young adults

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Do you know your customer? Do you know what they value?

It’s one of the key conversations I always have with churches and other organizations as we’re going through a strategic planning process. Of course churches typically hate this conversation. We want to reach all people. The problem, of course, is if you try to be all things to all people, you become very ineffective at doing anything.

Every church, whether they want to believe it or not, has a “target” customer. And, most times, age is a big distinguishing factor. Generally, when I walk into a church, it doesn’t take very long to determine if the church is targeting young adults (under 35), middle-aged adults (35-54) or older adults (over 54).

Your target audience may not be written down on paper, but everything the church does and communicates will point to one of these key target audiences.

Are you targeting the right age group?

With that, let me share some research I discovered earlier this week. Nielsen just completed a study of consumers and their responses to online advertising campaigns. They reviewed nearly 5,000 campaigns in the process. Here’s what they found:

“A look at specific age breaks indicate that ad campaigns geared towards the 21-34 age range were able to reach consumers 62 percent of the time. Meanwhile, campaigns targeting consumers aged 35-54, reach their audiences just 41 percent of the time. This is despite the fact that those 21-34 represent only 22 percent of the online population, compared with one-third for consumers 35-54.”

You can read the full article from Clickz where they highlight why younger consumers are easier to reach online.

Now there are a lot of numbers in that paragraph, so it may be easy to miss this. The bottom line is this: If you target young adults, you will reach more of the total audience than if you target middle-aged adults–the Boomers and the GenXers.

Let me put this into practical terms.

  • If your music, environments, ministries and other programming make older adults happy (my parents), you reach older adults.
  • If your music, environments, ministries and other programming make middle-aged adults happy (me), you will reach middle-aged adults and many older adults.
  • If your music, environments, ministries and other programming make young adults happy (my kids), you will reach young adults and many middle-aged and older adults.

That’s why advertisers target young adults with their ad campaigns. That’s why television stations target young adults with their programming. That’s why musicians target young adults with their music.

Do you want to be young again? (Yes.)

Older adults want to be younger. Middle-aged adults want to be younger. Young adults don’t want to be older. It’s not about age–it’s about their mindset.

Now, let’s go back to my original question. Do you know your customer? Who are you trying to reach? Now, take a look at everything you are doing and saying. Does it reflect that audience?

Here’s the reality. People inside the church can get very loud. Those voices are much louder than the people outside the church. That’s why churches become inward-focused. They let their “inside voices” drive everything. As soon as you make that shift, your church is guaranteed to decline.

Let me warn you though–you can’t just start changing the music, environments, ministries and programming. It begins with reaffirming your mission, vision and values. If you change methods before you have buy-in on the overall vision, you will divide your church.

I hope you will wrestle with this question. It’s one of five key questions I’ve found that determine whether or not a church will get stuck.

Do you need help confirming your mission, vision and values and then clarifying who you are trying to reach? The Unstuck Group uses a strategic planning process that addresses these key questions and then establishes a prioritized action plan to help you move forward. We’d love to work with your church to have a bigger impact.

Photo Credit: Mait Jüriado via Compfight cc

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