Larry Kramer, the new publisher of USA TODAY said that he planned to use technology to "give people what they want, when they want it, where they want it." (http://wapo.st/Jw8EBg) Previously, I've discussed the challenge for churches to create communications in various channels. Though this is important, no matter what channels we use to communicate: print, digital, web, tweet, update or whatever, our content is always more important than the channel we use to deliver it. We have the words of eternal life and though new channels are useful, we must never lose focus on what is most important.
Following are three more quotes from Kramer followed by suggestions about the importance of content in our church communication channels and how to create content that will change lives.The importance of content and curation
Kramer quote: Kramer says that content is key. “Curation is really important,” he says. “Being only an aggregator is not the key to success. Everyone is looking for help in what they should be spending time with. Bloggers, yes, but which ones matter?”
Application to church communicators: Just because you have a list of what is going on at the church in the bulletin, send out updates in email newsletters and social media, and make sure the schedule is correct on the website, all essential communication channels today, do you also communicate:
- How they can use this event to introduce friends to the church?
- Why they should attend and how this will help them grow in their Christian life?
- How this event or program will help get to know God and his Word better?
- How this event will serve the poor, help the hurting and model Jesus to your community?
We usually have great answers to these reasons tucked away inside our hearts. The biblical reasons that motivate the church staff to do the hard work of prayer and preparation for ministry events need to be shared in clear communication, no matter what the channel used to communicate with your congregation. If people know why it's important for them to come to events outside Sunday morning and why it is worth their time to attend, there are more chances they will show up. But people aren't mind-readers. Share your convictions. Give your people the biblical motivation for why they need to be involved in activities that will help them grow as disciples of Jesus and not activities that waste time and money for fleeting fun and self-indulgent leisure. In addition to the spiritual challenges, give them tips for inviting, give them tools like invitation cards that will help them do a good job.
The importance of original content and voice
Kramer quote: He adds: “You have got to have original content in tone or voice, otherwise you’re spinning your wheels. Don’t give me two paragraphs on the Giants game. Tell me what’s wrong with that pitcher’s arm.”
Application to church communicators: Who are you in your calling? What is the God-given passion of your heart you want to share with your people? What is God teaching you through your time in His Word? Let that vision permeate your communication.
Though there are many useful resources available today, there is also the danger of unthinking ministry cloning. One year, when I was traveling a lot, I heard the same sermon from a well-know pastor who shared his sermons online, given from three different pastors in three different churches. It was a good sermon, biblically correct and engaging, but I had no idea of personal passion, calling, and vision of each pastor giving the sermon. Was God not personally speaking to any of them, were they not listening, or did they not think their calling also came with the responsibility to craft a message unique to the unique people God called them to reach?
Online and print resources are just that: resources. When it comes to crafting a message, access every resource available, mix them together, allow them to simmer before serving, and make certain the result is uniquely your message from God that He can use to touch the people He gave you to shepherd.
In addition to communicating your unique vision from God, share the stories of the unique people in your church. Who are the people in your church who walk their talk? Who is out in the community doing exciting things for Jesus? Try to get them to blog if they like to write or to talk about it and have someone on your communication team write it up. If you have the ability, do a video interview, show it during the church service and post it on your church website.
Don't just tell me the church is going on a mission trip. Write the story of a woman who was adopted from the streets of Mexico as a young child and how this has made her the passionate advocate of missions to Mexican orphans that she is today. Tell me about the retired couple who don't go on the cruises their friends take, but instead use their time and resources to volunteer at the local soup kitchen and homeless center.
Find the original stories in your heart and in your church and tell them. Nobody has stories like yours that can touch people like yours. When you dig deeper into the people behind the events, you create content that is unique to your church. Simply tell the stories. Don't embellish; don't add editorial comment, such as "Oh doesn't this grip your heart?" You can make application later, or teach principles after telling the story, but don't mix your reactions in with the story itself. If you insert your emotions and feelings, your audience won't feel them. You dilute the power of the story when you put yourself in it. Simply tell the stories. Trust the power of the story to touch hears and motivate life change. Again, application suggestions later are fine, just not mixed in with the story itself.
The importance of determining what is important and what isn't
Kramer quote: He wants to help people “sort through what TV shows to watch, what plays to see, what 401(k) plans to invest in.” He wants to “help you live your life” but also “tell you things that are important to you that you may not know.”
Application to church communicators: Do your communications help people live their Christian life and grow to mature discipleship or are they filled only with updates about fun church events and invitations to children's choir programs? Not that there is anything wrong with updates about entertaining church events, but if that is all your church communication is about, that is a serious short-coming.
The important things for people to know include:
- Tools to help them study the Bible better; read it consistently; dig deeply into its truth.
- Websites, books, blogs, podcasts that help them know how to answer questions about the Christian faith.
- Resources to help people study church history, great themes of the faith, how to distinguish truth from error.
You are responsible to grow your people into mature disciples of Jesus. Use any and every tool available and guide your people in their use of the channels. There is a humorous ad on television where a young woman asserts that "everything on the Internet is true." Of course we know it isn't, but part of being a responsible shepherd and curating content for your people is to help them understand what is worthy, helpful, inspiring content and in contrast, what will lead them astray. You can do this in many ways. One we've found helpful in our Adult Sunday School class was to create instructional videos to help them study the Bible better. Here is a link to it: http://www.youtube.com/livelifebythebook. This isn't fancy, it's simply done, and much more needs to be added, but has proven useful.
Channels may be important, but our content involves sharing the words of eternal life--constantly challenge yourself on how you can do that more effectively, no matter what channel you use.