Leaders Make the Conscious Decision To Serve

Humility does not come naturally to anyone.

Who hasn’t seen an example of our self-centered nature in a two-year old child in the checkout line at the grocery story, lying flat out on the floor, screaming at the top of her lungs, fists clenched because Mom wouldn’t buy her a candy bar? When the child did not get what she wanted, a temper tantrum followed.

The reality is that adults have an inner two-year-old. We know what we want, when we want it, and we are dejected, annoyed, and maybe even angry when we don’t get our way. While it’s not appropriate to lie on the floor and scream anymore, often – in our minds – we are tempted.

Our model for humble leadership lives in the servant-mindedness of Jesus Christ during His ministry on earth. We’re not likely to achieve that kind of perfect and consistent humility in this lifetime. But great leaders aspire to grow in Christ-like humility with each passing day.

If you are interested in developing as a leader, model the humble servanthood of Jesus and make a conscious decision to serve others.



THE QUICK SUMMARY – Dare to Serve, by Cheryl Bachelder

Cheryl Bachelder joined an ailing restaurant chain and turned it into the darling of the industry—by daring to serve the people in her organization well.

When Bachelder was named CEO of Popeyes in the fall of 2007, guest visits had been declining for years, restaurant sales and profit trends were negative, the company stock price had dropped by half, the brand was stagnant, and relations between the company and its franchise owners were strained.

By 2014, average restaurant sales were up 25 percent, and profits were up 40 percent. Popeyes’ market share had grown from 14 percent to 21 percent, and the stock price was over $40. The franchisees were so pleased with the turnaround that they began reinvesting in the brand, rapidly remodeling restaurants and building new units around the world.

The difference maker, Bachelder says, was a conscious decision to lead in a new way – with servant leadership. Servant leadership is sometimes derided as soft or ineffective, but Dare to Serve shows that it’s actually challenging and tough minded – a daring path. Bachelder takes you firsthand through the transformation of Popeyes and shows how a leader at any level can become a Dare-to-Serve leader.


A typical view of leadership puts the leader in the spotlight. Conventional leaders assume the power position and declare a new vision. They have all the answers. They’re high achievers. Perhaps they’re even a bit self-absorbed. We tolerate that because they’re going places we want to go. If they succeed, so will we.

At least, we hope so.

Servant leaders avoid the spotlight – instead, they prefer to direct the spotlight on others. Servant leaders:

  • Listen carefully
  • Make decisions that serve the people they lead well.
  • Give credit

We like the concept of servant leaders, but in reality we fear they won’t succeed. We doubt they’ll deliver superior performance results.

A leader wanting to demonstrate servant leadership is a leader who is courageous enough to take people to a daring destination, yet humble enough to selflessly serve others on the journey. This dynamic tension between daring and serving creates the conditions for the people to deliver superior performance.

Humility is not being a doormat, it is simply thinking less about our own needs, and more about the needs of others. When we do this, we exit the spotlight, allowing us to serve others well.

Dare-to-Serve Leadership is much more difficult, and in that challenge, the leader creates the conditions for superior performance:

  • It begins with a conscious and humble decision to serve others well.
  • It inspires people to pursue a daring destination, an aspiration greater than self.
  • It boosts the capability of the people and increases their willingness to take risks.
  • It holds people accountable.
  • It is appropriately confident.
  • It works.

Dare-to-Serve Leadership requires deep-rooted personal conviction; it’s a demanding path.

The Dare-to-Serve Leader has that unique combination of traits – enough courage to take the team to a daring destination, and enough humility to serve the people well on the journey. Together these traits foster the environment for superior performance.

– Cheryl Bachelder, Dare to Serve


On a sheet of paper, draw a line down the middle making two columns. In the left column, list the first five descriptors of Dare-to-Serve Leadership from the list above.

In the left column, list your recent activities that have demonstrated the Dare-to-Serve descriptors listed.

On another sheet of paper, identify three obstacles you face in becoming a servant leader. Review the list and write at least one action to help overcome each obstacle.


Excellent leaders set the example by aligning their actions with their values as a servant leader, just as Christ did.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, writing in Great Leadership Creates Great Workplaces, suggest leaders ask themselves these three questions at the end of each day:

“What have I done today that demonstrates the values that I hold near and dear?”

“What have I done today that might have, even inadvertently, been inconsistent with what I value and believe in?”

This reflection will prepare you to ask a final question: “So tomorrow, what do I need to do differently so that my actions match my words?”

Servant leaders who make this a regular habit will not only be practicing their craft, they will be developing themselves and others as servant leaders – ultimately reflecting the heart of Christ who did not come to be served, but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many.

Taken from SUMS Remix 19-3, published July 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Shift the Focus of Your Communication from Transaction to Transformation

How do I lead the process of heart transformation necessary to grow generous givers who are rich toward God?

Talking about giving in church is undoubtedly one of the senior leader’s least favorite activities.

When you want to talk about developing generous givers, all your congregation sees is dollar signs.

You are frustrated because the giving pattern of your congregation seems more like tipping than tithing.

You want to help your congregation grow into a lifestyle of generous giving rather than making occasional commitments.

It’s time for a shift in focus…


THE QUICK SUMMARY – A Revolution in Generosity, Wes Willmer, Editor

“Give over $100 today and get this personalized state-of-the-art fountain pen free!” “Become a gold sponsor and your name will be featured on our exclusive Wall of Fame!” “Send in your donation by December 31st and enjoy the benefits of giving on your next tax return!” Who hasn’t heard fundraising gimmicks like these? Or, who hasn’t used these gimmicks on others?

As Wes Willmer writes, generosity is the natural outcome of God’s transforming work in individuals when they are conformed to the image of Christ. Fundraising and giving are not simply drops in the bucket. Capital campaigns and raising funds go deeper than the money. They are spiritual activities in becoming more like Christ.

A Revolution in Generosity is a work by some of the best scholars and practitioners on the subject of funding Christian organizations. As Willmer writes, “The foundation for realizing a revolution in generosity is understanding the biblical view of possessions, generosity, and asking for resources.” With over twenty expert contributors, this book is a must-read for organizations striving to rid themselves of secular, asking practices and gain an eternal approach.


Successful revolutions require a plan. Successful revolutions in generosity require a plan that is both strategic and spiritual, delivering a passionate message to both heart and mind.

It is all too easy to get lost in the nuts and bolts of generosity – the “transactions” between giver and the church. Foundational to the idea of a revolution in generosity is the “transformation” needed in the giver’s life and actions.

 Rather than merely advancing the cause of your organization, your ultimate goal must be to challenge people to conform to the image of Christ, who is generous.

To change the way your constituents live as well as give, you must develop a spiritual and strategic communications plan for your ministry. As a framework for your plan, there are six basic components:

Who – The communicator of the message. Change within an organization starts with the leader. When you grasp head knowledge about stewardship and apply biblical principles in your life, your personal character grows and your actions and words send a message about stewardship.


What – The content of the message. The topic of possessions and the Christian’s role as steward of them is a central theme in Scripture. God has much to say regarding our stuff. Because of this, we have plenty of material from which to craft our biblical stewardship message.


Where – The target audiences of the message. You must understand your audiences in order to deliver appropriate messages. Each ministry should prioritize its communication to deliver to three main sets of constituents: internal publics, religiously oriented publics, and external publics.


Why – Four objectives. To facilitate the growth of generous givers is to exhort constituents to be conformed to the image of Christ and thereby participate with God in His work. For this reason, your spiritual and strategic communication should seek to accommodate the objectives of intercession, involvement, instruction, and investment.


When – Consistently communicating the message. In order for our constituents to be transformed by the biblical stewardship message, your organization should consistently and regularly share spiritual principles that instruct them to be conformed to the image of Christ.


How – The channels of communication. There are four general channels of communication:

  • Electronic media such as e-communications, social media, and websites sharing specific opportunities for participation

  • Printed materials such as articles and magazines

  • Direct main containing communication without manipulation

  • Verbal communication such as meetings, events, and programs which give clear and direct presentation of giving opportunities.

– Gary G. Hoag, contributor, Revolution in Generosity


The six components listed above can serve as a practical manual for establishing a program that communicates stewardship principles and ignites a revolution in generosity in your church.

Prior to your next leadership team meeting, duplicate and distribute the six components listed above. Ask your team to study the components and be prepared to discuss them.

At the team meeting, ask team members to rank each of the six components with one being most important and six being least important. Add up all the scores to come up with a group ranking of most to least important.

For the most important component, discuss actions, timelines, and goals for that component. Using the 100-80 Rule (where 100 percent of the group feels 80 percent good), determine next steps by ranking the actions. One month after launching the first component, take 30 minutes in a team meeting to evaluate effectiveness, and make adjustments as necessary.

Two months after launching the first component, launch the second one following the process outlined above. Repeat every two months with succeeding components.

After one year, evaluate all the components in place. Continue to refine and adjust them, making them a regular part of your systems and processes.

Self-seeking ownership and hoarding are the natural inclinations of mankind, but God calls his children to a higher, simpler standard: Be rich toward God. You can lead your church through concrete and practical ways to a God-honoring approach of providing resources for your ministry.

Taken from SUMS Remix 17-3, published June 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Do You Ever Feel Like You’re Living Out the Movie “Groundhog Day” at Your Church?

Groundhog Day is a celebration of an old tradition – Candlemas Day – where clergy blessed and distributed candles for winter, representing how long and cold winter would be.

Groundhog Day is also a 1993 movie starring Bill Murray that popularized the usage of “groundhog day” to mean something that is repeated over and over.

Many churches find themselves in their own version of groundhog day, living out a dream and vision that was once relevant, but now is long in the past. Unwilling or unable to face reality, they are simply repeating the past over and over.



Church leaders who find themselves in this situation have an excellent resource in Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code by Sam Chand.

“Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code” offers a practical resource for discovering the deficits in an existing church’s culture and includes steps needed to assess, correct, and change culture from lackluster to vibrant and inspirational so that it truly meets the needs of the congregation.Cracking Your Church's Culture Code

The book includes descriptions of five categories of church culture (Inspiring, Accepting, Stagnant, Discouraging, and Toxic) as well as diagnostic methods (including a free online assessment) that church leaders can use to identify the particular strengths and needs of their church.

One particularly useful section of the book deals with the seven keys of CULTURE:

  • Control – it isn’t a dirty word; delegating responsibility and maintaining accountability are essential for any organization to be effective
  • Understanding – every person on a team needs to have a clear grasp of the vision, his or her role, the gifts of the team members, and the way the team functions
  • Leadership – healthy teams are pipelines of leadership development, consistently discovering, developing, and deploying leaders
  • Trust – mutual trust up, down, and across the organizational structure is the glue that makes everything good possible
  • Unafraid – healthy teams foster the perspective that failure isn’t a tragedy and conflict isn’t the end of the world
  • Responsive – teams with healthy cultures are alert to open doors and ones that are closing; they have a sensitive spirit and a workable system to make sure things don’t fall through the cracks
  • Execution – executing decisions is a function of clarity, roles and responsibilities, and a system of accountability

Understanding your church’s culture is not an easy task. Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code is a very helpful resource for the leader who wants to delve below the surface of church as usual and lead it to greater impact.

Learn What Fills Your Tank – and Keep It Filled

Are you trying to lead on an empty tank?

More days than we would like to admit, pastors face the necessity of leading on an empty tank. The ever present needs of the body, the ongoing call to lead our families through challenging or exciting seasons, and the every day mechanics of ministry leadership compound to drain even the healthiest leader. In fact, the question is not will you ever lead from an empty tank, but HOW will you lead from an empty tank. More importantly, what should a Pastor do when that season emerges?

A pastor’s greatest leadership tool is a healthy soul. Our concentration on skill and technique and strategy has resulted in deemphasizing the interior life. The outcome is an increasing number of men and women leading our churches who are emotionally empty and spiritually dry. – Lance Witt

It is time to face the reality that no numeric or other measurable short-term success in ministry can ever offset the long-term consequences of leading from an unhealthy spirit. What do you do when your tank runs dry?


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Leading on Empty by Wayne Cordeiro

In Leading on Empty, Wayne Cordeiro shares his experience of burnout with the hope that it will encourage others headed down the same path. He was able to get back in touch with his life, get back in proper balance, and allow God to reenergize his spirit in a way that propelled him forward to greater levels of service.

Learn from his experience how you can continue a fruitful ministry. Better yet, take advantage of Wayne’s helpful advice early on and avoid burnout altogether. Leading on Empty gives leaders the tools to recognize and overcome burnout, providing them a new vision for greater levels of both rest and productivity.


When your car’s fuel gauge approaches the “Empty” mark, you know it’s time to fill up your tank. The consequences of not paying attention to this gauge usually involve coming to a complete standstill in an inconvenient and unsafe moment. Your car has been specifically designed to run best on a particular type and quality of fuel. From unleaded to diesel to newer petroleum alternatives, there is no substitute for the fuel the engine is built for. Your leadership engine requires the same attention to the fuel gauge and selection of the right fuel type.

What kind of fuel do you need when approaching empty?

One of the best “fuels” for your tank is knowing what your strengths and calling are, and learning how to consistently get back to the core of that calling.

Your soul is like a battery that discharges each time you give live away, and it needs to be recharged regularly.

Eighty-five percent of what we do, anyone can do. These tasks don’t require an elite expertise or specialized skill. Many of these tasks can be delegated to others so we can concentrate on what’s most important to the job we have been given to do.

Ten percent of what we do, someone with a modicum of training should be able to accomplish. With appropriate schooling and experience, someone else can perform a surgery, manage an engineering project, or sell real estate. Certain aspects of these activities can be assigned to trained individuals.

But five percent of what I do, only I can do! This is the most important five percent for me. I can’t delegate these initiatives to anyone else, or hire someone else to take my place. This five percent will determine the validity of the other ninety-five percent. This is what I must discover and make the epicenter of my life.

We often fill our days with the eighty-five percent because it requires so little of us. We then dip into the next ten percent, leaving nothing for the crucial five percent.

If the five percent is compromised, the consequences will be felt in other areas, and you life will grind to a halt until those priorities are restored.

– Wayne, Cordeiro, Leading On Empty


In order to learn what fills your tank, consider leading your team through the Strengths Finder assessment as described in Strengths Finder 2.0 and its supporting online materials (see the links in the Resources section below).

Once you have completed the online assessment, you can receive an assessment guide customized for your top five themes. In addition, the guide will help you build a strengths-based development plan by exploring how your greatest natural talents interact with your skills, knowledge, and experience.

Another important fuel-type discovery could be found within a collaborative and team-centered personality discovery. The Insights process not only speaks into your leadership fuel requirements, but charts your fuel alongside the rest of your team, bringing depth of understanding to how each of member is uniquely gifted to accomplish God’s call for your church. Find out more about the Insights process here.

From living in your strength to understanding your personality, move beyond discovery to development. List 3 immediate steps to take in the next 30 days, in light of your particular leadership strengths or ministry personality, that serve to refuel your leadership engine.


Godly leadership is always inside out. God has and always will choose to smile on men and women who are healthy, holy, & humble. – Lance Witt

By learning what fills your tank, leaders will help themselves and their teams keep a “full” tank and be healthy emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Taken from SUMS Remix 14-2, published May 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.

Conduct a Community Analysis

Has the community around your church changed, and you are not sure how to respond?

Some say that we live in the age of the “selfie” – a generation focusing more and more on how they look, and at the same time  growing more and more unaware of the world around them. What about your church? If you took a “congregational selfie” and then compared it to a “neighborhood selfie” of the community around your church, what would you find?

For many churches, especially established congregations with years of ministry impact, there will be a significant difference.

In the beginning, the church was a reflection of the community where it was located. There was probably significant and steady growth – as the community grew, the church naturally grew. Many churches might even have been seen as their “community center.”

However, over time, every community begins to change. It may be as simple as the community aging – or as complex as an ethnic, racial, or other socioeconomic change. Whatever the case, the community around the church probably changed…

…but the church didn’t change.

Over time, most churches resist, and even fear change.

The growing disparity between a church and its community was probably subtle – maybe even occurring over several generations. It starts with a few people beginning to move into other parts of the town and no longer making the drive back to their old community. Other events beyond the church’s control take place, like key industry moving out of town and the workforce following. Whatever the cause, the end result is that the church begins to no longer look like the community around it and many leaders are not sure how to respond.

It’s time to do a community analysis.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Neighborhood Mapping, by John Fuder.

In addition to understanding the Word of God, it is necessary to understand the people we serve. Once we make sense of our neighborhoods and communities, we can begin to “diagnose” needs and apply the proper “dose” of the gospel to meet those opportunities.

Neighborhood Mapping awakens the neighborhood explorer to consider effective methodology of understanding their neighborhood. Dr. Fuder calls believers to shift the focus from inside the church building to those who live in the community.

Best practices and sample surveys will be available in this resource as explorers will look through the lens of Scripture to give practical steps to exegete the community and consider best practices of:

  • What is a neighborhood map/Community Analysis?
  • When should this map/analysis be created?
  • Why should we map our neighborhood?
  • Who is on the map and who is a part of this analysis?
  • Where are the borders of this map/analysis?
  • How does one conduct a community analysis?


It’s no secret that our world is changing rapidly around us. We often are more accepting of societal change around the world than across the street. Yet God has placed your church in a specific location so that you might impact your community with cosmic significant and locally specific actions.

If your church is going to be an active presence in your community, you can’t sit behind closed doors, waiting for the neighborhood to come to you. You must step out, engaging those around you and seeking to understand their hopes, dreams, and needs.

In order to minister to your community, you need to not only know how to interpret the Bible, but also how to engage with and adapt to those for whom the gospel message is addressed.

When we exegete a community, we draw meaning from it. We discover the underlying history, context, and culture of that place and its people. 

Analyzing our communities enables us to explore and rediscover our surroundings. Once we make sense of our context, we can begin to “diagnose” needs and apply the proper “dose” of the gospel to meet those opportunities. Community analysis is the methodology and vehicle to rediscover our missional mandate in the church: to proclaim and demonstrate the gospel. The focus shifts from those inside the building to those outside – it is about the people we seek to reach. We must help our people see that “neighbor love” is an important part of following Jesus, and that moves us to find ways to know our neighbors in order to minister to and serve them well.

Community analysis is a four-step process; it’s what I call the 4Ss: supplication, stakeholders, surveys, and stories.

Supplication – before we do anything else in our communities, we seek, individually and corporately, God’s direction and leading.

Stakeholders – focus on people within the community with whom we can partner or network, such as neighborhood leaders, social services, schools, or businesses.

Surveys – through questionnaires and gathering focus groups, we get a stronger idea of our neighbor’s felt needs, worldviews, and attitudes toward church and faith in general.

Stories – gather the stories we hear through those questionnaires and interviews and put them into case studies to get a fuller picture of our neighbors so that we can better minister and reach out to them.

– John Fuder, Neighborhood Mapping


Prior to your next leadership team meeting, distribute this SUMS Remix to members of your team and ask them to read through it and be prepared to work on this solution using the 4S guide as outlined above. Spend 15 minutes in each of the following sections, using the listed questions as a springboard for great discussion. Before moving on to the next section, identify one team action or next step, and one individual next step. Also be sure someone is documenting the conversation and key ideas that emerge.

Supplication – seeking God’s direction and leading

  • In your personal prayer life, are you specifically naming individuals and needs of your community?
  • In your leadership team’s prayer life, are you specifically naming individuals and needs of your community?
  • In your corporate prayer life, are you specifically naming individuals and needs of your community?
  • Commit to one specific action both individually and corporately that you will undertake in the area of Supplication in the next week.

Stakeholders – seeking community and neighborhood partners

  • Do you have individual or a network of community leaders with whom you maintain a regular connection?
  • If not, do you know where or how to obtain names of such individuals?
  • Do you have a local governmental connection that you maintain regular contact with?
  • Assuming you have connections described above, how often do you connect with them? Do you seek information from them or primarily use the connection as an information flow from you to them?
  • In connections with the individuals listed above, do you have a mechanism in place to regularly listen to and develop a deeper understanding of their concerns?
  • Assuming you have such a mechanism, how do you take action on their concerns?
  • Commit to one specific action both individually and corporately that you will undertake in the area of Stakeholders in the next week.

Surveys – seeking information that helps reveal our communities understanding of our church specifically and faith generally

  • Has your church ever conducted a community survey of any type? If so, when was it done? How was the information used?
  • Do you have knowledge of the resources needed to conduct a community survey? If not, do you know where to get the resources?
  • If you were to look at the community around you, can you identify specific segments that might need different types of surveys? If so, what are they?
  • Commit to one specific action both individually and corporately that you will undertake in the area of Surveys in the next week.

Stories – collecting the stories arising out of the actions listed above

  • Do you know where to go and who to listen to in order to hear the stories of your community?
  • Have you really listened to the stories of the community around you from people actually involved in them? How did that make you feel?
  • Compare those stories to any stories that make up part of your church’s history and heritage. Do they coincide, or are they vastly different?
  • Consider specific ways you will gather stories from your community through active listening, surveys, or guided conversations.
  • Commit to one specific action both individually and corporately that you will undertake in the area of Stories in the next week.

Your community is not frozen in time; it is constantly changing. Your work of community analysis must also be done over and over again. It is never a “one and done” thing. To learn more about congregational and community survey resources, start a conversation with the Auxano team today.


Vibrant churches look after the interests of others – starting with their neighbors across the street and around the block. They are involved in community concerns by supporting, if not actually leading, initiatives.

Thriving churches have open doors – open to each and every segment of their community.

Taken from SUMS Remix 21-1, published August 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Cooperation Rather Than Confrontation

Following the Civil War, economic recovery and expansion in the United States was to a large part driven by the expansion of the railroad system.

From its infancy in the 1830s through the 1870s, railroad systems developed piecemeal within the borders of each state. Everything from locomotive size to railcar layout to schedules to fares was developed only with a mind to serve a limited scope – usually measured in tens of miles, occasionally getting up into the hundreds of miles. Nowhere was this more glaring than the rail gauge, or distance between rails.

Facing a tremendous rebuilding effort, with grand schemes of expansion beyond that, the independent railroad systems of the mid-1880s realized that it would be better to serve national, rather than local, interests. The idea that it was better for a railroad to have a separate gauge from its local rivals had become redundant.

Cooperation rather than confrontation was now the watchword.

After decades of incessant fighting, railroad companies realized that railroads work best as an integrated system; the longer that passengers and freight can travel without changing trains, the better the service.

In the South, the five-foot gauge was changed to standard (4 feet, 8 ½ inches) over two days in the summer of 1886.

Two days.



Large gangs of track workers moved one of the rails on 13,000 miles of track. The operation – staggering in its scope – also required converting 1,800 locomotives and 40,000 coaches. Up until this time, trains heading in and out of the South had been subject of delays as their cars were lifted by hoists and attached to wheel sets of the right gauge.

The efforts of tens of thousands of workers over a momentous thirty-six-hour period on May 31-June 1, 1886 created – at last – a unified railroad for almost the whole United States.

Are there bottlenecks in your organization where converting to a “standard gauge” will bring tremendous growth opportunities?

Background material from The Great Railroad Revolution by Christian Wolmar

Tell Your Story in Every Environment with Compelling Consistency

With so many messages competing for people’s attention, how can we most effectively tell our church’s story?

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, a ministry email goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision grows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the wattage.


THE QUICK SUMMARY – Unique, by Phil Cooke

Today’s culture is more connected than any time in history, but all of this connectivity comes with a price. We live in a world that’s become cluttered, distracted, and disrupted by social media, with the average person receiving as many as 5,000 messages a day in one form or another. If you’re a pastor, nonprofit leader, artist, filmmaker, entrepreneur, or creative professional in this hyper-connected, highly distracted world, how do you get your unique idea, project, or vision on the radar of the people who need to respond?

In Unique, Phil Cooke, a highly respected media producer and consultant, addresses both the challenges and the opportunities of branding and social media in the 21st century. If you have a vision or message to share with the world, Unique provides a blueprint to cut through the clutter, communicate your story, and impact your audience.


To maximize your ability to connect, you must invest time, mental energy, and resources to really discover and articulate your uniqueness — your vision, your essence, your story.

Stories inspire and capture imagination. Stories connect on personal and emotional levels. They help us develop relational connections.

That’s why it is so important for your communication toolbox to say who you uniquely are— what differentiates your church from the crowd.

The combination of the right words with powerful imagery compels engagement, insight, and memorability.

Most churches haven’t developed their story and leveraged great design to share it. Don’t miss the opportunity to tell your church’s story with design so you can really extend your reach. Shouldn’t the church connect and build relationships in every way possible?

At its core, branding is simply the art of surrounding a product, organization, or person with a powerful and compelling story. At its most basic level, branding provides answers to the simple human need to differentiate one thing from another.

The goal of branding is to win the hearts and minds of the largest audience possible and imprint an indelible story around your vision.

The power of these stories and the hold they exert over our lives is remarkable, and many would say the power of story is embedded in our genetic makeup. From the ancient days of the Israelite storytellers who recited the epic chronicles of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to the writers, preachers, and filmmakers of today, we are a story-driven people, and we use stories to make sense of life.

Stories work because we want to experience the emotions, feelings, and passions of others who have encountered the challenges we face each day.

During Jesus’ short time of ministry on earth, He had to teach a message that wouldn’t simply change people during His lifetime, but transform the world for ages to come. If you had faced that challenge, what would you have done?

Jesus did what many pastors in that position would probably consider a career killer: He started telling stories. Most of Jesus’ stories were just everyday people doing everyday things. They weren’t particularly exciting, romantic, or even thrilling.

Stories drill deeply into your brain and explode later with meaning. Sometimes the meaning comes when you least expect it. Stories impact audiences because each person interprets the story in light of his or her own personal situation and experience. As a result, the impact is far greater than a simple object lesson or teaching session.

In many cases, you can interchangeably use the words “brand,” “story,” “identity,” and, sometimes, “reputation.” Branding is about building trust and loyalty and extending your relationships far beyond a single transaction.

Stories are the central focus of the art of branding.

Phil Cooke, Unique


How well does your brand tell your story?

Here’s a question for you: What’s the Nike brand all about? If you said “Just Do It” you would be incorrect – that’s their tagline. Their brand is really their mission – “Bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete* in the world.” (By the way, the * is further explained by Nike as “If you have a body you are an athlete.”)

To help understand how your brand tells your story, watch this 5 ½ minute video from Nike with your leadership team.

After watching the video, discuss these questions with your team:

  • How much more important, and eternal, is the mandate of the church than a shoe company?
  • How well defined and well lived, and resultantly effective, is our church at telling our story?
  • Does our story create movement and reflect the heart of God for the church or is it just words on a website or worship service bulletin?

Many pastors tend to be skeptical of investing time and resources into working on statements of identity like mission or values or taglines, especially when things around church “feel” like they are going well enough.

When any organization lives their mission, the results are seen – and life change becomes possible. The marketing video from Nike sums up why, for them, people living out their mission is more important than people knowing their tagline. And shows how good they actually are at living it, better than most churches. 

What are three stories of life change that capture the essence of your church’s brand? How does your church’s mission statement move beyond generic statements to reflect these examples of your unique calling?

With the Gospel at the center of everything we do, the church, by its nature, is a message-centric organization. Jesus, the greatest story-teller of all time knew, before science showed us, that people are simply hard-wired to respond to story and images. And today’s world is becoming ever-increasingly visual, with selfies, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Consider this: there are hundreds of little moments of truth – touchpoints of connectivity – that happen each day.

Each of these are opportunities to share the message of the gospel. Are you going to make them or miss them?

Just by being more intentional with your brand, you really can capture more “makes” than “misses.”

When the communication gets cluttered, tell your story in every environment with compelling consistency.

Taken from SUMS Remix 26-2, published October 2015.

Part of a weekly series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

Regular daily reading of books is an important part of my life. It even extends to my vocation, where as Vision Room Curator for Auxano I am responsible for publishing SUMS Remix, a biweekly book “summary” for church leaders. I’m going to peruse back issues of both SUMS and SUMS Remix and publish excerpts each Wednesday.

You can find out more information about SUMS Remix here.

Subscribe to SUMS Remix here.