I help organizations figure out how to talk about themselves. In the church, that sounds like a really odd premise. We often say, "Why do we need to talk about ourselves?" But the truth is we need to learn, not how to talk about ourselves, but how to better tell the story of Jesus and the work of his church. That’s a very broad topic. But we often confuse people when we speak about Jesus, because we make it too complicated. We're actually causing people to think just a little bit too hard. People forget that thinking on its own actually burns a lot of calories. When we talk about Jesus, we want to work as little as possible in order to understand what we’re saying.
1. Don’t hide concepts behind calories.
Think of the last time you were in a really busy season that required a lot of meetings. It’s common to walk out of those meetings and think, "I'm exhausted." You might look at your fitness tracker and think, "I didn't even take 3000 steps. Why am I so tired? It's not like I ran a marathon or did a Tough Mudder, but I'm drained." We feel that way because we burn calories when we're thinking. The more we think, the more calories we burn. This means that the more we make people think about what we’re saying, the harder it is for them to grasp our message.
2. Clarity is the key to comprehension.
Here’s the deal for churches: we need to be more clear in what we communicate to our people. What we are communicating has and should have eternal significance and eternal value. But too often we confuse people by making our message too complicated. That might be because our internal branding doesn’t make sense. For example, student ministries are always named after things that sound dangerous like Collide, Ignite, Explore, and Impact.
The truth is that our people don't know what any of that means. More than that, our visitors certainly don't know what it means. Because of that, our staff struggles to communicate it. At the end of the day, we're just missing opportunities to reach people because we're taking too many opportunities to confuse people.
3. Your message should come before the medium.
More and more churches are beginning to ask themselves, "How do we leverage best in class strategies and tools for marketing and communications in the modern age?" Using the same approaches that big brands, online entrepreneurs, and successful modern businesses use, many churches are seeing great success in communicating their message effectively to their people. Our initial response is, "How do I do it? How do I say it? Where do I go? How do I set this up? What do we do?" It’s easy to become obsessed with all the tools of publication like cameras, microphones, and design assets, but forget to ask ourselves: "What are we actually going to say? When that camera turns on for our 60 Second Devotional, what should we say, and how should we say it so that our chosen audience will comprehend it? What are we trying to communicate to people and how will we best do that?"
4. All of your issues are communication issues.
People can sometimes be reluctant to give to the church. If people aren't giving on a weekly basis, it could be that your tools aren't very good, but it also very well could be you're not being clear in why they should give or how they can give. Your financial issue is actually a communications issue. You haven't decided what you need to say so that people will engage. You haven't decided what to say in a way that matters to your audience. I help people use the storytelling formula called the StoryBrand Framework to help people answer the question for themselves, "How do we say what we need to say?" The purpose of all of this is to help churches make more disciples of Christ, raise them up into maturity in Christ, and raise more funds to support the mission of Christ through the church.
5. Formulas are your friend.
The great thing about formulas is that they provide a very clear path to how we ought to talk to people. I watched a video recently of Joe and Anthony Russo, who wrote and directed Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. The combined revenue of those movies grossed close to $4 billion. What amazed me is they said that when they sat down to start writing the scripts in 2015, they had never written something quite like this before. That’s amazing.
Pro tip: If you feel ill-equipped to do certain things in your church, the guys who wrote two of the biggest movies of all time felt the same way.
The book they found on Amazon is by Syd Field, called Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting. It's a great book about the power of story. It's a beginner's guide to screenwriting. What they talked about in this interview is the book gave them a formula, and that formula became Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame. Two of the highest-grossing films of all time. Avengers: Endgame alone grossed nearly $2.4 billion by using a formula and using a framework.
What does this mean for churches? You're obviously not writing a screenplay. You're not trying to write the next big superhero movie. You're not trying to make billions of dollars at the box office. You're simply trying to get people to show up to your next event. You're trying to get new people to come to your church. You're trying to get people to volunteer in children's ministry. You're trying to get more kids to show up to the student ministry. You're trying to get more people to give on a weekly basis and give to your next giving campaign for missions.
What do formulas do, and what does messaging have to do with that? If you do a little work and look at things like the StoryBrand book or look at other tools and formulas and frameworks that help you communicate more clearly, all of a sudden you will become a lot more effective because you're doing the hard work to decide, "What do I need to say to people so that they care and they get engaged with what we're talking about?" We ought to stop saying, "Hey, don't miss it." Or, "Hey, you should be there." But instead, we should say, "This is a real problem in our community, and because you give, we get to resolve that issue so that more people can have hope or more kids can have backpacks or food."
My challenge to you is this: Start looking at the different formulas and the different frameworks that exist out there. StoryBrand is a great one. There are others that help you to answer the question, "How do we communicate more clearly by finding the words that matter most?" When we know what to say, it becomes very easy to figure out how to say it. It's very easy to begin setting up all of these tools, and the best part is—once we set up all of that and we start using it again—world-class, best-in-class strategies and tools—all of a sudden, we'll become far more effective. Our return will be much greater. More importantly, more people will be introduced to the story of Jesus and the work of his church simply because we figured out the right things to say and the right way to say them.
Read the full blog of this episode here: https://get.tithe.ly/blog/personal-branding-church-growth
Today on Modern Church Leader, Wes Gay, CEO of Wayfinder, explains how storytelling principles can help your church’s communication reach the next level of excellence.
Connect with Wes here: https://wesgay.com
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