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5 Tools for Pastors to Stay Connected to Culture

readingwithangusRecently I was at a middle school and saw these bookmarks proudly displayed at the check out. They were no doubt put there to encourage the young people to read more. They are a leveraging the look of the “popular” band AC/DC to help make reading look appealing.

The problem is that last time AC/DC had a top 40 hit was 10 years before the students in this school were even born. I doubt that most students at first glance have any idea what these bookmarks are suppose to be communicating.

These bookmarks got me thinking about our efforts to create a bridge for the message of Jesus by using cultural references. It’s clear from the New Testament that as communicators we’re called to used cultural reference points to communicate the Message of Jesus. (Whether it’s Paul speaking in Athens about the altar of the unknown God or Jesus repeatedly using whatever he saw around him to teach eternal truths.) If we use cultural touch points that are completely irrelevant to our audience than the message will be lost. A part of our job as communicators is to stay connected with what is happening in culture so we can leverage it as a bridge to Jesus.

Here are some ways to stay connected to what’s happening in culture:

  • Google Hot Trends // In one quick glance this page gives you a look into what people are searching the internet for. Data doesn’t lie. It’s just sometimes kinda sad but it’s a great tool. [Check it out.]
  • Trends Map // This is a clever service that shows you what tweets are trending in real time and placed onto a map. It makes it “fun” to fly over your community and see what people are actually tweeting about. [Twitter can be fun.]
  • Weekly Magazines // Remember magazines? So quaint. I have a subscription to TIME and it’s great source of what is being talking about in the nation. The fact that it’s weekly and bound to a certain number of pages means the editors are making decision on what is happening in the culture. Try reading something offline some time! 😉
  • Trend Watching // Every month the website TrendWatching puts out a report on a current global trend that they are spotting. They use the free content to attempt to sell the readers on a longer more detailed format.  The free reports are enough to get a sense of what they are spotting. The advantage of this approach is that they have thousands of “trendspotters” all over the world with their eyes peeled for “what’s next”.
  • Amazon Top Sellers // Rather than what book publishers are promoting this view gives you insight in what people are actually consuming when they make purchases. You can also look at the top sellers by category … a great tool for looking for language about how people talk about the topic you are interested in communicating on. [Check out the current top sellers.]

How do you stay connected to the broader culture? I’d love to hear your thoughts!


  1. I thought for sure one of these tools was going to be watching The Talking Dead or listening to The Walking Deadcast.

  2. Check out “Know Your Meme,” a website from the Cheezburger network that explains what all the current meme and pop culture trends are, often before the youth even know what’s up. Kapooyah kapooyah!

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Rich Birch
Rich Birch is one of the early multi-site church pioneers in North America. He led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 5,000+ people in 18 locations. In addition, he served on the leadership team of Connexus Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. He has also been a part of the lead team at Liquid Church - a 5 location multisite church serving the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. Liquid is known for it’s innovative approach to outreach and community impact. Rich is passionate about helping churches reach more people, more quickly through excellent execution.His latest book Church Growth Flywheel: 5 Practical Systems to Drive Growth at Your Church is an Amazon bestseller and is design to help your church reach more people in your community.