Redefining Excellence

October 9, 2014 — 3 Comments

Originally posted on Church Marketing Sucks

For my first five years working in creative ministry, I was obsessed with the idea and the destination of “excellence.” I always felt excellence was a value often forgotten or overlooked in the church world, and I tried to make it my mantra as a young creative to fix everything and bring it up to a level of excellence I could be proud of.

I still love and value excellence. I think it’s critical to effectively communicating the story of what God is doing in and through our churches.

However, as I look back at that first season of ministry, there was something missing. Now I realize that drive for excellence created a steady rhythm of being overwhelmed, frustrated and feeling like I never arrived anywhere.

Everywhere I would look, I would find things that need fixing, frustrated by things that I couldn’t control or speak into, and facing challenges with limited resources and staff. I was wasting sideways energy on so much that I couldn’t control, feeling like excellence was the destination that I’d never actually get to arrive at.

If I was going to survive and be effective in the call God placed on my life, a couple things needed to change.

Redefine Excellence

It’s time to redefine excellence. Excellence isn’t a destination. Excellence is less about perfection, and more about doing the very best with what you have. You can’t measure it by what the church down the road does with a budget 10x as big as yours. Excellence is about the expectation of you and your team that you’re going to maximize all that you have.

Embrace Stewardship

As church communicators, we constantly encounter things that aren’t as good as we think they should be and need fixing. Some of these things are within our realm of control to fix. Others, simply, are not.

God has not called us to fix everything we see. Instead, God has called us to be good stewards of the time, talent, resources and responsibilities that he’s placed in our hands. Your role is not just a job. It’s a stewardship.

If God hasn’t placed a role/decision/project in your hands, that’s OK! Dive into the things that are your responsibility, and be a good steward of them. Let go of the things you can’t control. Stop worrying about them. What I’ve learned from this concept (and Matthew 25:14-30), is that if you can be a good steward of what God gives you, he promises to give you more.

Working in the church, especially in church communications, is a grind. It’s a challenge that few understand, and can be overwhelming. Don’t give up. Take it a day at a time, and be a good steward of each moment that God gives you.

At the end of the day, I think that’s what excellence truly is.


“Simple isn’t always shallow. Complicated isn’t always deep.” -Jon Weece

Everybody loves the idea of simplicity. Few actually practice and apply it to how we communicate.

The harsh reality of simplicity is that you have to fight for it. It never comes naturally. Complexity has a sneaky method of finding its way into our lives, our organizations, and what we communicate.

Here’s the harsh reality: if we don’t fight for simplicity in how we communicate, we will simply not be effective in helping people take their next step and experience life change. Our audience is getting bombarded each day by advertisements, messages, images, videos and agendas that are all fighting for the valuable commodity of their sole attention. If we don’t fight to find the clarity and simplicity in the chaos, our message will get lost in the clutter.

There are two areas in communications where you’ll need to fight for simplicity:

  • The Message - crafting simple, memorable, repeatable language that helps communicate the message.
  • The Medium - how the intended message is communicated simply and tailored to each communication channel.

Nobody understood this concept and applied it better than Jesus did through His teaching. When I study the teaching of Christ, I don’t always find deep and complicated words. I find simple, but convicting, teaching, like “Love God, Love others.” I find stories that challenge us to forgive one another, and put God first. I find examples of grace and mercy lived out, and I’m challenged to do the same. For me personally, it’s not the complicated truths of the Gospel that I wrestle with. It’s the simple ones! Like Mark Twain said, “It ain’t those parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand.” Sometimes in our churches, we feel the burden to not water down the message. The reality is that simple isn’t always shallow. And complicated isn’t always deep.

The Spaghetti Test: Finding out what sticks

Many of you may be wondering, “How do you go about finding the simplicity in the message?” Well, let me introduce you to my favorite trick. It’s called The Spaghetti Test. It’s the most effective (and most fun) way of testing to see if your spaghetti is cooked all the way.

When you’re cooking spaghetti and you need to check if the noodles are fully cooked, take a noodle out of the boiling water and throw it against the wall. If it sticks? It’s cooked. If it doesn’t? Cook it longer.

I love this concept when it comes to finding clarity in the chaos of what we’re trying to communicate. Sometimes, you just have to throw all your messages up against the wall, bring some others in the room, and figure out what’s sticking. What’s the word, the phrase, the felt need that is sticking with your audience? Once you find it, you’ve found your message that you can work around. Identify the simple, memorable, repeatable language that you can use to communicate your message. Then, make sure you’re removing any barriers that may be in the message to effectively communicate in each channel. For example, a pastor may have 30 minutes to share a sermon and communicate a message with clarity. In social media, you may only have 140 characters.

Leaders, don’t just settle for communicating your message as you always have. We all have enough chaos around us. Fight for simplicity today.

I had the awesome opportunity to speak at the SoCon14 Conference here close to my home in Kennessaw, GA today and speak on the topic of social media strategy. The talk was about putting a strategy in place to effectively share your story and connect with your audience in the ever-changing world of social media.

I was planning on just sharing some of my notes, until Kristin Leydig Bryant walked up and handed me this after the session. This is way cooler than an outline, so check it out and download a print-ready version to share!


Download PDF


A few weeks ago at West Ridge Church, we conducted a social media experiment. I’m a big believer in the power of social media, but to be honest, the results shocked me.

On Tuesday, January 7th during our Lead Team meeting, we were talking about Terence Lester, one of our church planters who created an innovative ministry called Love Beyond Walls. His focus is giving a voice to the homeless of Atlanta and building relationships with them to help change their lives. Terence put together a campaign called 6,000+, where they were looking for donations of socks, gloves and hats to give to the 6,000+ homeless in Atlanta that go to sleep without a home. The deadline to submit donations was in 5 days, and they were 2,000 short of their donation goals at that point. We wanted to be a part of taking care of this need and mobilize our church to play a part.

Typically for communicating a need like this, the first thing we think of is doing a stage announcement and featuring it in the bulletin. But here’s the problem: it’s Tuesday. Waiting 5 days to share the need during the services on deadline day would be too late.This circumstance was the perfect opportunity for an experiment:

How can we mobilize our church to donate 2,000 socks/shoes/hats, in 5 days, using only social media?

On that same day, our team got to work putting together some resources to share with our church on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Our goal was to create visually engaging posts with an emotional connection that people would share. Here’s a few examples: Continue Reading…


What do you think of when you think branding? Logos? A set of colors? A product or a tagline?  All of these can play a key role in the development of the branding of an organization or church. They each play a role in connecting with the head of your audience.

However, I believe there is one aspect of branding that too many organizations, especially churches, are overlooking. Logos and tag lines can all communicate to the head, but what about the heart? How are people connecting emotionally with your brand? Most likely, when someone thinks of your church or organization, they are not thinking about your logo. They are thinking about how you make them feel. Great branding connects the heart of the audience with the heart of your organization.

Nothing puts this concept on display more than Super Bowl commercials. It’s the one time during the year that I’ll use my DVR to go BACK to a commercial instead of using it to quickly fast-forward through commercials. But on Super Bowl Sunday, it’s different. This is a time when the brands of our country are on display to get noticed and create a lasting impression.

Here are a few recent commercials that stand out to me as brilliant in how they connect their brand with the head and heart of their audience. When you watch these, see how they’re able to tell a story you can connect with, and bridge that with how it connects to their brand.

Continue Reading…


Are you a Communications leader in your church or organization? Is it your role to help your church and its ministries communicate effectively? If so, there’s a meeting that I want to get on your radar. It’s what I call a Communications Audit.

A Communications Audit is a meeting to touch base with a ministry area, evaluate how things are going with their communications, plan for the season ahead, and update them on key communications information. Here’s what the meetings look like for me: Continue Reading…

Top 5 Posts of 2013

December 31, 2013 — Leave a comment


On February 6, 2013, I began my journey as a hesitant blogger. Through this last year, I have learned a lot and have had a blast connecting with many of you! I’ve been blown away by the emails and stories from church communicators, pastors and more all over the country that are looking to communicate more effectively. I’ve got some big plans and resources that I can’t wait to share with you in 2014! So if you haven’t already, you can subscribe by emailRSS, or connect with me on Twitter or Facebook.

Looking back at 2013, here are the top 5 posts:

  1. Series Planning Process
  2. A Year Later: The Legacy of Andrew Pray
  3. Developing A Communications Plan
  4. 7 Reasons Why You’re Not Getting A Stage Announcement
  5. Social Media Strategy In 3 Words


Check out this sneak peak at a guest post I did for, and see the full post here:

The average attention span of a goldfish? 9 seconds.
The average attention span of people in 2012? 8 seconds.

In today’s culture, there are more things fighting for our attention than ever before. Everywhere we go, we are bombarded by advertisements, messages, images, videos and agendas that are all fighting for the valuable commodity of your sole attention.

How are we responding? We’re fighting back. Our attention span is at all all-time low, making it more challenging than ever to be communicated to. We don’t want to be marketed to or manipulated by another company or organization that has its own agenda. We want something real. Something personal. Something authentic.

Here’s the scary reality of all of this: too many of our churches are basing their communications strategies around the assumption that they have the full attention of their audience. Church communication can quickly become saturated with long-winded stage announcements, empty promises, wordy websites, and long newsletter articles or videos. The intentions are good, but the strategy is ineffective.

Something has to change, and it’s not going to be the audience. It’s going to be us as church communicators. What’s at stake? If we don’t adjust how we communicate, we will simply not be effective in helping people take their next step and experience life change.


  1. Make your first 8 seconds count. We have to design our communications for a short attention span. That’s the norm now, not the exception. If you use those first 8 seconds wisely, your audience will stick with you. Don’t start with information, start with inspiration and communicate why your message matters to the audience.
  2. Provide value. Many times, your audience will tune your message out because they don’t think it matters to them or doesn’t apply to them. When you’re crafting your message, always be asking the question “What’s in it for me?” If you can’t figure that out, neither will your audience.
  3. The shorter, the better. If it’s not absolutely critical to your message, cut it. Move books to chapters, chapters to paragraphs, paragraphs to sentences, and sentences to bullet points.
  4. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. A lot of organizations are stuck in ineffective communications because “they’ve always done it that way.” Don’t do it just to do it. With everything you do, figure out the intended response for your audience, and clearly communicate how they can take that next step.
  5. Understand the bandwidth of your audience. Don’t be surprised if you don’t get the results you’re looking for if you’re packing in 7 announcements at the end of a service, have a 4 panel bulletin packed with events, or use social media only for promotion. Fairness can’t be a value in communications. Your audience wants to know what’s most important, and they want clear expectations on what they need to do.
  6. Authenticity wins. People are getting better and better at sniffing out “advertising.” What we all crave is authenticity. Sometimes, when we focus solely on the excellence and perfection of our message, we lose the heart of it. Be real, be vulnerable, and be authentic in your communications. It’ll set you apart from 99% of the other messages your audience experiences each day.

View full post on SundayMag here


Today is a hard day. A day I’ve dreaded for months now. On November 21, 2012, a year ago today, my friend and our Worship Pastor at West Ridge Church was tragically struck by a bus while cycling in NW Atlanta.

I can truly say that Andrew was one-of-a-kind. He was the most steady, encouraging, joyful person I’ve ever been around. He was a gifted worship pastor, a loyal friend, and left a legacy for all who knew him (and even some that didn’t).

As I reflect on the incredible legacy of Andrew, there are four things that I’ll remember most that left a mark on me and inspire me in how I live my life.

Continue Reading…

allin-behindthescenesA couple weeks ago at West Ridge Church, we wrapped up a four-part series called ALL IN. This series was designed to share what a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ looks like and to challenge our church to be ALL IN.

Our communications team was presented the challenge to create a short message bumper for each week that would help bring the topic to life. These topics where: Love, Grow, Serve, Share. What we ended up with was one of my favorite projects I’ve ever worked on with our incredible communications team. Take a look

Continue Reading…