The billboard on Main Street in the Billings Heights reads: “IF YOU COULD TXT GOD ONE QUESTION.”
If you understand the message, you’re probably the kind of person whom City Church wants to reach.
Pastors at the Heights church brainstormed ways to reach people who might not normally set foot in a house of worship. They decided to create a new Sunday evening service with a twist.
People in the pews can
use their mobile phones to text questions about God during the one-hour service, according to associate pastor Zach Bauer. He’ll forward them to senior pastor Kalen Brown’s iPad, and Brown will answer those queries after he completes his sermon.
“The idea is, ‘How can we make it so people can interact with us over what’s being talked about?’ “ Bauer said in an interview at the church. “So, we explored Facebook and texting, how we could use them as a tool to reach people.”
Social networking allows two-way interaction, said Brown, also at the interview. And texting provides a kind of anonymity that allows people to share what’s really in their hearts.
“They can ask questions normally they wouldn’t do in person,” he said. “It gives them the freedom to express themselves.”
Some people don’t want to go to church, Bauer said, because they are afraid to ask questions or seek out God because they fear the response they’ll get. In a world where texting is second-nature to especially the younger generation, “we’re trying to use technology to our advantage,” he said.
The church, which draws people from all age groups, is targeting a younger 25-35 audience for the new service. Research shows that fewer people of that generation tend to trust leaders, in general, in religion or government or law enforcement, Brown said.
So, the question becomes how to connect with this population in a meaningful way.
“We know people are hungry and looking for answers,” Brown said. “We think this might be an answer to help with that.”