Let’s Stop Thinking of People as Targets

The dictionary defines “target” this way:

  • an object usually marked with concentric circles, to be aimed at in shooting practice or contests.
  • any object used for this purpose
  • anything fired at
  • a goal to be reached
  • an object of abuse, scorn, derision,

Even the name of the (wonderful) retail discount store was chosen to differentiate that chain from the other more expensive retail chain of the Dayton Dry Good Company.  In other words, they wanted to “target” people who desired upscale retail for less expensive prices.

In the church, we need to stop thinking of people as targets, as if we are aiming at them, zeroing in on them, firing at them, fulfilling goals through them, or – certainly – abusing them.  Let’s not do that anymore.

When I think of negative church experience people have shared, it often comes down to the fact that we Church People have seen visitors and guests as targets:

  • The single middle-aged woman who was invisible to church members for the first three Sundays she visited because she didn’t fit the targeted demographic (i.e. young family with children)
  • The person who attends worship rarely – often with a better known spouse or friend – who is greeted with “We sure don’t see you very often” (interpreted to mean that he/she is being judged for irregular participation and/or lack of commitment, faith)
  • The young family that is pounced upon as if someone has yelled “Fresh Meat!” because they are everybody’s #1 Most Sought After Demographic.
  • The unfamiliar “others” who don’t look like the rest of the congregation and are basically ignored.  (e.g. inter-racial couples, people of different skin tones, pierced and/or tattooed people in a congregation of unpierced/untattooed people – or visa versa, people not dressed like everyone else)
  • People in wheelchairs, or families with disabled children.  (Too much trouble; what if they expect special treatment?!  They are totally not our targeted audience.)

What if we welcomed people just because they are present with us, regardless of what they look like or how they are dressed or if they happen to have a pierced eye-brow or a partner of another race or a partner of the same gender or rowdy kids or a reclining wheelchair? Do we realize how hard it is for some folks to walk into a church building, especially if they have not done it lately – or ever?

Imagine if we saw guests as people like us – with issues similar to our own.  Imagine if we simply said, “Hi, would you like something to drink?  Or maybe a cookie?”  Imagine if we saw them  – not as targets – but as people who are trying to figure things out and hoping against hope that God and a community of people might help.

There is a huge difference between “targeting” people and being a missional church that reaches out into the community no matter what that community might be.  Let’s be a missional church.


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