This is the second in a series of posts on my impressions from Cultivate ’09, a church communications conference at Chicago’s Park Community Church.
The gathering place for registrants of Cultivate ’09 was the coffee bar in Park Community Church. It was where we all relaxed while we waited for the doors to the auditorium to open. It was a spacious room with several couches and tables and nice chairs, and a full service coffee bar. It was a fitting room for this crowd of communications professionals, most of whom were of the gen-x variety (when I walked into the room, the median age went up a good 10 years). I felt like one of the few who was not carrying a Macbook in a shoulder bag or backpack and wearing thick-rimmed narrow glasses and shirt-tail out over jeans…all marks of a generation younger than I.
This type of atmosphere is where an entire generation of Christians gather to tell their stories. And they do tell their stories differently than my generation does. I suppose my generation (and the one before mine) enjoy telling their stories by standing and talking, such as in a pulpit or on a platform. Andy Stanley, John Ortberg, Rick Warren, Erwin McManus, etc. are all masters of telling stories in this way. I suppose when my generation gets really creative, it tells a great story through a feature-length movie (insert the name of your favorite movie producer here–chances are he/she is a Boomer or older).
But as you transition from Boomers into Gen-x’ers (now in their 30’s) and then into the millennials (now in their 20’s), the story-telling changes dramatically. Their are now two young adult generations who present and receive “story” completely differently from the rest of us and even from one another. Their stories are image-rich, video-packed, fast-paced…and short. Their stories are tailor-made for a lifestyle that is crammed full of audible and visual stimuli. Their stories are no less significant than those which precede them, and God’s story doesn’t change one bit from one generation to the next, but how God’s story is told and how it is received change dramatically.
Walking into the gathering room at Cultivate ’09 provided a stark reminder that it is NOT my generation who has blazed the trails in this ministry of church communications. If previous generations blazed trails in how to communicate God’s story from the pulpit (platform), this generation is blazing trails in how to communicate God’s story as told in the lives of His people. And that is what has me so excited about the direction we are headed.
The ministry of church communications is not a trend. It is not something that will go away with time. It is an honest reflection of some large shifts in our society. If your church wants to spread the gospel to multiple generations, it must get intentional about telling God’s story in ways each of those generations is communicating. Let’s face it…it has been several decades since story-telling was a “one-size-fits-all” phenomena. Understand your calling as a church, then understand the story-telling format of the culture you are trying to reach. Then tell God’s story (and each others’ stories) in a way they can be engaged. That is the communications challenge before all of us.
But there is at least one further thought…the most important one yet. What impact might the ministry of church communication have on church unity? Thoughts on that question coming up Thursday.
© Blake Coffee
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