Sidestepping 5 Communication Pitfalls that Trap Vision

Effective communication is absolutely critical to creating movement toward your vision.

The challenge then is keeping the vision of your church central in your messaging. Does clarity of vision drive your communications strategy or does communication rely on the loudest voice or greatest need? Without an intentional, strategic, vision-soaked communications plan, it is easy to fall into the pitfall of calendar maintenance and program sustenance. A pitfall that always traps vision.

Here are 5 Communication Pitfalls that every church faces and one side-step for each to keep your vision on solid ground.

1. The Program-Focus Pitfall

Many churches rely on communicating about programs rather than through vision. Every Sunday announcement begins to sound the same:  “Here’s what we’re doing! Sign up today.” Response wanes quickly, if any response happens at all, because nearly everyone in the congregation already feels overwhelmed by their schedule. The last thing they came to church to do was sign up for something else. 

If all you do is communicate programs or events, your communication will likely go in one ear and out the other. So how can you sidestep this pitfall?

Never communicate about a program without first communicating vision. Ask: How does this program or event enable people to be a part of the vision and mission God has given to your church? What part of our Great Commission call might people miss if they do not participate? What are some life-change stories you can tell to demonstrate Gospel effectiveness and generate missional excitement around the program?

Side-Step #1: WHY before WHATInstead of just standing and announcing your church homecoming Sunday in July, hoping to convince everyone to show up and sweat together around some sketchy potato salad, stop and frame the why. Is gathering as a family important or missing in your culture? Will guests get to know the church behind the Sunday service formality? Are there stories of impact from last year’s homecoming that you can communicate through a short video clip? First, communicate WHY this program or event matters to the vision of the church before you tell the congregation WHAT side dish they need to sign-up for. 

2. The Too Many Choices Pitfall

Without a clear understanding of success in the mission, it is easy to elevate doing many activities above developing the few attributes of gospel-centered disciples. We proudly communicate, “There’s a lot going on around here!” but do people truly know what they are accomplishing by making a particular choice?

The vast menu of options for people to get involved, simply does not work. Major research studies exist on the concept of “decision paralysis.” These scientific studies reveal that offering people too many choices actually leads to people to not choosing anything at all. It is easier to do nothing than to guess at one thing.

The best way to avoid this pitfall is to develop a comprehensive communication plan. A great plan defines one specific next step of engagement you want people to take in each ministry environment or program. Make it clear why these next steps are important for missional engagement and give clear instructions on how to do it. The number of activities you offer may decrease, but you will increase the overall participation of your congregation around what matters the most.

Side-Step #2: One + One. Pull out the worship bulletin from last Sunday’s service and stop to count the number of next-step choices you communicated. How many were applicable to your first-time guests and how many were members-only? Could the average attender even tell the difference? Commit to simplifying everybody’s world in the future and carefully craft one intentional next step for your guests and one next step for the congregation each week.

3. The Ineffective Messaging Pitfall

Some studies suggest that the average adult views close to 3,000 marketing messages per day. That’s about 3,000 intentionally designed advertisements, by marketing professionals, to creatively connect with people emotionally to compel or require action. In contrast, we in the church often assume that people will engage with our service announcement in the same way, simply because we are the church. Carrying the mandate of the Gospel requires us to be intentional and effective in church communication. The stakes may be eternal.

How much time do you spend working on and refining the language you use to communicate your mission and vision? Bill Hybels, in his book, Axiom, tells a story of how he spent an entire transatlantic flight working on two specific words that would ignite passion in people around God’s vision for Willow Creek Community Church. Words create worlds, and every word matters. Who can help you hone and sharpen your vision language for transformational impact?

One quick way to evaluate your existing vision is to simply ask yourself: Does this vision get me excited? Am I compelled to do something new or be someone better because of the language we use to communicate our calling?

Side-Step #3: Emotion Creates Motion. How much more effective would your immediately-swiped-left-to-delete weekly emails be if you spent as much time developing a compelling subject line as you did on the content itself? Stop and think about what really matters to the average church member in what you are communicating. If you cannot answer this, maybe do not send an email this week. If you cannot decide which one, go ahead to Pitfall #4 below. Either way, invest the time necessary to develop language that connects people at both the head and heart level to your missional calling.

4. The Too Many Messages Pitfall

Even when the message is highly crafted, it is easy to communicate too many messages. Remember those 3,000 marketing messages per day? When people come to services on the weekend or even visit your church Facebook page during the week, they have likely already been bombarded with too many ads and calls to action. Everybody has something or wants something. Unfortunately, we are sometimes a part of the problem adding multiple messages by saying the same thing many different ways.

As church leaders, we get to do more than market…we get to remind people that there is something bigger going on in the world and that they are a part of it—that is the mission God has given us. We can cut through the cultural marketing madness by focusing the church on the few simple, memorable goals that we are working toward, together. That is our vision.

To sidestep this pitfall, develop a clear, concise and compelling articulation of both your mission (what are we doing?) and your vision (what’s the next milestone on the horizon?), and then say them over and over and over.

Side-Step #4: Less is More. Stop and think about your last small groups emphasis. Whether it was plugging into a Sunday bible study or committing to another night out each week, you were asking for a significant commitment. How many different and creative ways did you communicate this? More than one was probably too many. How consistent was the message of why from each of your leaders? Allowing personalization potentially creates confusion. Say more with less by refining your language of mission and vision, or even creating a complete vision frame. Then develop a team discipline to say the same thing in the same way – every time. Until leaders are tired of saying it, the congregation has not yet heard it.

5. The Lack of Follow-Through Pitfall

It is easy for church leaders to get more excited with the next new thing rather than remaining focused on the current important thing. Leaders lose credibility with staff and congregation by moving on to the next big idea before the last big idea has come to fruition.

When you communicate vision clearly—with clear milestones that everyone understands—continue to work toward those milestones as a church until you achieve them. Stay the course. Concentrate on the language to connect with your people and invite them into what God has called you to do as a church. Do whatever you have to do in order to hit those milestones. Then, move on to the next big thing.

Side-Step #5: One Thing Focus. Everyone wants to be a part of a church that is winning by doing something significant for the Kingdom. During the next church-wide emphasis, celebrate small wins along the way and tell the stories of life change. If your people have been called to invest above and beyond their typical pattern of attendance or giving, provide closure when the goals are met or the season ends. Spend the time and resources necessary to demonstrate completion, or over-communicate how the next initiative helps fulfill the last one. Stay focused on one big vision milestone at a time, communicate it in compelling ways, and celebrate it when God leads you through it.

How do you keep your church communication from falling into a vision-trapping pitfall? Keep these 5 Sidesteps in mind to stay on course and Go Ahead with vision clarity:

  1. WHY before WHAT
  2. One + One
  3. Emotion Creates Motion
  4. Less is More
  5. One Thing Focus

 

If you’re not satisfied with your communication strategy, start a conversation with our team. We’re glad to offer our input. Your vision is at stake, so let’s talk.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Auxano Content Team

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COMMENTS

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Dr.Shirley Lynn — 11/01/16 5:12 pm

We are a small church and our vision sometimes gets lost in so many things and our staff is not easy to understand how important communication and vision are and another thing is being excited about vision and seem to not be able to create excitement in our congregation.

Mike Maye — 11/01/16 10:56 am

This article was extremely helpful

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Strategize Your Way to Better Communication

Communication is a key component to leadership. If you are communicating, then you are leading in some way. Here are five principles that you can begin using immediately to help you communicate, and thus lead, better.

  1. Use positive language. Draw people to your point by inspiring them. If you paint a brighter future, people will desire to listen and follow. A quick listen to great speeches like Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech faced the difficulties of the present day. But they also move on to describe the promise of something greater.
  1. Avoid alarmism. Leading through times of crisis is necessary. Creating a constant environment of crisis is demotivating. Eventually, if every circumstance is a cause for alarm, people will stop listening and simply give up hope. Change is inevitable and and it is always accompanied by a cost. However, you can help people through it by not sounding the crisis alarm with your language.
  1. State how it is easy to understand what we are doing. The constant use of phrases like “This is tough to understand” or “This will be hard for some people to do” becomes principles to follow rather than warnings to help. Instead, as you prepare, plan out simple steps for everyone listening to follow through on easy actions.
  1. Use more simple words. Speakers and leaders read so much on the subject matter in which they lead that the natural tendency is to get bored with the standard language and a slight obsession with new words that accompany their discipline. Remember that your audience has not done the same. It is fine to introduce a new vocabulary to your audience but you must do so in such a way that it does not distract from your core message. Instead, use more simple language than complex so that you are immediately and easily understood.
  1. Tell great stories. Everyone loves a great story and stories are everywhere. You can write an original illustration, adapt a real-life situation, use a historical narrative, or find something from the recent news headlines. Telling great stories will help the audience connect all of the principles you teach to the every day life that they lead.

Read more from Philip.


Would you like to learn more about improving your communications? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Philip Nation

Philip Nation

I serve as the pastor at First Baptist Church of Bradenton, Florida and frequently speak at churches and conferences. I earned a Master of Divinity from Beeson Divinity School and a Doctor of Ministry from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. In 2010-2012, I was the national spokesperson for the Back to Church Sunday campaign from Outreach. Over the years, I’ve served as a pastor, minister of education, and a church planter. In 2016, I published Habits for Our Holiness: How the Spiritual Disciplines Grow Us Up, Draw Us Together, and Send Us Out with Moody Publishers. I’ve coauthored two other books: Compelled: Living the Mission of God and Transformational Discipleship: How People Really Grow. I was also the general editor of The Mission of God Study Bible. Along the way, I have written the small-group studies Storm Shelter: Psalms of God’s Embrace, Compelled by Love: The Journey to Missional Living and Live in the Word, plus contributed to The Great Commission Resurgence: Fulfilling God’s Mandate in Our Lifetime.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Five Positive Responses to Negative People

The grief is both real and anticipatory.

The church member knows his or her church is in decline.

That member knows some things must change or the church is headed for more rapid decline or even death.

But change is difficult. These members want their old church back. They want to do things the way they’ve always done them.

That church of the past, however, will not return. The pace of change is faster than ever, and it will only increase.

How do we respond to these hurting, and sometimes, angry people? Here are five responses.

  1. Respond pastorally. These members are not just hurting; they are grieving. Some of them believe they can find a way to return to the church of the 60s, 70s, or 80s. When they finally realize that the past will not return, their grief intensifies. They need our love, our encouragement, our support, and our prayers. If our first response is to return anger with anger, we can exacerbate a difficult situation.
  2. Respond with reality. Do not give false hope to these members. That will only make the situation worse. Let them know gently and lovingly that change is inevitable. The church will either respond proactively to change, or it will be the victim of change. The latter is usually a death sentence.
  3. Respond with the non-negotiables. Assure the church member that there are some facets of church life that can never change. The Bible is still the Word of God. The gospel is still powerful. Christ is still the only way of salvation. In providing these non-negotiables, you are pointing the members away from the minors to the majors.
  4. Respond with an outward focus. Sometimes a church member’s longing for the past is indicative that he or she is inwardly focused. These members can possibly see church as a place to meet all their needs and desires. If possible, get them involved in ministries that take them away from their own preferences and desires to the world that needs our hope, our love, and our ministry.
  5. Respond with resolution. A few church members will fight for the past no matter how toxic it may be for the church and her future. Leaders have to resolve to move on. They cannot spend all their time coddling the disaffected to the neglect of those who are ready to make a difference. This step is a last step. It is a final alternative. It is the most painful. But it can be necessary for the health of the body as a whole.

These days are days of rapid change. Congregations have not been immune from the impact of the change. We must always love people. But we cannot let one or a few hinder us from the work to which God has called us.


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about dealing with negative feedback.


> Read more from Thom.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer is the president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.  Prior to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism.  He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. In addition to speaking in hundreds of venues over the past 20 years, Rainer led Rainer Group, a church and denominational consulting firm, from 1990 to 2005. The firm provided church health insights to over 500 churches and other organizations over that period. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three grown sons: Sam, Art and Jess, who are married to Erin, Sarah and Rachel respectively.  The Rainers have six grandchildren: Canon, Maggie, Nathaniel, Will (with the Lord), Harper, and Bren. He is the author of twenty-four books, including Breakout Churches, Simple Life, Simple Church, Raising Dad, The Millennials, and Essential Church.  His latest book, Autopsy of a Deceased Church, was released in 2014 by B&H Publishing Group.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Keys to Compelling Vision Communication

How compelling is the communication of your vision?

If your vision moves the people to take action, you are on the right track.

Having served alongside two incredible visionary leaders, first John Maxwell and now Kevin Myers, I’ve watched close up how they communicate vision so well.

We often think that vision-casting is largely a public endeavor and usually done on the primary stage. But the truth is, most vision-casting is done behind the scenes, over and over again, one to one and in small groups. Communicating vision is the never-ending responsibility of the primary leader.

Before you can cast your vision, you have to create it. It needs to be crystal clear and deep in your heart. That is something between you and God and also affirmed by your church board and/or key leaders. It takes time and prayer, and requires you hearing from God. Let God breathe the vision in you.

It is surprisingly often that senior pastors, and executive staff, tell me they are not clear on their vision. If you are one of those, don’t panic. While you are waiting on clarity from God and confidence in your own mind, stay focused on Matthew 28:19-20. That universal mission for the church is your vision until you have clarity. Vision is “simply” your personal and unique version of the Great Commission. It’s the expression that God gives you for your church that brings fire, flavor and fuel to the mission. Vision keeps the mission fresh.

Seven guidelines to help you communicate your vision better:

1) Commit to the vision yourself.

If you are the leader, settle the level of your conviction first.

  • No one cares more than you.
  • No one carries a great burden.
  • No one prays more deeply.
  • No one thinks and plans more.
  • No one lies awake at night more than you.

Sometimes God doesn’t make the vision clear because the leader isn’t ready personally. Settle the issue in your own heart. It’s not as if you have to pass a test before God or measure up in order to deserve a vision. It’s more about your passion and commitment to be ready to lead the vision.

2) Clearly identify the current situation.

When casting vision, we as leaders need to start by making the present reality clear. This doesn’t mean to paint an unfairly negative scenario in order to “sell” the vision. But comparison is needed so the congregation understands the why behind the vision.

Sometimes it’s more obvious and therefore easier; such as you are out of room so you cast vision to start a second or third service. Other times, it may seem more subjective like changing the name of your church. You have to make it clear why the current name is no longer meeting the need.

3) Paint a picture of a preferred future.

A great vision always describes a better future. Keeping the core mission in mind (changed lives), the vision must always include at the core, reaching people and changing lives. Again, the vision is your unique expression of that mission.

So, how will your church be better? How will your church improve (or change) in a way so that it serves people better and others want to attend? How will the Kingdom of God be advanced?

4) Capture the hearts of the people.

If the vision comes from your heart, it will reach the hearts of the people you share it with. Some vision statements are mechanical efforts that come as a result of an academic endeavor and end up on your website. They rarely move anyone because they don’t move you.  Vision statements that sound great, perhaps even alliterate, are good as long as they are real, true and personal to you.

When you share vision, tell stories. Make it personal. Remain brief. Make it memorable. Tell it often, and again tell stories. Remind people why it’s so important, and why it matters.

5) Deliver clear direction with a realistic plan.

This is where the rubber meets the road, and where some leaders lose traction with their vision. They hear from God, the vision is clear, and the people have bought in, but there is no realistic road map of how to get there.

You don’t have to provide all the answers, but a clear and simple plan that provides direction is necessary. You will need to make course corrections, solve problems and deal with the unexpected, but as long as the people know the next step you are good!

6) Tell the people they are needed and how they can participate.

All good vision casting includes letting the people know how they can get involved.

When you get your congregation all fired up but don’t give them an outlet to take action, it’s a mistake. Think through the options, such as prayer, serving, inviting, giving, etc. Whatever it may be, let them know how they can be part. When an individual takes action on the vision, the vision becomes part of them and they share it with others.

7) Keep your communication current.

Communicating vision is not a “once and done” proposition. In fact, it’s the opposite, the communication must continue. You can’t over communicate vision. You can make it too long, or boring because it’s always said the same way, or unprepared so it lacks connection. But when it’s brief, sincere, creative and well prepared, it’s difficult to do it too often. One of the best ways is to include a thirty to sixty second vision moment in a sermon, tell a story and keep going. And in one to one meetings, make it part of regular conversations.


Finally, celebrate the victories! The people are working hard, praying and full of hope. Celebrate the success God gives you along the way!


Want to learn more about compelling vision communication? Connect with an Auxano Navigator.


> Read more from Dan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dan Reiland

Dan Reiland

Dr. Dan Reiland serves as Executive Pastor at 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Georgia. He previously partnered with John Maxwell for 20 years, first as Executive Pastor at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego, then as Vice President of Leadership and Church Development at INJOY. He and Dr. Maxwell still enjoy partnering on a number of church related projects together. Dan is best known as a leader with a pastor's heart, but is often described as one of the nations most innovative church thinkers. His passion is developing leaders for the local church so that the Great Commission is advanced.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Church Learnings from Falling TV Ratings

When was the last time you sat down to watch a TV show (other than, say, a football game) when it aired live?

And in the car, how often do you listen podcasts or your own playlists compared to the radio?

Even just a few years ago, you likely would have answered very differently.

The world around us continues to change because people are changing with it. The church is never immune from cultural change, and the decline of radio and television give us a window into some of the changes the church is struggling with now and will continue to struggle with in the future.

The mission of the church will never change, but the methods have to. Otherwise, you die. Plain and simple.

The television and radio industries have adapted better to the changing world than, say, newspapers have, but as this Pew Research Centre report makes clear, the industry is changing dramatically.

Here are 5 changes I see happening both now and in the future and some implications for the church.

1. Disappearing Radios Create A Value Crisis

One mainstay of the car dashboard in the last 60 years has been the radio. But that’s changing.

As this article so insightfully points out, the car radio is now disappearing off of dashboards. Instead, a media console is appearing that basically resembles your phone. You now have to scroll several screens deep to find any AM/FM or even satellite stations.

The question, of course, is will anyone listen to the radio if they have to work to find it? Or, asked another way, did we really only listen because it was the only option?

In many ways, the church was to the community what the radio was to the car dashboard. Churches dotted the countryside, towns and cities and people went. Now you’re just as likely to find antique stores in those historic churches as you will people worshipping God. Or, if you pass by the local church, the assumption is that it’s become a club for people of similar views and persuasions to which the public is not really invited, despite what the sign says.

So how will radio get heard when it’s not front and centre in the future car? Only one way: by providing sensational content no one else is producing.

In an age of customized playlists, podcasting and on-demand content, I’m not sure how that one’s going to go. (If you’re interested, I did an interview for a broadcasting student on the future of radio that you can listen to here. As a former radio DJ, I find the subject fascinating.)

So what about the church? Our buildings aren’t the key to the future. Nor are our signs. Nor is merely being there.

The greatest statement to the community any church makes is through the lives of its members. And as you know, sometimes that works for us and sometimes it works against it.

When the Gospel displayed in the lives of a church’s members becomes irresistible, the church will grow.

2. Set-Hours Programming Only Really Applies To Live Events Anymore

The change goes far beyond having a radio on the dashboard or a TV in the family room. It’s much more sweeping than that.

Some of you remember having to be home Thursdays at 8 or Mondays at 9 to catch the latest episode of your favourite show.

And if you do, chances are you’re over 40.

The idea of having to be home to watch a show at a set hour is fading quickly. VCRS, DVRS or as we call them in Canada – PVRS – and now on-demand programming have made traditional ‘don’t miss’ moments easy to miss.

The exception? Live events. Sports, award shows, or live shows like The Voice make instant, real-time results meaningful. Otherwise, you can watch Suits or The Walking Dead whenever you want.

The challenge for the church, of course, is that we’ve almost always done live, scheduled programming for which you show up at a set hour. Even with multiple service options, churches are still largely run off of a “be-there-at-10 a.m.” approach to gathering.

And yet every church leader has noticed that it’s getting harder and harder to fill rooms. While there are many reasons for this, we’ve already seen that even people who attend church attend less often (here are 10 reasons for why that’s happening).

So how do you counter that trend? Or should you even try?

Well… let’s think this through. What makes a live event worth attending is that something is at stake in the moment, or if you miss it, you miss it. This is why you watch it live on TV or try to find it on the radio.

Consequently, if your church service consists of interchangeable content with no sense of urgency, immediacy or transcendency, attendance will always feel more optional.

On the contrary, churches that facilitate an experience orencounter with God, or that drive an urgent sense of mission will always be events that people will not want to miss.

Fortunately for church leaders, the activity and movement of God in the lives of his people is something that, when accurately and faithfully facilitated, drives engagement.

The more your church feels like a live event with God moving, the more people will be drawn to attending at a fixed time and place. And in that context, even watching live online won’t feel like being in the room.

Conversely, the more static or interchangeable your services feel, the less people will feel the need to come at a set time and place.

There’s no doubt that a growing number of younger adults seem to be drawn to a more passionate, engaged, almost charismatic form of worship and church. Witness the rise of Hillsong, Elevation Church or the Passion movement.  While that’s not the only template for how to do church, the passion and engagement in those services and experiences helps explain why people are willing to line up for them.

The attenders are immersed and consumed. They are anticipating that something is going to happen.

As a result, they’re engaged. And as we’ve already seen, in the future church, engagement will be the key to attendance.

3. Fixed-Formatting Limits Your Options

One of the things traditional radio and television struggle with is what you might call ‘fixed formatting.”

Essentially, radio and TV have to function through paid advertising, so content is interrupted every 2-10 minutes for commercial breaks.

Podcasting creates options that commercial radio can’t match.

I love the fact that on my leadership podcast, I get to have 40-90 minute conversations with leaders that are uninterrupted. I promise you conversations unfold very differently when over an hour than they do if the host is always interrupting the guest with “we only have a few minutes left” or “we have to throw to a commercial and we’ll be right back”.

People interview differently over an hour than they do in five-minute segments. They’re more relaxed. They tell you things they otherwise might not mention and you have a far more authentic conversation than you would if you were constantly interrupted.

With over 100 long-form interviews under my belt on my leadership podcast, I’m sold on the benefits of open-ended formatting. And with podcasting, there’s no limit.

It makes me wonder whether church leaders have far more options available to us than we realize.

What kind of long-form content or alt-format content can your church produce now that more channels are open to it?

At Connexus Church where I serve, we’re starting to experiment with online bonus messages for our series that we don’t run on Sundays.

Our most downloaded bonus episode so far is an indepth interview I did with a spiritual warfare expert that we ran in conjunction with a series on the supernatural. People loved it, and it accomplished something that would have been far more difficult to do during a service on a Sunday.

There are far more options for churches to explore than we’ve explored.

The greatest limits you face as a leader or organization are those you impose on yourself. What limits have you constructed for you and your mission?

4. You No Longer Go To Content… Content Comes To You

Some churches have decided not to do online ministries for a variety of reasons, one of which includes not wanting to compete with live services.

And while I don’t think online church will ever replace church (it can’t…God designed us to gather), it can serve as a great supplement to it.

News networks now have apps and a tremendous social media presence. And can you think of a radio station that doesn’t have a Facebook page?

In the old paradigm, you got the news by going to a station. Now the station sends the news to you. Think about it… you probably first heard most of your news this year via social media.

The church can learn from this. To box content up for consumption only on a Sunday morning, or to simply place it on a website or podcast alone in 40-minute blocks completely under-utilizes content.

Taking snippets or a message to post on social media, insert into blog posts and repackage in various ways so it reaches more people is a much better use of the time, energy and resources that goes into a great message. Not to mention the redemptive potential of exposing more people life-changing messages.

It’s also an incredible outreach strategy. Andy Stanley puts his messages on a separate app and on NBC after Saturday Night Live, reaching an entirely different audience than he does through North Point channels or than most do through traditional Christian channels.

If you’re not repurposing your content, why not? Think about it.

Everybody who was not in your church on Sunday was online. Why aren’t you?

You can expect people to come to you. Or you can go simply go to people.

5. The Explosion Of Information Has Created A Crisis Of Meaning

Our culture has never had access to more information than we do now. Three networks on TV has exploded into hundreds of channels. Radio went from AM to FM to satellite and beyond. And then there’s this thing called the internet.

In all of human history, people have never had access to more information than they do today. But somewhere in the midst of it, meaning has been lost.

The crisis our culture is facing is not a crisis of information. It’s a crisis of meaning.

This is perhaps one of the greatest opportunities for the church in history. No one should be better at providing meaning, hope and perspective.

I don’t mean jumping on Facebook and offering your half-formed opinion on politics, supreme court decisions and anything else you want to rant about. That just adds to the noise and detracts from the Gospel.

I mean sharing intelligent, honest, transparent, soul-nourishing, grace and truth that springs from and points to the source of all wisdom—Jesus Christ.

The Gospel satisfies the deepest needs of the human heart and mind for meaning. And no one should be better at proffering meaning into a culture so desperately in need of it than the church.

What Do You See?

As things continue to change in industries like radio and television, what are you noticing?


Talk with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about how the changing radio and television industry impacts the way your church communicates the Gospel.


> Read more from Carey.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof

Carey Nieuwhof is lead pastor of Connexus Community Church and author of the best selling books, Leading Change Without Losing It and Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. Carey speaks to North American and global church leaders about change, leadership, and parenting.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

The “One-Anothers” of Social Media

How can we avoid the potential distraction of social media and use it to really advance our mission?

 

As a leader, you can only influence those whom you can reach (Rick Warren). The social media platforms in use today – and the ones that will be developed tomorrow – allow you to extend your reach and listen to the people God is calling you to serve and disciple.

The danger is that a beginning trickle of social media communication can become a flood of unfiltered information that will wash you away unless you channel it into a useful tool for the irrigation and growth of your message. What are some of the solutions to do keep all of your social media focused?

Solution – See social media through the lens of “one another.”

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Rewired, by Brandon Cox

There’s no going back. Our world is changing at an unprecedented rate. We are connected with people all over the planet with technology that didn’t even exist ten years ago. The world around us is having a conversation about life, meaning, culture, and eternity, and we have an amazing opportunity not just to join the conversation but also to lead it.

Brandon Cox demonstrates the real, connecting power in online social networks, showing you how to connect and tell God’s story relationally and creatively in our social, digital age. He encourages leaders to dedicate their lives to telling the Good News using every means possible, and to be the relational bridge that brings someone into a right relationship with Jesus – even if it does mean jumping on the social media train.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

God approaches us, seeks us, and searches for us. He offered His Son so that we might be reconciled to Him. In turn, God expects us to reconcile others. From one relationship to another, God wants us to reach others.

Social media isn’t an escape from the real world. It is the real world, whether we are ready for it or not.

God is the great designer who has masterminded a plan to put people in relationships with each other. “Viral” isn’t a concept the inventors of YouTube conjured up—God has always determined to utilize the viral nature of human relationships.

God knew we would struggle with this relational thing, even inside the church, so He gave some rather helpful suggestions and guidelines that we often call the “one anothers” of the New Testament.

These may or may not be familiar to you, but try to hear them with the ear of one who is engaging the culture via social media:

  • “Be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50, NIV).
  • “Love one another” (John 13:34, NIV).
  • “Be devoted to one another. . . . Honor one another” (Rom. 12:10, NIV).
  • “Live in harmony with one another” (v. 16, NIV).
  • “Accept one another” (Rom. 15:7, NIV).
  • “Agree with one another” (1 Cor. 1:10, NIV).
  • “Serve one another” (Gal. 5:13, NIV).
  • “[Forgive] each other” (Eph. 4:32, NIV).
  • “Submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21, NIV).
  • “Encourage each other” (1 Thess. 5:11, NIV).
  • “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24, NIV).
  • “Pray for each other” (James 5:16, NIV).

This list is only partial, but it’s a good starting checklist as we answer the question, Am I being relational? Part of the redemption story is the beautiful benefit of our being able to relate to one another within the body in a new way.

Brandon Cox, Rewired

A NEXT STEP

It’s never been more important to produce quality social media content that people actually want to interact with. How can you use social media to practice the one-another commands at your church?

  • Are your social media platforms an integral part of your ministry strategy?
  • Do you use social media platforms to tell the stories of God’s work in your people’s lives?
  • Do you connect with staff and volunteer teams through the use of social media?
  • Do you lead your teams to connect with others through social media?
  • What social media content are you producing that people most want to share with others?

Using social media is just the latest extension of the New Testament’s one-another ministry. When you as a leader understand and practice social media as a one another ministry, you are well on the way to living out the presence of Christ within your congregation– and it becomes very obvious to those who are connecting to others.

 


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

Download PDF

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Inspiring Communication Series: Use a Map

To help others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination.

The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

Unlock the imagination of your audience by using a map.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Communicate to Influence by Ben Decker

Business communication is annoying. At each meeting and presentation, we are inundated with information, leaving us thirsting for inspiration. Sure, we will check off an action item because we have to . . . but what if we were actually inspired to do something? What if we were so moved that we wanted to do it?

Leaders must earn the license to lead. Not by expertise, authority, or title alone, but by influence. In Communicate to Influence, you will learn the secrets of the Decker Method―a framework that has been perfected over the past 36 years. Ben and Kelly Decker add fresh insights to these proven principles so that you can ignite change and inspire action. Discover:

  • The Five White Lies of Communicating: learn which barriers prevent you from getting better
  • The Communicator’s Roadmap: use a tool to visually chart what type of communication experience you create
  • The Behaviors of Trust: align what you say with how you say it to better connect with your audience
  • The Decker Grid: shift your message from self-centered, all about me content to relevant, audience-centered content that drives action

You are called to communicate well. Not only on the main stage, under bright lights, but every time you speak with your colleagues, your clients, and other stakeholders. It’s time to learn how. Stop informing. Start inspiring. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

When you inspire people, it is much easier to persuade them to buy into your vision and goals. In fact, they will move from a position of “have to” to “want to.”

How do we create an ideal communication experience for our audience? We begin by understanding what experience we are creating as communicators and by becoming focused and intentional about that experience. We need a navigational tool to help us get where we want to be. We must treat every communication situation like a new location, and input the destination of where we want to go. We need the Communicator’s Roadmap.

CommunicatorsRoadMap

The vertical axis graphs our emotional connection with our audience. The emotional connections are what determine whether or not people like us, trust us, and want to follow. If there is emotional distance our audience will be disinterested or disengaged. At the opposite end of the spectrum, if you were emotionally connected to the speakers, you like them, trusted them, related to them, wanted to be around them, or at lease wanted to keep listening to them.

The horizontal axis represents our content, the actual message that we deliver. Are you distributing information, or are you driving action? The left side of the axis is reserved for information sharing. If the content is totally focused on your agenda, your ideas, and your goals, you have self-centered content.

The more you are able to focus your content and make it audience-centered, serving the wants, needs, desires, goals, and priorities of the audience, the more you shift the experience to the right side of the horizontal axis. The right side of this axis is action-oriented, and it is the part of the Communicator’s Roadmap from which influence flows.

Audience-centered content transforms the whole experience. You’ll influence the people in your audience and motivate them to action – and action is what communication is all about.

Ben Decker and Kelly Decker, Communicate to Influence

A NEXT STEP

The quadrants depicted and described above represent the types of experiences you need to create, not the type of communicator you always are. The descriptions should serve as reference points as you prepare for your next presentation.

Each key communication situation in your role as a leader needs a definition, so map it. Be intentional about the kind of experience you want to create and be intentional about where you’re going.

To help you become more comfortable with the map depicted above, practice the following exercises:

  1. A communicator’s highest goal should be to inspire (upper right quadrant). Think about a recent presentation or sermon you delivered.
    1. What quadrant did it start in (if not Inspire)?
    2. What kinds of actions could you take to move it toward the Inspire quadrant?
  2. Over the next week, observe people in various communication settings. Notice where they fall on the map. As a listener, how are you impacted by where they are on the map?
  3. The next time you dine out, don’t just focus on the food but think about the whole experience. How did the whole experience add to (or take away) from your meal? When you are preparing your next presentation, use your dining experience feelings to help you focus your total presentation experience.
  4. The next time you are at an event with multiple speakers, create a map of each of them, noting which quadrant they started in and where they finished. What stood out about the journey? Which speakers inspired you the most? What lessons can you apply to your own speaking journey?

As leaders, we communicate in all we say and do. We may be entertaining at times, we inform much of the time, and occasionally we must be directing in what we say. But in all situations, we can inspire and connect with our audience.

It’s not what the leader thinks can be or even should be, but what must be.

Taken from SUMS Remix 29-3, published December 2015.


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

Download PDF

Tags: , , , ,

| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

See more articles by >

COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

A Simple Strategy for Church Communication: Engage

In a previous post, I outlined three essentials of a church communications plan and promised to develop the three points further. Today, we begin with the keys to engaging your audience. Remember, your audience includes both church members and potential guests alike. So it’s imperative that you craft messages for both and to each segment.

Engagement is most successful when you start with the goals of your communication in mind and work backwards: consider the desired result, decide the best platform to reach your goal, and word your message accordingly. This can be seen more fully in these six strategic steps:

  1. Keep the audience in mind. One main reason for communications failure is not considering the audience for the message. When you don’t think from the audience’s perspective, you tend to miss details or context clues that are needed in communications. A good example of this is using acronyms. Members may know what you mean, but church acronyms are often lost on guests. Simplify your messaging to reach the widest audience possible as clearly as possible.
  2. Decide on the best channel for communications. Not thinking about the audience often leads to using the wrong channel of communication. Not every message has the same audience, and not every message requires the same channel. Some announcements are better made in print, others are better online, and still others need to be communicated verbally.
  3. Find the best timing. A major church event needs weeks of lead-time when you’re communicating to your members and guests. A Wednesday night supper menu doesn’t. But for weekly events, don’t wait until the last minute or the day before to promote them. Promote them early and often. Finally, when using social media, consider posting at times when you know people will be online and able to respond or share your posts.
  4. Think about the wording. Every word matters. How you label something or the words you use to communicate will have an effect on how people respond or digest the information. A pastor I know once referred to “tithes and offerings” as “church revenue” in a blog post. He received several angry emails and letters as a result. It was an honest mistake, but it goes to show how using the wrong wording can cause the message to be missed.
  5. Use appropriate imagery. Images should compliment the message, not distract from it. There are several free or low cost image sites online for churches to use. If you use imagery wisely, you’ll better communicate with your audience. Please, no clip art. Please.
  6. Proof relentlessly. Some mistakes will slip through. It happens. But you should do everything possible to proof everything that is sent out from your church. Find someone other than the creator to look over something before it’s sent. Familiarity with a document or message will cause you to miss errors. A fresh set of eyes is always best to catch spelling, grammatical, or typographical errors.

Once you’ve moved through this progression, you should have a more fully developed and engaging message to communicate.

How do you engage your audience with your church’s communications? Is there something that is particularly effective for you in your context?


Connect with an Auxano Navigator to learn more about engaging your church through communication.


> Read more from Jonathan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Howe

Jonathan Howe serves as Director of Strategic Initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at @Jonathan_Howe.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Inspiring Communicators Start With WHY

To help others see change, the leader must understand how to unlock the imagination.

The very act of imagination is connected to faith. The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for and the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). When a leader articulates, or provokes, a follower’s imagination, he or she is serving both God and the individual by exercising the muscle of faith.

Unlock the imagination of your audience by starting with WHY.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Start with WHY by Simon Sinek

Why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty?

In studying the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world, Simon Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it’s the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with why.

Drawing on a wide range of real-life stories, Sinek weaves together a clear vision of what it truly takes to lead and inspire.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Walt Disney’s dream that we now know as Disneyland faced an immense problem: how do you get financial investors to back something that’s never been done before, and exists only in a few sketches?

Faced with this dilemma, Disney did what he was best at: he painted pictures with words:

The idea of Disneyland is a simple one. It will be a place for people to find happiness and knowledge. It will be a place for parents and children to spend pleasant times in one another’s company.

Disneyland will be based upon and dedicated to the ideals, the dreams, and hard facts that have created America. And it will be uniquely equipped to dramatize these dreams and facts and send them forth as a source of courage and inspiration to all the world.

Disneyland will be filled with the accomplishments, the joys and hopes of the world we live in. And it will remind us and show us how to make those wonders part of our lives.

(Walt Disney, An American Original, 246-247)

Disney’s simple but evocative language convinced the investors of a future they could not see – and the rest is history.

Great leaders and great organizations are good at seeing what most of us can’t see. They are good at giving us things we would never think of asking for.

Great leaders are those who trust their gut. They are those who understand the art before the science. They win hearts before minds. They are the ones who start with WHY.

Products and services with a clear sense of WHY give people a way to tell the outside world who they are and what they believe. Remember, people don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it. If an organization does not have a clear sense of WHY then it is impossible for the outside world to perceive anything more than WHAT the organization does. And when that happens, manipulations that rely on pushing price, features, service or quality become the primary currency of differentiation.

WHAT: Every single organization on the planet knows WHAT they do. Everyone is easily able to describe the products or services a company sells or the job function they have within that system. WHATS are easy to identify.

HOW: Some companies and people know HOW they do WHAT they do. HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better. Not as obvious as WHATs, many think these are the differentiating or motivating factors in a decision. It would be false to assume that’s all that is required. There is one missing detail:

WHY: Very few people or companies can clearly articulate WHY they do WHAT they do. By WHY I mean what is your purpose, cause or belief? WHY does your organization exist? WHY do you get out of bed every morning? And WHY should anyone care?

It all starts from the inside out. It all starts with WHY.

Simon Sinek, Start with Why

A NEXT STEP

There is a fine line between inspiration and manipulation. A leader can use powerful language, vivid images, and emotional pleas to his audience – and be a manipulative, power-hungry despot.

A leader can also use powerful language, vivid images, and emotional pleas to his audience – and be a visionary leader.

The difference is in the WHY. If people don’t believe in the WHY behind your vision, they won’t be motivated to help you deliver it.

To understand the WHY behind all sides of a situation, idea, or problem you are facing, take the WHY Train by answering the following questions:

  1. Who is the main actor in the situation or problem?
  2. What is the main concept, object, or action the main actor uses or performs?
  3. Where is the main actor located when performing or using the main concept, object, or action?
  4. When does the situation or problem occur?
  5. Describe each answer in more depth.
  6. Conclude by asking WHY to the answers you have given.

The result of this exercise will be a thorough and sequential description about a situation and the insightful reasoning behind each element.

Taken from SUMS Remix 29-1, published December 2015.


This is part of a weekly series posting content from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix Book Summaries for church leaders. SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; and each solution is taken from a different book. As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

6 Places Where Vision Communication Must Be Clear

Clarity is the highest goal of all church communications. Our role is to cut through the clutter and deliver the message we are giving with as much precision as possible. In order to do that we employ a wide variety of tactics to persuade people towards the goals that we’ve set. In an effort to persuade our communications can slip to a place where they stop being clear and become just clever. We can become too self-impressed with how we’re communicating the message that the content of the message is lost.

Here are a handful of times that I’ve seen churches lose clarity when communicating with their community:

  • Family Ministry Environment Names // When a first time guest sees the names of your kid’s and student’s ministries do they make sense? If I have an infant do I take them to “WhizBangLand” or “GrowUpGang”? Too many churches employ clever ministry names that don’t make sense to people outside of the church. It’s the ultimate insider focused tactic to use names that are not self-evident to guests. Make sure people can clearly understand the signage and printed materials about your family ministry environments without having to interpret what they mean.
  • Campus Location Labeling // Too often churches attempt to be clever by naming campuses using relative locations to the original campus … Crossroads Church North, St. Paul’s East … the problem is that naming convention assumes that the new campus is a small satellite of something larger. Quickly after you launch people will attend the new location that have never been to the original campus … when you use a naming convention that points back to the first location it diminishes the work in the new campus. Pick an approach to labeling the new location that casts vision for the community for want to reach … Crossroad Church Essex County, St. Paul’s Uptown.
  • Graphic Design // Can I speak to the graphic designers for a minute? There is a difference between something looking amazing and it communicating clearly. Most of the great art I’ve ever seen is ambiguous and hard to understand what the artist is saying. The fact that I need to wrestle with the meaning of the piece is what makes it art. Your role as a graphic designer is to use elements of design to communicate a message. Communication leads … art follows. It would be prettier to have the super slender font on that flyer … but people wouldn’t understand that it’s talking about. This isn’t a tension to be managed … communication comes before beauty … function before form.
  • Next Steps // Once people start attending your church for a while they will be looking for their next steps to getting connected. Often I’ve seen churches call their first steps for new people some fancy name that just doesn’t make sense on the surface … Discovery Class, Engage, Connection. By definition, people who are new to your church don’t have any sense of your “integration process” and are just wondering what they should do first. At our church we call this environment First Step because we want it to be the first thing people who when they come to our church. This is also the case when you ask people to take any sort of “next step” in their spiritual journey. Make the right next step obvious and clear.
  • Financial Reporting // Report your finances in a way that can be easily understood by “non-financial” people. Use plain language, simple charts and clear commentary when talking about the financial state of the church. Financials are not self-evident to most people. We need to provide simple commentary that helps people benchmark what is happening in the life of the church. Bold clarity in this area will build trust with your donors and ultimately encourage them to give more to your ministry. If people don’t understand this part of what happens at your church they will be less likely to give. Active obfuscation of the truth is the shortest route to financial ruin of a church.
  • Online Calls to Action // Your church’s website probably has too many options on it. When people arrive at your site what do you want them to “do”? Are you focusing their attention on just a few next steps rather than a wide variety of options? Every ministry wants to be “featured” on your site … but if you “feature” them all you will just generate clutter and noise for your guests. Often we use our websites to move people to action in our church … asking them to donate, join a small group, volunteer for a team, connect with our team, etc … but when we pile on the “calls to action” each new ask erodes the impact of the last.

Read more from Rich.


Want help keeping your communication clear? Find out more about Auxano’s Communication service.

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| What is MyVisionRoom? > | Back to Communication >

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.