Sydney Anglicans find brand power

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Rules of Engagement

Nearly all Australians think street evangelism, doorknocking and distributing Bibles are OK as long as you follow these 10 rules:

1 Be open about your purpose or affiliation. Mr Martin said being seen as honest and not deceptive was “essential” for the chance of an ongoing positive contact. But he added that positives of the Anglican brand meant it would be silly to hide that fact: “the chances are they are expecting you to be someone far worse than their local Anglican church”.

2 Take no for an answer and walk away.

3 Don't be ‘weird'. Mr Martin said how you dress is very important. He suggests that doorknockers wear outfits that clearly identify them as from the local Anglican church or “wear a Connect09 T-shirt or hat”. He also advised ministers that doorknocking isn't for everyone in your congregation. People who lack confidence, display overt nervousness or poor social skills may actually do more harm than good.

4 Don't preach ‘right and wrong'. “It is too early in the relationship. This can come later,” said Mr Martin.

5 Don't ‘get in their faces'.

6 Don't create guilt. This is an easier trap to fall into than it sounds. For example sometimes church groups say: “We help lots of people. Why won't you help us?”.

7 No street pursuit. People saw the way some cults in Sydney CBD follow people down the street as harassment.

8 Don't prey on the vulnerable.

9 Don't ‘sell' via phone calls.

10 Don't aim at kids. Mr Martin said there was no problem with advertising kids clubs to parents but people strongly object to “preaching at kids without their parents' permission or consent”.

In-depth interviews by a leading market research company have shown that non-Christians are very warm to the Anglican Church as a "brand'.

Brian Martin from Martin Research found that when the word "church' was mentioned to non-churchgoing Australians the response is "mostly good". But when you mention the Anglican Church the attitude is "slightly better than mostly good".

"It is seen as one of the better brands of church," he said. "There is a latent reservoir of goodwill through past good works and organisations like Anglicare."

Brian Martin has 35 years' experience in market research and his previous clients include Alfa Romeo, Brown Brothers Wines, Westpac, St George, ING, and AGL. He presented the findings in an experimental web-based seminar on May 27 to more than 30 parish ministers, as well as Connect09 staff and members of the Diocesan leadership.

The brand findings have forced a serious rethink for some younger evangelists like the Rev Dominic Steele from Christians in the Media about the use of the word "Anglican'.

The decade-old church associated with his network ministry " officially the Anglican parish of Annandale " has been called Annandale Community Church with limited mention of "Anglican'.

"With our site redevelopment we realise we need to rename our church," says Mr Steele. "We now need something that works better for local outreach, differentiating it from the network ministry of Christians in the Media."

Craig Schwarze, Annandale's Connect09 ambassador, says he was particularly challenged by the brand research when it was presented at Archbishop Jensen's Connect09 Lay Day on June 6.

"I shared that information from the Connect09 day with the ministry team, and also some anecdotal evidence that supported it. I've suggested that we should reclaim the Anglican brand, especially when we are doorknocking. In my own doorknocking, I always say, "I'm from the local Anglican church'."

Dominic, Craig's minister, says the word "Anglican' has value in outreach because it distinguishes the church as "mainstream' and not a fringe religious group.

"Whatever the final name is, we will be tagging it "a Sydney Anglican church'. That's the approach companies would take with their sub-brands."

However he also wants his church's new name to relate to the professionals who populate the Inner West, giving a sense of being young and fresh and not stuck in out-dated traditions.

"It is very interesting research giving us insight into the moment. But what does it say about the future? In the Inner West "Anglican' does not connect. In my immediate area, those of an Anglo background are anti-establishment, while the wider inner-west is multi-cultural. In my children's local school classes there are only two Anglo children. My gut feel is that despite the research the name "Anglican' is not the future.

"While people accused the Australian Christian Church brand of being arrogant, I think they did the right thing in claiming the middle ground."

Indeed some of the research does back Mr Steele's argument that it would be better to foreground "a primary cog name' like "Jesus', "Christ' or "Christian'.

Mr Martin said that younger non-believers are far more tolerant of Christians, carrying less baggage about Christianity in general.

Overall, mainstream Christian churches are acknowledged as performing a valuable role in society. This positive role is seen as a helping one, as well as bringing people together.

"What people are really grateful for is the helping of the marginalised. Not just homelessness but the elderly as well… even just general mowing their lawns, boy scout stuff."

But there is also nostalgia for the lost era when churches played a more central role in the community.

"Most people regret the decline of a sense of community and the church's role as an anchor in this," he said. "[Older people] think back to a time when the church was something that glued the community together."

Findings on Connect09

Martin Research also assessed the response of non-churchgoers to the concept of Connect09. They ran four different focus groups with non-church-goers " people who had not attended church in the past two years apart from a wedding, baptism or funeral. Each of these groups also included two people who ticked "no religion' on the census.

In the focus groups Mr Martin observed that people's body language was positive when the idea of Connect09 was raised, leaning in to find out more.
"The actual title of Connect09 is inspired," he said. "One of the most important things about Connect09 is its localness. The idea of the local church connecting to local community overcomes a lot of the objections. People don't feel they are being targeted."

While Mr Martin acknowledged there is "a thankfully very small minority" of atheists who are very cynical about religion, even they liked the idea of Connect09.

"Even the rejectors in the group said [Connect09] was an OK thing for you to do" even if they aren't interested in it."

Mr Martin says this finding is reinforced by a wider body of research literature that has shown most people want to belong to a group of like-minded people. And most of those interviewed recognise the church can be one way to satisfy this need.

However Mr Martin added that it is because "the Anglican brand is untainted" that the concept of Connect09 is so positively received.

"Some other churches would find it less so," he said. "People expect Anglicans to be well behaved."

"Connect09 is an OK thing for you to do," he said. "You are expected to play by the rules though. That means not behaving like Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientologists, Mormons or even Hillsong. Being pushy, refusing to accept no even if it is subtle, creating guilt or uneasiness are not OK."

"It is because you are Anglican that you are acceptable " you are not controversial. And you are untainted by the problems which have beset the Catholic Church, yet you are establishment."

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