Meet Kelley Hartnett, Director of Culture and Connection The Way in St. Louis, Missouri. Aside from her role at church, Kelly also actively blogs and instructs at the Center for Church Communications Certification Labs.
Worship Facilities: Can you describe your role of director of Culture and Connection at The Way?
Kelley Hartnett: I have to admit thatI laughed a little at the"Can you describe . . ."because my answer is,"Umm . . . only sorta kinda." As our lead pastor, Jimmy Cooper, will tell you, we'rebuildingthe plane as we're flying ittrying things, making mistakes, and learning a whole bunch in the process.
Here's the basic idea, though: Our main thing (mission, vision, whatever you want to call it) is todevelop disciples whodeclare and demonstrate a different way of life towatching world.That's not going to happen if we make ourSundaymorning worship gathering the mostimportantthing we do, and it's not going to happen if weapproach serving as justanother church event. We're working hard to help people make four major shifts in their lives:busyness to rhythm, individualism to community,indifference to compassion, and materialism to generosity. Part of my rolethe culture partis to keep those four"ways" in front of us at all times. I'm constantly asking,"But how does that activity/opportunity/event fit in with our goal ofliving differently?" From a Connection standpoint, my role isn't muchdifferent from whatI imagine other"assimilation" staff does;I help people getconnected with ourcommunity through serving roles, group life, and so on.
In some ways, whatI do for The Way issimilar to my work at Morning Star; myunofficial title there was"the voice of Morning Star" or"the keeper of the DNA." However, at the timeI worked for MSC, we were in the height of the"attractional" model of ministry: If you build it, they will come. At TheWay, we're focusing more on the 60% of people in our community who have no interest in attending church.Anychurch. So,I have to ask different kinds of questions. We haven't figured it all outnot by a long shotbut we'reworking our tails off trying to work inside aradicallydifferent paradigm.
WF: Can you share a highlight of your role this past year?
KH: Pastor Jimmy wants to build a church communitywith deep convictions, but one that's nevertheless welcoming of different voices and opinionsHe andI are on opposite ends of the teeter-totter in several ways, and for that reason (and others), he occasionally lets me borrow hispulpit.
The first timeI taught (not just at The Way, butever),I opened my message with ananecdote about my tattoos and piercings, my feministsensibilities, and my social justiceleanings. After thegathering, a woman approached me and, with tears in her eyes, talked about how she'd been away from church foryears,but felt drawn to attend that morning because of somethingI'd posted on The Way's Facebook page earlier inthe week.She'd been hurt in her last church and was told she wasn't a real Christian because of her tattoos, herpiercings, and her choice in music. She said she was certain God lead her to The Way just so she could hear me speak that morning.I was floored. I learnedabout her artistic talents and invited her to help us put together our stage design for Christmas Eve.When she arrived that afternoon,she confessed that was"terrified"about spending the day with Christians.Iwas heartsickexcept she wasthere,and something about our churchculture gave her the courage to share herexperience and fears openly. By the end of the afternoon, shesaid, "Oh, I can hang out withyou guys."I'm so incredibly grateful to bepart of a church community that fosters those relationships and experiences.
WF: How can churches leverage new media to reach people for Christ?
KH: So many ways! If we're intentional with our content development, we can offer encouragement,challenge culture's perception of the Church and Christianity, engage in conversation with our community, offer next steps from our worship gatherings, and more. Alsoas missionaries, our job is to go where people are, right? Know where they are? On social media.
WF: What does branding mean to you and how have you applied that to The Way?
KH: My favorite definition of"brand" comes from Shawn Wood, a pastor and author in South Carolina: brand is the emotional aftertaste left by an experience.I'm alwaysconcerned about how people walk away from ourgatherings, from a Facebook interaction, from conversations with people who call The Way their church home. Do people leave those interactions feeling loved? Encouraged? Appropriately challenged?Hopeful? What sort of language do we need to useor avoid? Also, althoughI'm all about Jesus and the Church,I have a teeny bit of skeptic that shows up onoccasion; that helps me identify withpeople in our community who think church is pointless.Finally, so much of our branding is about a massive paradigm shift (see my explanation of our main thing), soI try to stay immersed in reading and conversation that keeps that new paradigm in front of me.
WF: How do you communicate authenticity to your church and those in the community?
KH: Well, personallyI m a wear-my-heart-on-my-sleeve type girl.I'm not afraid of people knowing thatIdon't have my stuff together, andI don't worry about displaying my doubts and questions when it comes to following Jesus. As a church,I think language is critical to communicating authenticity. We use normal, everyday language. We pose questions. Fairly often, we say things like,"Hey, we don't really have this all figured out, but we're trying, and we want you to know you'rewelcome to try right alongside us." On Twitter,I post only once each dayevery night at10 pmand they're whatI call #bedtimeprayers.They're genuine, simple messages to God thatI hope will show ourfollowers that it's okay to be broken and humanand out-of-sorts and tired.
WF: You are a regular blogger and teach at the Center for Church Communication. What's your vision for reaching the Church?
KH: I've grown fond of remindingchurches that we're known more for what we're against than what we're for, and younger generations often perceive Christfollowers to beunreasonable, overly political, and judgmental. If the Church doesn't startlooking a whole lot more like Jesus, we're in big trouble. Remember: People were drawn to Jesus; theycouldn't get enough of Him.
I'm notsaying that churches have to change their ideology or their theology; but we have to figure out how tocommunicate in more loving ways. Discipleship is about more than just tellingpeople what they're doing wrong. In fact, the first step forward is to do a whole lot less talking and a whole lot morelistening.
In short, we have to solve the Church's public relations problem,and the only way to do that is to developDisciples not justchurch-goers.