Sr. Ansgar Holmberg, CSJ (American, 1937?-), "O Root" (from the "O Antiphons" series). Of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Tags: Tree of Jesse. Source: http://csjstpaul.org/ansgar_holmbergs_o_antiphon_paintings.aspx; http://yokeofchrist.blogspot.com/2010/12/o-root-of-jesse.html

Churches are Blurring

Nearly every church relies on the written word to woo people in to coming to their church. So why are most church websites so numbingly banal?

What’s bad, boring, and barely read all over? Church stuff. If you could taste words, most church websites, brochures, and print materials would remind you of stale, soggy rice cakes: nearly calorie free, devoid of nutrition, and completely unsatisfying.

One of my favorite phrases in the business world is full-service solutions provider. A quick search on Google finds at least 56,200 churches using that one. Innovative Church brings you about 7.8 million results. Relevant church nets you more than 7.9 million matches. Exactly which services are sold as not adding value?

What’s the next buzz word going to be? Worse, who’s going to fall for it? What does it say when tens of thousands of churches, all claiming to be “not like any other church”, are saying the same things about themselves?

When you write like everyone else and sound like everyone else and act like everyone else, you’re saying, “Our church is no different than  everyone else’s, too.” Or think of it this way: Would you go to a dinner party and just repeat what the person to the right of you is saying all night long? Would that be interesting to anybody? So why are so many churches saying the same things at the biggest party on the planet — the internet?

If you care about your church, you should care just as much about how you describe it. In nearly all cases, a church makes its first impression on would-be customers or partners with relationships — whether they’re on a website, in printed materials, or in e-mails or letters. A snappy design might catch their attention, but it’s the words that make the real connection. Your church’s story, ministry descriptions, history, personality — these are the things that go to battle for you every day. Your words are your frontline. Are they strong enough?

Unfortunately, years of language dilution by using business marketing for church marketing has turned the powerful, descriptive sentence into an empty vessel optimized for buzzwords, jargon, and vapid expressions. Words are treated as filler — “stuff” that takes up space on a page. Words expand to occupy blank space in a church much as spray foam insulation fills up cracks in your house. Harsh? Maybe. True? Read around a bit, and I think you’ll agree.

Luckily, there are exceptions. Wonderful exceptions. These are churches with a personality and a point of view. They care enough to have their own voice. They want to communicate, not just say something. They have a story to tell, and they want to tell it well. They are willing to sacrifice for impact. One pastor says, “if a church decides  to close up shop, will the community around them notice? A church that doesn’t impact a part of the community that’s its a part of should not exist. The church needs to impact the community it is a part.” Impact has to be contextual.

What works in Utah, Texas or Anytown, U.S.A., may not work in your town. Know your community, find the need and fill it. Context is the way you figure out your impact.

In a world, where churches are blurring together, even across denominational lines, stand out and impact your community.

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