Know your audience

Look carefully at these first two photographs. What is similar and what is different?

[NIKON D5, 14.0-24.0 mm f/2.8, ISO 7200, ƒ/7.1, 1/250]

They are the same church on the same day. The difference is the church has two types of worship services.

8:45 a.m. Contemporary Service 8:45 a.m. Dunwoody United Methodist Church [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 2000, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

The very first photo is from the 8:45 a.m. Contemporary Worship Service and the second is from the 11:05 a.m. Traditional Worship Service. They went to great lengths to make transforming of their large sanctuary from a traditional church to a contemporary space. They have fabric that covers all the walls to keep the Rock Style band music from bouncing around too much in the space to allowing the traditional Choir to reverberate during the traditional service.

11:05 a.m. Traditional Service Dunwoody United Methodist Church [NIKON Z 6, 24.0-105.0 mm f/4.0, ISO 1400, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

The senior pastor speaks at both services.

Senior Pastor Dan Brown, Contemporary Service Dunwoody United Methodist Church [NIKON D5, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 5600, ƒ/5.6, 1/100]

There is a little difference in the two other than just his dress code.

Senior Pastor Dan Brown, Traditional Service Dunwoody United Methodist Church [NIKON D5, 28.0-300.0 mm f/3.5-5.6, ISO 4000, ƒ/5.6, 1/250]

Just six years ago the church added a contemporary service that met in their gym. It is now the best attended service and needed more space. This is why they converted their largest space to accommodate the group.

Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church

One of the largest churches in America, North Point Community Church, is nearby. Many churches lost members to this church because of the style of worship and sermons.

When Andy Stanley started the church in November of 1995 they intentionally created a new format and wanted to be different than all the churches in the area. Andy said, “Atlanta does not need another church. What Atlanta does need is a safe environment where the unchurched can come and hear the life-changing truth that Jesus Christ cares for them and died for their sins.” So began North Point Community Church.

Andy understood the audience better than most at the time for Atlanta in 1995.


Slow response to change as change accelerates all around us. Many churches are incredibly slow to change. For most of our American history, the pace of cultural and technological change was sufficiently paced for churches to lag only five to ten years. Now churches are lagging 20 and 30 years as the pace of change increases dramatically. To many attendees and members, the church thus seems increasingly irrelevant. To be clear, I am speaking about issues of style, methodology, and awareness, not changing doctrine or biblical truths. A church guest I recently interviewed said it clearly: “I stuck with my parents’ church as long as I could. But when we had a big blow up over projection screens in the worship center, I had enough. I wanted to go to a church where matters of minutia were not issues to fight over.”

Thom Rainer

I believe that the church isn’t the only organization that has to do a better job of understanding their audience. Journalism has suffered a great deal because they have lost touch with their audience.

Like the churches that are growing the content should not change, but rather the issues of style, methodology and awareness needs to change.

Today communicators need to do a better of getting to know their audience. While you must master the subject to communicate it, just as importantly you must put as much attention to the understanding of the audience.

One of the largest problems most people have with anything they create is they think people will just discover them. Well the smart ones know you have to advertise and appeal to the needs of that audience to engage them.

I know that some of the most successful organizations are those who have created a fictitious family/customer. This family represents the median of the bell curve of that community.

I have listened to writers and editors arguing over why Sam and Sally [fictitious couple] would be interested in a story.

If you cannot tell me why a story you are working on is necessary for those in your audience to see, then the odds of anyone reading it are not good.

You have to tell people how this information can impact their lives. Surprisingly I have been shocked when people show me their work in journalism and I ask why they did a story that they cannot tell me why the audience needs to know about it.

If you know your audience as well as you know your subject you will not have to worry about a Plan “B”.

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