Friday, February 21, 2014

The John 9:25 Project - A Challenge for Churches

Today I am teaching a session at a pastor's conference about social media.  While those two topics don't seem to fit, I can assure you that they do.

I am using the framework from a book called The Dragonfly Effect.   The bottom line is to help the pastors use storytelling as the center of their marketing strategy.

Wait a minute.  Marketing the church?  You bet.  Marketing Jesus?  Even more important.

I'm not talking about traditional marketing, but with the massive numbers of people leaving the church, there is clearly some major image building that needs to occur.

The fact is that the church gets a really bad rap.  I don't know how many times I have heard people say, "I don't like religion.".  Well guess what?  I don't either.

What I do like is hearing about the amazing changes that occur in people's life (my own included) when they step out of the driver's seat and let God take his rightful place as "Maker".  

So, I am wondering what would happen if church websites, blogs, Facebook pages, Twitter pages and the like contained some of these amazing stories.

In John, chapter 9 we find the story of the man who had been blind from birth.  The church leaders of the day (the Pharisees) were questioning him after Jesus had healed him by rubbing mud on his eyes on the Sabbath.   Of course, he immediately told everyone that he could see.  The Pharisees chose to focus on the fact that the incident (as if it had been a bad thing) had happened on the Sabbath.

Rather than getting into an argument about whether Jesus was a sinner for doing such a thing, he simply said "Once I was blind and now I see.".  That sums it all up.  That is story telling at its finest.

What if the navigation on your church website began with Life Changing Stories in our Church?  

I am challenging church leaders and webmasters to join me in the John 9:25 project to do just that.

Have your people tell their stories.  Share them with one another and in fact, with the world.

Do it on your websites, in your blogs, on your Facebook page.

It could be as simple as having a picture and a short tag line "once I was......", or it could be full stories or even short video interviews.

The point is to FOCUS on what Jesus has done. You have to start by talking about the darkness before people can appreciate the light.  There is power in sharing your story transparently and openly.  In vulnerability there is strength.

NOTE:    For sensitive stories, if you want to preserve the individual's anonymity, simply use the facts about the person (a 21 year old college student or a young wife), versus naming names, so as to protect them from any harm that might come from full disclosure.    

Next, you need to GRAB THEIR ATTENTION.  This is the discussion of the light that has come into your life since your encounter with the Creator of the Universe.  It is the contrast that helps people see their own situation in a different light.

Then you need to ENGAGE them.  In this part of the Dragonfly Effect model, you need to help people relate and even think about whether they have the same need or whether they know someone that does.
Lastly, encourage them to TAKE ACTION.  Remind them that it was an encounter with the living God that brought about the seismic change.

Then at the end of each story, put a link to the page on your site with your address and service times and a link to get driving directions.  Make it compelling with pictures from your services and any special events.

And make it easy for them to come.  If they need a ride, provide a link to request one, getting their email address, their phone number and their home address.  Assure them that it will remain private. And then mobilize your church to make their visit happen, calling them the night before to remind them what time someone will be there.   Have a team that rotates through as the "pick up team".

If you take me up on the challenge, please comment here and let me know the results of the shift in marketing and what you are seeing, even from your own people within the church.


Thursday, February 20, 2014

New Day for Missions - Marketplace Ministry

For the last week I have been in in Gryfow Slaski, Poland on a mission trip with my nearly-16 year old daughter Kiera.  This is our second year on this same trip.

We stay at this beautiful facility that was once a mafia-owned hotel.  We do a conference for pastors, many who left the mafia to help rescue others from the grip of the very things that were a daily part of their previous vocation - drugs, alcohol and gambling, to name just a few.

I am not a pastor.   But I am, what I will call, a marketplace minister. What that means is that I use my God-given talents and resources to help His kingdom grow.

I am a strategist by trade. I help companies grow. With growth as a focus, there are many tools that can be used.   And I have found that these tools can also be used to help churches grow.

Last year, I shared social media with a group of church leaders. The message was all about relationship and engagement, and the role that relevance plays in increasing both, in real life and online.

The graphic here shows both the Polish version and the English words behind the concepts.

The ladder represents the various level of communication that we have with one another, both personally and in business.

Tomorrow I will be teaching a message extracted from the book The Dragonfly Effect.  The book is about storytelling, using social media.

The book helps the reader to understand how to use Social Media to effect "seismic change".

My job is to make it relevant and practical for the 50+ pastors attending a three-day conference here.

When you think about it, just about any pastor could benefit from ensuring that every time they give a sermon that they use the Dragonfly Effect tenets as a checklist:
The church as a whole has done a poor job of ensuring that their message is relevant and practical.   After reading this book written by Jennifer Aaker and Andy Smith, it struck me that storytelling may be the answer.

When churches do use social media, the communication is often about the church itself and their hours, location and their staff and programs.  And they use impossible "churchy" language.

But if the church would just tell some of the stories of those who have found new life, I think that more people find God himself more attractive.  Most believe He is angry with them, or at the very least, grumpy.

God's message is simple.  Unconditional love is quite literally at the heart of the Word.

And if you ever wondered what your life's purpose is, check out Psalm 139.  Your own story was written before the foundation of the earth was formed.

Back to marketplace ministry.

Giving of our time and our talents, and yes our treasures, is what ministry is about.

On this trip we have adults, some pastors and many of us not, and we have teens/young adults. There is a role for everyone.

You don't have to know how to preach, or even how to pray or lead worship, but if you can do face painting or make balloon animals or even teach about social media, there is a role you can play.

Even just sharing your story can be ministry. Last year I shared my own personal story with the women attending the Pastor's conference.

If you have an opportunity to go on a mission trip, my advice is, do it.  You too can be a marketplace minister.