When I was in college earning my Communications degree in Broadcast Journalism and taking a myriad of marketing, advertising, digital media, and public relations courses, one thing was drilled into my brain on a regular basis: Well-designed [and well-written or well-presented] content would always win the audience. You see this in news media all the time, right? No matter how empty, vacuous, or — let's just be honest — awful the story itself actually is, it can always be dressed up with elaborate videography, fancy lighting, special graphics, embellished language, and so on. And sadly, most folks will still watch, read, or listen to this sort of dribble, er, I mean, content as long as it holds their attention.
As the old business and marketing sayings go: "Eye appeal is buy appeal" and "Content is king."
But these statements are no longer true in the sphere of Church Communications, particularly in a post-COVID world. For too many decades now, we've been operating under the assumption that high-quality and well-designed content will generate or result in higher attendance and church growth/expansion. And this might've been true for a few years in the 90's and early 2000's. Plenty of companies, organizations, conferences, live events, summits, megachurches, and media franchises exploded in those days by successfully generating phenomenal content.
But not lately. Something has shifted. Something has changed. Blame it on the pandemic. Blame it on Hollywood. Blame it on Silicon Valley. Whatever the culprit, we — particularly in the Church — have been on content overload for far too long. And we've had our fill.
Of course, we still need solid content in the Church. Don't misunderstand. We need insightful and biblically-sound sermons, engaging media, livestream technology, stirring music, excellent writing, etc. It's all still necessary. Don't worry. You're not out of a job. Not yet anyway.
But these elements, and even the quality of these elements, will not be what ultimately draws people to your physical location. Simply put, folks won't show up just because you're a superb orator or because your church has a killer Instagram. Why? Because plenty of other pastors (both locally and online) are gifted speakers and plenty of churches across the country boast eye-popping social media pages. They can get that anytime they want, anywhere they are, just by whipping out their smartphone or tablet. That might be hard to swallow, but it's just reality.
What will draw people to your church, and keep them there, are personal relationships and a family/community atmosphere where they have a sense of belonging. And that will only happen if you a) pray for God to bring it about and b) work to make it happen.
So where do you fit into this as a Communications Minister? For starters, you can use digital and social media to foster relationships. In fact, you should. But it's going to mean caring more about engagement and interaction than design and perfection. If you're anything like me, that can be hard to do, but it's often necessary. It's going to mean responding to comments, direct messages, and e-mails. It's going to mean encouraging online conversations to eventually become in-person conversations. It's going to mean following up with online prayer request submissions and checking in with those folks the next time you see them at church. This sends a clear message. It tells that person: You're not just a random avatar floating in the endless vacuum of social media cyberspace. We see you and we genuinely care about you.
Bottom line? Yes, content is still important and necessary. And we should always exhibit excellence in our work and do it for the glory of God. (Colossians 3:23) But now it's up to us as Communications Ministers to use good content for the purpose of cultivating relationships and healthy community within our churches. That is indeed both the challenge and the exciting opportunity as we move into 2021.
I'm sure I left something out. What're your thoughts on how content is trending within the sphere of Church Communications in a post-COVID world? Leave a comment or shoot me and e-mail!