Really? Church Marketing Sucks is going to dive into politics?
Yep. We’ve never shied away from difficult conversations, and while we approach this topic with some trepidation, we’re still going to talk about it.
Why? Because the whole point of church communication is that we believe church has the answer to culture’s anxiety. Right? So our churches have a responsibility to confront politics, even if it’s a bit uncomfortable. Mark DeYmaz goes so far as to say that this could be the church’s finest hour.
We’re not going to take sides, we’re not going to push agendas. We’ve just got three simple tips:
1. Acknowledge What’s Going On
First and foremost, the church needs to acknowledge what’s happening in society right now. That doesn’t mean you pick a side or join a march or do anything. It simply means you let people know that you understand. There’s a lot of anxiety in culture right now, on all sides of the political divide. You can remain completely non-partisan and acknowledge that it’s getting a little heated.
Political icons aside, you’re pointing out the elephant in the room.
The other option is to ignore it, stick your head in the sand, and pretend nothing is happening. That’s how the church becomes irrelevant.
You can acknowledge what’s happening in culture with simple comments in a sermon or a social media post, without taking sides or alienating anyone:
It's an important and contentious time in the US, so today we're gathering to worship, pray, and celebrate our identity in Jesus. Join us!
— Irving Bible Church (@IBCvoice) November 6, 2016
If you can do it with humor, that’s even better:
— Happy Joe (@HappyJoeCo) August 3, 2016
2. Build Common Ground
The reality is our churches are divided. Few congregations are going to have a uniform political ideology—whether you realize it or not. Our churches have people of all political stripes, and we have to figure out how to get along even when we disagree (especially when we disagree).
Adam Hamilton is the founding pastor of the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection outside Kansas City. He spoke with NPR about preaching to a divided congregation after President Donald Trump’s executive order on refugees:
It’s easy to irritate people. It’s harder to influence people.
My hope is that I’ve influenced people on both sides to come together and find out, OK what’s reasonable, what makes sense, and then what is in keeping with the Gospel.
Building that common ground is important work for churches to do, and it can come out through our communication:
Jesus reminds us that the most important thing isn't being right about our politics, but loving one another.
— Church of the Rez (@ChurchoftheRez) February 5, 2017
3. Leave It to the Pastor
Finally, we have the luxury of passing the buck. Honestly, how your church communicates about politics is not a decision you should be making by yourself as a church communicator. Give your opinion and your expert advice as a communicator, but ultimately this is a decision your pastor needs to make.
In the NPR story referenced above, Rev. Hamilton opted to speak about refugees in his sermon. But not on the first Sunday. He wanted to give the issue some time and context, to see how things played out and not be reactionary:
Part of my thinking was, “If every time President Trump issues an executive order that I might question on Friday, I change my sermon to preach out about it, I’m going to be preaching about President Trump every Sunday for the next four years.”
Not only should communicators look to the pastor for direction, but the congregation does too. So let any communication with a hint of politics flow out of what the pastor says. Let them take the lead.
Here’s a tweet that makes a statement, but it’s based on something one of their pastors wrote:
— The Village Church (@villagechurchtx) January 29, 2017
Another reality to keep in mind: People might not care what the pastor says.
According to a recent Barna survey, only 8% of adults are interested in hearing a pastor’s views on social issues. Ouch.