How a Church Communicates in a Generation Gap

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I read a few interesting articles today in Entrepreneur Magazine and Marketing Pilgrim, about how people communicate, and have difficulty communicating, between the generational gaps.  Each generation has a different way of embracing new forms communicating that becomes comfortable to them but where gen-x and gen-y ‘ers seem to have adopted to new forms of communication, the boomers have let is slide and still prefer their face-to-face and over the phone exchanges.

Face-to-Face, Phone, or Twitter-ific

The reports go on to talk about how that makes it difficult to properly communicate between the boomers and gen’ers who don’t really care for face to face and hate making an actual phone call.  All that got me thinking about how we communicate within the church.  Poor communication in a church can kill its momentum, growth, or relationships, but “poor” communication is not universal and what is poor communication from a 20-something to a boomer is acceptable among their peers.

Being Unaware Creates Mis-Understanding

It doesn’t take long to see how mis-understandings in communication methods between generations can cause problems.  As an example, I have found that the farther away you get from the Baby Boomer generation the less an actual response to something is deemed necessary… a response to a phone call, email, sms, facebook comment, tweet on Twitter, whatever it is, the younger you are, the fewer responses are deemed to be needed where the closer to a boomer you are, the more you expect a response to everything.

Where a boomer-ish person is offended by a non-response, the gen-y’er doesn’t even give it a second thought.  Being a Gen-X’er myself, I get quite irritated with non-response but always try to remember who it is I am communicating with, then interpret what their lack of response means.  What it means is that they don’t communicate in the exact same method I do, and I shouldn’t hold that against them when I don’t get a response.

Of course that is a generality and certainly not scientific, but it highlights that an understanding of how each generation prefers to communicate is needed, especially within the church body. If we want the church body to grow, if we want to reach new people for Jesus, we have to understand how the younger generation likes to communicate, what is important to communicate to them, and what they could care less about.  As we all get older, it isn’t about what makes us happy and what we like, right?

Who is the Church Trying To Reach Anyway?

Who are we trying to reach?  If we are trying to reach the Boomer’s, they are probably still looking for those traditional forms of communication from the church like a weekly snail-mailed newsletter, a printed paper bulletin, a pictorial directory of church members, and even those phone calls to the house.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Gen-Y doesn’t care a thing about getting something in the mail or receiving a bulletin when they walk in, that just isn’t what they are looking for in a church, it doesn’t add any value to their experience.

They want to share ideas.  They could possibly be the most sharing generation the world has seen, but it isn’t sharing face-to-face like the boomers, it is sharing stories, ideas, life dreams, it is life lived as open source. Even email is unimportant, and becoming less and less important as time goes by.   It is just considered to be spam (even if it isn’t), and sending an email newsletter is irrelevant to the generation that lives on rss feeds.

Produce, but Don’t Push Information

Like each past generation, they want to communicate with each other in the manner they are accustomed to, which is electronically.  They get their information proactively, and don’t want it pushed onto them, this means we have to produce the information and let them come get it.  Communicating things in that manner may seem backwards to traditional means (because it is), and may be more difficult, but push methods will be rejected by the Gen-Y’ers.

So how do we produce information we want them to see and just hope they find it?  Carefully I guess, but I know if it is meaningful enough to them, they will find it.  Word of mouth still rules with Gen-Y as it does with Boomers, so maybe that is the bridge over the generation gap.

Check out the chart below.  I think if we make an effort to understand how each generation prefers to communicate we can better know how to serve each person.  Serving someone in a manner or custom they could care less about it totally ineffective and a waste of everyone’s time.  Wouldn’t it be better to know how best to serve (communicate with) each individual person instead assuming all will respond in the same way?

Learning the Differences, is Important

Communicating in the Generation Gap

The Internet is The Church's New Drug of Choice

The Internet can be many things to many people.  Can it be the drug of choice today or is that to harsh a term to describe what we as a society have done with the Internet?

Most of the time we have a negative connotation associated with a “drug”, but drugs can be just as positive as negative, especially when one company has promoted their product as the “wonder drug” of all time.  One legal definition puts it like this:

Some governments define the term drug by law. In the United States, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act definition of “drug” includes “articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals” and “articles (other than food) intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals.

This is one of those random blog posts I couldn’t decide if I wanted to dive into or not, but I am going to do it anyway.  I started writing this several weeks ago but it culminated this week with a conversation I had with the worship leader (photo shown above) here and moved into the finer point of Calvinism (if only we actually had time to just sit and discuss these things).  And that is… what is the Internet doing to fellowship and how does it change how we read Hebrews 10:25 (in context) that says: “25 Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another€”and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

If you are reading my blog and are not a Believer, then insert “social skills or socializing” in place of fellowship, but for the rest of us, what does it mean to move our worship and other networking (i.e. fellowship) to the Internet?  This is what I envision when we combine the greatness of the Internet with the Bride of Christ.  Something totally awesome if I can still use that phrase, but how careful are we to not be slowly creating a generation of Internet only Believers that don’t know how to, want to, or even care anything about fellowship?

The ultimate online church campus right now is but this week I was really excited to watch the initial launch of the iCampus for NewSpring as posted on ChurchCrunch (read NewSpring Church Launches iCampus BETA).   I was so excited to see NewSpring launch a full blown service that I could sit here in my office and watch Sunday evening from a church in Greenville I have never been to (but will in about a month) and feel like I was part of the service, but was I really part of the service?

The questions that ran through my mind when talking to other about where the church is going through technology goes something like this:

  1. What about those Believers who really don’t like to fellowship in the first place, or worse, highly dislike it?  To say “they should” is what I would equate to saying a gay Christian just shouldn’t be gay (from Anne’s post Why is being gay a sin?).  Can we look at the issue seriously and not just say “because the Bible said so”.  I know that, but that often doesn’t change a person’s behavior or attitude.
  2. How do we fulfill Hebrews 10:25 online?  Can we fulfill Hebrews 10:25 through only online means?
  3. Can we effectively fellowship with others online?  I have gotten to know quite a few people online I have never met in person?
  4. What about those church-a-phobics (that would be the opposite of church-a-holics)?  How do you get people in the building when they highly dislike (hate) the thought of “going to church” but will engage online?
  5. What intentional steps do we take to move from online fellowship to discipleship?  Are we being intentional about the steps we take to pull people to our online venues in the name of Christ?

These are just a few, but serious questions to me, and quite personal.  I have asked myself these and many other questions for many many years and I will continue to try to find where technology fits into God’s kingdom.  It is not just something the church can ignore, or misuse.  In some respects, it is the future of the Church.  Thoughts?

The Church Body and the Internet, Part 2

This is a continuation of, The Church Body and the Internet, Part 1, on my blog discussion on the importance of the Church as a whole and how it uses the Internet. What is amazing is how fast things change. The text below was for the most part written around the same time that part 1 was written, and that was only about a month ago.

Since then, changes in the way churches are using the Internet are showing up all over the place. Most recently, Twitter Church was incredible to watch. Not saying it is for all churches, but wow, these guys tried something just to see its results (see Twitter Church Hurdles?), without actually knowing what they would be ahead of time.

According to the poll taken at Church Marketing Sucks on the event (see Twittering Church Poll Results), a good percentage of people said it was a waste of time. Great, even if everyone said it was, at least they tried something different. Interesting to note that a good percentage also didn’t know what Twitter actually was, so they would probably consider it a waste of time (and I do think there is a Twitter learning curve as well)

Importance of Effective Internet Use

Starting back in the early 1990’s I stressed to a very large church, what I felt was the importance of an effective presence of Christ on the Internet, through the church, and it was largely dismissed (although I know the term Internet Minister was largely unheard of then). We do know that in this world, where the church is absent, Satan will quickly fill in the gaps, and the Internet can certainly be one of those places.

As the Internet intertwines itself more and more into our very existence I believe it is important for the church not to be absent and left wondering how did Satan get such a strong hold on something that effects everything we do and everyone living in an even semi-modern society.

Hopefully “the church” will have (and I think they do) technologically advanced, knowledgeable parishioners that can discern God’s will and are able to reach out to those Believers and non-Believers alike through the Internet. Not to shy away from it because it is something not totally understood, or a place where Satan can obviously take a hold of the mind if we allow him to do so.

Some of these ways can include blogging, flickr, use of Twitter, (follow me here if you are on Twitter), or even some new music. Groups like Third Day and Robbie Seay Band, among probably 1,000 others, are leading people to Christ, and… they are real bands.

Share Your Story and Testimony With Others

I know over the years my wife and I have met (and hopefully ministered to in some way) thousands and thousands of people whom we have never met face to face, in countries we could never visit. Like our church has said in the Fluid series, everyone has their own “my story”, and I have found that sometimes, they are far more willing to share it with someone over the Internet than they ever would be in person.

One only has to look as far as the explosion of the social networking sites to see that people want to reach out to someone and connect to other people that understand their needs on a personal level. We all know, that someone is Christ, and hopefully the church’s presence will be felt wherever there is a need, even if that need is through the Internet.

How Does Your Church Use Technology?

So, what ways does your church use or embrace technology? Does it at all? There are so many different ways and methods that there are countless ways we, the church body, can use the tools we have today, to expand our reach for Christ.

The Church Body and the Internet, Part 1

The question about interactions between the Church and the Internet came up recently so I wanted to touch on a few basics of this topic. I am going to post several parts to this topic over the next month or two, so I consider this to be an introduction to the topic itself, not a conclusion.

Of course I am going to touch on the importance of a website, social networking sites and their effect, content the Internet contains that may keep us in line or cause us to fall short, the list can go on forever I think, but I will try to stay focused.

Living on the Internet

For the last 15 years my wife and I have earned our living through the Internet in one form or another, so when one discusses the church and the Internet today, it touches on a basis for something I am extremely familiar with and a place I generally spend most of my days through work, and as with most today, many other things from paying bills, entertainment, and overall general information.

I recently wrote a short piece on the importance of a church to have a website, called Does a Church Need a Website? After writing that post, is now acts as a spring board for this topic, so it was kind of strange for me to hear a message directly speaking about the Internet and the church a few weeks ago.

Does The Church Use the Internet Effectively?

I have watched the growth and changes the Internet has gone through, since the early 90’s, from a Believers perspective, and I did then, and do today, think it is one of the most underutilized areas of the church, and a place for enormous witness potential that lies in wait.

By underutilized, I don’t mean having or not having a website that shows worship times and directions. I mean having a witnessing presence to meet and address the needs of individuals on a personal level, the way it is described through Acts 1:7, a local, national, and worldwide reach, in a way and medium that is used and understood by our society. A way that probably each generation of Believers and potential Believers to come will be far more familiar with than your average baby boomer (nothing against them).

* Acts 1:7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Yes, there are many who come to Believe through traditional methods, and all those are important, but one can not ignore the Internet as a great channel to reach others. It doesn’t have to be someone around the world. It can be, but you can reach out to local people as well. There are many that are comfortable communicating through the Internet today that will not respond to traditional means for one reason or another.

Communication is the Anchor Today

I think it is important for us as a church body to recognize this, use the resources available, train the personnel, and actively communicate with people in a manner that anyone under about 40 would expect. This is not just email (and this is important), but through facebook, youtube, twitter, blogs, and whatever communication method is being actively used.

It doesn’t mean we are to engage in unethical behaviors, or compromise our beliefs in any way. What it does mean is that we should reply to emails, actively seek out those ways that Believers and possible Believers communicate in today’s world, and be ready to engage people in ways The Church may be neglecting.

Of course, you always have to look for some worldly examples (since we do actually live in the world right now), but where none are perfect, there are some that have an Internet presence that come to mind, like Ragamuffin Soul, check out his latest post, The Little Church Down The Block, and maybe Stuff Christians Like (for something a little off topic I guess), with his running list of truths (see latest #186. You down with O.P.P.? Whoops, I meant G.O.D.)

There are countless others, those are just two that come immediately to mind when I think of Believers using the internet for God’s Glory. Stay tuned for part 2, coming soon. What about it? What ways does your church communicate in today’s electronic world?

Does a Church Really Need a Website?

I have been working with church websites since I first became a believer around 1995 and offered to do website work for a large church in Birmingham.

Of course, this was long before churches decided that having a web presence was just as important for them as it was for the local civic center, and the websites that I worked on and helped start back then were nothing compared to what can be offered by a local church today.

A website for a church is important, and its importance shouldn’t be ignored by the congregation or the administration. The baby-boomers may be reaching retirement age, but they use computers now too, and if you want to attract a younger generation of worshipers and potential believers to your church, a website is a must (in my opinion).

An Internet Home is Important for Churches Too

If you have a church, you better have a website too. Even the smallest churches with no budget should be able to find a presence online to take care of all the various tasks that a website can do for a church. Recently I came across an article from Vandelay Design, called 50 of the Best Church Website Designs that shows just how far church website designs have come, and how important they now are in the tech and digital world we live in.

At bare minimum, it can remind visitors what your specific doctrine is, what time the services are, and what you should expect from the worship service and members. When we thought about visiting a new local church in town, the first thing we did was check out their website, read up on everything they had to say on their church, what they believe, who they are and of course when they worship. We visited 3 weeks later based on what we read.

More Than Just Worship Times

A website for a church can be more than just worship times and directions on how to get there. Many churches now offer real time audio and archived sermon messages, blogs on specific topics within the church, and even live simulcasting of their services. All of this is great, but, having a presence is more than just showing the world how pretty everything is.

Coming up, I will explore the details of how the church and the Internet can exist together and reach out to those members and non-members in meaningful ways. It is important to touch the lives of people for Christ in ways that help and sustain, not just put up a sign of when to show up.