As church communicators, do we really know the unchurched? Not as a faceless group but as people with names and jobs and lives and pressures?

Originally posted at in February 2007. 

As church communicators, do we really know the unchurched? Not as a faceless group but as people with names and jobs and lives and pressures?

Many Years Ago in my Life

Throughout the 1990s, I led a team that did loads of creative development for a major pharmaceutical company and a good chunk of the work was helping the corporate sales and marketing department train, motivate and inform the 2000+ field sales reps throughout the US.

From our isolated offices on North Meridian Street in Indianapolis, we were supposed to connect with sales reps living in places we never lived, working in jobs we didn’t understand, calling on customers we never met, selling products we never used (in most cases), dealing with pressures we never experienced, all for a company we never worked for as an employee. In short, we were totally disconnected from our audience and try as we might, we could really only see them as a group, not as individuals.

2000 Years Ago in Christ’s Day

In His days of earthly ministry, Jesus had groups of people with whom He needed to communicate and connect. Whether Pharisees or his own family, Christ had a message for all but He tailored it to each group. To some he talked about fishing, to others about wineskins and to the woman at the well…living water.

But how could Jesus communicate so well with each group? He took the time and the risk to get to know them as individuals. Consider the tax collectors and sinners. He didn’t simply see them as a distant group, but rather he came to know them by name: Levi, Matthew, Zacchaeus and others. He shared intimate space with them for more than a moment - for a meal. He did not live in isolation, He lived in relationship.

Back to the Sales Reps

So how did we communicate effectively with people we never met? We met them. Not all of them, but some of them. It was called a “ride along.” On a number of occasions some of “our people” would spend time with some of “their people.” We’d suit-up for the day and ride along with the rep; meeting nurses, calling on physicians, learning about products and getting to know the world in which they lived and the pressures they faced. Suddenly, we weren’t trying to communicate with “them,” we were working to connect with Jane and Marcus and Carlos and Theresa.

Could You Use a “Ride Along?”

As church communicators, we’re often isolated in our “holy huddle” and the unchurched are a nameless, faceless crowd. Here's your challenge: get to know the sinners and tax collectors of our day. Get to know the unchurched, not as a group but as an individual or two. Have a cup of coffee, share a meal, go to a movie and have dessert ... and have an agenda – put a name and a face and a story to the most important group of all.