I may sound dramatic with this statement, but I don’t really believe I am.
Our churches are losing the content battle.
Did you realize it is a battle? With an answer to life’s every question now simply a matter of calling out to Siri, we’re often waging war on the wrong hill.
Are you planning sermon series that addresses real-life questions? That’s a fantastic step.
But what percentage of your community can you reach in a single hour on a single day of the week? That’s the issue at hand. We’re not answering questions where people are asking them.
Ask a Grown Man
Let me share this example:
Have you ever heard of the Ask a Grown Man series or Rookie Magazine? Unless you are or have a teenage girl, I’m going to bet you haven’t. I hadn’t. I first learned of it listening to the This American Life podcast.
The gist of the Ask a Grown Man series (which has now been expanded to Ask a Grown Person), is that teenagers submit the questions they feel they can’t ask of anyone else, and celebrities — like Stephen Colbert, Terry Crews and Seth Rogen — respond with a raw, unedited video shot on their webcam, usually with poor lighting and audio, but an inspiring amount of honesty.
The questions can sometimes seem silly, and sometimes they are poignant. But they are all authentic. The fascinating thing is how these celebrities respond. They take each question seriously. There’s little trace of their showbiz personas. They’re taking the time to answer a young person’s question about dealing with envy, or depression, or how to know you’re really in love, or even their points of view on porn or teenage sex.
I bet your student ministry addresses those topics at its gatherings. But does it answer them online? Does it give students a safe place to ask their most difficult questions via their smartphone? If not, it’s missing a chance to reach the broadest base of students who don’t know Jesus in your area. It’s preaching to the choir — that is, to the students who already view church as a place that has answers.
The concept of “content marketing” is not one many churches are exploring. At The Unstuck Group, we serve a lot of churches. We almost never see a content strategy in place. A decent website is becoming more common. A mobile app or otherwise mobile-friendly site is rarer. A strong social media presence, rarer still.
A strategy to engage the community through content? It’s just not happening.
The New Front Door
Another term for content marketing is inbound marketing. It’s the idea that you can leverage the knowledge and answers people are seeking to attract them through your front door. Personal relationships are always going to be at the heart of the Kingdom. Increasingly, our technology is isolating us, and teens and young adults are among the loneliest victims of the social networks that addict them.
God’s heart is not for people to live in isolation. The people He’s called you to reach are regularly turning to the Internet with the deepest questions of their heart. A few quick questions typed into Google yield results like these:
Searching people are finding answers from everyone but the local church.
What if seeking out ways to connect online is now the first step to inviting people into community? How would that change your approach to the content you are planning and producing? How can you equip your current congregation to leverage their social networks for inviting people into conversations about God and into community with your church?
Taking a First Step
I wrote an article awhile back about four things you need to understand about content marketing and the Church. The principles there are still true. Here’s another practical step: Download this simple guide to start a conversation with your church leadership team about how your strategy might need to change and how you can get started.