As the country continues to evolve and advance, our nation seems to be “browning” more and more every day. This means that churches everywhere are beginning to evolve, too. This evolution includes programming, branding, messaging, marketing, staff culture and even target audiences.
Statistics show that churches that choose not to diversify within the next 10-20 years will be struggling churches very soon. Some 43% of Millennial adults are non-white, the highest share of any generation.
So how can your church keep up with an evolving culture and better communicate with a diversifying audience? Here are a few things to keep in mind.
1. Be inclusive
If you’re a writer or a communicator, you probably already understand the importance of including examples and illustrations that connect with both men and women, with athletes and non-athletes, or with the introverts and extroverts. But do you also think to communicate with diverse cultures, backgrounds, or socioeconomic statuses in mind? Here are two ways to do this well.
Finding the common threads among our cultures and elevating them in our communication can bring us all together and make us feel known. Getting too specific and too detailed can sometimes separate us and create division.
So when you talk about music, just say “music.” You don’t have to say Toby Keith or Taylor Swift. When you talk about clothing, talk about wanting a “new pair of shoes” without specifying a brand or style. When you speak broadly, you are able to reach everyone without excluding anyone. So be broad. But, sometimes, you should also . . .
While being broad prevents anyone from being excluded, being specific celebrates diversity by highlighting the variety represented in your audience. So when you’re talking about music, maybe you do mention Toby Keith or Taylor Swift. But don’t forget to mention Drake, Pitbull, or Baek Ji-young sometimes, too.
Is this easy? No, but with a little research, you can get to know the things that are valued by a variety of cultures and can work them in on occasion. Be specific.
2. Be relatable
Have you ever been watching a TV show and said to yourself, “I’ve done that before!” or “I know exactly what he’s talking about!”? If so, what you were really thinking was, in essence, ”I can relate to that.” Isn’t that amazing?
If you can create “I can relate to that” moments for every member of your diverse audience, you will win them every time. Why? Because people tend to trust people they feel understand them. So be relatable.
3. Be funny
We believe it’s true that, “laughter is the best medicine.” Because it is, isn’t it? Has laughter ever made you feel better? Of course it has. Laughter relieves tension. It helps us let our guards down.
Laughter connects us. And, when it comes to bridging the gaps that inevitably arise when you are writing or speaking to a diverse audience, connection is everything. So be funny.
4. Be cautious
When you’re writing or speaking to a diverse audience, there is a lot of potential for fires to break out. Consider historical tragedies, unchangeable limitations, and cultural no-no’s, for starters.
No matter how well you think you know your audience or how much you believe your audience trusts you, there are some jokes you should never make and some sayings you should never use. So be cautious.
5. Be compassionate
We’ve all heard the phrase, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” But here’s the thing about compassion: you can’t fake it. One of the biggest issues writers or communicators often face when trying to write or speak to a diverse audience is a lack of compassion.
People often times have a hard time with caring about people they don’t understand. So how do you fix this? You have to start by seeking to understand your audience. That’s empathy! And empathy is the root of compassion.
Seek to understand their unique problems, their uinque fears, and their unique journeys. When you seek to understand your audience, you’ll inevitably begin to experience compassion for them. Seek to understand so you can be compassionate.