That was my main takeaway when I attended Digital Summit, a digital marketing conference in Dallas last week.
I believe it would be a good idea for pastors to attend these kinds of events for continuing education once in a while.
We’ve probably all had enough bible and theology classes for a while. It’s good to know what is going on in the business world.
There were lots of practical learnings about digital marketing and how to use your website and social media to get your message across that is applicable to the church. People are accustomed to and comfortable with digital marketing. It is how businesses communicate and build relationships with their customers. There is no reason the church cannot learn how to do this better from the business world.
But besides all the practical things I learned, this overall theme struck me:
The goal of marketing is not that different than ours. They want to help people. They want to build relationships with people.
The difference is the church seems to expect people to come us and adapt to us. Businesses that are successful in building relationships with their customers understand that they have to be where the people are, speak to them in the language of the people, and offer meaningful content that improves their lives.
The biggest challenge for business is not how to use digital marketing or social media to reach customers. They have learned that fairly easily. The biggest challenge for marketers is developing good content and learning to tell a good story. Because that is what people want.
People want content and a story that will improve and give meaning to their lives.
And this is what struck me:
The church already has good content and a story that will improve and give meaning to the lives of others.
We don’t have to invent new content. We don’t have to come up with a good story.
We have the amazing story of Jesus Christ. We have the amazing story of a God who came to earth to live among us, to eat and drink and party and challenge and stir us up. We have a story about a God who knows our suffering. We have a story about a God who died and rose again to send us out to bring a message of hope in a world of despair and love in a world of hate and judgment. We have a story and a message far more meaningful than anything any marketer can sell.
We have that story that can change lives and bring meaning.
All we need to do is be willing to take the time to learn better ways to deliver the story.
There is nothing new about this. For two millennia the church has had to learn to tell the story in ways that make sense to different populations, different cultures, in different languages.
The story has never changed. The story has always been compelling. It’s just how we tell the story.
There’s nothing all that new or intimidating about digital ministry. It’s just about how we tell the story.
About The Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-HansonThe Rev. Dr. Joelle Colville-Hanson has been Director for Evangelical Mission, ELCA for the Northeastern Iowa Synod since late 2013. Part of her job description is to help leaders and congregations use social media and other digital means for outreach and mission. She writes and edits this blog as well as runs the social media accounts for the synod.
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