Taylor Swift is hugely popular.
From 2006 to 2011, she sold over 20 million albums and 41.8 million singles.
She's actually in the 2012 Guinness Book Of World Records for the Fastest Selling Digital Album by a Female Artist (source: Wikipedia).
What's that got to do with evangelization? If your message doesn't resonate with people, no one will pay attention.
Taylor Swift has that attention thing down.
My friend Roy Petitfils listed 10 things Swift could teach Catholics about evangelization. Here's the first four on his list:
Be real-Be yourself.
Meet people where they are, not where you want them to be.
Observe life, people (including yourself) and human nature closely. Try to understand what they really feel, what they hope for, what they long for (this really helps with the previous).
Speak from your heart. It reveals your humanity. People are tired of talking, singing, preaching and commenting heads. They yearn to connect with the humanity, of others.
In this post, I will show you how to get some of Taylor Swift's magic into your evangelization efforts.
1. Be real
People can see fake from miles away. So, don't try to be someone you're not.
Taylor Swift's songs are completely transparent. They're drawn directly from her life and show exactly who she is. She's said, "If you listen to my albums, it's like reading my diary" (source: Wikipedia).
Be yourself. Your story might just be the thing that resonates with someone when nothing does.
2. Meet people where they are
In country music, the story is the key. Good stories take the listener on a journey. They teach about life and change viewpoints. Taylor Swift tells good stories.
Her autobiographical songs often highlight her own struggles and their resolutions. For instance, Mean gets back at the kids who teased her and said she couldn't sing. She has the last laugh because:
Someday I'll be living in a big old city
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
Someday I'll be big enough so you can't hit me
And all you're ever gonna be is mean
And that's what happened!
If someone has no exposure to Catholic teaching, you have to expect they'll be on birth control or misunderstand Church teaching on homosexuality, abortion, and other sensitive topics.
You need to respect their positions, but you don't want them to keep those positions.
Meet people where they are, but don't let them stay there-take them where God wants them to be.
Taylor Swift speaks to the hearts of her listeners. She writes songs that resonate with her audience. She says, "My goal is to never write songs that my fans can't relate to" (source: Wikipedia).
Obviously, quite a few young girls have the experience of bringing home a boy their parents hate. I'm sure Swift knows this.
Evangelization happens at the intersection of a person's desires and God's revelation.
To do this, you have to observe people, get to know them, and understand what makes them tick. What are they feeling? What are their hopes, dreams, and desires? What are they longing for?
An evangelizing catechist knows how to take these questions and connect them to God's answers.
4. Speak from your heart
Swift's songs are very personal. Swift once said, "I thought people might find them hard to relate to, but it turned out that the more personal my songs were, the more closely people could relate to them" (source: Wikipedia).
Evangelization depends on letting some of yourself shine through.
Tell them how you feel about God and why you care how they feel. Let them understand your motivations for talking to you about the Church.
Connect with people on a human level and they'll respond back to you.
Too many catechists are just talking heads spouting off what the Catechism says. People don't need that. They can read the Catechism.
Don't make your teaching a list of facts. Give your students an interpretation of Church teaching in real life. Tell stories, give anecdotes from your life. Make analogies to popular culture.
Make it real.
A lessons learned from Taylor Swift isn't about popularity for it's own sake.
As Roy Petitfils says, it's about learning how to deliver the gospel so that it resonates with the people you're trying to reach.
The Church has the best message in the world, but if you don't know how to get it across to people, they won't care.
Hopefully, Taylor Swift's methods for gaining attention, relating to listeners, and resonating with their longings and desires can inspire you to be a better, more effective evangelist.
Marc Cardaronella writes on evangelization at MarcCardaronella.