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Signs of the Time: Say More

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Aesthetic communication is all around us.  Just so we’re on the same page, aesthetic communication is communication without the articulation of words.  This style of communication can include, but not be limited by, theatre, crafts, art, painting, sculpture, dance, graphic design, special design and staging. As you can see, there is a large gambit included in communication.  It seems that in a majority of church cultures, particularly in the United States, they are missing the mark on communication as a whole.   We miss filling in the gaps for those that are listening to what our churches are communicating.  Because churches are often the loudest voice in a community, or at least have that potential to be, it’s important to hone in on exactly what we are saying.  I’m going to offer a few suggestions.

Have a design strategy.

Sit down with a branding specialist and come up with solid branding vision for your church.  I know that it’s expensive, I fully understand that. So, if your church doesn’t have money in the budget for that—come up with some sort of written document that ensures that all programs, ministries, and written communication are using the same letterhead, font, and color motif.  Make sure that your church has a modern logo that captures the DNA of your organization’s values and ethos. This document ensures that all print and digital media is uniform in look and clean.  While you might be thinking, “this is absurd” keep in mind that churches harness influence by their ability to communicate Truth. By having excellence in branding, it helps highlight what we’re attempting to say.

What does your building space communicate?

Our buildings are communicating, in fact—they are shouting to those passing by exactly what you value. Have you ever thought about how many people drive by your church building? It’s daunting to think of the opportunities we have to exemplify our Creator simply by what our building says.  I’d suggest that most of us find value with our eyes.  I am not alone when saying that I totally judge a book by its cover.  If I’m walking through Target and I see a brand with clean lines, and clean logo—I want to buy it.  So is true with restaurants.  I’m telling you–and maybe I’m vain–but a TOP TEIR CHEF can create a masterpiece for my mouth, but if the aesthetics in the restaurant doesn’t match what I’m about to eat, I’m not going to like it as much.  Our space says what we value.  When a guest arrives at your house, you attempt to clean; you want things to be in order.  When people walk into your home, you want them to feel as though you were expecting them and accepting them.  Our church buildings are no different.  We must create space for hospitality in the cleanliness and good design.  Our signs on the street must match the vision of our organization.  In addition, our worship spaces should create a distraction-free connection to God.

Ew, paper bulletins.

Paper is so 1993.  I’m going to be honest—it’s not being a good steward of our resources when we print on paper, nor are we caring well for our environment.  How much money is your church spending on paper? I am willing to bet that if you flipped through the pages of the bibles of your parishioners or looked in the backseat of their car you will see at least two bulletins.  Don’t even start looking in the trash cans after church; you will see how much paper being wasted. The truth is that announcements will stick more if you utilize social media and you cast good vision from the stage.  Clear communication and vision are essential to framing the events in your church.

Try doing experiments with me, sit down and intentionally craft out your announcements. Use slides and software like ProPresenter to have announcements streaming as people are walking in.  Don’t pass out a paper bulletin and see if your congregation attends events anymore or any less.  Make sure you give yourself a good runway to sell the event, don’t sell an event that is happening the next day, trust me then men’s pancake breakfast committee will be bummed.

Do you have an idea for better communication? I’d love to hear.  We can all learn together and be better for it.

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The First Essential Tool For Video Production

In my experience, the difference between success and failure in video production is mostly contingent on three things: Passion, Patience and Resources. Wait! Don’t stop reading! Stay with me… this series won’t be as generic and intangible as the first sentence implies. In fact, we’ll take a look at some ridiculously cool resources as well as actionable items that can take your production work to a new level. Even if you’re an experienced video producer, revisiting some of these concepts and resources can lead to exciting improvements in the quality of your work.

So, as I was saying, Passion, Patience and Resources. In each of the three posts in this series, we’ll explore a “Video Production Essentials” and how it can be utilized to improve your workflow and deliverables. Let’s start by taking a gander at what I consider the most critical of the three: PASSION!

FINDING YOUR PASSION

If you’re reading this post then it’s likely that you’re, at least on some level, passionate about creating church media. You may be thinking to yourself “Passion, check. I’ve got that.” But I’d like to challenge you to look a little deeper than your current level of excitement for church media. I’m encouraging you to find, and then tap into a higher baseline of energy that you can bring to each project you undertake.

Think for a moment about the time in your life when you’ve been most excited to be involved in video production. What was it about that project, or group you worked with, or your personal situation that made you so passionate about content creation? What was your mindset like? What did you enjoy most about the end product(s)? Searching for answers to questions like these is the first step in identifying how to further tap into your creative potential and gain fulfillment from your work. You see, passion fuels creativity, plain and simple. If you’re able to identify and channel the same type of passion you had during your most enthusiastic phase, you’ll find that you’ll approach projects and respond to challenges more creatively. It’s easier said that done, but try injecting that same type of energy into each project you take on going forward.

EXTERNAL INSPIRATION

Passion and creativity don’t always have to start internally; many times they can be cultivated from the inspiring things and people around us. Has a scripture or an orator or movie or sunset or an exhibit ever sparked inspiration in your work? If so, try to identify what it was about that person, place or thing that got your creative juices flowing? If not, try looking closer at the beauty of the world around you and how you can incorporate it into your video production.

Another way to find sources of inspiration is to simply browse the internet. Viewing the work of top producers is a great place to start! Also try searching for passionate speakers or artists that can reinvigorate your approach to work. A video that has had an exciting impact on my commitment to success is this inspirational speech by Eric Thomas, AKA “the Hip Hop Preacher”.

Reading daily inspirational emails and blogs is another way to inject passion back into your work. I’ve found some great advice about motivation and tapping into potential on the Mark & Angel Hack Life newsletter. If you’re in a leadership role and are looking to instill passion in your team, check out the leadership development section of liveintentional.org. There are countless sources of inspiration on the interwebs.

RECAPPING THIS “ESSENTIAL”

Whatever the source, whether it be internal or external, make sure you’re tapping into it regularly. To engage our audiences in creative ways and inspire others with our work, we must first inject our own passion into the projects that we undertake. Challenge yourself to work as inspired and as passionate on every project as you have during your most productive, invigorating times. Also try finding inspiration in the world around you and the extensive online community of fellow artists.

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Final Thoughts to Communicate Better

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Well, what an adventure we’ve partaken.  I hope these tips have been helpful over the past two weeks.  If you haven’t read week one, or two—feel free to click the links to catch-up.   I love communicating and casting vision.  If you’re like me, you get extremely excited at the opportunity to connect the dots for people in their journey of faith, life, work, and family.

God has given you the opportunity to speak Truth in people’s lives.  No matter where you are, or who you are, we all possess leadership and influence.  Leaders, influencers, you are creating space for people’s own self-discovery.  Be present in their life and help carry them to a being of learning and betterment.  Don’t neglect your ability to lead, because if not YOU then WHO?   If you’re not going to communicate vision and hope, are you going to wait idly by for someone else to carry the task?

Harness your gift and your strengths that make you uniquely you and simply be.

Be present

Be real

Be hopeful

Be alive

Be a visionary

Be a light

Be a prophet

God has called you to this moment in other’s lives—Be there.

So,the final three thoughts.

1. Be a prophet 

Repeatedly, God tasks the prophets of the Old Testament to listen and obey. Their voice brought light into darkness, order into chaos, and life into death.   We as leaders are prophets; we have the opportunity to share Truth to people.  Don’t flee a people group because they’re different (See Jonah), or have a different experience than you.  Learn from them; see them as worthy of your calling.  Don’t be afraid to have a prophetic voice in your communication.  Speak of the injustice that marginalized people experience. Raise a banner of hope for those without a voice.  Make the space for God’s voice to be heard through your willingness to be a prophet. Listen and obey and your communication will be more authentic for it. Prophets of the Old Testament never had it easy. They often communicated things that Israel had to hear, but didn’t have the humility to receive it. There are words you have been given to say, regardless of your platform—use them.

2. Prepare

Oh, please prepare.  Do the proper work and research for your topic.  Attempt to memorize as much of your notes or manuscript as possible.  I usually spend one entire week prior to speaking trying to memorize as much of my manuscript as I can.  It doesn’t have to be verbatim, just learn the general ideas of what you’re attempting to speak.  Have your major points locked in your head and the general line of thinking for your points.   If your manuscript is organized well, it should be easy to memorize.

3. Pray

It’s so simple, pray and ask God to prepare your heart to speak. I am guilty of forgetting to pray before speaking and I notice a difference in my heart’s preparedness to articulate vision.   Before I get on stage, I ask God to anoint my mind to think clearly, my heart to be open to the Creator’s prompting, my eyes to see people as God sees them.   Making this a discipline in your communication not only prepares your mind, but it connects you to the author of all things Good.

 

Stay tuned for more communication tidbits in the future.  I’ll be writing more often about the topic.

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How to Prepare Your Site for the Easter Rush

Easter is around the corner, and as you know, most churches see a surge of first-time visitors for the occasion. Your church may, and should, take advantage of a number of ways to advertise your Easter services like social media, Google Adwords, direct mail, and word of mouth. But, one of the most common ways for people to find a new church any day of the year is extremely important for Easter too. It’s your website! Here are some tips to help you get your site in shape and ready for the Easter rush.

Make a great first impression
Your homepage is the first page most people will see on your website, so use it to its fullest potential. A few weeks prior to Easter, place information about your Easter services in a prominent place on the homepage. If you have a spot for an image, create a simple and inviting graphic about your Easter Sunday events and include service times for the day. The goal is to make it fast and easy for your visitors to find the basic details.

Map it out
On a contact us page or a page specifically for new visitors, include your address and directions to your location. Or, better yet, embed a Google map. This will help visitors find your facility quickly. Bonus tip: If you’ve already embedded a map on your site, verify that it is working correctly! You never know when your mapping service has made a change, making your map inaccessible.

We love kids
For kids, visiting a new place can be intimidating, especially when there is a buzz of activity like you’ll see at church on Easter Sunday. Help parents prepare their children by filling them in on your kids programs for the day. Don’t spell out every detail, but on your new visitors page, give basic info on classes and what kids will do during their worship time. Giving this info upfront will help parents and kids ease any nerves before the morning arrives.

Tag Team
With the additional traffic to your site just before Easter, don’t miss out on the opportunity to promote other spring events. Do you have small groups starting soon? Or is there an upcoming sermon series that shouldn’t be missed? Include your announcements for future programs on your homepage now. Hopefully the extra eyes on these announcements will lead to greater engagement in your ministry!

What do you do differently with your site around Easter?

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3 MORE WAYS TO COMMUNICATE BETTER.

 

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Okay, we should be honest: whether you’re a pastor or new to a faith journey with Jesus, there is one concept that rings true for all of us in communication, “What you say is whom you portray.”  For pastors and leaders, this portrayal is of Jesus Christ and the legacy that He left behind in his life. When we are pragmatic and calculated with what we say, we are caring for the platform that God has entrusted to us. It is incredibly important that we spend time working on the craft of communication because it matters.  Your words can literally catalyze movement and vision. It can give those without purpose—purpose. Moreover, it can bring life to the lifeless.    Words are important, with words the Earth was created.  With words, Jesus spoke healing and hope into both Jews and Gentiles. We have a unique opportunity as communicators to be the mouthpiece of a shifting tide of Kingdom living, here, now, today.  Therefore, I wanted to give you three more ways to communicate better. If you missed the first post of a three-part series, you can catch-up here.

 

1. Start with the End

I know it seems counter-intuitive, especially when crafting a talk, but it’s important to start with the end.  Starting your talk with what you want people to leave knowing will guide your preparation to a definitive conclusion that supports the meat of your talk.  By supporting the bottom line of your talk, you’re giving clear purpose and answering the “why” question.   Far too often, I hear communicators failing to answer the “why” in their talk, and it leaves people wondering what the last half-hour was even about.  It is virtually impossible to cast proper vision without answering the simple question of “why.”  This is why I start with my bottom line at the top of my manuscript and notes because everything should lead out of what I want people to leave knowing.

 

2. Say Something with Everything

One of the biggest traps of communication is thinking that it has to be done with words.  However, some of the most prolific communicators are those that can harness all communication mediums to convey an idea.  There was a time where the Church was the center of creative arts.  The church harnessed its large influence to commission artist and thinkers.  Walking into an ancient cathedral could knock you off your feet because it was communicating a richer truth of a creative God.   We have lost a sense of creativity in our churches and it must be recaptured.  We can do this in practical ways from the stage, we can use: music, films, photography, or motions.   I suggest utilizing the stage as a canvas, create sets that help support a series or a talk and change it out frequently.  Create a team of creatives to help you execute what you say both on stage and off stage through art installations.

 

3. Get Feedback

This is a tough one for communicators, especially pastors and leaders.  I get it; you already receive a ton of feedback on your communication.  Many of us have been on the receiving end of an anonymous email or nasty side comments that leave us vulnerable, hurt, and demoralized.  Seeking feedback can be difficult because of the fear of one more negative comment being made.  Leaders, I am with you.  With that said, I want to encourage all of you to find two or three people you really trust, those that you can depend on to give you HONEST feedback.  Don’t pick people that will pander to you, but those that will give you loving critiques.  I have three people in my life that I run every manuscript and every post-sermon podcast through for feedback.  This seeking out feedback has made me a better communicator and has revealed areas in which I need to grow.  Learners are growers. When we learn, we are taking an opportunity to better ourselves and we are honoring our gift.  People that you trust and love probably love you back.  If they love you, they will have your best interest in mind when giving you feedback.  Thirty minutes is all the time you need to really sit down with a few people and get their opinion.  In my most recent time of feedback, I was actually liberated.  I know that sounds weird, so let me explain.  I was told, by a trusted friend, that I relied too much on humor to make myself more comfortable with speaking.  They were right, I used humor to make people like me.  My use of humor was not to better the communication, it was for selfish gain.  I learned from that trusted friend humor is best used to support the sermon, not to support my need for listeners to like me.  As I did, we can all learn and be better for it.  Find those trusted friends, create a committee or a creative team to help you prepare and debrief talks.

 

I’ll be back next Monday for the final installment of this series; I hope you check back for the final tips.

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