What is it that causes some communication to grab people and stick with them? What is different about communication that causes people to move from being observers of a mission to participants in the mission? The answer, plain and simple is emotion.
I once heard it said, “There is no motion without emotion.” I believe that’s true. People get involved with things that they care about – things that connect with them on an emotional level. I’ve mentioned Simon Sinek before and his book, Start with Why, which goes into how this concept of inspiring action by connecting with people emotionally is actually wired into our physiology. If you’re the type of person that’s looking for the Cliff’s Notes, check out his TED talk.
So when you take your vision public, you need to remember to c0nnect with people emotionally by communicating the Big Why. I’ve been using a metaphor of vision-soaked communication – fill the pool (by articulating your vision clearly), boil it down (by developing an effective tagline), and describing the water (by crafting your key messages). Within that framework, I think of the Big Why as tapping into the thirst that exists within the hearts of people.
You would think that this is something that church leaders would do more consistently than those that work in the business world. But that’s not always the case. Think about your announcements from last Sunday or the blurbs in the weekly bulletin or the ad you run in the newspaper or the billboard promoting your services. The vast majority of churches spend 90% of their time communicating about “the What” instead of communicating “the Why.”
Here’s a perfect example. I know of a pastor and his preaching team that are planning to preach through the Bible as their first sermon series of 2012, choosing the 20 most significant stories and passages. When asked why they chose that topic, the first response was, “Biblical literacy has gone down significantly in the past 20 years.” Not very compelling, right? Why should the person in the pew (or padded seats) care about that…or, even more importantly, why would they invite their neighbor to come and hear that sermon series? They haven’t connected on an emotional level!
What if, on the other hand, the preaching team of that same church presented the same 20 stories and passages of scripture within a different framework? “God is telling a story and it is only within the context of that larger story that the every day issues we face like pain, suffering, hope, the longing for peace, and the desire for love and acceptance make any sense at all. In this series, we’ll get a handle on the larger story that brings all of our lives into perspective.” Makes a difference, doesn’t it? And, by the way, this framework is directly connected to their vision as a church…a vision they had already articulated (inviting people to experience and share the whole, new life available in Christ).
The Big Why makes all the difference. But so many churches brush right past the why to the what. Take a look at the key messages we developed for Vanguard again. In this case, we have built some of the Big Why ideas into the paragraphs that support the specific messages. Can you find the “Big Why” language?
This idea of tapping into the thirst that exists in the hearts of people is so crucial to vision-soaked communication that it must be at the core of everything you communicate. It doesn’t matter what you’re communicating, you should always answer the question, “Why should I care?” The people who are listening are always implicitly asking that question. If you give them an answer that connects with them emotionally, they will dive in, step up, or whatever other metaphor for participation you’d like to use. Tap into the thirst by always communicating the Big Why.
And then, you need to break out the hose. We’ll cover that next time.