You are enough
A recent car commercial makes me want to hurl things at the TV.
A thoughtful male voice asks
How do you want to live?
As a decent person?
A fine human being?
Always showing up? Getting the job done?
As a good father? A good friend? Son?
Is that it?
Of course not.
Then the narrator, with increasing intensity, numerates escalating terms of power, building to an invocation to live “Like a boss, like a rebel, like a standard bearer, LIKE A PRO.”
Because apparently being a decent human being isn’t good enough.
As maddening as it is, this commercial palpably demonstrates the power of narrative. Narratives shape our identities and our lives. This narrative says that if you buy a GMC truck, you’ll be “a boss.” And it presumes you already agree with the narrative that to be a “boss” is a desirable thing.
GMC sells a lot of trucks. Apparently the “boss” narrative resonates with a lot of people. But how many people hear that narrative - and so many others like it - and are left with a sense of insufficiency? Am I a boss? Can I be a boss? (Should I buy a truck?)
And what does this have to do with digital ministry?
One of the most important things we as the church can offer people is an alternative to the “you are insufficient’” narrative which they are fed daily in the media by marketing firms and in far more subtle ways in their jobs, schools, and communities. Our narrative as a church is one that says “you are enough.”
When the media says you aren’t young, attractive, physically-fit, skinny, or well-dressed enough without particular products or services? Our narrative counters that you are enough.
When marketing firms demand that you buy products to escalate your sense of self-worth and your value in the eyes of others? Our narrative insists that you are enough.
In communities that venerate money, success, achievement, and power? Our narrative says that even without any of those trappings, you are enough.
In communities marginalized because of race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or educational level? Our narrative sees you with different eyes, and proclaims that you are enough.
This is the central message of Jesus - you are loved, you are enough. We are called to be our best selves, but inherently, we are enough.
Hopefully, we convey this message in our face-to-face encounters in our church communities. But to reach those who might not be in the pews on Sunday - and who might be even more in need of this life-affirming message - we must utilize the digital space as well as personal encounters.
How do we do that?
- Remember that social media is inherently social. The best posts are ones that feature people and their stories. Save the time/date/place details for your website. Even if you are using social posts to promote events, shift the focus from the static details to sharing the ways in which people engage in and are affirmed by the event. Tell a story. (And make sure to connect it back to your website so people can find those details!)
- Think of your social posts as answering some of the following (or similar) questions:
- How is God at work in the life of the person(s) and the story featured?
- How does their ministry demonstrate that they are “enough” and that what they bring to their community is real, good, and of value?
- How might the person viewing the post receive this message? Does it invite them to see themselves in a new and more positive light, or does it in any way make them feel inferior, guilty, or unworthy? We want to help liberate people from shame and guilt! Not provoke it!
- Think about sharing stories that are unexpected, and might show your church in a different light - one that surprises people or changes their perspective of what a faith community can be.
- Use your social platforms to amplify under-represented voices and encourage people to tell their own stories of how God is at work in their lives. This is the purest form of evangelism.
What might this look like?
Although it’s not a “church” example per se, I once co-designed a collaborative art installation called Color Me Pittsburgh to help facilitate discussions about racial bias in Pittsburgh. The distinct neighborhoods that give Pittsburgh its charm also serve to stratify racial divides and reinforce narratives about who and what people can be. The installation was simple - a gigantic map of Pittsburgh’s many neighborhoods. We took the map to art festivals and community gatherings and in each location we asked people to put a sticker on the map to indicate their neighborhood, to tell us a story about their neighborhood, and then to tweet a selfie with the map, hashtagged #colorMEpgh and hashtagged with the name of their neighborhood.
In Pittsburgh, like in most cities, there are dominant narratives that reinforce the notion that certain neighborhoods are “bad” and, by extension, so are the people who live there. Certainly the people who live in those neighborhoods get the message that they aren’t enough. And yet, when we asked them to share their stories, their own stories, from their own perspectives, they pushed back on the dominant narrative. They celebrated that their neighborhoods were home, that they were enough, despite real world challenges, despite lopsided media portrayals. These neighborhoods were worthy and so were the people who lived there. It was powerful to witness - and I wish we had captured more than just images! But even the images alone showed the beautiful diversity of people who call Pittsburgh home. It helped me to appreciate the potential of digital ministry and digital storytelling.
How can you use digital ministry to convey to people the very counter-cultural narrative that they are enough?
- Lisa Brown
Our goal at Membership Vision is to help churches and other faith communities to tell their stories in the digital space. Each church, irrespective of size, has a living and active story to tell, and technology provides an opportunity to share that story in a way that is welcoming and engaging. We ease the burden of keeping communications current, by leveraging content, and harnessing the many ways that members of our communities connect with each other, both inside and outside of the church walls. We aim to remove technological hurdles and allow churches to communicate online in an effective and sustainable way. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (805) 626-0143 to talk about the ways we can help your church build a digital presence.