social media storiesDo you ever see opinions like these on social media?

“If you wait for perfection, you will miss opportunity.”

“Our problem is not a lack of information, it’s a lack of application.”

Social media is an attractive platform for the expression of opinion. I think there is a place for such expression, but organizations which default to opinion are missing a more attractive form of communication: STORY.

Story is meaningful. Using story allows others to find meaning through your life. When we hear others stories, we ask ourselves: Can I relate? Was their experience like my experience? Is their story like my story?

Those are questions of meaning. People interact at a deeper level around meaning, rather than superficially engaging around opinion.

Story invites. Opinion forces. Most opinion comes with a silent “read it and weep” disclaimer. Story invites the attention of the listener.

Here is a simple tweet that expresses the value of church involvement through story better than any opinion.

What’s the hold up?
If story is more attractive than opinion, then why don’t we use a story-tone more often?

One simple reason: It’s easy to tell someone your opinion. It’s hard work telling them your story. (tweet)

Story requires vulnerability. I was recently a part of #NBsocialday at New Beginnings Adoptions. I heard the stories of birthmothers who wrestled with the choice between abortion or adoption.

It’s easy to talk about abortion with opinionated prejudice, it’s much harder to sit in judgment after hearing the stories of afraid and alone birthmothers. Their stories draw you in to understand the fear of an unexpected pregnancy, and the hope they need from an organization like New Beginnings.

Take 4 minutes and watch Jeremy’s Story to see first hand how effective communication comes from a place of story more than opinion.

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phone screenSometimes the only thing between you and digital action is a click, but you don’t know where to click.

I was recently visiting a client site and realized I couldn’t figure out how to take action on the site. I wanted to give, to support, to share, but after 20 min of digging around I couldn’t figure out how to do any of those things. I couldn’t take action.

The average visitor looks for 8 seconds before giving up.

Designers borrow the term “affordance” from psychology to describe human-object interaction. Affordance is a perceived signal or clue that an object can perform a certain action. For example, a chair is around knee-high to afford sitting. A toothbrush is a little longer than the human palm to afford gripping.

Unlike physical objects which gain affordance from their size, shape and weight – web and mobile interfaces gain affordance through design. Have you ever thought about how easy or hard it is for visitors to take action on your website. The more affordance you design into digital actions, the more intuitive it is for people to take action.

Here are a few best practice affordances for a website:

  • Social Media buttons in the top right corner. Don’t make people scroll to the bottom of the screen to follow you.
  • A visible button for giving. Not a tab that requires searching after.
  • An invitation to join an email list using first name and email only. Don’t ask for name, rank and serial number.
  • Something free! Offer a free resource in exchange for an email. Make the exchange quick and painless but valuable.
  • Ask! If a visitor only comes once to your site, what do you want them to do? Comment? Give? Sign-up? Make sure and ask.

Capitalize on that 8 seconds by designing as much affordance as possible into the actions on your website.

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leftoversIf you’re single would you invite your date over for a meal of leftovers?

I hope not, but that’s what gets served in a lot of weekly church communications – the leftovers from Sunday.

This happens because churches usually create everything to be served on Sunday. Graphics, worship set, sermon, announcements are all communicated for the Sunday-only experience. The rest of the week is an after thought.

Churches have a broader opportunity to connect by creating weekly content. Here’s a potential template:

Monday – thank guests for coming. You asked to follow guests, right?

Tuesday – ask people what “take-aways” they had from Sunday.

Wednesday – invite people to share a pic of their week with a specific #hashtag. This is great if the pic can connect with an ongoing series. i.e. ask couples to share a date-night pic during a relationship series.

Thursday – share something comical. A funny saying or vine clip to help lighten-up the work week. Dilbert is always a good choice.

Friday – share a weekend-weather screen shot and ask people, “What are your weekend plans?”

Saturday – share the titles of Sunday’s worship set on a graphic. Like this one.

Of course you can promote the upcoming Sunday message throughout the week and share last Sunday’s announcements. There’s nothing wrong with that.

Just remember a good way to help people think about church beyond Sunday, is to let them know the church is thinking about them Monday through Saturday.

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A way to help people think about church beyond Sunday, is to let them know the church is thinking about them Monday through Saturday. (Tweet it!)


Big Data CartoonOn Sundays I’m up early checking social media for church clients. I have a routine of starting coffee and quietly praying until the coffee is finished, which is more than a minute since I haven’t switched to a Keurig.

As spring approaches churches start promoting Easter Sunday. This is one of the Big Sundays in which churches hope for many guests. One of the big challenges churches face is how to maintain contact with first-time guests. People guard their home address and phone number like they were classified information. By the way, the CIA joined Twitter in 2014. Here was their first tweet.

If you’re still asking people for their address and phone number, STOP! At best, asking for this info is creating un-easiness in your guests. At worst, it is creating a negative first impression that guests are only data points. Instead use social media to stay connected with first-time guests.

Ask-to-follow Guests
Most churches ask people to follow their organization on social media, but have you thought about flipping that around and asking people if your church can follow them? Asking-to-follow and not just asking to-be-followed works better for two reasons.

Guests are respected. I recently stood in line to make a purchase at one of the big-box retail stores. I heard the salesperson say to everyone in front of me, “What’s your email?” Each customer would then spout off their email. When my turn came I simply said, “No” to the request for my email and the salesperson said “Ok, thank you.” I should never have to give my personal contact info to make a purchase and retailers know this but they prey on the point-of-sale opportunity to get whatever data they can.

Churches should not operate with point-of-sale tactics that make a person feel pressured to comply. (tweetable)

By asking “Can we follow you?” your church is saying, “It’s your life, can we be a part of it?” That is how people want to be respected in the present age where so much data is collected about them.

Guests can be thanked immediately. Once the service is over a tweet can be put out or a FB message sent that thanks the guest for coming and links to something of value. Try something like: “Thanks @SecondChairLead for visiting @ElevateChurch today. Here is a link to highlights from today’s message http://…”

Not only does thanking a guest through social media allow you to share a meaningful resource, it also allows the guest to retweet or like your resource which only expands your church’s reach.

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3 wordsI started a practice back in 2012 called “pick three words.”

The practice is not unique to me. I learned it from a fellow blogger. The idea is to pick three words to build your focus around during the new year. Most people make “resolutions” which fail on average within eleven days. Others set goals, create a plan or make a wish.

Those don’t work for me because they feel like a map, and anytime I travel I think, “How far?” and “How fast?” If at some point I’m not going far or fast enough, then I get discouraged.

A three-words approach feels like a compass and that helps me think more about orientation, not far and fast. What I’m after is a mindset to frame my intentions, guide my choices and remind me of my direction.

My three words in 2014 were “responsibility, journey, and consistency.” Responsibility reminded me to take ownership of decisions I had been putting off or waiting on others to make. Journey meant I would journey “along side” not “ahead of” my family. I have a tendency to pre-decide family decisions, and then try to convince my family of those decisions. Not this year. We’ve been on a journey together, and I am learning to include them. Consistency helped me write my thoughts weekly and send them in my Sunday Best email (thanks to the many who read those thoughts).

How did I do in 2014? Better in some areas than others, and that’s the key: direction NOT perfection.

The words serve to focus your intentions on three important areas for improvement during the new year. You make the first word about yourself, the second word about your loved ones and the third word about your work.

Here are my three words for 2015:

Chart – There’s a lot of ocean out there, I can’t sail it all, I have to CHART my course. I often chase too many “hey, what if’s” and as a result I cover a lot of ocean without reaching a destination. I’m going to chart 2 or 3 landmarks (efforts) and put my “back” into reaching them.

Now – I am passing a few life-markers this year including 20 years of marriage. I want to be present in the NOW for my wife and kids. I need to practice mindfulness during conversations and during those monologues in which one of my kids just wants me to pay attention.

Box – I want to contribute the kind of value that really helps a church or company move forward. To do that, I need to narrow my services and clarify how those services add value. People talk about getting out-of-the box. I need to get back-in-the BOX, stay in it and create value.

So that’s my three. I’m sharing them with you and others in my community to help me move towards alignment with what’s important.

What about you? Do you have three words for 2105? Would you tweet them to me? I’d love to read them.

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berlin wall handshakeTwenty five years ago the Berlin Wall fell.

Twenty three years ago I spent the summer in Germany studying engineering. During my time there I visited Berlin, and stayed in an East Berlin hotel. It was a surreal experience to sleep and eat in a place that had been cut off from the western world for 30 years.

As a teenager of the ’80’s, I grew up hearing President Reagan say, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” Thanks to cable news the world watched in real time as the wall crumbled on the night of Nov. 9, 1989.

History has documented that Harold Jager, an East German border guard, was the “man who opened the Berlin Wall” that historical night.

Jager recalls his order to open the gate was not a decision for which he had approval, nor was it an order he wanted to give. A divided Berlin was all Jager had ever known; his father had helped build and police the wall. Jager had followed in his father’s footsteps. He recalls crying and feeling betrayed that night as he watched the masses of East Berliners cross the border into the west.

However, within a half hour Jager said, “The crowds won us over with their euphoria, we realized that they were overjoyed and and our tears of frustration turned to those of joy.” Jager’s response is not very different from anyone who has experienced a border crossing.

Border crossings are difficult whether they are geographical, generational, or ideological. (tweet this)

This is one reason why it’s often hard for people to come into the Kingdom of God – it’s a border crossing. Even though Jesus said the kingdom is life, joy and rest, it’s hard for people to take the step from entrapment to freedom.

Thankfully, Scripture is full of God-led border crossings and participants who were resistant: the Exodus out of Egypt, entrance into the Promised Land, rebuilding of the Temple, Jesus bringing in the kingdom, taking the Gospel beyond Jerusalem, incorporating Gentiles into the church.

What border crossings are you helping people make? Are they cultural, organizational, or ideological borders? How is your church helping the community cross borders, not just into the kingdom but within the community?

Mr. Jager said when he told his sister, “It was me who opened the border last night.” She said, “You did well.”

I want to hear those same words one day from my border-crossing God.

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Trick or Treat DoorI enjoy trick or treating with my kids.

With four kids we’ve collected enough treats over the years to make Willy Wonka proud and his dentist father terrified.

If trick or treating isn’t your thing, I understand, just hang with me for a few sentences.

Trick or treating is an engagement in which expected visitors show up at a person’s house unannounced. 

That sounds a lot like a church guest…expected but unannounced. For that reason I think there are a few things churches can glean from trick or treating when it comes to welcoming guests.

Two Kinds of Welcome

I have stood at the curb many times as my children were greeted, and I’ve noticed two kinds of greeters – those who leave the porch-light on and those who wait in the front yard.

Porch-light greeters work from the assumption that trick or treating involves knocking on a closed door and then waiting for it to open. Tradition is on the side of the porch-light greeter.

Wait-in-the-front-yard greeters work from the assumption that trick or treaters may be deterred by a closed door or a delayed answer. Innovation is on the side of the front yard greeter.

It’s not that porch-light traditions are wrong.  It’s that culture has shifted and people are not as comfortable engaging through a closed door anymore.

Porch-light greeters can’t hear the sidewalk conversations outside their homes as parents debate whether or not their children should approach the door.

This is where innovation always trumps tradition. Front-yard greeters have replaced the porch light with themselves. They hear the sidewalk conversations because they are out there.

Is your church taking a porch light or front yard approach to welcoming guests?

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iphone 6 debutI have an iPhone 4. It’s the model that uses smoke signals to send data. Recently, Apple reminded iPhone 4 users just how stuck in 2010 we are with the release of the iPhone 6 & 6 Plus.

The unveiling was live streamed on Apple’s website…or at least it was suppose to be. When the event began the audio was simultaneously in Mandarin and English, and the video screen was frozen with the classic 8 color TV lines. Online viewers had problems for over an hour.

Of course, social media took to poking fun using Apple’s promoted hashtag #AppleLive. Here are some of the tweets:

My personal favorite,

Apple’s techno-fail with live streaming is not uncommon in churches. I have tuned into churches with no audio on their live stream or a blank camera shot because the speaker had moved off-camera.

As churches depend more on live-streaming to get their message out, it’s important that live-streaming not fall prey to techno-fails.

One helpful way to prevent live streaming problems is to assign a person to live-stream production. Don’t just add live-streaming to the AV team’s to-do list. Live-streaming is reaching a real-time audience that wants to feel like they’re included in the service, not like an add-on audience that gets the occasional privilege of watching online.

Your church is weekly unveiling a great “product.” Don’t let techno-fails keep it from online viewers.

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Give people a part of your heart rather than a piece of your mind.

Unknown #leadwell