Should Your Church Be On Snapchat?

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Should your church be on Snapchat?
My answer is different today than it was a few months ago.

I’m usually an early adopter when it comes to new technology or social media platforms. Like many people, when I started hearing about Snapchat, I quickly downloaded the app to check it out.

I quickly discovered two things about Snapchat:
1) The interface is terrible. 2) I feel old.

I spent 20 minutes just trying to figure out how to use Snapchat. But here’s what was making me feel so old. The younger guys on my creative team LOVE Snapchat. They’re on it far more than any other social media platform. And to be honest, I just didn’t understand why! I didn’t see what purpose this could serve for me or our church.

How is it that a platform like Snapchat has over 150 million people using it each day? How is it that this has become the platform of choice for millennials?

Being the stubborn man that I am, I decided to fight through the initial resistance and try to figure it out. I needed to understand what it is about Snapchat that is resonating with so many people. And perhaps, I just wanted to feel young again…

So after using Snapchat actively for a week, my opinion dramatically changed about the use and potential of this platform. I truly believe Snapchat is a game changer for social media and it could be a game changer for your church.

Here’s what makes Snapchat different

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The 4 Questions Every Great Story Answers

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Many years ago, before I was a creative arts pastor, I got my start in creative ministry as “the video guy.” At the time, that meant that I mostly creating highlight videos from camps or mission trips. Honestly, it didn’t take a whole lot of skill to do what I was doing. I would just film moments that were happening on the trips, edit out the bad stuff, keep the good stuff, throw some music under the footage and call it a day.

Once I wrapped up a few highlight videos, the pastor I was working with shared that he needed some help in making some testimony videos. As the video guy, this is where I came in. However, there was one small issue… I knew how to hit record, make things look descent in the camera and make highlight videos, but I didn’t have the first clue about how to tell a story.

Nobody ever taught me anything about that. I never had anyone teach me about what makes some stories memorable and other stories forgotten.

What I had to learn and discover the hard way is that effective storytelling isn’t as simple as hitting the record button.
It’s more than just picking out the right camera, or buying the right editing software. It’s about tapping into the power of storytelling.

It took me awhile to learn that the effectiveness of your video is far more dependent on how you’re crafting the story than it is on what equipment you use or budget you have. If it was all about the budget and equipment, you would think films like Battleship (where they had an estimated $220 million budget) would have been the best movie of the year. Turns out, if the story isn’t compelling, it doesn’t matter how great the equipment or budget is.

That’s great news for many churches out there! Stories play a crucial role in our churches today, just as they have since the beginning of time. It was Jesus’ chosen method of teaching as He did throughout scripture with parables.

If we can become more effective as storytellers, we have an opportunity to create compelling videos that are effective for our churches. Continue Reading »

What I learned from my one month sabbatical

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During the month of April, I did something I haven’t done since Middle School. I had a whole month off with no work responsibilities. I had a one month sabbatical.

Where I serve at West Ridge Church, we take staff health very seriously. So much so that our Pastors and Directors are given a 1 month sabbatical after serving for 5 years, and a 2 month sabbatical after 10 years. This paid time away is provided for spiritual refreshment and professional growth. It’s a reset button so desperately needed for a life in ministry.

So on April 1st, I removed my email and calendar from my phone and computer and kicked off a month like I had never experienced before. During the month, I:

  • Spent a weekend with my wife exploring Savannah, GA
  • Soaked up all the extra time with my 16 month old son, Ethan
  • Did a whole bunch of yard work…
  • Went to New York for the first time, attended the filming of the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon and saw the incredible sights of a city that energizes and inspires me
  • Spoke at a communications conference in San Antonio
  • Retreated to the mountains for a few days of quiet time, writing, and dreaming for the season ahead

I’ve walked away from this month feeling rested and energized for the season ahead of me. I’m so thankful for our Senior Pastor and Elders who have set a tone for staff healthiness.

If you’re a senior church leader, I think you should consider doing this for your staff. Here’s why:

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The Authenticity Generation

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We have a “Millennial” problem in the church. Statistics and attendance are showing that Millennials are leaving or not connecting to the church at higher rates than ever before. Meanwhile, churches across the country are trying to find the best new tactics for reaching young people.

So what can churches do to reach this Millennial generation? Is it a new program or service? Is it adding some cool moving lights or starting new social media accounts? Maybe it’s just copying what the biggest church in town is doing?

Here’s the issue.

In an effort to reach Millennials, many churches violate the foundation that will make them effective. That foundation is authenticity.

Some call the young generation of 18-34 year olds “Millennials.” I just call them the authenticity generation. From an early age, this generation has been constantly bombarded by messages and marketing from businesses, organizations, politicians and churches.

Here’s the superpower that this generation was born with: they can sniff out whether you’re being authentic or not. They know when you’re just trying to sell something to them, get something from them, or be someone that they aren’t. This superpower is what draws them to certain organizations or people, and what turns them away from others. The current political landscape in 2016 is a testament to this power of authenticity.

So what does this mean for the church? Continue Reading »

Quit Doing Announcements

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I’m gonna go ahead and put this out there… I hate announcements.

The very mention of the word brings back memories of being stuck in a pew, listening to someone read from a bulletin for 15 minutes about everything on the church calendar that week.

Growing up in the church, I can’t remember a time where I’ve heard someone say, “Wow, those announcements were powerful today.”

That presents a challenge for us as the church. We have life-changing opportunities for people to take advantage of, but they are often getting tuned out, ignored or forgotten during the typical announcement time.

Churches are making the dangerous assumption that if it’s important to us, it must be important to the audience. We assume if it’s announced from the stage, it’s remembered in the seats. Reality is, that’s just not the case. Continue Reading »

Might Be Time To Quit Your Job

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Wanna know the most surprising thing I discover when talking to people working on a church staff? The biggest source of disunity and conflict often lies between the Senior Pastor and creative team.

Creatives often find themselves feeling under-appreciated, overwhelmed and ill-equipped to do their job well. I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “my pastor/boss just doesn’t get it.”

On the other hand, I hear consistently from Pastors that they feel like creatives only care about their work and not how it fits into the church as a whole. They don’t feel the support, don’t give the benefit of the doubt to leadership, and are rarely happy with what they have.

Here’s the bottom line if you’re working on a creative team (or anywhere on a church staff):
If you can’t support the Pastor and the vision and mission of your church, go find another job. Seriously.

If you’re working on a church staff, you probably find yourself in one of three situations:

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Redefining Excellence

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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. Continue Reading »

Simplicity and the Spaghetti Test

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“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. Continue Reading »

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