Recently, our power went out just before bedtime. I groped around the living room to see if I could find a candle. After tripping over our coffee table, I stopped, reached into my pocket, and pulled out my phone. Duh!
With the help of the flashlight app, I easily found my bearings and felt incredibly stupid that I’d forgotten the most obvious device for light.
A few seasons ago on the show Survivor, they had a large maze competition. The teams were competing to find their way toward tokens in the maze. Each runner was blindfolded, not able to see anything in the labyrinth. The task would’ve been a long, disastrous challenge (much like me trying to get around a dark house) except the rules allowed for a non-blindfolded caller to stand above the maze and shout directions. So much easier.
As church communicators, we have people that arrive blindly on campus (or online) not understanding the maze of ministries we’re offering. I’m not talking about physical blindness or even spiritual blindness. I’m talking about normal people who ignore anything that isn’t obvious. And even then, the obvious signs and announcements from the stage are often over-looked too.
Most people tend to play it safe. That’s why they sit in the same pews each week, take the same hallway to the same areas that have become familiar, and don’t search around online like we’d like them to. Often with the speed that people leave pages, there’s no wonder they are blind to the banners and announcements we labor over.
The first-time visitor who walks onto your campus or has stumbled onto your church website has so much to “figure out” in your church paradigm. It’s like they’re blindfolded without anyone to direct their paths.
Consider our church’s internal audience (regular attenders) and external audience (the community). Neither group knows as much as we’d expect. Ministry leaders usually think that the congregation listens to every announcement while subconsciously remembering all the things going on. Or they scour through the bulletin and place it on the refrigerator so they’ll remind themselves of all the activities throughout the week.
Sadly, they don’t. As soon as they wander outside of their normal, comfortable world, they’re walking blind. No one likes that. So most people return to the areas they know.
What’s a church to do?
You need to advocate for your audiences. Know who they are, what they need now, and anticipate what they’ll need in the future. Then, since you’re elevated to a leadership position, you can look down on the church maze and direct the next steps. It’s up to you to empower the greeters on your campus to identify the wanderers and help lead them to the anticipated locations. Online, you must anticipate and lead the next step for those visiting your home page (or other pages too).
Here are 4 steps to effectively lead someone who doesn’t know the maze:
1. Know the maze incredibly well.
Walk through the halls and experience services like you’ve never been there before. Or better yet, hire someone that doesn’t know your church to do a mystery visit and report on what was confusing. Remember: complicated is easy. Simple is difficult. Take the time to organize the complexities so they appear to be simple. Know who the target audiences are for every ministry and what problems they might face. You need to be your product expert (same for your website).
2. Know the people your church is targeting.
In order to engage with someone, you must seek to know them. Start with the demographics of your community: who are the people that choose not to go to any church? Are they similar to or different from those inside your church? Most people find it easier to gather with people that “feel” like them. Adjust accordingly so that your community would consider you. Know what each demographic persona is looking for that can be found on your campus or website. Advocate for them.
3. Do the hard work for them.
If people are looking for solutions to problems or paths to goals, identify where they are. Then, imagine the moment after someone discovers something. What is their reaction or next course of action? What is the next greatest thing that they should be directed to? Don’t make someone go to the main menu or info desk to discover it. Provide the benefits (with links or directions) in the place they are.
For example: did you just show an amazing life-changing story on a web page? It’s a great place to give service opportunities so they can take part. Or maybe ask for online giving to support the ministry that was in the video. This is a lot of hard work to know “everything”. But people are relying on you to do the hard work for them. Figure out the formula for each person you’re targeting and deliver it.
4. Always direct the next step.
Pretend that everyone is informationally blind. Never assume that they know. Always assist them with the next step. Every web page should have links to the next step that makes sense. Every service or class needs to assume that people aren’t aware of what to do next. A great event leads to the next step or opportunity for service, commitment, or action.
Be the maze caller. Lead people to a greater understanding of the many things that they’re blind to. Deal with their informational blindness and you’ll have a better response to showing how Christ is the solution to their spiritual blindness.