If you could have a superpower, what would it be? Growing up, I thought invisibility would be a really handy ability. Now that I apparently have that power, I’m not so sure.
It all started the day my newspaper was delivered late. Not naming names, but let’s say it’s a daily publication reporting on the entire USA.
The next day, it did not come at all. Or the next. Or the next week. Or that month. Or the next.
That was back in January, now five months ago. My numerous contacts by email and with sympathetic customer service representatives have escalated it enough times to be at least DEFCON 5 by now, but I have yet to be contacted by a district manager, supervisor or anyone else.
I gradually realized – I had done it! I had become invisible.
The same thing happened when my insurance changed at the beginning of the year. Even after updating my local insurance information – twice – I couldn’t be found when filling a prescription or ordering supplies. This only went to confirm my superpower suspicions.
“Everyone wants to be liked; everyone wants approval,” observed American writer Mallory Ortberg. “No one likes being ignored.”
Although I think it is probably safe to assume most churches do not have access to a supply of radioactive spiders, they – and we – can also unintentionally “empower” others with invisibility:
Media. The Pew Research Center indicates that Americans 65 and older are utilizing technology more than ever, with 4 in 10 owning smartphones and 2 in 3 going online (tinyurl.com/617-MATI-1). That also means a majority do not own smartphones and one-third don’t go online. (I’m looking at you, Mom.)
We may treat non-wired persons of all ages as “second-class citizens” when we furnish less information in print or overlook their notification needs. They become harder to see. Invent a composite non-wired person when discussing church and event communications. Does more need to be done? Possibilities could include phone trees, print-and-mail flyers, sharing announcements where they gather and in worship or pairing them with other members.
Dropouts. There are life circumstances that cause people to disappear: students, military, snowbirds and shut-ins. How do we keep them engaged? Keep their mail and electric addresses current, drop off or sending recordings or publications, schedule drop-ins, share their news and keep them in mind using social media. And, why not ask them to share their own contact preferences?
Absent. When I don’t see someone for a few weeks, I’m as guilty as anyone about hesitating to follow up to avoid pushiness. But, if it were me who had been AWOL and no one seemed to noticed, that’s different!
I’m not interested in having someone show up on my doorstep, but a call, note, text or an invitation to join a group would be appreciated. What is your church doing to keep people from slipping out the back door?
I may never find out why I can’t get my newspaper, but I’m happy to belong to a church that values my presence – even without any special abilities.
Ken Satterfield is Word&Way’s marketing coordinator and a former media specialist.
It’s Not You: Why Your Emails Go Unanswered And How To Cope (Fast Company)
Top Tips for Getting Your Consumer Complaints Heard (Chicago Tribune)
How to Effectively Complain to Get Results (USA Today)
The Complete Guide to Communicating About Church Events (Pastors.com)
Why and How to Create a Newsletter for Seniors (Effective Church Communications)
Ministry to Homebound Too Important to Neglect (Baptist Standard)