Communicate with Intentionality: Clarify Your Message

“Scrambling to keep up and looking for ways to get their message heard, churches are creating more videos, designing more logos, printing more inserts, sending more emails, launching new apps and websites, posting more social media updates, and trying to write lots of captivating content.”

“Here’s what happens. The people they are trying to reach move further away just to survive the onslaught.”

The above paragraphs resonate from the introductory pages of Kem Meyer’s book “Less Chaos. Less Noise.” These words become a powerful reminder that today’s church faces a culture in which the difficulty of connecting with people has become an ever-changing proposition.

Every day, your church stewards thousands of moments of truth. Every time a member talks to a neighbor, someone drives by the church facility, a ministry e-mail goes out, a pastor’s business card is left on a desk, some interaction on behalf of the church has transpired. Every time these events happen, the church’s vision glows brighter or dims in the tiniest little increments.

The visionary leader cares too much about the message to let it just blow in the wind, unattended. Church leaders must be bold and relevant as they integrate vision into the all aspects of church communication. This can happen only with a tremendous amount of intentionality in the complex discipline of church communications.

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Building a StoryBrand by Donald Miller

Donald Miller’s StoryBrand process is a proven solution to the struggle business leaders face when talking about their businesses. This revolutionary method for connecting with customers provides readers with the ultimate competitive advantage, revealing the secret for helping their customers understand the compelling benefits of using their products, ideas, or services.

Building a StoryBrand does this by teaching readers the seven universal story points all humans respond to; the real reason customers make purchases; how to simplify a brand message so people understand it; and how to create the most effective messaging for websites, brochures, and social media.

Whether you are the marketing director of a multibillion dollar company, the owner of a small business, a politician running for office, or the lead singer of a rock band, Building a StoryBrand will forever transform the way you talk about who you are, what you do, and the unique value you bring to your customers.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

What is clarity really about? A synthesis of definitions brings clarity to the concept of clarity: it means being free from anything that obscures, blocks, pollutes, or darkens.

Being clear as a leader means being simple, understandable, and exact.

The leader helps others see and understand reality better. Leaders constantly bring the most important things to light: current reality and future possibility, what God says about it, and what we need to do about it.

Unfortunately, there is often a gap between the leader’s words and how followers receive the leader’s words. Like a dropped cell call, this is caused by various sources of disconnection and static between people, even if the leader is communicating clearly.

Like the bars that indicate signal strength on a cell phone, every leader has signal strength levels that distinguish perceiving, thinking, and communicating with others.

The effective leader must spend extra time bridging the gaps by practicing clarity with words.

Words sell things. And if we haven’t clarified our message, our customers won’t listen.

Nobody will listen to you if your message isn’t clear, no matter how expensive your marketing material may be.

Your customers have questions burning inside them, and if we aren’t answering those questions, they’ll move on to another brand. If we haven’t identified what our customer wants, what problem we are helping them solve, and what life will look like after they engage our products and services, we can forget about thriving.

What we think we are saying to our customers and what our customers actually hear are two different things. And customers make buying decisions not based on what we say but on what they hear.

We need a filter to minimize the noise. The essence of branding is to create simple, relevant messages we can repeat over and over so that we “brand” ourselves into the public consciousness.

Donald Miller, Building a StoryBrand

A NEXT STEP

Stories move us. The engage us. They inspire us. Stories give us examples of how to act – and how not to act. The best ones stay with us forever.

To clarify your message using stories, it will be helpful to follow the formula that author Donald Miller uses in his book Building a StoryBrand. Purchasers of the book will receive free access to an online tool, the StoryBrand BrandScript.

While you will not be able to use the powerful techniques in this brief overview, you can at least get an idea of how those techniques might be used in your setting.

Here is an overview:

Nearly every story you see or hear can be outlined as: A CHARACTER who wants something encounters a PROBLEM before they can get it. At the peak of their despair, a GUIDE steps into their lives, gives them a PLAN, and CALLS THEM TO ACTION. That action helps them avoid FAILURE and ends in SUCCESS.

In a team discussion, write the key words from the above statement down the left side of a chart tablet.

  • Character
  • Problem
  • Guide
  • Plan
  • Calls them to action
  • Failure
  • Success

Brainstorm the successful transformation you’re helping the average church member achieve by writing out ideas for each of the categories listed.

Discuss among your team how you can use the StoryBrand principles to clarify your church’s message through the telling of stories.

Every human being is already speaking the language of story, so when you begin using a story framework, you’ll finally be speaking their language.

Excerpt taken from SUMS Remix 81-1, issued December 2017.


 

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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comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.

Sharing a Social Network Gospel

In ministry, some things must never change, but others must change constantly.

Clearly, God’s five purposes for his Church are non-negotiable. If a church fails to balance the five purposes of worship, fellowship, discipleship, ministry, and evangelism, then it’s no longer a healthy church, and it’s in danger of becoming simply a social club.

On the other hand, the way or style in which we fulfill these eternal purposes must continually be adjusted and modified because human culture is always changing.

For instance, when I first started Saddleback Church, fresh out of Southwestern Seminary, computers were in their infancy, slow and cumbersome and capable of very limited functions. The Internet was just a crude academic network and nobody had even heard of email. Now I often sit in my pajamas and have conversations with people across the globe.

In addition, you can get on a plane and within a few hours fly to almost anywhere in the world, and that means there’s even less of an excuse for not being involved in foreign missions, even if just for the short-term. The times, they are a-changing, and they’ll keep right on a-changing whether we want them to or not.

And that’s why at Saddleback, any time a new tool becomes available, we embrace it. Before the world wide web, there was Gopher, and Saddleback used it. And we’ve used the web, Facebook, Twitter, and every other major social media tool since.

Our message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must be constantly updated to reach each new generation.

In other words, our message of transformation must never change while the transformation of our presentation should be continual, adapting to the new languages of our culture.

Consider this: the word contemporary literally means with temporariness. By nature, nothing contemporary is meant to last forever! It is only effective for a while and only relevant in that particular moment – which what makes it contemporary.

What is considered contemporary and relevant in the next 10 years will inevitably appear dated and tired in 20 years. As a pastor, I’ve watched churches adopt many contemporary styles in worship, programming, architecture, music, and evangelism. That’s okay, as long as the biblical message is unchanged.

But whatever is in style now will inevitably be out of style soon, and the cycles of change are getting shorter and shorter, aided by technology and the media. New styles and preferences, like fashions, are always emerging.

Let me give you a word of advice. Never attach your church to a single style – you’ll soon be passé, and outdated. One of the secret strengths of Saddleback Church is that we’re constantly adapting; we’ve changed styles of worship, programming, and outreach many, many times in the last 36 years, and we’ll continue to do so because the world keeps changing.

The only way to stay relevant is to anchor your ministry to unchanging truths and eternal purposes but be willing to continually adapt how you communicate those truths and purposes.

In 36 years at Saddleback, we’ve never had a planned, organized visitation program. Yet, we’ve baptized over 47,000 people! Our church has grown simply by inviting one person at a time, friends from work, from school, and from the neighborhood, and from social networks.

Our members are constantly on mission to bring their friends and neighbors to our weekend services, where we reach out to non-believers – particularly those who have no real church background – by singing songs they can embrace, by voicing prayers that help them relate, and by preaching messages they understand. We make Christianity available on an introductory level to any visitor to Saddleback.

You might wonder if we attract these visitors by watering down the Gospel, but we don’t; we simply communicate it in ways that non-believers understand! Jesus drew enormous crowds (called multitudes) without compromising the message. He was clear, practical, loving, and he presented his timeless message in a contemporary fashion.

Lost people have a need for meaning, a need for purpose, a need for forgiveness, a need for love. They want to know how to make right decisions, how to protect their family, how to handle suffering, and how to have hope in our world. These are all issues we have answers for, yet millions are ignoring the message of Christ because we insist on communicating in ways that make little sense anymore.

In a sense, we’ve made the Gospel too difficult for a changing culture to understand. Let me give you this analogy: Imagine a missionary going overseas and saying, “I’m here to share the Good News, but first you have to learn to speak my language, learn my customs, and sing my style of music.” You can immediately see why this strategy would fail!

Yet, we do that all the time in a culture that is in radical flux. If we want to reach people in the current century, we must start thinking differently. I believe the most overlooked requirement in the church is to have spiritually mature members – members who unselfishly limit their own preferences of what they think a church should look like in order to reach lost people for Christ. As Jesus said in Luke 5:38, “New wine must be poured into new wineskins!”

Here’s a simple tradition to break in the 21st century: stop thinking of the church as an institution. Emerging generations are desperately looking for community. You and I may know that the church is a community, but emerging generations have never seen it that way. They’ve seen a list of rules, not a loving community. This is a prime example of an opportunity to restate the eternal truths of the Bible in a fresh, contemporary way.

Emerging generations are also focused on the experiential, and that means we have to adjust the way we teach and preach because most traditional churches focus almost exclusively on the intellect. In the 21st century church, we not only want people to know about God, we also want them to actually encounter God.

Of course, this means rather than preaching simply for information, we should also preach for action. Our message is not meant to just inform, but to transform the lives of those in our congregation. In almost every single sermon I preach every point has a verb in it – something to do. What are you going to do now that you know this godly truth?

Why do I do it this way? Because God says, “Be doers of the word, not hearers only,” and our entirePurpose Driven process at Saddleback is designed to move people, not only into intimacy with God, but also into service for him, where they’ll experience a deep and broader faith in the midst of community and ministry.

Since planting Saddleback, spiritual seekers have changed a lot. In the first place, there are a whole lot more of them! There are seekers everywhere! I’ve never seen more people so hungry to discover and develop the spiritual dimension of their lives. That’s why there’s such a big interest in Eastern thought, New Age practices, mysticism, and the transcendent.

Today seekers are hungry for symbols and metaphors and experiences and stories that reveal the greatness of God. Because seekers are constantly changing, we must be sensitive to them like Jesus was, be willing to meet them on their own turf, and speak to them in ways they understand.

Remember: the world changes but the Word doesn’t. To be effective in ministry we must learn to live with the tension between those two.

My prayer is that God will use you the way he used David, as described in Acts 13:36, to serve God’s purpose in your generation. We need churches that are both Purpose Driven and post-modern; timeless and timely at the same time! May God use you greatly and may you fulfill his purpose for your life.


Learn more about your church’s unique purpose through Auxano’s Vision Framing process. Connect with one of our navigators today to find out more.


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Rick Warren

Rick Warren

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times bestseller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors.

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COMMENTS

What say you? Leave a comment!

Recent Comments
comment_post_ID); ?> I agree 100%, you can tell if a church is doing this it grows, if there's no growth there's poor leadership..
 
— Dennis Whiterock
 
comment_post_ID); ?> Great work Bubba! Its exciting to see how God has blessed your faithfulness over your lifetime into remarkable, fruitful, Kingdom expansion! Jesus DID say, "without Me you can do nothing!" (John 15:5). No surprise that He rewards "thick and thin" prayer with great fruitfulness! :)
 
— Mike Taylor
 
comment_post_ID); ?> I loved this presentation. It helped greatly as I organized an Outreach Ministry of The Shepherds Care. Thank you. Esther Callaham Mahgoube Emmanuel Pentecostal Church New Jersey
 
— Esther Mahgoube
 

Clarity Process

Three effective ways to start moving toward clarity right now.