Choosing Your Target Audience

Choosing Your Target Audience

In the immediately previous posts we’ve been looking at things we can learn from television that will improve our preaching.   One of the things television does well is to target a certain audience.  So, how do you figure out who to target?  In this post we’re going to explore how you go about choosing your target audience for your ministry and your preaching.

What Happens When You Choose?

Knowing who your target audience is has huge ramifications for every area of your ministry.

Worship Style

Choosing your target audienceFor instance, it will affect the style of worship that you have.  If you are trying to reach the unchurched, do you still have a choir in robes?  Do you have an organ or a band?  Do you sings hymns or contemporary Christian songs?

I worked with a church recently that was trying to do “blended” worship.  In other words, they sang both hymns and contemporary songs in an effort to target both older and younger church members/attenders.  As a result, neither group, older or younger, was happy with the worship.  When you choose your worship style, if will impact who you reach.

Your Printed Material

Choosing your target audience will impact your printed materials.  Studies have shown that men respond well to a black and white paper that is handed them in a class.  People who grew up in church are also more likely to say that having few graphics is okay with them in the printed material.  But if you target a group that is younger or unchurched, they are going to be looking for something more colorful, with less white space and more graphics.

How You Preach

Who you target as your primary audience will also impact how you preach.  Some pastors wear a robe, and it is obvious that their target audience is the traditional church.  Others wear a suit in order to look “professional”.  They will likely have an audience of professionals in their congregation.  The fastest growing churches among younger people today in the US have pastors that preach in jeans with untucked shirts.  So, your target audience will affect the way you dress.

But it will also affect your language.  What words do you use?  When I graduated from seminary, I thought it was impressive to use some of the wonderful theological language that I had learned over my years in education.  It didn’t take long before I realized that my choice of words, as well as style of using those words, created a boundary between me and my audience.

Do you stand behind a pulpit, or do you walk around as you talk?  This, too, can be a style choice that will be defined by who you are trying to reach.

How You Figure Out Your Target Audience

Okay, so you’ve learned something about choosing your target audience and are ready to define it more fully.  How do you do that?  Here are some suggestions that are in addition to what I’ve suggested in earlier posts.

The Focus Group

People in television will often use focus groups to help define their target audience.  Before a show is put on television, the producers will look at similar programs to what they are planning on developing, to learn from them about a target audience.  Then they will produce a pilot program.  This pilot program will then be shown to people who represent a potential target, and reactions are recorded.

Many years ago, the church that I served in Southern California decided to expand our ministry.  We were going to begin a Saturday night service.  However, we didn’t want to just do the same thing that we did on Sunday morning.  We wanted to target the Millennial generation (those born between 1981 and 1996).  At that time, this age-group was leaving the church in droves.  So we went about the process of choosing your target audience.  We wanted to know about this age-group, so we read extensively about their likes and dislikes.

Then we  got a group of people in this age group together for dinner at a local restaurant (paid for by the church).  After a congenial time of eating and talking, the discussion began.  A lawyer from our church who specialized in jury consultation began by questioning these young adults about their reasons for dropping out of church.  We also asked them what they were looking for, should they decide to return to church.

Next, showed videos of various styles of preaching and worship, and asked their preferences.

The Resulting Plan

We designed and launched a Saturday evening worship service that met, not in our worship center, but in our social hall.  The people sat around tables, and ate together prior to the “service”.  We hired a musician that put together a worship team that led the group in worship in a style that the focus group had indicated was preferable for them.  And we had a young man from that age group preaching in that service.

This is the way to develop a focus group.  You can do this even within your present church by simply inviting a group of people to meet with you.

Choosing Your Target Audience Through a Survey

Another way to develop preaching to a target audience is to do a survey in your community.  Most times, the surveys are already done by someone in your community, if you are in the USA.  One organization, the Percept Group will give you a detailed definition of the people in your area in the US.   From this kind of survey you can learn a great deal about almost any section of your area.

If you live in other areas of the world, you can check the resources available in your area, or you can create your own survey and go through your community asking questions.

Other Ways to Learn About Your Target

There are other ways to learn about your community and the audiences there.  In the US you can go to local Chambers of Commerce or City Halls, and you will learn a great deal about your community.

You can do what Rick Warren did and go door-to-door to learn about your community.

This has been a long post, but if you’re interested, here’s a video from a business point of view that makes this point.


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