June 3, 2014

Who is Your Audience?

Last week I went to a goodbye party for a longtime Trinity employee. I also went to a community forum, an Ascension Day Eucharist, and stopped by Trinity's Brown Bag lunch program which serves meals to people in need. 

Different people were in attendance at each event. There were staff, parishioners, people from the neighborhood, and even friends of Trinity from far away. Each event was designed to serve a slightly different group of people.

Trinity, of course, has more events than many Episcopal churches, but last week was a reminder to me that every event is not for everyone. This seems obvious when I write it, but I think in the back of my mind I often assume that every event a church does should be open and appealing to everyone. If I take a minute to think about it, however, that’s clearly not the case. Not everyone likes Episcopal worship, not everyone should attend the newcomers’ dinner, and not everyone is going to be interested in every Sunday school class. 

And that’s fine. As soon as we try to please everyone, we water ourselves down and please no one. We might end up with worship that’s a jumble of different music styles and liturgies, or we have a class that’s inoffensive but boring. Even a small community is multifarious, and its programs and services can be as well. 

With this in mind, I think it's helpful to ask ourselves as we plan our events and our worship, who is our audience? Or perhaps a better way to put it is, who is this designed to serve? 

Of course, other questions should be asked alongside these: Does this accurately represent our community and the Gospel we proclaim? Do we have the resources to do this event well? Etc. 

When we ask ourselves about audience that doesn’t mean we’re pandering to a group. The audience could be the congregation, the neighborhood, those who are seeking a church, people who are homeless, or many others, all groups any community is called to serve. Rather, considering our audience is a way to focus our efforts, and make sure that we are as effective as possible at spreading the Gospel and serving those in need.