Cultivate ’09 was a one-day conversation held at Park Community Church in Chicago among a hundred or so creative minds (some of us were less creative than others) about church communication. Born out of conversations among some highly respected consultants in this field (Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Tim Schraeder, Kem Meyer, among others), Cultivate was the first of what I hope will be many similar gatherings. This post is the first in a series on my impressions.
It has been a long time coming, but there is finally a bit of a ground-swell in the American church of a “new” staff position: Director of Communications. It is not so new in the mega-church world, but more and more smaller churches across the country are beginning to realize the importance of having someone on their staff whose entire job is to coordinate communication efforts both inside and outside the church. Different churches are coming to this realization in different ways, but they are in fact coming. Even the mainline denominations, who are often the last to follow church trends, are beginning to make the journey. They are realizing that telling God’s story effectively, both among church members and to the world outside the church, requires an increasingly wide range of skills and creative abilities, from verbal communication, to the written word, to video production, to web design, all the way to social media and beyond.
At Cultivate ’09, I was reminded that this community of church communications professionals is growing. I was encouraged that more and more of the American church is taking seriously its responsibility to tell God’s story in languages and formats in which it can be understood by our culture. I was seriously impressed that God has called young professionals out of their respective secular media worlds and has asked them to use those very same skills and creative expressions to tell His story. At Cultivate ’09, I found unbelievably sharp minds, creative thinkers with a firm grasp of the gospel and a sensitivity to maintaining the integrity of God’s message. I found professionals with a clear sense of calling and a passion for sharing the gospel AND for telling the story of what God is doing among His people today.
Even in this crowd, however, I was reminded that the concept of church “marketing” still carries huge baggage. There is still a level of fear associated with the concept…fear of losing the message in the packaging…fear of getting ahead of God in the delivery…fear of manipulating the hearers in our own power, rather than allowing the Spirit to touch hearts. In virtually every small group discussion I heard, the conversation eventually devolved into one or more of these fears. In every instance, I was impressed that even among these (mostly) young communications professionals, there is a sensitivity to preserving the integrity of the Truth which they are communicating. That pleased me.
So, my first and most prominent impression from Cultivate ’09 is this: if we as God’s people truly are charged with the responsibility of telling His story (and I believe we are), then we are definitely moving in the right direction, calling upon the expertise of communications professionals to help us understand our own culture as well as the cultures into which we are speaking. I am excited about where we are headed!
More impressions to follow here shortly. For example: (1) church communication raises some significant generational issues for us to address and, while we are beginning to ask the right questions in that regard, I believe the answers are still tough to come by…and (2) might God be using these communications professionals to actually help foster church unity? Stay tuned.
© Blake Coffee
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