Gifted for Outreach
Gathering information about your church and community has two results. First, you confirm what you already knew or suspected. Second, you discover something that you didn’t know. Often, a new discovery leads to new insights and understanding. That leads you to make ministry and strategy changes in the interest of more effectively meeting the needs of people God has called you to reach.
Knowing where you stand is the obvious result of internal research, but what’s the result of external research? Simply put, the result is a clear outreach focus—the target group or segments of people God is calling your church to reach. Your church is uniquely gifted to reach segments of its community in at least four ways:
- Location – God planted your church in a community that needs to hear the gospel.
- Culture – He calls you to be salt and light among the people with whom you share cultural affinity and identity.
- Resources – He has equipped your church with the structural, organizational and relational resources to reach people.
- Mission – God has given your church a mission to go, baptize, teach and disciple your community.
Identifying Key Community Segments
Multiple clusters of people comprise any community or geographic area. The people that form each segment are uniquely defined by different lifestyle, demographic and psychographic characteristics. They all need to hear the gospel, and we are commissioned to share with our entire community. But location, culture, resources and mission mean that every church is uniquely gifted for an outreach focus.
A church can’t reach everyone. That’s why choosing specific segments as your outreach focus and target is important. It allows your church to formulate specific ministries that meet the specific needs of community segments. Different clusters (with different lifestyle and psychographic characteristics) require different ministries and strategies designed to meet their real needs and lead them to Christ.
Many classification schemes for segmentation exist. Each system is slightly different, but they all have the same result. They separate a defined population—city, town or region—into distinct, identifiable groups with specific lifestyle and psychographic characteristics. Two segmentation systems are recommended here:
- PRIZM – PRIZM is a segmentation system from Nielsen Claritas that harness both household and geographic level data. The 66 segments are arranged in two parts—social groups and lifestage groups. Social groups are classified by three levels of affluence (low, moderate and high) and by four levels of urbanization (urban, 2nd city, suburban and town and rural). Lifestage groups are classified by the same three levels of affluence and by three categories of age-and-children combinations (younger years, family life and mature years).
- MOSAIC – MOSAIC is a geodemographic segmentation system developed by Experian and marketed in over twenty countries worldwide. Read more about MOSAIC methodology here. The 71 MOSAIC clusters are used by The Leavell Center for Evangelism and Church Growth at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
Let’s give this a try! Click here and enter a U.S. zip code to see what a sample segmentation profile for your community looks like. A PRIZM profile illustrates the power and ministry uses of segmentation data.
Sample Outreach Focus
Segmentation offers a snapshot of the different segments of people who lives in your community. People in these groups share lifestyle and psychographic characteristics—that is, they behave in similar ways, enjoy doing similar things, have similar values, buy similar things and more. Let’s take a look at a segmentation pie chart for a sample zip code using the MOSAIC system:
Zip Code 38017 includes at least seven different MOSAIC segments of people. You can also see that the bulk of the population falls into three segments—Dream Weavers, Small Town Success and New Suburbia Families. Taken together, those three groups comprise 74% of the population. Once you view a community with its clusters or segments, you can more clearly see the people God is calling you to reach.
In the above example, although the zip code contains seven clusters, it makes sense to zero in on the three largest groups that comprise 74% of the population—almost 30,000 people in our sample zip code. Three segments—Dream Weavers, Small Town Success and New Suburbia Families—comprise a natural outreach focus in this example.
Is the church’s outreach focus (comprised of certain key segments) in plain view? What does the segmentation profile say about your community? What does it say about ministry methods needed to reach them?
The challenge is to choose specific segments as your outreach focus and then formulate specific ministries to meet the specific needs of those segments.
View a PRIZM Segments Profile for your community.