While I am fortunate to be able to go to church everyday, including Sunday, I still find that I want to watch Fr. Dave on YouTube. So, on Sunday’s I do both, I go to church and watch Fr. Dave. Mass twice in a day is a good thing, I believe. Yesterday, as I watched Fr. Dave, I was reflecting on his appeal and it hit me. He is a fabulous marketer, that is his appeal. Why? Because he understands his target audience and communicates directly with them so brilliantly.
First a little bit about Fr. Dave. I found him on YouTube and have a link to him at the end of this article for the curious. As I understand it, he is Pastor of the church St. Martha’s in New Jersey. I stumbled onto him by accident as I was looking for different online Masses earlier in the pandemic. Once I watched him, I was hooked.
Granted it took this marketer several months to understand why I was hooked. It is Fr. Dave’s approach to his target audience that is so critical. When I speak on marketing, we often spend quite a bite of time discussing target audiences and how to really define and connect directly with an audience. The concept of target audience can be difficult as we naturally want to reach as many people as possible. We also are often wary of changing our message for a particular audience, so typically organizations put out broad messages that appeal to a wide swath of people. But, this is where we can all take a lesson from Fr. Dave.
If you have ever watch a live-streamed Mass, you have probably seen a Mass that was being said in a church and you are able to see the parishioners and those attending Mass participate in prayers, in song, and in communion. As someone streaming the Mass you are not necessarily participating as much as watching the Mass as it unfolds. The priest may acknowledge those following along online and he may offer Spiritual Communion for those online. However, for the most part, you are not a participant but rather an observer.
Fr. Dave handles on-line Mass quite differently. He is saying Mass directly for those online and he invites you to participate with him. He always starts Mass by recognizing that even through this difficult time, those participating online are working to keep the Sabbath Holy by joining him for Mass. Because his online Mass is very intentionally for those participating online so, you do not see other attendees but rather one or two people who do the reading and perhaps sing a song. The prayers that are to be done together they show online so you can say them with him. He invites you to pray with him, he waves to you at the handshake of peace. He has the words to the song being sung posted online so you can sing as well.
Fr. Dave understands his target audience: he understands that those he is trying to reach online are a very different group from the audience that is attending in person. He has structured his approach to streaming Mass with a focus on the intended target audience. The results are stunning for Fr. Dave. When he started streaming Mass he was getting a a few thousand to watch him online. On Easter Sunday of last year he had about 9k views. Fast forward to the past several months and he routinely sees upward of 20k people viewing his Mass each week.
I don’t know if Fr. Dave has a background in marketing or if he just has a great understanding of people and how to reach them. Regardless, he provides significant evidence of what can happen when we truly understand our target audience and speak to them in ways that resonate with them. As you think about your parish or ministry consider your target audience. What do they need from you? How can you speak to them in a way that truly connects and motivates them? Perhaps watch Mass with Fr. Dave for a little inspiration.