How to Communicate With a Distracted Audience, Part Two: Approach Communication as Negotiation

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likeable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss

A former international hostage negotiator for the FBI offers a new, field-tested approach to high-stakes negotiations—whether in the boardroom or at home.

After a stint policing the rough streets of Kansas City, Missouri, Chris Voss joined the FBI, where his career as a hostage negotiator brought him face-to-face with a range of criminals, including bank robbers and terrorists. Reaching the pinnacle of his profession, he became the FBI’s lead international kidnapping negotiator. Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life.

Life is a series of negotiations you should be prepared for: buying a car, negotiating a salary, buying a home, renegotiating rent, deliberating with your partner. Taking emotional intelligence and intuition to the next level, Never Split the Difference gives you the competitive edge in any discussion.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Mention the word “negotiation” in a conversation, and the likely mental image involves police in a hostage situation, or maybe a high-powered business deal.

While those would be technically correct, at it’s very basic, negotiation is a method by which people settle differences. It is a process by which compromise or agreement is reached while avoiding argument and dispute.

In any disagreement, individuals understandably aim to achieve the best possible outcome for their position (or perhaps an organization they represent). However, the principles of fairness, seeking mutual benefit and maintaining a relationship are the keys to a successful outcome.

As a leader who is communicating a message, you are negotiating. Your listeners may be neutral toward your topic, or even against it. Even if they are “for” it, you would like to bring them on board even more.

It’s important for leaders to understand how urgent, essential, and even beautiful negotiations can be. When we embrace negotiating’s transformative possibilities, we learn how to get what we want and how to move others to a better place.

Negotiation serves two distinct, vital life functions – information gathering and behavior influencing – and includes almost any interaction where each party wants something from the other side.

Negotiation is nothing more than communication with results. Getting what you want out of life is all about getting what you want from – and with – other people. Conflict between two parties is inevitable in all relationships. So it’s useful – crucial, even – to know how to engage in that conflict to get what you want without inflicting damage.

Great negotiators are able to question the assumptions that the rest of the involved players accept on faith or in arrogance, and thus remain more emotionally open to all possibilities, and more intellectually agile to a fluid situation.

Learning the art of negotiation will help you get over the fear of conflict and encourage you to navigate it with empathy. If you are going to be great at anything – a great negotiator, a great manager, a great husband, a great wife – you’re going to have to do that.

You’re going to have to embrace regular, thoughtful conflict as the basis of effective negotiation – and of life. Your adversary is the situation and that the person you appear to be in conflict with is actually your partner.

More than a little research has shown that genuine, honest conflict between people over their goals actually helps energize the problem-solving process in a collaborative way. Skilled negotiators have a talent for using conflict to keep the negotiation going without stumbling into a personal battle.

Chris Voss, Never Split the Difference

A NEXT STEP

According to author Chris Voss, “negotiation is primarily a language of conversations and rapport: a way of quickly establishing relationships and getting people to talk and think together.”

Here are a few key lessons from Voss as you begin the journey of learning to be a negotiator.

  • A good negotiator prepares, going in, to be ready for possible surprises; a great negotiator aims to use her skills to reveal the surprises she is certain to find.
  • Don’t commit to assumptions; instead, use them as hypotheses and use the negotiation to test them regularly.
  • People who view negotiation as a battle of arguments become overwhelmed by the voices in their head. Negotiation is not an act of battle; it’s a process of discovery. The goal is to uncover as much information as possible.
  • Put a smile on your face. When people are in a positive frame of mind, they think more quickly, and are more likely to collaborate and problem-solve (instead of fight and resist). Positivity creates mental agility in both you and your counterpart.

Every negotiation, every conversation, every moment of life, is a series of small conflicts that, managed well, can rise to creative beauty.

In preparation for your next communication opportunity of any kind, review the quotes from author Chris Voss above and the four key lessons. Using those key lessons, prepare ahead of time how you will approach the communication.

After the communication, review how it went, what the impact of using one or more of Voss’ key lessons had on the conversation, and what you would do differently next time.

If applicable, ask a trusted friend or colleague who was present during the communication if they noticed anything differently in how you conducted the conversation.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-2, released October 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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Less (Words) Is More (Impact)

The bread aisle at the grocery store confounds me.

I just wanted to buy a loaf of bread to make a sandwich – I didn’t really want to wade through 7 long shelves of every imaginable type of bread possible.

My grocery store is just like your grocery store: when you stand in any aisle in any retail store in the U.S., you will be inundated with choices. Whether you are buying cereal, candy, TVs, or jeans, you’ll likely have huge number of items to choose from. Whether it’s a retail store or a Web site, if you ask people if they’d prefer to choose from a few alternatives or have lots of choices, most people will say they want lots of choices.

This is true in ChurchWorld, too.

Too Many Choices Paralyze the Thought Process

The book Art of Choosing by Sheena Iyengar details research on choice. In graduate school, Iyengar conducted what is now known as the “jam” study. She decided to test the theory that people who have too many choices will not choose at all. In a booth set up in a busy grocery store, Iyengar and her associates posed as store employees. They alternated the selection on the table: half the time there were 6 choices of fruit jam and half the time there were 24 jars of jam.

When there were 24 jars of jam, 60 percent of the people coming by would stop and taste. When there were only 6 jars of jam only 40 percent of the people would stop and taste. More choices were better – right?

Not exactly.

You might think that people would taste more jam when the table had 24 varieties – but they didn’t. People stopped at the table, but they only tasted a few varieties whether there were 6 or 24 choice available.

People can only remember 3 or 4 things at a time; likewise, they can decide from among only 3 or 4 things at a time.

The most interesting part of Iyengar’s study is that 31 percent of the people who stopped at the table with 6 jars actually made a purchase. But only 3 percent of the people who stopped at the table with 24 jars actually mad a purchase.

More people may have stopped by, but less people purchased.

The study may have proved that less is more, but why do people always want more choices?

Information is addictive.

Dopamine, a chemical created and released in our brains, is critical in all sorts of brain functions: thinking, moving, sleeping, mood, attention, motivation, seeking, and reward. Dopamine also causes you to want, desire, seek out, and search. Dopamine makes you curious about ideas and fuels your search for more information. A fascinating topic, but it will have to wait for later!

It’s only when people are confident in their decisions that they stop seeking more information.

Application for ChurchWorld Leaders

  • Resist the impulse to provide large number of choices
  • If you ask people how many options they want, the will almost always say “a lot” or “give me all the options.” If you ask, be prepared to deviate from what they ask for
  • If possible, limit the number of choices to 3 or 4. If you have to offer more options, try to do so in a progressive way. Have people choose first from 3 or 4 options, and then choose again from that subset.

inspired by and adapted from 100 Things Every Designer Needs to Know About People, by Susan Weinschenk

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Would you like to learn more about why less is more? Connect with an Auxano Navigator and start a conversation with our team.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob Adams

Bob Adams

Bob is an absolute fanatic about Guest Experiences, growing up watching his father serve customers at the gas station he built and operated for 44 years. Bob is continually connecting with corporate leaders in the customer experience world, learning and then translating practices for ChurchWorld. He writes, speaks, and consults on the topic frequently. Vocationally, Bob has a dual role at Auxano, a clarity first consulting firm serving the church. As Vision Room Curator and Digital Engagement Leader he researches, edits, writes and publishes online content. As Guest Experience Navigator, he leverages his passion, providing Guest Perspective Evaluations and Guest Experience Blueprints. Bob and his wife Anita have been married for 39 years. They have 4 children, 3 daughters-in-law, 1 son-in-law, and 4 grandchildren.

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Clarity Process

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What Business Are You REALLY in?

What business are you in? The way you answer that question will determine who will engage with you in an increasingly digital world.

Most organizations answer this question with a mission statement. Too often, though, mission statements are long, confusing, and filled with insider terminology. Those types of mission statements are not helpful when it comes to the messaging on your website or social platforms. What do you do?

We’ve found that it’s helpful to have both a brand positioning statement and a tagline. These two, when they are developed intentionally, can work together to communicate your business on multiple levels.

What’s a brand positioning statement?


A brand positioning statement is a logical description of what you do. The best brand positioning statements are no more than 15-20 words in length, do not include insider terminology, and include some description of your uniqueness as an organization.

What is unique about your approach to your business? What sets you apart from your competitors or other organizations in your market? You may have heard this described before as your unique selling proposition.

Your brand positioning statement should tell people what you do in a way they can understand … while including some description of your unique approach or philosophy.

What’s a tagline?


A tagline is a short, memorable phrase that captures the key benefit you provide to your target audience. It does not describe what you do (that’s what the brand positioning statement is for), it describes the result of what you do in the lives of your audience members.

So, for example, Nike’s tagline is “Just Do It.” By itself, that doesn’t tell you what Nike does. If you had no other context for Nike as an organization, you wouldn’t know, logically, what they do. But you know that the desired result of what they do is empowering, equipping, and motivating people.

The tagline speaks much more to the emotive side of the brain—tapping into emotions, values, and results.

If you bring together Nike’s tagline with a logical brand positioning statement like “athletic equipment meticulously designed to help you reach your potential,” all of a sudden, their brand message becomes very clear.

So what business are you in? What is it you do … exactly? If you can answer that question from both a logical perspective (brand positioning statement) and an emotive perspective (tagline), you’ll communicate clearly to your audience and they will be able to more fully engage with you and your brand.

> Read more from Steve.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steve Finkill

Steve Finkill

Steve Finkill is the Chief Messaging Officer at ID Digital, a verbal, visual, and marketing company. Dream Vacation: Driving the Pacific Coast Highway with my wife. Stopping for great food and some golf along the way. Ice Cream Flavor: Vanilla with real peanut butter mixed in. Favorite Films The Shawshank Redemption, The Empire Strikes Back, and Tombstone. Surprising Personal Fact: I was the Table Tennis Champion of my middle school. Favorite Album: The Firm Soundtrack, Dave Grusin. Coffee: Never. Beverages are meant to be cold.

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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How to Communicate With a Distracted Audience, Part One: Leverage “Pre-suasion” to Gain Attention

Do you think people care about what you have to say? The truth is that the average person doesn’t know you. It’s not that you’re not likable or smart; it’s just a matter of survival for people in today’s world. There is simply too much out there and not enough time to take it all in.

These words by communications expert Kem Meyer succinctly point out the dilemma for communicators today: for many people, the last thing they are looking for is unsolicited information, or someone to tell them to change their ways.

And yet many, if not most, of the sermons preached by pastors attempt to do just that.

However, many people will take the time to read or listen to something that reinforces an opinion they already have or speaks to a real need in their lives. If they are not looking for it, they won’t hear it. But, if you take the time to learn what they’re looking for, you can get in on a conversation already in progress in their minds.

How then, can a leader understand their audience in such a way to make their message more receptive? How can you connect, communicate, and influence your audience toward life-long transformation?

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade by Robert Cialdini

The acclaimed New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller from Robert Cialdini – “the foremost expert on effective persuasion” (Harvard Business Review) – explains how it’s not necessarily the message itself that changes minds, but the key moment before you deliver that message.

What separates effective communicators from truly successful persuaders? With the same rigorous scientific research and accessibility that made his Influence an iconic bestseller, Robert Cialdini explains how to prepare people to be receptive to a message before they experience it. Optimal persuasion is achieved only through optimal pre-suasion. In other words, to change “minds” a pre-suader must also change “states of mind.”

Named a “Best Business Books of 2016” by the Financial Times, and “compelling” by The Wall Street Journal, Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion draws on his extensive experience as the most cited social psychologist of our time and explains the techniques a person should implement to become a master persuader. Altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary, says Cialdini—all that’s required is for a communicator to redirect the audience’s focus of attention before a relevant action.

From studies on advertising imagery to treating opiate addiction, from the annual letters of Berkshire Hathaway to the annals of history, Cialdini outlines the specific techniques you can use on online marketing campaigns and even effective wartime propaganda. He illustrates how the artful diversion of attention leads to successful pre-suasion and gets your targeted audience primed and ready to say, “Yes.” His book is “an essential tool for anyone serious about science based business strategies…and is destined to be an instant classic.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

Even the most well-planned communication opportunity often achieves lackluster results without the audience listening (and hopefully acting on your suggestions).

But what if the audience can be warmed up to your message before they even see it?

The best persuaders become the best through pre-suasion – the process of arranging for recipients to be receptive to a message before they encounter it.

Pre-suasion, a word coined by Robert Cialdini, is the process of gaining agreement with a message before it’s been sent. Although that may seem like some form of magic, it’s not. It’s established science.

That key moment is the one that allows a communicator to create a state of mind in recipients that is consistent with the forthcoming message. It’s the moment in which we can arrange for others to be attuned to our message before they encounter it. That step is crucial for maximizing desired change.

The answer involves an essential but poorly appreciated tenant of all communication: what we present first changes the way people experience what we present to them next.

The truly influential things we say and do first act to pre-suade our audiences, which then alters audience members’ associations with what we say or do next.

All told, there are any of a number of first steps besides establishing trust persuaders can take that will make audiences more redemptive to the case they intend to present.

The steps can take multiple forms, and, accordingly, they’ve been given multiple labels by behavioral scientists. They can be called frames or anchors or primes or mindsets or first impressions. I’m going to refer to them as openers – because they open up things for influence in two ways.

First, they simply initiate the process: they provide the starting points, the beginnings of persuasive appeals. But it is in their second function that they clear the way to persuasion, by removing existing barriers.

It’s because of the only-temporary receptiveness that pre-suasive actions often produce in others that I’ve introduced the concept of privileged moments.

The meaning of the word privileged is straightforward referring to special, elevated status. The word moment, though, is more complex, as it evokes a pair of meanings. One connotes a time-limited period: in this case, the window of opportunity following a pre-suasive opener, when a proposal’s power is greatest. The other connotation comes from physics and refers to a unique leveraging force that can bring about unprecedented movement. These yoke dimensions, temporal on the one hand and physical on the other, have the capacity to instigate extraordinary change in a yet third, psychological, dimension.

Robert Cialdini, Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade

A NEXT STEP

Author Robert Cialdini believes that altering a listener’s attitudes, beliefs, or experiences isn’t necessary. All that’s required is to alter the audience’s focus of attention just before requesting a relevant action.

The factor most likely to determine a person’s choice in a situation is often not the one that offers the most accurate or useful counsel; instead, it is the one that has been elevated in attention (and thereby in privilege) at the moment of decision.

“Privileged moments” are identifiable points in time when an individual is particularly receptive to a communicator’s message.

The artful channeling of attention leads to potent pre-suasion and positive outcomes.

In his earlier work, Influence, Cialdini argued that there are six concepts that empower the major principles of human social influence. Understanding and practicing these concepts will help you “pre-suade” your audience.

Reciprocation – People say yes to those they owe. Those “freebies” given away in stores? Studies show they can increase the likelihood of purchase by over 40%. Requesters who hope to commission the pre-suasive force of the rule for reciprocation have to do something that appears daring: they have to take a chance and give first. The “gift” should be meaningful, unexpected, and customized.

Liking – It may seem so common sense, but it is true: people say yes to those who they like. Two specific ways to create positive attention get the most attention: highlight similarities and provide compliments.

Social Proof – People think it is appropriate for them to believe, feel, or do something to the extent that others, especially comparable others, are believing, feeling, or doing it. Two components of that perceived appropriateness – validity and feasibility – can drive change.

Authority – When a legitimate expert on a topic speaks, people are usually persuaded. Sometimes, information becomes persuasive only because an authority is its source. This is especially true when the recipient is uncertain of what to do.

Scarcity – We want more of what we can have less of. Our aversion to losing something of value is a key factor. Scarcity also raises the judged value of that item.

Consistency – Communicators who can get listeners to take a pre-suasive step, even a small one, in the direction of a particular idea or entity will increase our willingness to take a much larger, congruent step when asked.

Review each of the above concepts, along with their brief description, and commit to applying one or more of these concepts over the next two months. Examples could include: social media posts, sermons, vision casting moments, or staff meetings. At the end of two months, review the use of each to determine how effective it was in helping your audiences take a next step in their walk with Christ.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 104-1, released October 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 <<

Download PDF

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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.

See more articles by >

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comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
— Russell C
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Excellent information, thank You
 
— Thomas TC Gotcher
 
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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

3 Myths of Church Communication that Get Everyone

Church communication is a popular topic in the church world. But the expectations of how to fix communication, is often overinflated. It’s not a cure all. In fact, effective communication takes time as the correct messages are produced consistently. Producing the right messages takes talent and skill especially when consistency is required.

Here are 3 church communication myths that need to be understood:

  1. A bad event doesn’t benefit from effective communication. Your congregation knows hype and has reasonable expectations for your church events. Saying “this is a must-attend ministry opportunity” over and over does not increase attendance — unless there’s validity to the assertion.  Every event in your church can’t be “the best thing ever”. Truth: Communication needs to state the benefit of attending or participating along with pertinent details (that requires someone to decide what the value is for attendance). Communication cannot “fix” a bad event or poor attendance. Be sure to work on the quality of your ministries before communicating them. Will that fix everything instantly? Not if your congregation or community has endured years of lackluster events. It’ll take time for positive word-of-mouth to support the communication claims.
  2. The more you say, the more important it’ll feel. Many leaders feel that “if we talk multiple times about something” it will feel like everyone should feel the importance of it. Or, if we tell lots of details and extend the promotion to include “everything” about the event, more people will get a sense of urgency. The opposite is often the case. Truth: People don’t have time to listen to redundancy or read long paragraphs. What we’re learned from research? People are quick to half-listen when they feel you get too detailed or sense redundancy. In print? They tend to scan for details. Ultimately, people want to know “what’s in it for me”. So, ensure the benefit is compelling and simple, and you’ll capture the attention and attendance you seek. And remember that most people don’t want ALL the details during the promotion — instead, send them to your website for additional details (if they want them).
  3. All stories communicate effectively. We hear regularly that churches must tell stories. This isn’t always the case — some stories shouldn’t be told. And the way they’re told is just as important. In fact, many stories hurt the communication rather than help it. Truth: Ensure your story is edited to the shortest length possible to keep the point of it. Make sure there’s a clear ending and reasonable point that can be gleaned be everyone listening. Make sure the hero of the story is not you or the church leadership! It’s always “them” — and make sure the point of the story can be quickly applied to the congregation that’s listening or reading. Other bonuses? Think about good storytelling formula: have a clear villain (that wants the hero to fail), a clear hero with goals to achieve, a guide that helps take them on a journey. And the end? A twist or unexpected outcomes alway work effectively and capture the attention of the listener/reader. Just remember the attention span of Americans today is short. Very short. So edit (for all of your communication)!

> Read more from Mark.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is a Bible Teacher, speaker, best-selling author of Be Known For Something, and communication strategist for BeKnownForSomething.com and the Florida Baptist Convention. He empowers churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. His book is available at BeKnownBook.com and amazon.com.

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comment_post_ID); ?> I ask: “How long have you been coming here?” It’s works in every situation.
 
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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

How Long is Too Long? 5 New Sermon Length Trends

One thing is for certain regarding the proclamation of God’s Word: preaching is still primary for both pastors and church members.

Because of the centrality of preaching in most churches, it is always fascinating to learn what developments are taking place in the preaching ministry. I recently conducted another social media survey on sermon length. This time, however, I asked an additional question. The two questions were as follows: What is your typical sermon length? Has it changed over your ministry?

We received nearly 1,000 responses. With that volume of great feedback, we were able to see five clear trends:

  1. Pastors are, for the most part, changing sermon length over the course of their ministry (Trending Up ⬆). Over eight of ten pastors indicated they had made significant changes to their sermon length in their ministries. There were a number of reasons for the changes, but the most common was adapting to listening patterns of the congregation.
  2. Sermon length is down slightly over the past four years (Trending Down ⬇). The median length of the sermon of those surveyed was 27 minutes, down from 29 minutes four years ago.
  3. Though a number of respondents indicated changes to sermon length were longer than previous years, by a 3:2 margin more pastors were moving to shorter sermons (Trending Down ⬇). Since this point is similar to number two above, you would expect more pastors moving to shorter sermons than to longer sermons.
  4. Many of the pastors who were resistant to shortening the length of their sermons were compelled to do so when they went to multiple services, multiple sites, and/or multiple venues (Trending Down ⬇). This pastor said it well: “I preached around 50 minutes until we added a second service. I had to trim the length by 10 minutes just for logistical reasons. It about killed me!”
  5. The number of pastors whose sermon length is an outlier (fewer than 15 minutes or greater than 50 minutes) is small but stable (Trending Stable ⬅➡). Fewer than five percent of the pastors who responded preach sermons whose length is an outlier because of its brevity or longer length. The number of outliers has not changed significantly, but the advocates of either extreme tend to be clear and eager to verbalize the benefits of their sermon lengths.

Thank you, first, to the Church Answers’ community for starting this discussion. And thank you to the hundreds of you who responded.

What is your typical sermon length? Has it changed over the course of your ministry?

> Read more from Thom.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Thom Rainer

Thom Rainer

Thom S. Rainer is the founder and CEO of Church Answers, an online community and resource for church leaders. Prior to founding Church Answers, Rainer served as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Before coming to LifeWay, he served at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for twelve years where he was the founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism. He is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama and earned his Master of Divinity and Ph.D. degrees from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

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Clarity Process

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How To Handle Communications When Crisis Hits: Part Two

There are few guarantees in ministry today. Unfortunately, one of them is the inevitability of a potential crisis occurring in our country, your community or even your church that could have a major effect on your congregation and even your reputation.

A crisis is an event, precipitated by a specific incident, natural or man-made, that attracts critical media attention and lasts for a definite period of time. Recent church crises include a devastating hurricane in Houston, a gunman in Nashville, or a public moral failure of a national leader.

When your church finds itself in the midst of a crisis, the ripple effects can disrupt lives and operations for the foreseeable future if public opinion is not properly addressed and stewarded.

Skillfully managing the perception of the crisis can determine the difference between an organization’s life or death. In the pitched battle between perception and reality, perception always wins.

If this feels ominous and overwhelming to you, take heart. There is a solution – you can prepare for the inevitable crisis by a proactive and preventative method for preempting potential crises. Finding yourself in a crisis situation is bad; not being prepared when a crisis occurs is devastatingly worse.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Crisis Management by Richard Luecke

All organizations are subject to crises. Leaders whose organizations encounter a crisis must act quickly, yet few leaders receive any formal training in this critical area.

In today’s volatile work environment, avoiding disaster is more important than ever. Crisis Management helps managers identify, manage, and prevent potential crises.

Full of tips and tools on how to prepare an emergency list and how to utilize pre-crisis resources, this book shows managers how to shepherd their teams from crisis to success.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION – Craft and communicate your response.

There is no one who can speak effectively for you and your organization than you. If your organization finds itself in a crisis situation – and even more so if you are the victim in a crisis – both your constituents and the public need to hear your voice.

Failure to make yourself heard in a crisis is a very risky move, almost as much as failure to communicate at all.

It is inevitable that there will be a time in the future when you find it essential to take your important and time-sensitive message to the public. In most cases that will involve communicating your message through both mainstream news media and social media platforms.

Those who reach out on behalf of your organization should be well briefed on not only what to say but what questions might arise and how those questions should be answered so that the entire organization is speaking with a single voice.

Communication through the media – newspapers, television, and radio – must be used to accurately frame the crisis in the public’s mind. Fail to deal with the media effectively, and your side of the story may never be heard.

Give intense attention to how you communicate with the public through the media. Your messages should be accurate and candid. They should also represent your point of view and include facts that support it. If you get your messages out early and often, there is a good chance that you will successfully frame the story in the public’s mind.

Give Them the Facts

One way to get across the story you want told is to (1) anticipate the questions that news reporters are likely to ask and (2) make a list of the five questions you would least liked to be asked and then be prepared to answer them. Be assured someone will ask those difficult questions. By anticipating media questions, you can form and articulate clear, complete responses that present your side of the story.

Use the Right Spokesperson

Who should be the spokesperson? In most cases it should be the identifiable leader, usually the CEO. When the crisis involves highly technical issues on which the CEO is not a credible authority, consider a team approach to speaking with the media. In this team approach, the CEO provides context and an overview of the situation. He or she will then ask a more technically knowledgeable subordinate to fill in the details – in nontechnical terms, you hope.

Segment Your Audience

Audience segmentation is the basis of an effective communication plan. First, segment your audience by interests. Once you have segmented your audience, you will have a better idea of the messages you need to develop and convey to each segment. You will need to develop different messages for different audiences. Just be sure those different messages are consistent and do not contradict one another.

Select the Most Appropriate Media

As a crisis communicator, you must match the media to the audience. Do this by first answering these questions:

  • With which audience segments should I communicate?

  • Which are the best media for reaching each segment?

  • What particular information will each segment value most?

Richard Luecke, Crisis Management

A NEXT STEP

If you have a Crisis Management Plan (see Solution #1 above), make sure the individual in charge is following the above suggestions when dealing with the media following a crisis.

If you do not have a Crisis Management Plan, designate a senior team member or board member to be the spokesperson in a crisis situation. Once this person is selected, convene your leadership team and board for a working session to work through the above points. This process will give the designated spokesperson the relevant information needed to convey to the media in any future crisis.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 92-2, released May 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.

Each issue 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.

When It’s Time for Some Spring Cleaning in Your Communications

It’s still spring. Time to upgrade things going out of style, time to store the things that don’t fit right now and time to retire the items we’re not using anymore. You can do this with your wardrobe if you want, but I’m not interested in your closet. I’m talking about your communications activity.

I have to ask, are you taking inventory of all the content and materials you’re generating and measuring the ROI at least once a year? If not, you should.

People change. Culture changes. Just because something was a great resource before doesn’t mean it is filling the need now. Sacred cows make the best steaks.

TAKE INVENTORY

Take a look at all your activity in every channel. What are you mailing, handing out, posting, rendering, hanging, designing, emailing? With an open mind, honestly ask yourself:

  • Does this still fit? Have we outgrown this? Is it still us? Does the vocabulary still work?
  • Is this out-of-date? Is this soooo last season? Is it in tune with what people are looking for?
  • Is this appropriate to wear in public? Does it help at least 80% of our congregation?
  • Is anyone using this? Is it solving a problem? Would anyone notice if it was gone?
  • What are the consequences if this went away? Are there alternative solutions?
  • Is it too much? Is there any way to simplify this; can we make it easier to find or use?

This only works if you’re able to honestly evaluate with an objective lens. Don’t plan this exercise if you’re in a mood or short on sleep. Bring your best, constructive brain to the table.

AVOID THE TWO EXTREMES

DON’T KEEP IT just because people are used to having it around. Some of the things we keep around have long outlived the problem they were created to solve. If it isn’t solving a current problem, it’s time for it to go. [Member mailboxes, I’m talking to you.]

DON’T KILL IT for the fast visual relief of decluttering or shortening a task list. If we cut things out without taking the customer journey into account, we risk closing the only channel where guests and members easily find out what’s happening from week to week. [Maybe you should try organizing the information in your bulletin better before you get rid of it.]

MARK YOUR CALENDAR, MAKE A PLAN

Spring time may not be the best time to clean your communications closet (though it could be the best time). Whatever your season of choice may be, mark your calendar now for when you plan to make it happen. And, then. Make it happen.

Consider the team players who need to be part of the conversation. Find a customer advocate who has permission to review what is helpful and what isn’t for your audience. Evaluate all activity at once; with no personal agenda or bias. Solicit feedback. Spend two power hours (with pizza) to go through the questions. Make sure everything you’re creating (or using) is still solving a real problem

  1. Gather the facts.
  2. Get objective input.
  3. Review your findings.
  4. Decide what needs to go and what needs to take its place.

A good strategy demands that you make a choice to move in one specific direction. It demands that you prioritize what’s most important and focus your resources there – trying to have it all will leave you struggling. – Good Strategy Bad Strategy. The Difference and Why It Matters. by Richard Rumelt

Pro-tip: If you’re not sure about whether you can afford to retire something, consider a “pilot pause.” Discontinue it for a season and see what happens. Based on the response you get (or don’t get) you can decide what’s really needed.

> 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

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3 Ways to Turn Boring into Fascinating

I’m fascinated how someone can attend two similar church services (maybe even with the same Pastor) and have the 30-minute sermon seem long and boring in one while the other can feel interesting and not enough time. And it’s the same amount of time. And maybe similar content!

Or you can watch a YouTube video and be fully engaged with it for several minutes while another will drive you to close the window after a couple of minutes. Even if it’s the same subject.

Or there’s a website that can captivate you for a long time versus the website that loses your interest in about 30 seconds.

Communication is tough. Our audience has changed. Their attention-span has gotten shorter and shorter. In fact, according to a 2015 Microsoft study, humans lose interest in most things after only 8 seconds. This is astounding since a goldfish has a 9 second attention span. We’re doomed.

Our audience certainly isn’t changing, so we need to tackle things differently with our communication style.

Here are 3 things we (as communicators) must understand and change to turn boring into interesting:

  1. Make it matter to your audience. This is key. In the first few seconds, in the headline, or first sentence, speak to a pain that you know your audience faces or a challenging goal that they seek. Then deliver as quickly as possible the hope of a solution in your communication. Or a straight-line path to their goal. This requires you to know your audience extremely well. So do everything within your power to discover their pains and goals.
  2. Edit your content as short as possible and present it the way your audience wants it. Do the difficult work of eliminating everything that’s unnecessary or redundant. Get your communication to the basics and don’t overdo the details. Then, based on your communication channel, deliver it in a style you know they’ll enjoy. For in-person or on video, that’s an interjection-style that captures the wayward attention and holds it by bringing people back into the conversation. For printed or static web content, give in to their propensity of scanning. Create eye-interruptors (headlines, subheads, bullets, captions) that tell most of the story and lead to the deeper content so they can read more.
  3. Deliver it so you seek engagement. Remember you’re not just telling. All content today should engage. Drive them to other locations through links and suggestions. Allow them to process or do things so they interact with your content. Where possible, let them respond. This engagement says you care about them and want them to fully understand. This relationship of love and empathy will allow your audience to overlook flaws and truly be interested in what you have to offer.

Summary? Make it about THEM and less about YOU. Say it as quickly as possible. They’ll feel the love. That’s the role of all church communication today.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald

Mark MacDonald is a Bible Teacher, speaker, best-selling author of Be Known For Something, and communication strategist for BeKnownForSomething.com and the Florida Baptist Convention. He empowers churches to become known for something relevant (a communication thread) throughout their ministries, websites, and social media. His book is available at BeKnownBook.com and amazon.com.

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Clarity Process

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Why Talking Starts with Listening

You would think listening would be easy. After all, we spend a good chunk of our lives doing it. We listened to our parents when we were children. We listened to our teachers in school. We listen to the radio in the car, and we listen to the tv while we are watching it.

To go a step further, the Bible tells us that we ought to listen – that we ought to be “quick to listen”, in fact (James 1:19). Listening, then, is not just a skill – it’s a matter of obedience for the Christian.

But even though we have done it for so long, and even though we do it now, and even though the Bible tells us it ought to be our practice, many of us don’t. At least not really. Oh, we hear sounds, but there is a difference between hearing things that happen to be around us at a given moment and actively, intentionally listening. The first happens without effort; the second comes through discipline and practice, and this is where we often fail. We find ourselves, especially when we are hearing something or someone we don’t agree with, not really listening but instead tolerating sound, just waiting for our own chance to talk.

So what are some of the barriers that keep us from really listening to another person? Allow me to suggest three:

1. Our own insecurity.

We are all, at some level, still living middle school. We all have our own particular insecurities that are constantly in the background. We are concerned about our appearance, our intelligence, our ingenuity, or something else, and those long held insecurities affect us more than we think we do. One of the ways they do is they make us assume a posture of defensiveness. We feel attacked even if we’re not. So when we find ourselves in a conversation with someone who doesn’t think, believe, or behave as we do, we take it personally and are quick to move on that perceived attack.

When we are moving to defend ourselves, we stop listening because we feel compelled to respond, respond, respond. The deeper answer, then, to our inability to listen is not just skill development; it’s confronting our lingering insecurities through the power of the gospel. For in the gospel, we know that we are fully accepted in Christ. We are the chosen sons and daughters of God. And the confidence that comes from that knowledge, among other things, bolsters our ability to listen.

2. Our view of another person.

CS Lewis once wrote: “There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.” It’s easy to forget that, isn’t it?

When we are engaged in a conversation with someone we don’t agree with, we can quickly make the shift to thinking of that person as an enemy. Or a target. Or a potential opinion to change. When we do that, we stop listening because we stop focusing on that person. They have become a shell of a human – just another talking head to be responded to – rather than remembering that at the core, this person is a human being created in the image of God. When we revert back to this mindset, we are compelled to listen because really listening is a simple way we recognize the dignity that every person is rightfully due.

3. Our confidence in God’s work.

One final barrier to listening is our lack of confidence in God’s work. One of the reasons we are slow to listen and quick to speak is because we feel compelled to defend God to someone else. I want to be careful here to not imply that we should not defend God, or the Bible, or doctrine. We can, and we should. But there is a great difference in defending what we believe from the posture of confidence and defending what we believe from a posture of insecurity.

In our hearts, we might not fully believe the Bible is true. Or that God can really change hearts. Or that He is actually all powerful and all loving at the same time. We aren’t secure in His work, and so we argue, and as the saying goes, we doth protest too much and in so doing reveal we aren’t quite as secure in what we believe as we claim.

In the end, we don’t change someone’s heart. And in the end, God doesn’t need us to defend Him. In such moments, we have the opportunity to demonstrate patience, grace, and charity, and actually win a hearing for the truth of the gospel.

Listening is important. It’s more than just a skill. In fact, it might well be worth considering, if we have trouble listening, the real reason why it’s so difficult. And as we do, we will mercifully be led back to the God who never fails to listen to us. In Him, we will find the security and confidence it takes to truly listen to another.

> Read more from Michael.


 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Kelley

I’m a Christ-follower, husband, dad, author and speaker. Thanks for stopping here to dialogue with me about what it means to live deeply in all the arenas of life. I live in Nashville, Tennessee, with my wife Jana who is living proof of the theory that males are far more likely to marry over their heads than females are. We have three great kids, Joshua (5) and Andi (3), and Christian (less than 1). They remind me on a daily basis how much I have to grow in being both a father and a child. I work full time for Lifeway Christian Resources, where I’m a Bible study editor. I also get out on the road some to speak in different churches, conferences and retreats.

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— Bolstering your Leadership Armoury-Part 2- Leadership series – Toyer M–All things testing
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.