demographics that your church should develop a vocabulary and strategy for reaching in 2017.
The was a time when Christians and non-Christians alike shared a common cultural familiarity with the Bible. That’s no longer the case. As we transition into a post-Christian culture, we can no longer assume that adults have had any biblical exposure.
In the 80s and 90s, the church focused on delivering powerful apologetic arguments for the gospel’s veracity. It’s no longer enough to craft a better argument for Christianity. We now need a renewed emphasis on communicating the basic truths of Scripture in a compelling way.
When you’re putting together services, think through every element. Would it make sense to someone who had no experience with Christian ideas, imagery, or tradition? Don’t be afraid to get too remedial when explaining communion, baptism, worship, or any other Sunday-morning element.
Like anything else, Christianity is subject to consumeristic tendencies. It’s easy for people to get caught in a cycle of church shopping because:
- They don’t know what it is that they’re looking for.
- They’re looking to recreate a feeling they had in a past church.
They find that separate churches have elements that they like which makes commitment more difficult.
Because of the shopper demographic, churches often make the mistake of trying to appeal to everyone. The best way to effectively reach people is to have a very distinct and defined idea of who you are—and communicate it effectively.
When churches try to attract too broadly, they fail to give much substance for visitors to grab onto. The more clearly you define your strengths and focus, the better people can make a decision about whether you’re a good fit for them—and the more likely they are to suggest you to the right people.
3. Non-Churched Converts
As more ministries are streamed online, a greater number of people will discover Jesus without ever having visited a church. The challenge is that these individuals may never really understand the value of becoming part of a church community.
In order to reach them, you’ll need to strengthen your presence in places where they gravitate. By optimizing your website and improving your social media strategy, you improve your ability to speak to this demographic.
But it’s not enough to just get in front of them. You’ll have to create a strategy to draw them in. First, focus on a message that clearly communicates the fact that Christianity cannot be divorced from a commitment to a community of faith. Then, regularly share testimonies and stories about people whose lives have been changed by your community.
4. Aggrieved Believers
The last demographic to consider is people who have walked away from the church. Their crisis of faith isn’t necessarily gospel-related. It can be because of church abuse they’ve suffered or witnessed, or it can be related to cultural expressions of Christianity that may or may not accurately represent the faith (like a social stand or political position).
Fixing the individuals in this group should not be your number one goal. Since they already see the church as an adversary, you don’t want them to see you as an antagonist. It’s imperative that you create a safe space where they can work through these issues.
To make room in your church for this demographic, you’ll need to help them re-center their faith on the gospel and not on their experience or frustration. Part of this work will require empathetic listening and a willingness to truly understand where they’re coming from. Once you can convince them that your church loves them and is there for them, they’ll be on the road to recovery.
If you’re not intentional and focused with your messaging, you’re going to struggle to reach any one specific demographic. But when you’re deliberate, purposeful, and consistent in your messaging, you’ll be amazed at who you’ll draw.