Perception is reality.
Certainly, the perception of church can keep a community away from knowing it.
Perception is reality. To deny this is a huge problem.
Often, I hear people say that their church is known for something that they don't believe they are. They'll need to change people's perception in order to change "reality."
Unfortunately, we've been taught to ignore perception. Most of our parents told us simply to ignore the mean kids because what they're saying is surely false.
If that's a lifesaving mechanism for someone, it's a deceptive one.
Even if someone is spreading lies about you or your church, you need to address them, especially if the lies take hold!
Branding is what people say about something (or someone) behind the leader's back.
Yes, it's difficult to discover others' perceptions. Often, what is said about you or your ministry when you're not around is almost impossible to find out.
The easiest way is to ask true friends for their honest opinion, or your church should conduct a community focus group to discover it. A focus group is a small selection of people who don't necessarily know each other but are connected to you or your organization somehow.
Invite this group (often less than 10 people) to a location where they'll feel free to share and talk. We recommend a location not connected to your ministry. It's wise to have a facilitator who knows you well and wants your best interest. It's best not to use yourself or your church leadership because people may not share openly if they feel the facilitator is "one of you."
You'll only hear what they think you want to hear rather than reality.
Remember that the purpose of the focus group is to hear the honest truth. And sometimes, that hurts.
Questions should be asked in a conversational format, including preference questions and questions to seek understanding and perception of your category (church, charity, ministry, etc.).
As the group's comfort level expands, narrow the questions to specific, targeted concerns.
Sometimes, it's wise to have several group meetings with two or three different demographic groups to find out how widespread or targeted the perceptions are. We often offer a modest monetary compensation for their participation (or, at the least, a light meal or snack). What I've found? People in a comfortable, safe conversation like to speak their minds.
And from their minds come perceptions.
It's difficult to change perception. Once you have the raw information in front of you,...
To find out what focus group questions need to be asked, plus a relatable, practical, hands-on guide for church communications, check out Mark MacDonald's new book Be Known For Something: Reconnect with Community by Revitalizing Your Church's Reputation available at www.beknownbook.com and Amazon. (Excerpt above from Chapter Two)