It’s a weird phenomenon when building a community - online or IRL.
Whenever we first started discerning what Checkpoint Church would evolve into as a church for nerds, geeks, and gamers, the big question my coach asked me was: who am I trying to reach? It’s a great question that every church planter or community developer must ask.
The false answer is everyone. No one can reach everyone. No one should want that, to be frank.
The true answer is more specific than you think. You really can’t be too specific. If you get hyper-specific, it may adversely affect your community in size. But size alone is rarely a good goal.
For Checkpoint, our target audience was the 29-year-old nerd.
If I were pressed, I would expand that to a 29-year-old nerd that never went back to church after moving out of their parent’s house.
Even that is still a bit broad. Do you know how many 29-year-olds there are? Some quick math shows that there were 5.5 million 29-year-olds in the world in 2019. Would you want 5.5 million in your congregation? Probably not.
This is ultimately beside the point. We won’t reach all 5.5 million (obviously). Most of us are lucky to reach 5.5 million people in general.
All of this is to say: the target audience does not define the culture of inclusion in a community.
To say that we are targeting 29-year-olds is not to say that we aren’t willing to welcome the 55-year-old D&D player. We are open and inclusive of way more than our target - but knowing our target helps us to make decisions about the things that we do.
The people that choose to join us by what we do may vary - targeting is only good for discerning a purpose and direction.
Where the toxicity enters the picture is with the NIMBY trait - not in my backyard. In the nerd community, we might call these people gate-keepers or Grognards.
If we ever say to the 30-year-old that they aren’t allowed in because they aren’t our target… that’s when we lose our inclusive badge. If we say that My Little Pony doesn’t count as nerd culture - yeah, that’s gate-keeping.
If we are to discern something to keep out of our communities - it’s NIMBY. Openness is key to a welcoming community.
April 8th, 2022