September 26, 2007

5 Quick Steps to Improve Church Communication Pieces

Designing and writing brochures, handouts, websites, weekend programs and other communication pieces is part of every church communicators job. These pieces are the first things visitors see when they want information about your church. You have to make sure these pieces look good even on a limited budget.

Here are FIVE quick tips to improving your communication piece:

1. Don't use too much text.
Too much text can turn a good piece into a bad piece. There is vital information you want to communicate, but make sure the information is actually needed. Part of being a good writer is being or having a good editor. Cut out the extraneous words, watch for cliches, and try to find more efficient and exact ways to state things.

Also, don't be afraid of white space in your brochure. White space is any area where there is neither text nor is white, empty space. Much like a vaulted ceiling or "open" floor plan in a house, white space opens the communication piece up and allows some freedom. You must be careful, however, where and how much white space you leave.

2. Choose good pictures.
There is a big difference between stock photography and a snapshot. Many brochures and flyers fail because they use low quality, poorly placed, badly taken pictures. Use good pictures. Good pictures are first and foremost high quality (so as not to become a blurry blob in the print piece, well cropped (the ball is in the picture if it is an action shot, for instance), and uses the rule of thirds.

A picture is worth a thousand words as the cliche states. Be careful what your picture is saying. It is bright and colorful? Is it clear what the participants are doing? Does the picture fit the communication piece?

There are several good places to find pictures. I can find almost everything I need at Morguefile.

3. Proofread before printing.
This one should probably have been number one. Proofread, proofread, proofread! In fact, have several people read the piece. Have them look at the spelling, punctuation, and ask "Does this make sense?" This tip alone could improve 90% of the poor quality church communication pieces. Most of the bad communications pieces are bad because they have numerous misspelling and poor grammatical structures. Nothing says unprofessional like misspellings and poor grammatical choices.

One point needs to be made. No one is perfect. Publishing companies with more money and talent than a church could ever hope for have misspellings and grammar errors. I think most people are able to overlook a misspelling here and there. The problem becomes irreparable when the misspellings and poor grammar reaches two or three times in a short span of reading. If one brochure has two or more problems, then people begin to turn off. Proofread the material closely.

4. Be careful how you use the templates.
Because many churches don't have the money to hire a professional for their communication pieces, the church secretary (or someone without appropriate training) is left the job of designing the brochure, flyer, or program. Due to lack of training, the secretary resorts to using the templates that come with the word processing or design program. While these templates may provide a starting point, they are overused. They are understandable for someone with no training, but be careful how much you use them.

Use them for inspiration. Use the templates and look at what other people are doing with their brochures to give you ideas about how to lay out your own communication piece. These templates are ok if you have absolutely nothing else to help you.

5. Know when to hire someone.
If you have a piece that is going to be seen by many people or is going to be used for a long period of time, you should invest the money to have it professionally done. Brochures that are going to be around for a while, websites, flyers that are being distributed to the community, program shells, etc. should all be professionally done. Why? Because these are pieces that everyone is going to see, and they are going to be with you for a long time.

You might also like this post:
10 Writing and Creative Tools I Can't Live Without!
5 FREE Tools for Church Communication and Design

September 23, 2007

A Thought Provoking Post by Scott Aughtmon

I read this post on loving people more than you love your church.

You may not get what you think. As a leader, pastor, or church member we want to love our church. We have a vision of what the church can be and do, and we lead toward that vision. Sometimes, however, we forget that people make up the church. Our goal is to love people not to love the church.

The church needs to be more than a building or collection of traditions and liturgies. The biblical word for Church, ekklessia, means the "gathered ones." The church is the people who are living out the mission of the Kingdom of God. They gather together to worship, learn, recharge, evangelize, but then they go out and live out the life of Christ in front of their family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Our first act of ministry is to love people.

September 22, 2007

Jesus in the Old Testament

Check out this post on The New in the Old and the Old in the New. It is a great look at the typology of the Jesus in the Old Testament. It also hints at the ideas of the Old Testament being found in the New Testament.

We in the Christian church have often misinterpreted Scripture (not intentionally I believe) because we do not understand the Old Testament. The NT writers knew the Old Testament from memory, and much of what they wrote reflect their deep knowledge and understanding of the Old Testament.

Rob Bell is a great example of this. Check this out from Rob Bell at Willowcreek as he applies Jewish history and Old Testament understanding to Jesus.

September 21, 2007

5 Pieces of Advice When Considering Church Planting

Recently a friend e-mailed me asking advice about church planting. He and his wife are looking at eventually planting a church. I told him that a lot of my thoughts on church planting were here on this blog, but on a more philosophical (?) level I offered the following five:

1. Be called. This means you are willing to plant in that area even if you received no financial support. Because the reality is that any support you receive will run out quickly. This may also require finding a second job in order to accomplish the dream God has given you.

It also means that you know God wants you to do it because church planting will beat you up some days. It is not easier than "regular" pastoring. (In fact, it isn't tougher either they are just different.) It isn't some place you should go because you want to get away from the trouble people; trouble people flock to new churches. You need to know that God wants you to plant the church.

2. Have a mentor. Not just a pastor with experience, but one with experience reaching the lost and starting new congregations. There is a big difference between someone who reaches lost people, and someone who does it with a new church. There is also a difference between a mentor and someone who is your "superior." Mentors are friends with experience. They listen to your frustrations, but also kick you in the butt when you need it.

3. Have a team. Recruit people who buy-in to your vision, and have a call to ministry. This is more than just a core team or pool of volunteers. You need someone who bleeds this stuff with you. If you can't get someone, then the next best thing is a group who have bought into the vision and are willing to work. It is VERY difficult to do this alone.

4. Find your niche. You can't be all things to all people. You have to be willing to take a stand for a few things. When I start the new church I am going to have only 3 priorities: Outreach, the Sunday morning experience, and small groups. Those encompass more than just 3 things, but they are the primary ways you will grow and sustain your church.

But people will ask about youth programs, women's groups, prayer programs, etc. I use the imagery of a plant. You have to have a strong root and tree system before the limbs and leaves are able to survive and flourish. Focus on what you need to do to build a healthy functioning root system (church), and then start stretching out the vines (ministries).

5. Take care of yourself. Spend time with your family, exercise, rest, relax, get someone to preach for you every few months, etc. You are not what holds it all together; God is. You have to work hard, but you also have to rest and recharge.

What other advice would you give to someone planting a new church?

September 19, 2007

A Good Quote for Bloggers, Writers, and Speakers

"Just because your voice reaches halfway around the world doesn't mean you are wiser than when it reached only to the end of the bar."
Edward Murrow

Christianese and My Starbucks Order

We hear a lot about the alienating effect of Christianese on first time guests. Christianese being that super secret language that only Christians know and that makes outsiders feel uncomfortable.

Does our language have an alienating effect? Yes. If you have ever been a foreign country (like France, Mexico, or the South) or you have ever had to speak with your company IT guy, then you have an idea how alienating language can be.

But somebody needs to tell Starbucks and the rest of the coffee shop community. Who ever heard of a macchiatto? And how many of you really know what it means? And yet Starbucks (and countless other coffee shops) still use the term. Who ever thought of calling the small cup of coffee a tall?

There is a time and place to use the words of our faith, but they also must be explained. We need to use them in such a way that people understand them and what we mean by them. We also need to provide tools to help them learn their meaning (To understand Starbucks drinks there is this site, and they used to have a guide book available).

How do we use the words "Grace," "Obedience," "Servanthood," "Community," etc. so that people understand their meaning and what we mean when we use the words. It think that is more appropriate than just not using the words. Yes, there are some words that we probably don't need. There are alot of outdated words that get in the way. But there seems to be some words that we probably shouldn't do without.

What are some words you wouldn't want the church to do without? How would define them so that a non-churched person would understand them? What are some words you think we COULD do without?

The inspiration for this post came from here.

September 18, 2007

What Do I Write About?

Have you ever been in a writing funk? Not necessarily writer's block as you might be able to actually write something if you just knew what direction to go and what to write about. I feel like I have been in that funk for the last few months.

I just found this website called Creative Writing Prompts.
Here are a few of the ideas:

1. Write a story about an empty glass.

2. Write about the biggest lie you have ever told.

3. Open a magazine and find pictures of 3-5 people. Write a 300-500 word profile of each person.

4. List 50 things you will never do.

5. Write a fictional news story about an adoption agency selling shaved apes as babies.

What are some of your favorite prompts?

September 17, 2007

Traditional and the Protestant Church

Team Pyro and Bob Hyatt had an interesting exchange of posters. It was an interesting, satirical exchange.

Here is one of the posters. I find it ironic that anyone in any protestant church would scold someone else for breaking away from tradition. We are protestants BECAUSE we left some traditions behind somewhere.

Just an observation.

September 16, 2007

How to Improve Your Church Communications

At MinistryCOM, Jon Walker said that service journalism is one of the best ways to improve your communication pieces and get readers to actually read the pieces. Jon defined service journalism as "creating something that is usable and useful and makes it easier for people to act." It also includes "how to" articles.

Your church communications would improve if you simply answer two questions:

1. So What? Why is this important? What am I (the reader) going to get out of this article or communication piece?

2. What Now? Usually the church tells them that something needs to be done, but doesn't give practical steps or tell them what to do.

Help people want to read by using better styling.
1. Clear Title. Tell them what the article is about in the title. This helps them know if they want to read the article. If you use a "cutesy" title, you need to give a very good subtitle.

2. Subheads. Break the piece apart with subheads. Like it or not, most people (especially men) only skim. Subheads help break up a large piece into manageable pieces.

3. Sidebar. Use timelines, charts, graphs, etc. to display larger amounts of info in short, easy-to-see pieces. You can tell more in a timeline than trying to write out the biography.

4. Use Pull Quotes. Pull quotes need to be interesting. Also, use a sentence that is a few sentences into the paragraph.

5. Use Q & A and FAQ Pages. People like to read these.

6. Use lists. People love Top 5..., Top 3..., 7 Ways to.., Jon says that odd numbered lists are read quicker than even numbered lists. Go figure.

What are some strange things you have seen in church communication pieces? What are some characteristics of the best things you have seen in church communications pieces?

September 15, 2007

Amazing Artist

There were no notes to be given from this guy, but his are was amazing. He performed (?) during the last two sessions at MinistryCOM. It was amazing to see what he did with sand on a light board.

September 14, 2007

Marketing to a Multicultural Audience

This was the title of one of my workshops at MinistryCOM by Tracey Michae'l Lewis.

I decided to take this workshop not because we are a multicultural church or because we are even headed in that direction. I took this workshop because Dayton is one of the most segregated cities I have ever seen, and because there is so much misunderstanding among the different races.

Tracey gave Four C's:

Cultural Awareness: Get to know the cultural...don't assume (and we all know what assume means!).

Commitment: This is not something to be entered into for the short term. This is a long-term commitment.

Creativity: This takes a a "throw the box away" mentality. This is not just thinking outside the box, it is thinking in new ways about the different races and how to communicate.

Christ-Centered: There is a tension between NOT sacrificing the integrity of the WORD and not limiting the reach of the WORD.

The biggest mistake we can make is trying to overlook the race. "I don't see color. I see people" is not a good approach. Why? Because a person's race is a big part of what makes them who they are. Tracey suggested something that sounded strange to me, at first. She was asked, "What if a person asks, 'Am I only being used because I am ____________?" Her response was to say, "Yes. We believe God is calling us to be a multicultural congregation, and we want to be intentional about moving in that direction." That is not the way I expected her to answer the question.

So what is the strategy for reaching multicultural audiences?

1. Build conviction through Scripture.

2. Affirm diversity through identity and vision.

3. Build a multicultural leadership and staff (this does not necessarily start with hiring a worship leader).

4. Enjoy progress and Anticipate problems.

5. Plan.

6. Test the Waters: bring in special speakers, guest worship leaders, etc.

7. Focus Groups

8. Be Authentic- don't try to speak a language you don't know or be cool for cool sake.

What do you think? What attempts has your church made in order to reach a multicultural audience? Do you think separate congregations or integration is the way to go?

September 13, 2007

Terry Storch and MinistryCOM

Today was the first day of MinistryCOM. Terry Storch was the speaker for the first session.

His topic was The Communication Revolution, and he gave 5 Impact Points:

1. One way communication. Most churches are really good at one way communication. It is the belief that whoever has the microphone is the one in control. The problem is that everyone (via blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc) has a microphone.

2. Service Times. Service times indicate that during certain times you can hear the churches message. The person has to come when the church is doing its thing. Most people now want the information when they want it. They don't watch commercials, and they want to be able to download your messages when they want to listen to it.

3. Walls. So many churches take place inside a building, and they forget that we are called to go. They also neglect one of the easiest examples of going...the web! Terry gave his concept called the Omnipresent Church. This means the church is everywhere at all times

4. Physically "Out." We have to re-imagine outreach. Virtual relationships are turning into real relationships with blogger meet-ups.

5. The Power of 1. The church used to say, "Each one reach one." Now, one person can invite everyone...literally.

It was a good presentation. Here are some things I noticed:

It is Both/And. We need to utilize the best of the previous way as well as the be responsible with the current way.

His last slide could use some work. Terry presented information about the history of the world's population. He used a graph to represent the point that we are in a time of dramatic population increase. (See a similar chart below.) His slide was simply showing this image. I don't think the slide gave the information in a way that created the impact he wanted.

Maybe something like this (I did this quickly):

The rest of his slides caused me to rethink presentation.
It has always been a theory and practice of mine that graphic design and textual (or verbal) communication need to go hand in hand. The rest of Terry's slides presented the information in a way that supported the presentation.

Don't wait until it is too late, but don't jump too soon. There is a balance between being on the bleeding edge and resisting the change. We need to utilize the tools as they are available and use them before they are outdated. Unfortunately there are many churches who are just now getting a website (and many more that are awaiting the return of the telegraph!)

I finally picked up a copy of The Blogging Church. Terry co-authored this book. I might have waited even longer if Terry hadn't been autographing the book...I am a sucker for having books signed by the author.

I also sat in on a workshop about Multi-Culture Marketing by Tracey Lewis, Service Journalism by Jon Walker, and Project Management for Communications Professionals by Karen Smith of Ginhamsburg. The last session was presented by Brad Abare of

I will blog more about these sessions later.

The Japanese are Awesome

They certainly know how to put on a game show!

Ninja Warrior

Takeshi's Castle

5 Ways to Feel Adequate

Do you ever feel inadequate?

I know that a leader is supposed to be self-confident, self-assured, and comfortable with who they are. So, is it okay to admit that I don't always feel that way? Is it okay to admit that I often feel inadequate? I think that may be the devil's greatest weapon to use against me.

The reality is I often feel twinges of inadequacy. I felt inadequate when I was the scholarship student at my affluent high school. I felt inadequate when I didn't fit in with all the other religion majors (who wants to wear khakis and polo shirts anyway!). I felt inadequate when my senior pastor would "help me" realize that any idea of my own was not going to be used. I felt inadequate when I was the only church plant that was not boasting 200 in grand opening attendance. I felt inadequate when I was the only bi-vocational pastor on my district. I felt inadequate when I realize my theology degree was not as useful as a corporate background. The list could go on and on. I will feel inadequate tomorrow.

I feel twinges of inadequacy on a regular basis. Is it a character flaw? A product of my upbringing? Whatever causes it, it is not what God wants for me. It is not what God wants for you!

I think in order to get past the feelings, we have to beat them down every time they surface. It is not a one time fix-all; it is an ongoing commitment.

Here are five things to remember every time you (and I) feel inadequate:

1. Remember God called you. Each time I felt inadequate in a pastoral situation, I had to (and have to) remind myself that God saw something in me. He saw something, and felt compelled to ask me to join Him in leading a church. My call was not just a personal thing that I felt in my room alone; it was confirmed by His church. He would not have called me if he did not believe in me.

Every time you feel inadequate, remember that God has called you to follow, and He believes in you. You are worthwhile to God.

2. Remember God guided your life. I sometimes feel inadequate because I took the route of obtaining a theological education rather than a business degree. Then I remember that I simply obeyed where I felt God was leading me. I enjoyed getting my degree. I enjoyed what I studied.

Here is something I am still matter what our background, there are still things to learn. Some people have a leg up in certain areas, but you have an advantage in other areas. The secret is to keep learning and growing. You also have to remember that if you have been obedient, God guided your life and steps.

3. God placed you where you are. If God has lead you in the past, God has obviously brought you to where you are. He has led you through the trials, struggles, education, everything. He has used everything you have been through to create the person into whom you have developed.

4. Remember God leads you. This point ties in with the previous two points. God has lead you in the past, and God will continue to lead you in the future. There is no need to feel inadequate because God will lead you in the direction He wants you to go if you will only be obedient. And if you are obedient to God, there is no reason to feel inadequate about where He leads you.

5. Remember God values you. This may sound corny, but God loves you and values you. (And Goshdarnit people like you!). You were important enough for Jesus to leave the royalty and riches of heaven to save. Corny to say, but true nonetheless.

Just a few thoughts that popped into my head as I sat in a conference workshop feeling inadequate because I wasn't trained in this particular area. I only happened to be gifted (ever so slightly) by God in that particular area.

How do you deal with inadequacy?

September 12, 2007

Over Two Weeks!

That is how long it has been since I last posted to my blog. I went from very a consistent blogger to more than two weeks since my last post.

What is my excuse?

Apathy, lack of interest, no desire, I don't know. I have been busy, and haven't felt like writing.

For me, personal-expression writing has always been a feel-like-it kind of thing. I have to feel inspired. I guess I shouldn't wait for inspiration. I should just do it. I should commit time to writing and do it.

As of right now, I am sitting in a hotel room in Franklin, TN. I am attending the MinistryCOM conference tomorrow and Friday. I will write about the conference tomorrow evening.

Historic downtown Franklin is pretty cool and trendy. Tomorrow I am planning on eating at McCreary's Irish Pub. It looks like they have a great fish and chips meal. As for Dotson's, I could do without eating there again. It was okay, but nothing spectacular. Just across the parking lot is Starbuck's Coffee. The nice thing about a chain of stores like Starbucks is that I am not guessing at the quality of my drink.