Make Your Brand Contagious

Some church leaders consider “brand” to be a four-letter word more appropriate in the marketplace than for churches. The concept of branding has undergone changes in the last decade that demand church leaders not only accept them, but also lead forward through them.

Branding in today’s cultural context is less “this is what we can do for you” and more “this is who we are.” Here is the challenge: your brand isn’t what you say it is; it’s what your “customers” say it is. (If you want to read more about this, download SUMS Remix 81).

THE QUICK SUMMARY

What makes things popular? If you said advertising, think again. People don’t listen to advertisements; they listen to their peers. But why do people talk about certain products and ideas more than others? Why are some stories and rumors more infectious? And what makes online content go viral?

Wharton marketing professor Jonah Berger has spent the last decade answering these questions. He’s studied why New York Times articles make the paper’s own Most E-mailed list, why products get word of mouth, and how social influence shapes everything from the cars we buy, to the clothes we wear, to the names we give our children.

In Contagious, Berger reveals the secret science behind word-of-mouth and social transmission. Discover how six basic principles drive all sorts of things to become contagious, from consumer products and policy initiatives to workplace rumors and YouTube videos. Learn how a luxury steakhouse found popularity through the lowly cheesesteak, why anti-drug commercials might have actually increased drug use, and why more than 200 million consumers shared a video about one of the most seemingly boring products there is: a blender.

Contagious provides a set of specific, actionable techniques for helping information spread—for designing messages, advertisements, and content that people will share. Whether you’re a manager at a big company, a small business owner trying to boost awareness, a politician running for office, or a health official trying to get the word out, Contagious will show you how to make your product or idea catch on.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

People love to be a part of stories, and to tell stories – the latest “news” on the neighborhood, a great new restaurant opening nearby, the awesome vacation they just returned from.

People also like to tell the darker side of stories – gossip, a terrible meal experience, or the lousy and expensive vacation they had.

Then there are the online stories: social proof, provided by peer-to-peer recommendations of products and services, is a powerful way to persuade your potential customers.

Take a look at these results about online reviews by BrightLocal, a social media agency:

  • 84% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
  • 90% of consumers read less than 10 reviews before forming an opinion about a business
  • 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 58% of consumers say that the star rating of a business is most important

Word of mouth – literally, in conversations face to face, or figuratively, in online conversations, is a primary factor behind many of the decisions we are making everyday.

How can your church tap into this important vehicle of conversation going on all around you?

After analyzing hundreds of contagious messages, products, and ideas, we noticed that the same six “ingredients,” or principles, were often at work. Six key STEPPS, as I call them, that cause things to be talked about, shared, and imitated.

Principle 1: Social Currency

How does it make people look to talk about a product or idea? What we talk about influences how others see us. It’s social currency. So to get people talking we need to craft messages that help them achieve these desired impressions. We need to find our inner remarkability and make people feel like insiders.

Principle 2: Triggers

How do we remind people to talk about our ideas and products? Triggers are stimuli that prompt people to think about related things. People often talk about whatever comes to mind, so we need to design ideas that are frequently triggered by the environment and create new triggers to prevalent cues in that environment. Top of mind leads to tip of tongue.

Principle 3: Emotion

When we care, we share. So how can we craft messages and ideas that make people feel something? Emotional things often get shared. So rather than harping on function, we need to focus on feelings.

Principle 4: Public

Can people see when others are using our product or engaging in our desired behavior? Making things more observable makes them easier to imitate, which makes them more likely to become popular. So we need to make our ideas and products more public.

Principle 5: Practical Value

How can we craft content that seems useful? Given how people are inundated with information, we need to make our message stand out. We need to highlight the incredible value of what we offer, and package our knowledge and expertise so that people can easily pass it on.

Principle 6: Stories

What broader narrative can we wrap our idea in? People just don’t share information, they tell stories. We need to make our message so integral to the narrative that people can’t tell the story without it.

Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

A NEXT STEP

The six principles of contagiousness listed above contain Social Currency and are Triggered, Emotional, Public, Practically Valuable, and should be wrapped in Stories. Enhancing these components in messages, products, or ideas will make them more likely to spread and become popular.

While it is convenient to imagine the six steps as the acronym STEPPS, don’t think of them as a “recipe” that has to be followed precisely. Not all six ingredients are required to make an idea contagious. View them more like toppings for a salad: choose what works for you, fits your situation, and you will still have a good result.

Write the following on the top of six chart tablets, one principle per page, allowing plenty of space for notes.

Principle 1: Social Currency

How can we talk about our church in such a way that unchurched people desire to be connected?

Principle 2: Triggers

What community triggers have we created to raise our visibility? How can we share the gospel in ways that trigger engagement?

Principle 3: Emotion

What messages are we sending that connect people emotionally?

Principle 4: Public

How can people see when others are excited about what God is doing? How are we leveraging sharable media?

Principle 5: Practical Value

What gospel content have we created that is useful to people outside of the church?

Principle 6: Stories

What larger cultural context exists in our community? How are we communicating the gospel as the solution?

Set aside a two-hour brainstorming time with your leadership team, and work through each of the questions listed.

After working through all six questions, go back and highlight the top three ideas or actions the group agrees are most important.

Create a cross-functional work group, bringing in other leaders and church members as appropriate, to take the resulting 18 ideas and actions and create an action plan with timetables and responsibilities.

As each idea or action is completed, evaluate its effectiveness and adjust as needed.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix Issue 83-1, released January 2018.


 

This is part of a weekly series posting excerpts from one of the most innovative content sources in the church world: SUMS Remix book excerpts for church leaders.

SUMS Remix takes a practical problem in the church and looks at it with three solutions; each solution is taken from a different book. Additionally, a practical action step is included with each solution.

As a church leader you get to scan relevant books based on practical tools and solutions to real ministry problems, not just by the cover of the book. Each post will have the edition number which shows the year and what number it is in the overall sequence. (SUMS Remix provides 26 issues per year, delivered every other week to your inbox). 

> > Subscribe to SUMS Remix <<

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

VRcurator

VRcurator

Bob Adams is Auxano's Vision Room Curator. His background includes over 23 years as an associate/executive pastor as well as 8 years as the Lead Consultant for a church design build company. He joined Auxano in 2012.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Your Brand is Probably Not What You Think It Is

Brand is the buzzword for businesses and organizations all over the world. It spurs countless meetings and brainstorms, millions of dollars in research and hundreds of pages in manuals. It has shifted messaging and advertising campaigns. It has prompted new logos, flashy design, catchy taglines. And, after all of that, people still don’t know how brands are made.

A reality check might help. Jeff Bezos to the rescue: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Of course, you may have a clear idea of what you want people to think about your church or organization—you’ve got it all documented in your brand manual with definitions of brand values, essence, promise and guidelines. Great start. But, that’s not what makes a brand dream come true. Your vision may be well documented and poorly demonstrated.

Is the brand you’re promoting what your audience actually experiences? The answer is found in the space between what you profess and what you practice. (Age old “perception vs reality.”)

Ready for a reality check? Review your game films.

Think through all the places people interact with your church – map out an individual experience from the website to the event. Keep in mind, everything communicates – each email, Facebook post, online review (and response), announcement slide, service handout, interaction with staff or volunteer, trip to the bathroom, sign, check-in lines, payment process, traffic flow, etc. Make a list of all of these “touch points.” Then, one at a time, compare what you “say you are” to “how you behave” in each transition and each interaction.

A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.
– Michael Eisner, Former Walt Disney CEO

Did you catch that? The cumulative sum of every touch point defines your brand reality. (Shocking, I know. It’s not what we say, it’s what we do.)

So, it’s true what they say. You should sweat the small stuff. And, here are seven ways to get started.

1. Run empathy practice drills. When your communication engine feeds on calendar event promotions and transactional efficiency alone, the body doesn’t get what it needs to stay healthy. When the body is malnourished, it starts to feed on itself. A peak performing communication engine, on the other hand, grows healthy by feeding on empathy; planning logistics around the human factor in every step of every interaction.

  • What is he leaving behind – an ailing parent, a stack of unpaid bills?
  • What did she have to do in order to get here today – pack a diaper bag but still forgot diapers, argue with a spouse who is turning away from God?
  • What is he facing when he leaves – an empty house, a demanding boss, a draining job?
  • What stress is she carrying – fractured relationship with her kids, shared custody, abuse?

(Are you starting to see why redesigning a logo isn’t making the splash you think it is?)

2. People watch. Set up listening posts and take note of interactions, tendencies and requests. Are people taking bulletins and reading them? Do most people arrive late and are missing the announcements? What questions are people asking at guest services? Train your staff and core volunteers on the first line of defense to ask questions. Create a safe conversation where guests/attenders can be heard, and truth shared – no offenses taken. Stress the importance of wanting to know how you can get better.

3. Check data vitals. When is the last time you evaluated your website analytics (versus just tracking counts)? For example, look beyond how many people are coming to your site and check out:

  • how they’re coming to you (direct URL, search or link from somewhere else)? That will give you insight around whether or not people are finding you via referral, your promotions or other.
  • how they’re viewing your site (on mobile devices or desktop). This will give you insight around how they’re using your content; at home or on the go. Is your site mobile-friendly?
  • how long are they staying? This will give you insight on how helpful and user-friendly your content is.
  • what are they clicking on? This will give you insight on what content is most relevant for them.
  • what are they searching for? This will give you insight on what might be missing, what might be buried in navigation, what jargon is misleading.

I’m sure you’re starting to get the idea by now. And, if you’re ready to dive into what to do with this new insight, I’ve dug up two articles to get you out of the gate.

  1. Important Google Analytics Metrics
  2. Best Google Analytic Reports

4. Start social listening. You can dive pretty deep into this one – but don’t get lost in the data. Start with the basics and then ramp up. At the very least, set up a Google Alert. Be alerted to any mention of your church name and top leaders but also Christian, church and perhaps your particular denomination. Look into top trends on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. What are people looking up? What are people talking about? How are they talking about your church or sermon topics? If there isn’t any online chatter about you… what might that mean?

There are countless ways to approach this, but I suggest starting simple. I like how Van Baird makes it easy with his 60/20/20 Rule and how Shift Communications breaks down which metrics to pay more attention to and which ones to ignore.

5. Make comment cards accessible. Set up a box with cards and pens for easy access and in a safe place to anonymously fill out (not the center of the room). Add gathering these cards and recording the feedback part of a staff member or volunteer’s weekly routine. Make the same feedback mechanism available online and on Facebook. In other words, make it easy for people to share about their experience. Then, set up a monthly cycle where you review them as a team and commit to take action (not only with the person who shared the feedback, but also with future protocol).

6. Add mystery shoppers to your bench. Gain insight from regular attenders and guests through a “mystery shopper” exercise. Compile a list of questions and areas for “shoppers” to observe and provide feedback.

7. Ask better survey questions. Surveys can be a helpful tool in revealing what people really think about your church – IF you ask the right questions. I’ve seen this mishandled more times than I can count. Your feedback is only as good as the questions you ask. So, be sure to target your questions to uncover targeted information you can’t find any other way.

  • What topics do you need help with?
  • What hurdles do you find when you come for the first time?
  • What hurdles do you find on the website?
  • What was the most helpful experience you’ve had here?
  • What was a discouraging experience?
  • Are you in a group? Why or why not? [benchmark]
  • Do you come every weekend? Why or why not? [benchmark]

The questions identified as benchmarks should be asked 1-4x per year. Look for trends. Are people growing? What are the consistent hurdles that your team need to address?

Good intentions don’t work as a “get out of reality free” card

You don’t know what you don’t know. And you can only serve people better if you find out the truth. I know listening can be a humbling and frustrating experience. But, it’s crucial. If you don’t address your blind side, it can cost you the game. But, when you look at the whole playing field, you can make good decisions with good information.

Have fun, and enjoy the discovery.

> Read more from Kem.


 

 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer

Kem Meyer has spent almost three decades working with small business, big business, not for profit, tech, finance, PR, advertising, schools and churches. They all have issues with communications; for better and worse. And, learning from them all, she's developed quite a knack for finding the simple themes that increase organizational clarity and remove barriers that get in the way of our messages.

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Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Three Branding Strategies for Your Church

In 2004 the marketing guru David Aaker, published a book entitled Brand Portfolio Strategy, in which he describes a tool called a “Brand Relationship Spectrum” to help simplify the world of brands when companies steward multiple products or services. Revisiting his book will help us create a very simple, three-part language for church leaders. Understanding these basic strategies can have a profound impact on how your church communicates.

But before moving on…Even though, the “b-word” can be lead to resistance from the church crowd, it shouldn’t. Branding is simply how your church builds relationships with communication tools.

The genius of tool is represented by two terms that Aaker used to coin the ends of the spectrum.  On one end of the spectrum he identified a strategy called the “Branded House” to describe a company like Apple, Harvard or Cisco, where one unified brand is the sole driver for many products or services. For example, Apple creates products like iPhone, iPod, iPad, iTunes, etc., but they are driven primarily by the Apple master brand. On the other end of the spectrum is the strategy of the “House of Brands” to describe the diversity of stand-alone brands that all belong to one relatively invisible company like Procter & Gamble or Yum Foods. For example Yum brands represent, KFC, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell. But when you eat at these establishments, you don’t encounter the master brand at all.

Most ministries, however, live between the two ends of the spectrum- somewhere between “Branded House” and “House of Brands.” Therefore we name the third way- in the middle- as “House Blend.” This in-between language was created by a friend and brilliant dude, Armando Fullwood.

Here is how Armando explained the House Blend:

The “House Blend” – This is an architecture based on the development of sub-brands with the added credibility of the existing parent brand. Google, for example, started as a search engine then continued to establish the primary brand through offerings such as Gmail, Calendar, and Maps. Eventually, they began to acquire other, smaller tech companies such as Blogger, Picasa, and YouTube. These acquisitions maintained their existing brands but gained credibility through the primary brand of Google.

Another example, is Nabicso. They own many retail brands that consumers recognize like Wheat Thins, Ritz, and Triscuits. But you will see a master brand visual from Nabisco on a box of Wheat Thins in the upper left-hand corner (you can probably picture it.) That would be an example of the House Blend strategy.

Now the key to naming these three strategies starts with evaluating your church ministries. Most churches drift toward a house blend or a house of brands too quickly. Armando offers some initial insight here:

Smaller organizations that are still focusing on gaining market share need to choose the architecture that will help them grow the fastest. A “House Blend” is most often the wrong choice in these cases. House blends thrive on the credibility of the parent brand. If a smaller company has a product or service that they would like to introduce into their existing structure, it’s usually a good idea to create a sub-category of their existing brand rather that creating a new brand for that product or service. This makes a “Branded House” architecture an excellent choice.

Also, non-profit, experience-based organizations such as churches thrive on branding simplicity. For example, in a church with multiple ministries it can be tempting to create a new brand/logo for each division (House of Brands or House Blend). However, this creates internal competition. Each brand begs for attention from the attendee and struggles to be recognized as “part” of the main brand. Many times, each ministry feels the responsibility to develop their own brand, which can consume an enormous amount of energy. Instead, try focusing on your main brand and simply categorizing ministries under that brand. For example, if Faith Church has a children’s ministry, it wouldn’t have it’s own name…it would simply be the “Faith Church Children’s Ministry”.

In the rest of this series on branding, I will continue to unpack key questions around church communication and illustrate what brand guidelines should like for different churches. We will address questions like:

1) Why do churches tend to fragment their message so much?

2) What about the missional church? How does branding apply as it sounds so “corporate” and old school?

3) How do you know when its time to launch new ministry sub brands in a large church?

4) What does a well developed communication and branding strategy look like?

Read more from Will here.


Would you like to learn more about branding for your organization? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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bruceherwig — 01/26/17 5:18 pm

Reminds me Tony Morgan's classic post entitle “What If Target Operated Like A Church?” I wrote about this in a blog post "Is Your Church Like Target…or More Like A Mall?" https://goo.gl/2qQIy3

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comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How Many Ministry Logos Should Your Church Have?

It’s unbelievable how quickly churches fragment their message. It’s easy for staff and volunteers the create stuff that feels good to them but is either completely unnecessary (at best) or clutters communication (at worst). Every day in America some new church ministry or program is creating some new, cute little visual to stuff into an already overpacked worship bulletin.

So the question we address today is “How many ministry logos should your church really have?” Here are the seven guidelines I use.

#1 Don’t create a sub-ministry logo until you have a vision-based brand for the entire church.

This guideline goes back to our branded house strategy. A church is a very finite, limited group of people. The most important idea at anytime for attenders of the church is the ONE singular reason for the church’s existence. What is the story? What is the big idea? What is the mission of the church that we want to keep before everybody all of the time? This should not only be clear, but clearly represented visually through the church’s primary logo and brand attributes. One of my most popular posts will provide more info and illustration: Top Ten Church Logos for Telling Story Through Design

If your church creates a sub-ministry logo without the “house” logo in place, it’s like sizing your curtains before the house’s blueprint is determined. We don’t know the size of the windows yet!  It just doesn’t make sense. You can’t even make a lucky guess. Don’t distract yourself from the prior work to be done. Don’t waste your resources.

Could the sub-ministry logo feel urgent and exciting to the leader of the ministry? Of course!  And is it possible that the leader of the ministry could care less about the overall church logo.  Of course! (And that’s the problem.) Unintentionally you would be reinforcing what we call a “lower room” identity—a program-based connection—rather than a vision-based, “upper room” identity.

In the end, church leadership must decide whether or not they will connect their people to the biggest idea and deepest calling of the church.

#2 Don’t create a sub-ministry logo until you have clear visual representation of  your strategy. The strategy icon will “transcend” the use of program-based logos.

The idea here is to lead with a compelling picture of how your church accomplishes its mission before you lead with program-based logos. Why? Because in the the end, programs don’t attract people; people attract people. To make the assimilation process in your church simple, easy and obvious, you have to clear the clutter and communicate strategically. Fire a rifle shot, not a shotgun blast. Here is an example from Faithbridge UMC in Houston, TX. The three main things you do at Faithbridge are: 1) attend worship, 2) participate in a grow group, and 3) engage a serve team. This is centered around a bridging lifestyle— being a bridge of faith to people everyday.

#3 The two most important logos after the church’s primary logo are children’s ministry and student ministry. These logos are most important for three reasons: 1) Birth through 12th grade ministries directly affects 25-45% of the church population. 2) Parents are quickly evaluating the safety and quality of offerings to children, and 3) These ministries create an additional way-finding experience, even for guests.

#4 Don’t create sub-ministry or program-based logos with complete disregard to the church’s overall brand and logo. Unfortunately, this rule is violated all of the time. The church overflows with random, disconnected creativity. A passionate leader creates new visual tools without realizing the disconnect. It’s like every room in a house has a distinct interior decorator who could care less about what the other rooms in the house look like. Therefore people never experience the family dynamic of unified vision, but rather, a bunch of folks doing separate things under one roof. I will admit, that this principle speaks to a nuance that even most church communicators have not been trained to understand.

What’s the solution? In a nutshell every sub-ministry “look and feel” should have a “design rational” that connects it to the “house brand.”

To educate yourself on this design competency, observe the sub-branded products in stores like Starbucks or the Apple Store. Designers take great effort to bring fresh initiatives or products with a design that still “fits” artistically under the overall brand.  For example, look at the distinct-but-connected design of the different roasts from the Starbucks website. Note how these images related to one another and the Starbucks master brand. (Don’t forget to study this dynamic in retail and online environments every day— free education for church communicators.)

Now let’s show an example of principle #3 and #4 for a church. When Sugar Creek Baptist Church asked us to design their brand, we also designed a children’s ministry and student ministry logo. In this case the design rational for the sub ministries was based on the logo font itself (Univers Ultra Condensed) The ministries added their own creativity. The children’s ministry added a softer secondary color palette and the beach ball element. The student ministry added a simple, and but unexpected typeface for the unique name “LYF.” The strategy icon image is also shown. Note how the colors for the student ministry are from the same color palette as the strategy icon.

#5 A guideline for adding a creatively distinct sub-ministry logo after children and student ministries, is one new logo for every thousand people in worship attendance. So a church of 400 in worship should not create additional sub-ministry logos than children and students. A church of 2,000 in attendance could have two additional sub-ministry logos. For example they could have the base three (church logo, children’s logo, and student’s logo) and a logo for life groups (first additional) and a logo for mission ministry (second additional).

#6  Ministries that will inevitably want a logo too early in the development of the church’s growth should use simple and similar font-based solutions based on the church’s brand. This practice requires a design-based font selection. For example with the MET Church, all adult ministries were given two fonts from which to build a type-face solution identity— see the Worship Arts ministry below. This enables a broader selection of ministries to be communicated without clutter, distraction and disconnection.

#7 One seasonal campaign-based logo is acceptable at any time in addition to the guidelines above, based on the church’s vision proper (seasonal goal or milestone). A campaign is another great opportunity to sub-brand. Again, the key is to “think outside the box, inside the brand.” That is, do fresh things, but keep them connected and related in a meaningful way to the overall brand. Also, keep it limited to one highly visible initiative at a time.

Below you will see the creative design of the “Big Give” campaign at the MET. Here we used a dramatic contrast of color while keeping it in the same strong, masculine color palette (blue rather than red and black) to carry the playful name of the campaign. The consistency came in using a huge dot to define the look, zooming in on the basic design element of a circle. The combination is creatively unique but totally consistent at the same time— and that’s what a sub-brand is all about.

On a side note, I am proud of the Auxano Design team who are true thought-leaders in helping churches navigate communications with unprecedented clarity and excellent. Without them it would be impossible to show you these examples.

Read more from Will.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Will Mancini

Will Mancini

Will Mancini wants you and your ministry to experience the benefits of stunning, God-given clarity. As a pastor turned vision coach, Will has worked with an unprecedented variety of churches from growing megachurches and missional communities, to mainline revitalization and church plants. He is the founder of Auxano, creator of VisionRoom.com and the author of God Dreams and Church Unique.

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
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comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Your Best Brand Asset is Understanding Yourself

The world isn’t looking for a copy of an existing writer, musician, politician, CEO, or leader; they’re looking for someone new, innovative, and original.

Your job is to discover how your unique gifts and talents can differentiate you from everyone else.

You have no idea the number of people who call our offices each week asking us to “do the same thing for us that you did for your national clients.” They want to copy someone they admire, and they’re asking us to help get that story out there and get noticed by the national media. But they’ve got it backwards. There’s already one of those famous leaders. A new person needs to emphasize his or her unique differences.

Besides, each of our clients were unique and brilliant long before I ever met them. Probably the most powerful gift these leaders had was an understanding of who they were and what their talent and calling were about.

That’s something worth repeating: Probably the most powerful gift these leaders had was an understanding of who they were and what their talent and calling were about.

Having an accurate understanding of what makes you unique and different is absolutely critical. For many, an accurate understanding is obscured or undermined by a lack of professionalism, bad ideas, poor taste, inept leadership, insecurity, lack of people skills, bad assumptions, and more. These sorts of things plague many leaders today and hamper their effectiveness.

What makes you different from all the others competing for your position?

There’s even more competition out there within the greater culture. In today’s world, everybody competes. For media creators, product producers, sales professionals, and more–how can you compete with all the entertainment choices, lifestyle options, or new digital technologies that struggle for the limited time of the average person today? You may not have the resources, finances, or assets the competition has, but you can tell a better story, and the key to finding that story is discovering what makes you unique and different.

What could it be that makes you different? Perhaps it’s your unique communications style, your writing ability, your personality, or an expertise in an unusual area. Being different can mean many things, including perspective, content, skill, and delivery.

If competition from others is making it more difficult to get noticed, then perhaps you should consider a different niche. Some organizations have decided that because of duplication of services by other companies in the area, they should find a different way of doing their work or do it in a different place.

Hollywood is particularly good at this; studios track what other studios are developing so they don’t release a similar film. Corporations spend enormous amounts of money following their competition’s product development.

Even smart employees watch for potential changes in company staffing or structure to ensure they don’t get pushed out of a job because of duplication or competition. It’s not about conniving or cheating behind the scenes–it’s about being aware and sensitive to the future.

Ultimately, it’s all about authenticity. Being unique and different shouldn’t mean fake. In our efforts to relate to the culture or a potential customer or audience, we sometimes go over the top and end up conveying a message that’s obviously dishonest and far from authentic.

I’m told I was born with the gift of saying what everyone else in the room is thinking. Whether it gets me in trouble or not, I often feel compelled to talk about the elephant in the room that everyone else sees but ignores. That’s why this issue of authenticity is so important for me. I was born with a very sensitive BS button, and anytime a client presents an advertisement, website, TV program, or other presentation that smacks of insincerity, I light up.

I regularly meet people who live out others’ dreams and refuse to act on who they were created to be. What about you? Have you watched your boss so closely that you’ve started becoming more like him or her than you? Have you followed a celebrity to the point where his or her style is obscuring your own? Have you followed trends to the point it’s difficult to discover what’s really inside you?

Don’t become something you aren’t; developing a personal brand is about becoming who you truly are. It happens even in the best of ways. One friend got involved in raising money to build medical facilities in Third World countries. It was a great cause and she certainly could have spent her life doing worse. Ultimately, it wasn’t really her passion. But she put off confronting that fact for years because it was such a great cause.

The problem was–it just wasn’t her cause. When she finally had the courage to step out into something she was personally passionate about, she had already wasted years of productivity.

I know others who are trapped working in a company, church, or humanitarian organization who–although they do great work– are settling for second best in their lives. I can see they have so much more potential, but when I bring it up, they rationalize it with the importance of the cause, the need, or the great work they’re doing.

They’ve been sucked into a regular paycheck, or refuse to change because they’re not willing to risk taking a hard look at their lives, their gifts, and their future.

I understand, because I’ve been there.

Finding your honest voice in the middle of the madness is absolutely critical. But being absolutely truthful about what distinguishes you from the pack is a critical step to finding your identity.

Excerpted from One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do by Phil Cooke. 

Read more from Phil here.

Phil Cooke, Ph.D. – filmmaker, media consultant, and author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do; Unique: Telling Your Story in the Age of Brands and Media; and Jolt! Get the Jump on a World That is Constantly Changing.


Would you like to learn more about developing the brand asset called You? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Phil Cooke

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Say It Again: You Can Never Repeat Your Vision Too Much

And again I say unto you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
Matthew 19:24

I find it interesting that Jesus would have to say anything again. You would think that the Son of God wouldn’t have to repeat himself for people to get the message. Once should have been enough.

But throughout the gospels there are instances where Jesus finds the need to say something again, and he then either builds on something he had said before or gives it a slightly different interpretation. It’s the same essential message. Only expanded, clarified, or taught in a new way.

I think Jesus knew something that every leader has to grasp: you can never repeat your vision too much. There isn’t a single leader who has cast their vision enough. No matter how many times you’ve said it, there’s always someone out there who hasn’t gotten it. Or someone who has lost it.

No one can hold onto any vision indefinitely without reinforcement and repetition. It doesn’t matter how compelling it is. Was any vision ever more compelling than the one Jesus laid out? Yet even he found the need to say it again.

And you’re going to need to as well.

People inevitably lose sight of why they’re doing what they’re doing. They get distracted by the practical realities of getting their work done. They lose the enthusiasm they had when the vision was fresh in their minds.

It happened to the disciples who were with Jesus day and night for three years. So it’s definitely going to happen to people you see for only a few hours a day. Or in the case of pastors, only once or twice a week.

This doesn’t mean you simply have to verbally state your vision or mission statement over and over to your people. You can repeat yourself without being repetitive. Find fresh ways to cast the same vision you have been casting for years. Explore new angles from which you can communicate the heartbeat of your church or organization.

You might have an incredible vision that has the potential to ignite passion in people’s souls and move them into action. Be excited about it. Be thankful for it. Never compromise it.

But it isn’t better than Jesus’. If Jesus had to repeat himself, what makes us think we can do anything less?

No matter how compelling your vision is, say it again.


Want to learn more about communicating your vision – over and over? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven Furtick

Steven Furtick

Pastor Steven Furtick is the lead pastor of Elevation Church. He and his wife, Holly, founded Elevation in 2006 with seven other families. Pastor Steven holds a Master of Divinity degree from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is also the New York Times Best Selling author of Crash the Chatterbox, Greater, and Sun Stand Still. Pastor Steven and Holly live in the Charlotte area with their two sons, Elijah and Graham, and daughter, Abbey.

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Words Create Worlds – The Language We Use Shapes the Culture We Lead

In his book The Talent Code, Daniel Coyle tells the fascinating story of some experiments that Stanford psychologist and author Carol Dweck has conducted with fifth graders in multiple settings.

The fifth graders were put into two different groups and given the same tests. After completing the first test, the first group was told, “You must be smart at these problems,” and the second group was told, “You must have worked hard at these problems.”

The subtle and small difference made a big impact.

In preparation for the next test, the children were asked if they wanted to try an easier test or a more difficult one. As a group, those affirmed for their hard work wanted the more difficult task and the opportunity to learn. Those affirmed for their intelligence wanted the easy test. Likely they believed intelligence was the chief value, and they feared losing their good standing, their identification as the smart ones. In another round of tests, more difficult in nature, the children who were affirmed for their intelligence gave up much more quickly than those who were affirmed for their hard work.

The students returned to the original test, and the “you must be smart” group scored 20% lower than they did at first. The “you must have worked hard” group improved their scores by 30%.

The point, according to both Coyle and Dweck, is the language “you must have worked hard” fosters motivation and a growth mind-set, while the language “you must be smart” fosters the belief that intelligence is fixed. The small change in language makes a profound impact.

In organizations, in churches, and in families, language matters. Many have said that “words create worlds,” and I have found the phrase to be true. As leaders, the language we use helps shape the cultures we lead.

The words you use to articulate your mission, values, and strategy are essential. You can use language as a powerful tool to bring clarity and direction to the teams you lead and the people you serve. Or you can, as many do, underestimate the power of language and create confusion without careful attention to the words that describe the direction of your organization.

 Read more from Eric here.

Would you like to learn more about using language as a powerful tool to bring clarity to your church? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger is the Senior Pastor of Mariners Church in Irvine, California. Before moving to Southern California, Eric served as senior vice-president for LifeWay Christian. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. Eric has authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, taking his daughters to the beach, and playing basketball.

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What’s the Difference Between Church Mission Statements and a Tagline?

Just Do It. 

This may be the most known marketing slogan in the world.

25 years ago, Nike fused brand and tagline with three words. A USA Today article highlighted the development of this global mantra, pointing out that Just Do It “has energized a generation of athletes and it continues to do that. That’s the uniqueness. It resonated far beyond what anybody could have expected.”

Inevitably as I walk church leaders through the vision pathway process, and we develop or redevelop their mission, the question arises “who is the mission for, insiders or outsiders?” There are sharp differences between a mission statement and a tagline. Simply put:

  • Mission statements are designed to engage the congregation.
  • Taglines are designed to engage the crowd.
  • Mission statements raise awareness in the church toward the Great Commission’s priority.
  • Taglines raise awareness in the community toward the Church’s personality.
  • Mission statements are not intended for the church sign.
  • Taglines are great on the church sign (when they are good see #churchsignfail above).
  • Mission statements send-out.
  • Taglines draw-in.

You may not even know that “Just Do It” is not even Nike’s mission statement. The mission of Nike is to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.

3 words capture the personality of Nike and 11 words catapult their calling.

Here are a few examples from Auxano’s experience in the church world of navigating the development of mission and tagline:

ChurchSignFail

A First Baptist church in the deep south wrestling with their “Country Club” persona…

>>Mission – Guiding people to discover life’s greatest treasure in Jesus.

>Tagline – Discover Life

A suburban church reaching a busy upper-middle class community…

>>Mission – Connecting people each day to the real Jesus in a real way.

>Tagline – Live for More

Another suburban church in the South expanding their influence…

>>Mission – To love and lead everyone we meet into an everyday walk with Christ.

>Tagline – Everyday Matters

Reaching an independent culture in the Western plains…

>>Mission – Living Life as though Jesus were living through you.

>Tagline – Live the Life

A large regional church in a tranisitioning community…

>>Mission – Caring for people and connecting them to Christ

>Tagline – Find a better tomorrow.

Just in case you might think taglines are a new phenomenon or are tempted to write their necessity off to secular marketing influencing the sacred, take a look at the following images from the ribbon cutting celebration of a Baptist Church in northwestern PA from 1949. Even back then, they positioned themselves to be: A Church that helps you find New Life. 

WaynePark2

What about your church or organization?

>> Can you define a unique and clear mission that captures the heart of your calling and activates your congregation?

>> Do you present your personality and the heart of God for the community in a compelling way?

The process of capturing both takes more time than you probably have and more effort than you probably think. But the results can be transformational and resonate beyond what you might expect.

So… Just Do It.

Read more from Brian here.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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7 Habits of Highly Ineffective Ministry Postcards

Last week, I opened our mailbox to find one of the worst church direct mail postcards that I have ever sent or received. First, you need to know that I have been a part of sending some real doozies, like an “F-Word” (forgiveness) pun on an Easter invite one year… not my idea, but I was definitely a willing participant. On some level, at least there was a point – horrible and offensive as it was.

My recent mailbox find is a direct mail piece following all of the current church-mailer trends, in that it is oversized, has a picture of the pastor and includes a group of smiling multicultural people. However, the messaging is a wreck, confusing and downright crazy-talk. This mailer was either designed by 4 different people who never bothered to coordinate their contribution, or one person with 4 different design personalities that stopped taking their meds. What’s worse is that it is from a large and influential church in the area, who would I assume possesses the means to do so much better.

When it comes to direct mail, statistics show the average piece will get three seconds of attention.

Three.

If you are considering a direct mail piece, here are seven ways you too can send an ineffective direct mail postcard:

1. Don’t Have a Point – Ramble and demonstrate how out of touch with the reality of everyday life outside of your church walls you really are. Use meaningless quotes and vaguely imply that something is happening that they should be aware of. Lots of people are not busy and looking to spend time trying to figure out your church, so they will naturally be drawn to the possibility of a confusing and rambling worship experience.

2. Use the Shotgun Approach – Communicate as much as you can to as wide an audience as you can. If you are launching a series on the Family, make sure you speak to and include content for everyone. Relegate your children’s ministry presence to a tiny corner and use the words “great” and “fun” a bunch. Singles and couples without kids have no need to know how to be a better parent, and for sure an older, empty nest generation doesn’t want to have influence and share their wisdom, so try your best to have something for everyone and to not alienate anyone.

3. Employ the “Bait and Switch” – Make sure your stock photography is purely aspirational. You will want anyone visiting to feel immediately uncomfortable and be easily recognizable. When they walk in the door, it is best if they become racial diversity that you pictured, or the casually dressed worshipper that they saw on your mailer. Because if you truly want your culture to change, it is always easier to blame it on the new people showing up than to lead and cast vision in the congregation. Also, when guests are easier to spot, that awkwardly over-friendly greeter won’t bother your regulars.

4. Use Insider Language – People outside the church loved to be validated in their “we don’t belong here” thinking. Use as many obscure or made-up words as you can to either illustrate how much smarter your church is or how quirky and cool your church is. The best is to combine two words that might mean something like “God calendar” or “faith-energy.”  Typically, we are drawn to the unfamiliar and weird as humans, especially if we have a significant social or spiritual need.

5. Try Too Hard – Everybody loves to see a worn-out cultural phenomenon imitated by the church, especially if it is a few years behind the original. That means your Duck Dynasty teaching series this Fall is right on time! Anything #hashtag, selfie or instagram driven might just now be cresting in Christian culture, and presumably aging like fine wine in your community. No matter what, it is always best to act as cool, awesome and relevant as possible. So if you’re stuck, plan to go to the next hip Christian conference this year to see what you are missing.

6. Talk at the Community – Much like insider language, people really want to feel alienated and even bullied into a saving knowledge of Jesus. It is always best to assume that they don’t know anything, and you know everything. It is a good practice to check the Tea Party or Blaze posts on your Facebook feed to see how a good, pointedly pushy headline should read. Everyone will be SUPER excited to hear what the topic of your next message series is going to be, once they figure out what “message series” might actually mean.

7. Don’t Include a Map – If they want it bad enough, they can find you. Plus everyone in the community must know who you are, especially if you are consistent with “dusty Bibles lead to dirty hearts” pun-ny evangelistic techniques on the church sign.

All snarkiness aside, well crafted and thoughtful mailers can be an effective tool in reaching people and can receive more than the typical 3 seconds of attention. Here are three, more helpful, practices for an effective community mailer:

1. Invest beyond Printing and Postage. Time spent in defining the audience and design excellence is as valuable to the staying power of your direct mail piece as the printing and postage is to the arriving power. Don’t pander for lowest common denominator buzz, like “F-word” shock attention, but create a central message that has meaning to the actual person you are trying to reach. Thensupport that message with great design and a coherent brandconnected to your actual personality and presence as a church.

2. Keep it Clean and Clear. In the design-investment phase of your next direct mail piece, answer 4 questions of clarity: who, what, when and why.
     Who are we targeting with this mailer and what matters most to that group? 
     What are we asking or inviting them to do, and does it make sense in the real world? 
     When do we want them to do it, and have we moved beyond just broadcasting general awareness and hopeful information with a time sensitive approach?
     Why should it matter to them, or why should they care about what we are saying or offering? 
If your next idea for a mailer cannot easily reflect this level of simplicity, and OBVIOUSLY answer these questions, go back to the drawing board or use your advertising dollars in a more effective way.

3. Define the Next Step. Nine out of ten first time guests will visit your church’s website before they set foot on your church’s property. Even more important than a map or list of service times, then, is a clear and compelling invitation to experience your online presence. Adding value to this invitation through current, community-directed content, a fresh welcome video or advertised event registration increases the likelihood that a recipient would do more than give your mailer a glance on the way to the wastebasket. Also, remember to check the age of your web content before the direct mail piece is sent. Nothing is worse the rotating Christmas Eve banners being seen in mid-January.

>> Read more from Bryan.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bryan Rose

As Lead Navigator for Auxano, Bryan Rose has a strong bias toward merging strategy and creativity within the vision of the local church and has had a diversity of experience in just about every ministry discipline over the last 12 years. With his experience as a multi-site strategist and campus pastor at a 3500 member multi-campus church in the Houston Metro area, Bryan has a passion to see “launch clarity” define the unique Great Commission call of developing church plants and campus, while at the same time serving established churches as they seek to clarify their individual ministry calling. Bryan has demonstrated achievement as a strategic thinker with a unique ability to infuse creativity into the visioning process while bringing a group of people to a deep sense of personal ownership and passion.

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15 Ideas to Help You Evaluate Your Church Bulletin

Recently I emailed some friends and asked them to grab their bulletins from their weekend services at their church and mail them to me. I was overwhelmed when just over 100 that arrived in my mailbox or email! It was so fun looking in at what’s going on at so many churches across the country. I asked for this bulletins because I wanted to learn from what other churches are doing to regularly communicate with their people through this channel. I’ve picked out some of the pieces that stood out to me and provided them here for you to check out as well. How are you leveraging your church bulletin (or program … or worship folder … or whatever you call it) to communicate with your people? I hope these inspire you to reconsider how you can make it better … I know it did for me! [You can download all 17 bulletins in one ZIP file.]

I’d love you to provide a link to your bulletin (or program!) in the comments section. What do you think your piece does particularly well? At my church we focus our bulletin totally on the first time guests … I don’t think our “regulars” look at bulletin at all. We used to have this cool “story of us” on the inside of our program every week for about 18 months. I liked that piece because I think it brought people up to speed quickly on who we are. I also like our current version of “what to expect” … I think it makes it pretty clear what is about to happen for our guests. I’d love to hear about yours!

>> Read more from Rich here

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rich Birch

Rich Birch

Thanks so much for dropping by unseminary … I hope that your able to find some resources that help you lead your church better in the coming days! I’ve been involved in church leadership for over 15 years. Early on I had the privilege of leading in one of the very first multisite churches in North Amerca. I led the charge in helping The Meeting House in Toronto to become the leading multi-site church in Canada with over 4,000 people in 6 locations. (Today they are 13 locations with somewhere over 5,000 people attending.) In addition, I served on the leadership team of Connexus Community Church in Ontario, a North Point Community Church Strategic Partner. I currently serves as Operations Pastor at Liquid Church in the Manhattan facing suburbs of New Jersey. I have a dual vocational background that uniquely positions me for serving churches to multiply impact. While in the marketplace, I founded a dot-com with two partners in the late 90’s that worked to increase value for media firms and internet service providers. I’m married to Christine and we live in Scotch Plains, NJ with their two children and one dog.

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Nicole — 04/30/15 2:24 pm

Thank you for the suggestions. I am looking to make some changes to our bulletin. I slimmed it down a few years ago (getting rid of the order of service and some other things). The issue that I am facing is that more than 50% of our congregation are senior citizens; the rest are younger families. It is very difficult to find something that meets everyone's needs. I have also tried to slim down the amount of inserts we put in the bulletins. Recently, I started putting pictures on the cover and everyone seems to love that! In the past our bulletins have been completely "inward" focused. There was nothing in there for guest and there wasn't even any contact information included. It would say something like "See Joe Smith for details." What happens when someone doesn't know Joe? I added a first page welcome explaining where kids go and what Sunday School Classes are available. I'm stuck trying to appeal to the old school and new school at the same time :) http://gracebiblesouderton.org/site/cpage.asp?cpage_id=180075183&sec_id=180011477

Mindy Fay — 02/05/15 9:03 pm

Your ideas and examples are great. We have a really, really small church. Mostly regulars (10-15) and some not so regulars (2-5) and the occasional visitor. I do our bulletin each week and try to cover the basics, make it attractive, and when necessary informative. I've been doing them for about 4 years, this year will be my 5th. Our small group of member's don't handle change very well, so I started out making it similar to the "cut and paste" photo copy job that they used to have, then gradually updated it. This year I made some "big" changes (or so our members feel). I'm just trying to get everyone to actually read it each week. I realized they weren't (except for the service order) when I started changing the Welcome message and realized no one had noticed! I can't leave the service order out, for the few times I have, they have not been pleased. We don't really have any ministries to add information about, just our Wednesday night bible study. I want our bulletin to grab the visitor's attention, inform them of what to expect, etc. but also, I like to have something inspirational, or fun facts, etc. to add that "little something extra" for our regulars to look forward to. Any ideas and/or feed back would be greatly appreciated. You can view most (not all unfortunately due to computer issues in the past and recently) via our facebook page (which by the way, I don't think our members have ever seen. Our Pastor didn't even know I had set up an email address for people to contact us...that's how outdated our church is, but I love them partially because of it! God Bless, Mindy https://www.facebook.com/pages/Natomas-Baptist-Church/291884617497303?ref=bookmarks

Eric Johnson — 01/01/15 10:48 am

Great article, I am constantly looking to tweak the bulletin. There are some great ideas here. To John Heading's comment, I have used Publisher for my 11 years (I keep it updated to 2013 version) designing our church bulletin and really like it. It all comes down to what you like and what you are used to. I don't have time to learn a whole new desktop publishing program. Use what works for you.

Jeremiah Austin — 02/25/14 2:18 pm

Christy, That's the format we just moved from. It has it's pros and cons. First of all, there is always room for whatever info you need to put in it (yet we somehow still needed inserts from time to time, go figure that one). Conversely though, what I ran into a lot, was trying to find filler to fill up all that space, but that was just an issue we had, may not be an issue for you guys (if you do have it though, I found a simple "Notes" Section with a bunch of lines was a GREAT filler). Also, IF your cover changes week to week or series to series, I found the dimensions hard to work with each time. However, I do like that the info is easy to navigate as well. One final note, since you provide your bulletin online, I would suggest lowering your file size as much as possible. You could probably cut about 25% of the file size out without any quality loss. It just helps with the loading time.

Christy Galan — 02/25/14 11:27 am

http://www.fpcpuyallup.org/hp_wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/February-23-2014.pdf I just re-did the bulletin into a tri-fold with order of worship & announcements together. I would love to know any suggestions! firstpresoffice@fpcpuyallup.org

Irby Stanley — 02/17/14 6:59 am

I am interested to how many churches still put the "nickels and noses" (giving and attendance) in their Sunday bulletin? We stopped doing this the first of the year and the senior adults are constantly complaining that we are trying to "hide something." I noticed only 2 or 3 of the examples that continue to put giving info in the bulletin.

Steve Wilson — 02/14/14 6:38 pm

Really helpful article - I'd be fascinated to hear your thoughts on our Monthly bulletin 'Preview'. We relaunched it, in the Autumn. http://www.kingsarms.org/resources/preview.html

Jeremiah Austin — 02/14/14 3:55 pm

Interesting thoughts. I'd love to be able to scrap the bulletin, but I'm interested in the sizes of the churches that scrapped them and their demographics. If there are a lot of the older generation, is that being received well and really working? John Heading, we actually use Photoshop, but I would guess most "professional" bulletin makers are using InDesign, but I could be wrong. I am just more comfortable in Photoshop. Another note on this, Publisher is certainly limiting, but you can still make nice looking things, it's really up to the space between the chair and the keyboard/mouse most of the time. http://spotswood.org/images/pdfs/bulletin.pdf We just did a total revamp on ours, this is lightyears beyond where it was. Still trying to learn how to have less clutter, but we're already cutting out too much for some people. I'm also having a difficult time with the older generation as far as readability goes. Oddly enough, they say it's color, not font size or type.

Paul Sterrett — 02/14/14 12:24 pm

Great food for thought. http://www.lifespringhill.org/#/worship/weekly-bulletin

John Heading — 02/14/14 6:20 am

Love the article. We have been thinking about gutting our bulletin and starting over. Is there a primary software that churches are using today? Microsoft Publisher looks more high school than professional. Any suggestions?

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comment_post_ID); ?> Thanks Thom, You’re exactly correct. Now how about some solutions when confronted by one of these wayward actors?
 
— Mike
 
comment_post_ID); ?> This is hilarious. Well done!
 
— RussellC
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Love this
 
— Ann Stokman
 

Clarity Process

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