Archives for category: community

As I mentioned in my last post, I am looking for a job in Boston. This is been a really long process and I have applied to literally hundreds of places. I have read countless job descriptions and requirement lists. For some reason, one that I looked at last week was the only one to stir up a desire to blog about.

In Boston there is a community on the south side of the city called Roxbury. Roxbury carries with it a reputation for being, well… frightening. When you ask anyone what neighborhoods you should avoid, Roxbury is always at the top of the list. I have never actually been to Roxbury so I can not comment personally about the community. I just know what I have heard.

I found a job running communications and social media for a group whose aim is the put down the “racist stereotypes” of the community of Roxbury and highlight the great historical and arts features of the community. That sounds great! I am all about putting down racism and promoting arts. Where do I sign up? I began writing a well-tailored cover letter for the position and checked back at the description page so that I could use particular phrasing to make myself sound perfect for the job. Then I noticed something…

Though the job requested that you have a B.A. And 2 years of experience with PR and social media it only paid $18,000 a year. You can’t even begin to live on that in Boston.

So, a job whose goal is to help show people that Roxbury is not an impoverished haven of crime is not willing to pay someone a living wage to do that job. If I took that job I would also have to sell drugs or rob convenience stores to provide for my family.

I know that the group probably can’t afford to pay more than that. I understand that. However, if you want someone to have a degree and experience, you have to start out by showing a little more employee value.

I have 2 points to make here…

1. Pay your employees well. Don’t hire people if you can’t pay them a living wage. If they have to divide their attention between your job and another job they can’t give you as much devotion as you would need them to.

2. If you want to create a certain image for your organization (non-profit, church, community, etc) don’t directly violate that image with the salary that you offer employees.

I just want to note that I have no intention of defaming the community of Roxbury. It isn’t their fault that this oversight was made. I have already been planning a trip down there to check out the community.

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The other day my son, who is 19 months old, and his friend were playing with toy drums in the living room. It was, as you would expect, a bit chaotic. They would both hit the drums with sporadic beats and booms that simply served the purpose to be louder than the previous hit. It was pretty awful.

However, for just a moment, they got on the same beat. They played together for about 8 seconds. It was actually kinda beautiful. For those 8 seconds two toddlers created a rhythm that was stable enough to be considered pleasant.

It made me think about the nature of community. Community is like two people playing instruments together. If both people work hard and put all of their time and effort and love into the playing of the instrument, they create beautiful music. They don’t have to be playing the same melody, they just have to be playing the same song.

However, if just one of them neglects practice or passion it creates an ugly mess of noise.

Community works best when everyone who is involved puts their heart into it.

 

I’m currently transitioning from being part of the communications team at a church of 1,000 in the Bible Belt to being a part of a brand new church plant of 100 in Boston. I’m really interested in seeing how this new scenario shapes my thoughts in this blog.

Don’t give up… no matter how much  you want to.

I think that I’ve learned all I need to learn about church communications.

That may sound arrogant, but let me explain.

I’ve figured something out that a lot of you may have already figured out. It seemed like such an astounding revelation to me at the time, but looking back it seemed so obvious.

Here goes…

Having a church communication strategy doesn’t matter. Having an effective social media presence doesn’t matter. Having good graphic design doesn’t matter.

At this point I’m sure you are asking yourself: “but aren’t those things the whole point of your blog? Where are you going with this?”

Here’s where I’m going…

There are things you are doing with your church communication that are distracting from the message from Christ. Sometimes this could be bad graphic design. Sometimes this could be cheesy, therapeutic slogans on your church’s sign. Sometimes this could be a website that gives no one the information that they need.

But there are other things you are doing that are distracting from the message of Christ. Your great web design might be distracting from the gospel. Your engaging social media presence may be taking people’s attention from Christ. Your perfect adherence to every single thing you’ve ever learned from Kem Meyer could even be taking away from letting God do His will in your church.

What I’m saying is that sometimes doing things well is just as destructive as doing things poorly. What I’m saying is that when the quality of our performance is more important than pointing people toward a life-changing relationship with Christ, we are doing far more damage than if we allow Papyrus to grace the pages of our newsletter.

When we are on our faces praying and fasting and begging God to do his will in our lives it doesn’t matter how nice our facilities are, how creative our worship is, or how often our pastors blog.

Consider the following words about the church of Acts from David Platt’s book Radical:

I see a small band of timid disciples huddled together in an upper room. They know they need God’s power…

…This is the group that the spread of Christianity depends on. So what are they doing? They are not plotting strategies. They are “joined together constantly in prayer”. They are not busy putting their faith in themselves or relying on themselves. They are pleading for the power of God, and they are confident that they are not going to accomplish anything without his provision.

As you know from the story of Acts 2 3,000 people are brought to Christ in one day.

How is that for a church growth strategy? Pray and seek God and trust Him.

If your church isn’t on Twitter you don’t need to use Twitter to engage your congregation.

If a majority of your church doesn’t know what an RSS feed is, you probably don’t want to spend too much time making sure that your pastors are blogging.

If most of your church likes good old fashioned traditional church music, you don’t need a contemporary service.

With that said…

If your church is highly saturated with smart phone users you probably don’t need to send out a paper copy of your newsletter.

If your church members participate in a monthly bloggers meet up you should probably make sure that at least one of your pastors is involved in that group.

If your church’s facebook page has as many fans as you have attendees on Sunday mornings, you should be using your facebook page as a tool to communicate.

Let’s be real for a second.

The whole “relevant” thing is played out. The idea of being relevant to your culture began as a way to get Christians to stop isolating themselves from the rest of the world. But just like every good thing that gets mass-produced and corporatized, the push for Christian relevancy has come around full circle and started eating itself.

Look at Relevant Magazine. I have no beef with them. They talk about some really cool music and have quality cultural observations. But pay attention to the advertisements. Every single ad in Relevant has something to do with Christian culture. The ads are for Christian musicians, Bible colleges, Christian conferences, and Christian books.

The people willing to put their money into Relevant Magazine are Christians. If the church was actually being relevant to culture, we would see a much bigger representation of culture in our church. If Relevant Magazine was actually relevant to non-Christians, non-Christians would be putting their money into advertising in the magazine.

“Relevant” churches are doing the same thing as the magazine. We listen to preachers that use relevancy buzz words like “authenticity”. Our worship teams play music from bands who smoke, have tattoos, and use delay pedals. We decorate our churches like all of the other churches do (would a deep crimson or a hunter green look better as an accent wall in this chocolate brown room?) We have come around full circle and become a brand new, cookie cutter church culture that is just as irrelevant as it has always been.

So, what is my solution? We stop trying to be what we aren’t. We stop buying into the myth that if we serve expensive coffee and have vintage Fender guitar amps that we will make a difference in the culture around us. There is no universal formula for engaging your community.

Our focus should not be on being relevant to an irrelevant church society. Our focus should be on channeling the creativity that God has given us into engaging our culture.

This looks different in your church than it does mine. You are a much better judge of what your community looks like than I am. Don’t listen to me. Don’t listen to other churches. Don’t listen to the conferences. Listen to your people.