This is the third post in the Sadaqah Jariyah series, catch up on the previous installments here.
It was a Friday night masjid program geared toward college students and young professionals. There were multiple speakers from the community, myself included. I was asked to share a few points on what major to pick in college, and some tips about finding a job.
After salah, one of the board members took the mic to make the announcement.
"After the sunnah prayers we will begin the youth program. Since this is for the youth, please, we want all the children age 8-12 to come sit in the front row."
Why would someone see a program for college students and immediately think that 8 year olds should be in the front row?
I've never understood this fascination with turning everything into a youth program. It's trying to score points with the community with hype while completely ignoring the actual content of a program.
When it comes to leaving a sadaqah jariyah, we try to cast our net far and wide. When we promote something - whether it be a class, book, lecture series, fundraising dinner, volunteer opportunity, or anything else - we want it to be for everyone.
At the heart of this is our focus on the wrong measures of success. We assume that more people means more reward. Therefore, this program is for all Muslims. All Muslims can benefit from this thing that I'm sharing.
The problem with this is that it is generic. In an age where everything from our Instagram feeds, Netflix watch next suggestions, and Amazon shopping habits come with super-personalized recommendations - there is no incentive or motivation to take part in something that's made for everyone.
When something is for everyone, it is now seen as a flag for low quality. It indicates that things must have been watered down. More importantly, something that is for everyone will never leverage your unique contribution.
If you want people to pay attention to your work, it needs to be clear who the core audience is. It is perfectly acceptable to have programs tailored toward young working professionals, or young moms, or teenagers, or even the elderly. They will get far more value out of one program that caters to them then they will from attending a multitude of generic ones where they struggle to glean a small nugget that applies to their lives.
Eventually your work may cross over and have a wider reach. It must start out, however, with a specific group in mind.