How to Keep Your Church’s Message From Becoming White Noise

“Let’s communicate creatively so that our initiatives to expose people to the gospel do not become white noise.”

White noise is good for you—at least, that’s the conclusion of several research studies recently published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience. They found that white noise while studying triggers an area of the brain that increases the ability to memorize and retain information.

White noise has also been shown to help you sleep. Especially when you’re in an environment that has other noise, white noise is the easiest to fall asleep to.

Sometimes in an effort to concentrate, if there are loud people nearby, I’ll put on white noise while writing sermons to help me concentrate. I actually use a YouTube video of white noise from deep space, because once upon a time I read that it is the “best” kind of white noise (whatever that means).

White noise is good for sleeping and studying … but white noise is horrible in the church. White noise is effective because you don’t think about it—it goes in one ear and out the other. It’s a win to use white noise to accomplish work; it’s a loss if what we’re communicating becomes white noise.

Some white noise is necessary.

There are two things we say from stage each week at Mosaic Church that are definitely white noise for our regulars, and we’re OK with that. One is the technicalities of how we celebrate communion—every place does communion different, so we have to explain our process.

As soon as we start explaining it, I can see people’s eyes glaze over, because they hear it every week. But I’m OK with that, because it’s not for them. That communication is for the new person who doesn’t want to feel awkward, like everyone is staring at them when they don’t know what to do with the tray.

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The other thing that becomes white noise in our service is when we tell first-time guests what to do after service so we can greet them and give them a thank-you gift for visiting. Again, regulars tune it out because they’ve heard it a hundred times, but it’s essential for new people to hear.

Some white noise is detrimental to the church’s mission.

But I must recognize the white noise. I have to work extra hard to get people’s attention back after those two pieces of communication. Otherwise, those things will be a mental offramp that distracts people from hearing the gospel that day.

I must minimize white noise by communicating selectively. We try to only have one announcement per week. We’ve all been to a church that had “announcement hour,” and we got lost in everything going on. A similar mistake is to make the same announcement over and over again. When we do that, it becomes white noise.

The best example I know is challenging people to invite others to church. We’ve learned that if we push inviting from stage every single week, it becomes white noise: It’s part of the routine, eyes glaze over and people don’t respond.

We’ve learned what works instead is to pick four or five dates per year that we want people to invite others to: Easter, Christmas Eve and a couple other strategic series launches. For the three to four weeks leading up to those days, we will hand out invite cards, tell stories of people whose lives have been changed by an invite and do anything else we can to creatively challenge people to invite.

The message that gets across is: “Anybody can invite for Easter. We’re equipping you to do this.” And because we don’t ask them every week, we actually get a better response.

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White noise is good for study. Some things need to become white noise to our people for the sake of guests. But let’s communicate creatively so that our initiatives to expose people to the life-saving message of the gospel do not become white noise.

Carl Kuhl is the lead pastor at Mosaic Christian Church in Elkridge, Maryland. This article is part of our From the Front Lines series, in which several church planters share what they’re learning as they lead their congregations.

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