How to Communicate Your Message So It Catches Fire in People’s Imaginations

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, ministry e-mail 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 glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the communication wattage. The visionary cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Rather, they grab the message and affix it to a kite for all to see. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pop! by Sam Horn

Why do some ideas break out and others fade away? What causes people to become so excited about a product that they can’t wait to tell their friends? How can an idea be communicated so that it catches fire in people’s imaginations?

Popular author, consultant, and workshop leader Sam Horn identifies what makes an idea, message, or product break out, and presents a simple and proven process – POP! (Purposeful, Original, Pithy) to create one-of-a-kind ideas, products, and messages that pop through the noise, off the shelf, and into consumers’ imaginations.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

John 15 tells us that the Spirit of God is sovereignly convicting people of sin and righteousness and judgment. In other words, God is wooing men, women, boys, and girls to Him in your community. The question is, when they are ready to act on it, where will they go? Even though the primary mode of awareness happens through word-of-mouth advertising, the North American culture supplies other media to help broadcast your position.

By broadcasting your position, two things are intended. First, think like a retailer and let people know that you exist and where you exist. Second, position yourself in the sense of differentiating yourself among other churches in your community. In the kingdom economy, other churches are not competitors but collaborators. The best thing you can do is broadcast a clear, crisp message of what makes your Church Unique.

Remember that there are competitors to your mission—that is, anything else that distracts people from being the church under the Lordship of Jesus. These competitors, whether Home Depot, the local sports league, Old Navy, or 24 Hour Fitness, are doing everything to broadcast their position. Shall we stand by as nonparticipants in the game of PR, marketing, and advertising and let them take the day?

Use of marketing should never replace the essence of a missional heart-beat: a life-oriented, conversation-driven, love-lavished pursuit of those whom Jesus misses most. Jesus’ famous sermon was not “in the valley” but “on the mount.” Jesus positioned himself to broadcast his message. If we propose to advance the gospel in and through the culture, we can’t afford to see the cultural use of communication as an enemy but as an ally. Use of marketing tools can be a powerful support to personal evangelism. These are exciting times to steward the most important message to be heard.

People today are busy, so bombarded with information, that we only have about sixty seconds to connect with them. If we don’t convince them in our one-minute window of opportunity that we’re worth their valuable time, money, and attention, they’ll switch their focus to something else.

The premise of POP! is that the best way to attract instant interest is to make our communication (in particular our titles, taglines, elevator introductions, and sales slogans) Purposeful, Original and Pithy. This is so rarely done, it makes what we’re saying and swelling incredibly appealing.

Here is a little more detail about the three components of POP!

P Stands for Purposeful

Communication that features brilliant wordplay doesn’t qualify for POP! status unless it does two things: accurately articulates the essence of you and your offering, and positions you positively with your target audience.

If people are scratching their heads after we’ve introduced our idea or invention, wondering what this has to do with them, we’ve just wasted their time and ours.

O Stands for Original

It’s almost a given that no matter what you saying or selling, you’re one of many. What is about you that distinguishes you from your competition?

One way to distinguish yourself is to be original and offer something unlike anyone or anything else. Instead of competing in a crowded niche, create your own. When you’re one of a kind, there is no competition.

People are yearning for something fresh. When we see or hear something original, we find it appealing. That product or business is no longer inanimate or boring. Instead of dismissing it, we feel compelled to try it.

P Stands for Pithy

The word pithy, which means concise and precise, may not sound very eloquent, but it’s an important part of POP! communication.

The human brain can only hold approximately seven bits of information in short-term memory. If our description of our offering is longer than seven words, chances are people won’t be able to remember it. And if they don’t remember it, our effort to obtain their attention, support, and money for our offering has failed.

Sam Horn, POP! Stand Out in Any Crowd

A NEXT STEP

Imagine that your team has taken over a local news station. Give the station new call letters – tell what it stands for. Be as cheesy as possible here.

Brainstorm story possibilities based on the announcements for this week’s worship service. Now select the top three stories that your team will produce for the news “broadcast.” Now assign members of your team to be reporters who would anchor the stories for broadcast to the team.

In preparation for the simulated “newscast,” have each Anchor and their reporting team answer these questions:

  • Why do people need to hear these stories?
  • How do they communicate our vision?
  • What would happen if we really could have these stories broadcast inside and outside the church?

As a team, think of how you can use a similar decision-making process, and filtering questions, to prioritize announcements in your worship service each week.

– Adapted from The Vision Deck

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 57-3, January 2017


 

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. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

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How to Communicate Your Unique Vision

How can you more clearly communicate your unique church vision? 

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 e-mail goes out, or 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 glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The leader’s role is to crank up the communication wattage. The visionary cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Rather, they grab the message and affix it to a kite for all to see. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

In other words, grab immediate attention.

THE QUICK SUMMARYThe Attention Economy, by Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck

This title identifies attention management as the new critical competency for 21st century business. This is a landmark book for every manager who wants to learn how to earn and spend the new currency of business argues that unless companies learn to effectively capture, manage, and keep attention – both internally and out in the marketplace – they’ll fall hopelessly behind in our information-flooded world. It is based on an exclusive global research study, with examples from a range of companies. It provides a revolutionary four-part model for managing attention in all areas of business. It presents a multidisciplinary approach to the topic of ‘attention,’ incorporating economics, psychology, and technology. It appeals to readers not only as representatives of an organization, but as individuals.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

When Thomas Davenport and John Beck wrote the book The Attention Economy, they brought a very important message to church leaders. The book argues that information and talent are no longer your most important resource, but rather attention itself. People cannot hear the vision unless we cut through the clutter.

The principle of attention requires church leaders to be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the internal communication of the church. According to Davenport and Beck, these are the most important characteristics to get attention:

  • The communication is personalized.
  • The communication comes from a trustworthy source.
  • The communication is brief.
  • 
The communication is emotional.

Imagine the implications of these attributes for your church’s communications. Are you sending targeted, HTML e-mails to supplement snail mail and print communication? Are you delivering your most important sound bites via sharable social media posts?

It is important to keep good communications people close to the core leadership. They shouldn’t have to guess about your church’s DNA. Rather, allow them to be privy to all the conversations and dialogue that surround development and articulation of your vision.

Every organization is an engine fueled by attention.

In the farms and fields of primitive societies, and in the factories of the Industrial Revolution, physical manpower drove the economy. In the information era, knowledge was power – the more an organization had, the more successful it could be.

But now, as flows of unnecessary information clog brains and corporate communication links, attention is the rare resource that truly powers an organization. Recognizing that attention is valuable, that where it is directed is important, and that it can be managed like other precious resources is essential in today’s economy.

Let’s look at the word attention: Notice that its root word is attend. To attend to something is to tend it – to take care of it. A typical employee is today’s world is expected to take care of more things than a worker would have at any other time in history. So much information and so many activities, people, and places are vying for our attention today that the mere management of attention has become one of our most important activities. Attention involves understanding how to work within an overabundance of “information competition,” whether you are interfacing with customers, coworkers, or your own priority list.

Our simple definition is this: Attention is focused mental engagement on a particular item of information. Items come into our awareness, we attend to a particular item, and then we decide whether to act. Attention occurs between a relatively unconscious narrowing phase in which we screen out most of the sensory inputs around us (we are aware of many things, but not paying attention to them), and a decision phase, in which we decide to act on the attention-getting information. Without both phases, there is no attention.

Awareness become attention when information reaches a threshold of meaning and spurs the potential for action.

You can throw oodles of information into a person’s awareness. The problem is that everybody is doing it. Awareness is vague, general information, and doesn’t by itself catalyze any action. Attention is targeted and specific. It gets people moving. In a simple analogy, awareness is the target, and attention is the bull’s -eye.

Thomas H. Davenport and John C. Beck, The Attention Economy

A NEXT STEP

In your next leadership meeting, gather the last 4 weeks of Sunday morning bulletins. On a whiteboard, list every announcement made in the last month. Note recurring announcements.

Next rate the attentiveness to each of these announcements (from 1 to 5) in the following seven categories:

  1. Verbal Support (1 – no verbal support given to this announcement, 5 – this announcement got a sermon mention)
  2. Visual Support (1 – there are no bulletin or screen graphics for this announcement, 5 – this has it’s own logo and visual identity)
  3. Ministry Support (1 – this is a general announcement with no ONE ministry or leader giving oversight, 5 – this is directly connected to a ministry and/or leader)
  4. Next-Step Support (1 – there was nothing for the reader to actually do, just something to know, 5 – there was a clear next-step communicated)
  5. Vision Support (1 – we loosely connect this to the future, but in reality this is more connected to the past, 5 – this clearly points to God’s vision for the church)
  6. Emotional Support (1 – this announcement was likely to get only a small number of our congregation excited and engaged, 5 – everyone was excited about this)
  7. Scoreboard Support (1 – this will not likely lead someone to Jesus or grow them as a follower, 5 – this event will prayerfully change lives for eternity)

Now add up the scores for each announcement and discuss the following next steps:

Score of 7 – 14 – How can we cut or cage this event or announcement in order to prioritize more important and impacting activity?

Score of 15 – 28 – How can we combine or coordinate this even within our vision to bring greater impact?

Score of 29-35 – How can we catapult this to prominence across each service and communication channels?

Set your focus on a Sunday 2-4 weeks in the future and make the necessary adjustments as a team to grab attention with every announcement.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix #57, issued January 2017.

 


 

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. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Make the Leap to Using Visuals Evoking Emotion

Does your team seem to be using more and more words, yet communicating less and less?

Today more than ever, we live in a visual society. Especially in the online world, everyone relies on the power of photos and engagement of video.

While researching a project recently, I was struck by three surprising data points from visual communicator Dan Roam:

  • Research from IBM found that 90% of all data collected in history has been generated in the last two years.
  • Research from Cisco found that 90% of all data transmitted online today is visual.
  • Roam’s experience indicates that 90% of leaders have no idea how to effectively use visuals in their business.

90%-90%-90%. We’re generating more data than ever, that data is overwhelmingly visual, and most of us don’t know how to use images. No matter what business you’re in, the future of your business is visual.

As a church leader, it is incumbent that you get better at using visual images in your communication.

Whether drawing them, looking at them, or talking about them, visual communication adds enormously to your listener’s ability to think, to remember, and to do.

Visual imagery is, in itself, another whole language. Being fluent in that language gives us mind-boggling power to articulate thoughts, communicate those thoughts, and solve problems in ways we otherwise wouldn’t be able to.

It’s time to make the leap and use visuals to evoke emotion.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Visual Hammer, by Laura Ries

The best way into a mind is not with words at all. The best way into a mind is with visuals.

But not any visual. You need a “visual hammer” that hammers a verbal nail. The Marlboro cowboy. Coca-Cola’s contour bottle. Corona’s lime.

The cowboy hammers “masculinity.” The contour bottle hammers “authenticity.” The lime hammers “genuine Mexican beer.”

A trademark is not a visual hammer. Almost every brand has a trademark, but fewer than one out of a hundred brands have a visual hammer. A trademark is a rebus which communicates nothing except the name of the brand.

A visual hammer, on the other hand, communicates the essence of the brand.

Visual Hammer is the first book to document the superiority of the “hammer and nail” approach to branding. Some examples.

  • The pink ribbon that made Susan G. Komen for the Cure the largest nonprofit foundation to fight breast cancer.
  • The Aflac duck that increased Aflac’s name recognition from 12 percent to 94 percent.
  • The green jacket which made the Masters the most-prestigious golf tournament.
  • The watchband which made Rolex the largest-selling luxury watch.
  • Colonel Sanders who made KFC the world’s largest chicken chain.

Why are marketing plans usually nothing but words when the best way into a mind is with the emotional power of a visual?

After reading Visual Hammer, you might want to tear up your current marketing plan and start fresh.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

In a typical organization – and that includes churches – there is a whole gang of smart people so overwhelmed by verbal data that they’re hard pressed to know what to pay attention to.

That’s where pictures come in.

The basics of visual thinking have nothing to do with being an artist, or creating impressive designs using the latest computer application. Visual thinking is learning to think with your eyes.

Everyone already has good visual thinking skills, even if they don’t acknowledge it. Visual thinking is a very powerful way to communicate information that will help solve problems. It may appear to be something new, but the fact is, we already know how to do it.

Visual thinking starts with understanding the power of the image.

When you live in a world of word, you tend to see the visual world as secondary to verbal reality. Yet nature is visual, not verbal.

Take a walk in the park. Scuba dive in the ocean. Climb a mountain. This is reality and there are no words in nature. Words are useful devices to communicate the reality of nature.

Photographs, illustrations and drawing are artificial, but they too are a more direct representation of nature than are words.

The Coca-Cola bottle is not just a bottle. It is a visual hammer that nails in the idea that Coke is the original cola, the authentic cola, the real thing. In a Coca-Cola commercial, the visuals speak louder than the words. That’s the work of a visual hammer.

That’s the difference between designing a trademark and designing a visual hammer. Almost every brand has a trademark, but few brands have visual hammers.

A visual hammer doesn’t just repeat your brand name; it hammers a specific word into the mind. For brands that can create and dominate a new category, that word is “leadership.”

When you live in a world of words, you tend to see the visual world as secondary to verbal reality. Yet nature is visual, not verbal.

A visual hammer makes an emotional impact on the right side of the consumer’s brain which motivates the left side of the brain to verbalize the idea and then store it.

Your right brain doesn’t think in the normal sense of what we mean by “thinking.” It reacts emotionally and involuntarily.

To develop a hammer you need a narrow focus you can visualize in a dramatic way.

Don’t fret about narrow concepts not appealing to as many people as broader ones. Better to use a narrow concept to motivate a segment of the market rather than a broad concept that motivates no one.

Laura Ries, Visual Hammer

A NEXT STEP

Explore the power of visual images in solving problems with the following exercise.

Write down a list of at least four questions about a ministry situation or problem you team has recently faced.

Cluster the questions in four groups, giving each set a title.

Bring your team together around a table, and give them a large sheet of paper. Ask you team to create a quadrant by drawing two lines on their paper.

Place magazines, newspapers, precut pictures, fabrics, thread, color pencils, and glue sticks in the sender of the table. Provide plenty of materials in order for all participants to use simultaneously.

Each team member will use the materials on the table to visually answer their question. Designate a time limit for the exercise.

When completed, ask each team member to present and explain their collages. As a group, determine the single best image that represents the best answer for each question.

This exercise demonstrates the power of visual images in answering questions or problems you are encountering.


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. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

Does Your Organization’s Home Page Welcome Everyone?

“If you’re not found in a Google search for churches in your area, you don’t exist to people moving into town.” That quote, by church planter and pastors.com editor Brandon Cox may be a painful truth to you, but it is a truth nevertheless.

The importance of a well thought out and designed website cannot be overstated. Today’s rapidly changing patterns of communication are founded within the digital world, and are only increasing in importance. Last year, the number of networked devices in the world DOUBLED the global population.

It is vitally important that you understand the way your viewers are viewing and using your website – not just your members and regular attenders.

THE QUICK SUMMARYEverybody Writes, by Ann Handley

Everybody Writes is a go-to guide to attracting and retaining customers through stellar online communication, because in our content-driven world, every one of us is, in fact, a writer.

If you have a website, you are a publisher. If you are on social media, you are in marketing. And that means that we are all relying on our words to carry our marketing messages. We are all writers.

In Everybody Writes, top marketing veteran Ann Handley gives expert guidance and insight into the process and strategy of content creation, production and publishing, with actionable how-to advice designed to get results.

These lessons and rules apply across all of your online assets — like web pages, home pages, landing pages, blogs, email, marketing offers, and on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media. Ann deconstructs the strategy and delivers a practical approach to create ridiculously compelling and competent content. It’s designed to be the go-to guide for anyone creating or publishing any kind of online content — whether you’re a big brand or you’re small and solo. 

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

At Auxano, we believe that every church is unmistakably unique and incomparably different. God doesn’t mass-produce His church. Your church has hundreds of current stories, represented by its current participants, and thousands of past stories, represented by those who have come before you.

How are you telling those stories?

This is not just true of your church in general, but it applies to your church’s home page as well. As noted above, your website is the digital doorway to your church.

Is it a welcoming doorway for all, or only a few?

Your home page is a metaphorical threshold to your organization.

It’s apt that we use the very human word “home” to refer to the main page of a website, because that word evokes warmth and belonging.

That’s exactly the mindset to get into when you create content for your own organization’s home page – the Web page that is rendered when your organization’s domain name is typed into a Web-enabled device.

Just as in your own actual home, you want visitors to feel welcomed as soon as they step in – to feel comfortable, to sense that you’re happy to see them. And because this is our organization, you want them to get a sense of their surrounding in the blink of an eye: an idea of who you are and what you do – and this is critical – why it matters to them.

Here are seven guidelines for creating home page content:

Speak to your audience. All good content is rooted in a clear understanding of your audience.

Communicate a focus on them. Part of understanding your readers is know what motivates them. When you know what that is, you’re able to communicate how you can help them.

Keep it simple. Don’t be tempted to fill space with lots of copy and graphics – especially above the part of the Web page that first appears in browsers when it’s opened.

Use words you audience uses. You don’t need to embellish who you are and what you do. Use familiar words.

Use you promiscuously. On your home page, use you more than you use us or we.

Now what? What do you want the reader to do next?

Convey trust. Your home page should include elements that suggest others trust you.

Ann Handley, Everybody Writes

A NEXT STEP

Brandon Cox, church planter and editor of pastors.com, has developed a very helpful “audit” for your church website. Using this audit at your next leadership team meeting will be a helpful start to conversations about your website’s home page.

To prepare, set up a large screen with Internet access. Also, make sure your team members have their mobile phones or pad devices. Do not tell them of the specific purpose of this session.

At the beginning, ask the following questions, recording answers on a chart tablet. Ask the team NOT to look on their devices for the answers.

  • Is our website responsive and mobile-friendly?
  • Is our most basic information easy to find on our main homepage (location, service times, etc.)?
  • Do we use imagery that tells people that we’re human, we’re alive, and we’re welcoming?
  • Can people easily know what we believe? What we value? And how we function?
  • Do we have links to our Facebook page and other social media profiles on our website?
  • Is there a way for people to reach out and get in touch with us without leaving our website?
  • Can people easily know how to pursue next steps such as baptism, joining a small group, or volunteering in an area of ministry?
  • Do we have a page dedicated to our staff and/or key leaders so that potential visitors can know who we are?

Now, ask one half of the group to pull up the church website on their mobile device, and the other half to look at the website on the large screen. Display a chart tablet sheet with the seven guidelines suggested above.

Go back through each of the nine audit questions again, this time answering them as they really are. Note any differences between initial perception and reality, making sure both screen and mobile platforms are covered.

At the completion of this exercise, create a top five action list of the most critical website revisions you need to make, along with assigned target completion dates and individuals responsible.


Excerpted from SUMS Remix 40-3, May 2016.


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. Each Wednesday I will be taking a look back at previous issues of SUMS Remix and publishing an excerpt here.

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.

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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.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

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

A NEXT STEP

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.

Unlock the Imagination of Your Audience by Using 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.

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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.

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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?

Closing Thoughts

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.


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.

Four Words to Use Every Day

Most of the time we give ourselves more credit than is due for our conversations. When those conversations are intended to move the listener to take an action, we need to remember the following:

The significance of what we are saying is not always self-evident, let alone shocking and/or awe-inspiring.

It’s time for clarity, in two words:

So what?

Keep asking the question till you (and your audience) are satisfied that you are both clear on what is being communicated.

But don’t stop there: information without application leads to stagnation (a favorite quote of my pastor, Steven Furtick).

It’s time for transformation, in two more words:

Now what?

Your audience may have information, but have you given them reason to act on it?

Today.