The Taylor Swift Guide to Evangelization

taylor swift evangelization The Taylor Swift Guide to EvangelizationTaylor 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.

3. Observe

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 teaching 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.

Evangelization takeaway

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.

Image Credit: Angela George [CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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About Marc Cardaronella

Church worker by day, blogger by night. I'm passionate about the most effective ways to transmit the Catholic Faith and spread Christ's Gospel to the world. Join me? Find me on Facebook, Twitter, and for the catechetical ramblings of the day.

Comments

  1. Wow! What a great idea! Her popularity has NO BOUNDS and she’s squeaky clean. She’s doing something right and we would be keen to take note! Great post!

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks Elizabeth! I agree, she’s gaining all those fans and her popularity has nothing to do with theatrics or crazy exploitations. Definitely worth taking notes on what she’s doing.

  2. Mark, I know this is hard to fathom but I’ve never heard of Taylor Swift. Before I opened the message I thought, Oh, a new Catholic author writing about his experience as an faith animator. :)

    Beyond that mistake based on my ignorance of pop culture you’ve made some great points. I recall many years ago when training as a Protestant minister the classic approach you mention in your third point, the importance of aligning a person’s felt need with God’s truth which best happens when we take the time to get to know that person. Treating all people with dignity is a solidly Catholic principle and it’s the one being applied when we do as mentioned.

    I’m on my final day of four giving a Lenten Mission and doing all four of those things has been a part of this time. I confess, I’m also really looking forward to being back home again. :)

    God bless you and thanks for your writing.

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Don’t feel bad Owen, I don’t know that much about her but my wife is a country music fan so I’ve heard her off and on for the last couple of years.

      Thanks for your comments. I’ve also found that these four things really resonate with my audiences and students. Implementing these goes a very long way in having people take hold of your message. You become more believable when you’re more relatable. It’s a human and divine principle isn’t it? God became a man to become more relatable and get his message through completely.

      God bless you and thanks again.

  3. Marc – I love it when someone relates something in popular culture to our faith. You do it brilliantly and outstandingly here. Great job!

  4. Excellent post, Cardo! God bless you!

  5. I came to this post from Katie’s NFP and Me blog. This is great. I really enjoy Taylor Swift’s music and I have three girls who look up to her as well (just took them to her concert last fall!) These takeaways are excellent. TS definitely has a way of connecting with her fans that most musicians strive for and only a few attain.

    Thanks for writing this!

    • Marc Cardaronella says:

      Thanks so much Michelle. Glad you liked the post. I think you’re right. We can learn quite a bit from how TS engages her fans in both her music and in relating to them. Especially since she does it in a wholesome way without resorting to crazy, attention-getting tricks. It’s just authentic and real…exactly the way evangelization and the Church should be.

  6. My BEST friend is a STONE Atheist(NOT an anti-Theist)

    She knows that I am devout and over time I realized that words just bore her when it comes to Faith,so I don’t preach, but she recently said something to me that surprised me.She said ,”You’re the toughest man I know but you have the kindest,gentlest heart of anyone I have ever met and I know it’s because of your Faith.Maybe you are right.”

    Please pray for her.Her Father,her idol was also Atheist and I think she feels she would betray him by seeking Christ.

    Her Father was a kind decent wonderful man and I loved him as well.Please ask the Holy Spirit to help her sort things out.I told her Faith does not just happen-even cradle Catholics like me have to make the DECISION to believe-Free Will.

    • I love this: ”You’re the toughest man I know but you have the kindest,gentlest heart of anyone I have ever met and I know it’s because of your Faith.Maybe you are right.”

      That’s it right there! Evangelization can’t work any better than a fantastic example, which you’re obviously prepared to back up with words when you need to! Thanks for sharing that.

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