It’s naive to think that your church is able to reach everyone. It’s a well-meaning thing to believe, but in reality -it’s not possible. What language does your preacher use? If it’s English then suddenly you’ve restricted your target audience to 20% of the world. What style of music does your band play? If it involves an acoustic guitar then you’re unlikely to attract the goth crowd.
You can’t target your church at everyone – which means it’s important to be intentional about who you are trying to reach so that you can reach them more effectively. Otherwise, what ends up happening is that you target those who are like you – which isn’t a bad thing if that’s your strategy, just be aware that this is what you’re doing.
It’s worth putting some time and thought into coming up with a target audience that you will primarily gear your church towards. This isn’t to say that those who don’t fit this audience aren’t welcome – of course they are – but it’s helpful for them to be on board with the missionary focus of your church so you can keep reaching more of the lost in your area.
Here are some questions to ask yourself (or go through as a staff team) to work out who you are targeting as well as who you should be targeting:
- What types of people do you currently have attending your church? What are the average demographics? What kind of jobs do they have? Are they educated, etc?
- What types of people do you have who visit your church and don’t join? Are their demographics different to those already at your church? What kind of jobs do they have? Are they educated, etc?
- What are the demographics of the people in your area? Check the census data if you’re unsure.
- What do the people in your area do for fun?
- Are there unreached people groups that your church could reach or attract?
In Wollongong, there’s lots of young workers aged 20-30 – much higher than the state average, and hardly any of these people go to a church. So as we were planning to launch Salt we wanted to do things in such as way as to particularly work for the 20-30s young workers in Wollongong who aren’t Christian. Also, in our experience it seems that it’s harder to get guys to visit a church and so we wanted to do things in a way that might help mitigate this. Here are the stats for the suburb surrounding our church, compared with those of the city of Wollongong.
Looking at this data was helpful, but we then took it a step further and created a fictional persona of who we are aiming to attract. Rick Warren, the grandfather of the 5xMs, has a book called “purpose driven church” where he describes ‘Saddleback Sam’ – the fictional character that their church is aimed at. We have come up with a similar profile, that we’ve called Salty Steve. Again, I want to reiterate; whilst the gospel is for everyone, and Salt Church loves to see men and women of all ages coming to know the Lord Jesus, Salt Church nevertheless is seeking to reach a particular demographic. This target audience can be personified as ‘Salty Steve’ – and helps drive the missional focus of Salt Church. Let me introduce you to Salty Steve:
Salty Steve is a 27 year-old male – either a Wollongong local who has moved away and come back, or has come down from Sydney. He is tertiary educated and has a white-collar job, but he prefers lifestyle over career; he works to live (not the other way around) and his focus is very much on the present. He’s traveled to South East Asia a few times because he likes adventure and it isn’t too expensive.
He thinks he’s cool but is really a follower – he listens to triple J but doesn’t like the weird stuff, has a tattoo to be unique (just like everyone else), and says he likes craft beer but only really knows 150 Lashes. He fears being seen as different or being ostracised. He surfs, but mostly because his friends do. He cares about his appearance, and has a gym membership that he only uses 6 months of the year.
His parents may have divorced when he was a teenager so he doesn’t really believe in marriage, but he loves family and is starting to think about having kids, though he isn’t ready to admit it. He lives with his girlfriend ‘Salty Sally’ and another mate in a unit in North Wollongong. He has a group of loyal mates and plays sport socially, but they never talk about deep things.
His grandparents go to church, but his only interaction with religion is at weddings and funerals. He isn’t jaded by religion, and is open to discussing spiritual things if they come up, but doesn’t think too deeply about them or the big questions of life. When life goes wrong, he doesn’t know why. He worries, has questions and concerns but no one to talk it through with, and so he tries to shrug it off and distract himself by having fun.
Salty Steve would come to Salt Church if he was invited by someone he trusted, such as a friend or colleague, or if he was invited by his girlfriend.
Since creating Salty Steve, we’ve found that it’s brought a lot of clarity to what we do, how to do it & what not to do. It helps as we create artwork for sermon series, plan mission events or how our website looks. We don’t have unlimited resources and so anything that helps us be more intentional and guide us on where we should put those resources is invaluable.
A danger worth noting:
I’m the membership pastor at Salt. I’m all about Christian community and creating a church that cares well for the believing members that we have as part of our church. A tension that it’s worth being aware of is doing church so that it works for both the believers in your church as well as the unbelievers who aren’t at your church. Someone has captured this well by describing church as a Christian family who are expecting guests. Our primary responsibility needs to be growing the saints in our churches – but we can still do this while making church accessible for the outsider. It’s hard to find the balance sometimes, but that’s the tension that we live with.