By Jesse N. Love with Jonathan Assink
Outgoing Conference Lay Leader Amory Peck welcomed laypersons to the Pacific Northwest Annual Conference during the pre-conference Laity Gathering. Laypersons gathered in what would be the Plenary Space for the coming days, and joined together in music provided by Todd Shively of Trinity UMC in Ballard. Rosalee Mohney encouraged attendees to sing, “as angels.”
Barbara Moreland next provided the scripture reading of Acts 2: 1-6, inviting us to reflect on the times we have had difficulty communicating with others in a different language. Specifically for this evening, the language of modern technology–a challenge the Church is struggling to overcome in its communications.
Patrick Scriven, Associate Director of Connectional Ministries for Youth and Young Adults, served as keynote speaker for this event. Scriven engaged the audience by surveying the crowd of how many checked their e-mail accounts daily; if they utilized the social networking site Facebook; and/or if they managed a Twitter account. The response, as one may have guessed, featured many who check email daily, some who use Facebook, and very few who are on Twitter.
Scriven mentioned in order to engage technology and the (mostly) younger generation that is currently utilizing it, clergy may not be the best people to help solve these problems. In fact, an over reliance on clergy may even contribute to the problem. He shared that lay persons in the local church may, in fact, be better at connecting with newcomers because their own faith journey is more like that of first time attenders.
Another challenge in reaching out to a tech savvy generation is the already negative views pushed by current media that make it feel like, “swimming upstream”. The church does not always have the best reputation in the mainstream media, let alone online.
For the church to change these perceptions, it may need to look toward more traditional marketing ideas and strategies. Most marketing or advertising firms with a message to communicate to a target audience first research the audience; second they strategizing about how best to communicate with that group; third they create media that will catch the attention of the target audience; and finally promote their message. Churches on the other hand tend to jump over the first three stages and right into promotion with the same strategies and media they have always used. For example, does your church still pay for a listing in the Yellow Pages?
Although engaging the community in this manner may be not be easy, Scriven assured lay persons that there is some good news: you don’t have to be an expert. He encouraged people to examine the resources of their own local church and begin building teams around a few who can help navigate into this technical frontier.
If you would like more information on Patrick Scriven’s presentation at the Laity Gathering, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jesse N. Love serves as the Print & Publications Manager for the PNWUMC; Jonathan Assink serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Seattle District.