Books, What Would Google Do

Postcard+Email+Text+Letter=Get A Life

My students know about upcoming youth group meetings and special events. Of all the teens not participating, not one of them  claims ignorance.

They know about the youth ministry. They’re choosing not to participate. And my shotgun publicity strategy is succeeding only in giving them more and more opportunities to choose against the church, to say, “no,” by deleting the unread email or tossing the postcard in the driveway trashcan.

Doesn’t all this communication reek of desperation, anyway? I mean, if something’s worth going to, I’ll find my way to it; I don’t need a letter, a postcard, an email, and a text message to tell me to go. One of those will suffice, and I may not even need that. It’s as the web-conditioned news consumer told Jeff Jarvis in What Would Google Do? “If the news is important enough, it will find me.”

Perhaps the more formal communication I receive about something, the less important I’ll deem it to be. And don’t kid yourself: texts are just as formal as a piece of mail, especially when they’re sent by a youth leader to a student. At least, they’d better be. If they’re not formal, they’re creepy.

The kids who come to the weekly youth group like what’s happening there. They’re coming, postcard or not. The ones who don’t come have other things they’d rather be doing. I’m fine with that. What I’m not fine with is the realization that my nonstop communication with these non-attenders, apart from being hopelessly ineffective,  is most likely intrusive and counterproductive. Each week I invite them to repeat a ritual: pull the neon-colored postcard out of the mailbox, glance at it for just a moment, and decide for the the 33rd time since September, “Nope. Not for me.”

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4 thoughts on “Postcard+Email+Text+Letter=Get A Life

  1. Jonathon Edwards says:

    I think this relates to church “publicity” in general. There are people in my congregation who, despite notices in the bulletin, placement on the calendar, announcements in worship and separate bulletin inserts will claim not to have known about an event and imply that somehow I or the leadership are to blame for not getting the word out. Same on the Association and Conference level.

    The truth? Those folks aren’t interested enough to pay attention. Are they the folks we want participating? Or should we just throw in the towel and focus our energies on the engaged ones? I’m leaning in that direction. If you aren’t interested enough to pay attention and show up, you probably don’t have much to contribute.

    • I’m not quite ready to just communicate with those who come to stuff, because I can see where someone might get some feeling of connection to the church through these communiques. Severing it entirely would cut them loose. But I do want to start letting people tell me how they want to hear from me.

      • Jonathon Edwards says:

        Oh I still put it in the bulletin, make the announcement, etc., etc. But I push back when people try to blame their lack of awareness of an event on lack of publicity. We just had this in our Association meeting last fall. A pastor complained to our conference office that they never received notice and that the poor attendance was related to our Executive Committees poor communication practices. This is a pastor who gets email notices, and hard copy notices to her home and church. And we sent two of each in addition to posting it on the conference website. Truth: too apathetic to stay on top of it and when she heard about it at the last minute, rather than admit her own frailty, she lashed out. So when that was brought to the committee I resisted taking responsibility for her lack of information.

        Otherwise the logic is “do more to get the word out and that will solve the problem.” But we are doing plenty. Doing more would mean what, personal phone calls to remind everyone? Me picking people up? Issuing pagers so we can send reminders? When does it stop?

        So what I mean by “throwing in the towel” is accepting that it will never be enough and refusing to get on the treadmill. We are doing enough to get the word out. If people aren’t interested enough to stay on top of it, they aren’t interested in the event and I don’t want to waste any more energy on them. I’d rather spend that energy on the willing.

        Of course, we are in different ecclesial settings so context is everything. I’m coming from the perspective of a solo pastorate and I’m talking about congregation wide activities and programming. I am also in a “declining church trying to stop declining setting” which requires me to nurture and support the places where there is energy and let go of the places where there isn’t. If I pour energy down an energy drain, church won’t survive.

  2. matt says:

    yes. good post. I have said, in more than one meeting, that “an announcement in the church bulletin is just north of shouting it into the wind.”

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