Stop Going to Church (But Don’t Stop Going to Church)

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Lately, the pastors at my church have been a little more vocal than usual about reaching out to our neighbors. Especially around major holidays, they often give reminders and share specific opportunities to invite guests who may not yet follow Jesus.

This past Easter, we had a specific campaign that challenged our congregation to think of five people they regularly engage with who aren’t Christians. The idea was to keep that list visible in our homes so we could regularly pray for them and look for natural opportunities to talk with them about our faith.

All of this, of course, is good. We should always have this mindset, and the reminders have been helpful since (sadly) it isn’t always natural for me to think this way.

Here’s the only problem: When it came time for me to work on my list, I had trouble coming up with five people. I really had to work to think of five people in my life who aren’t yet Christians.

Read the full post on Boundless here.

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Netflix, “Stranger Things” and Compassion Fatigue

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By now, many of you have probably watched season two of “Stranger Things” on Netflix. Don’t worry: There are no spoilers here — except I really didn’t expect to see that beach scene with Kevin Bacon in the Upside Down.

(That didn’t happen.)

If you’ve been watching the series, maybe you’ve had similar thoughts and reactions to mine. Several times while I was watching, I had to remind myself this whole thing was created by Netflix. This wasn’t a Disney or Marvel or Lucas Films production designed for huge movie theaters; this was created by the old DVD mail service that now streams “Friends” reruns to your XBox. Most of the actors were completely unknown to the public before this series, and — of course — the premise of the show is pretty ridiculous.

Read the full post on Boundless here.

Why Even “Bad” Christian Music Is Good for You

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If you are what you eat, then I’m usually a Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller from Taco Bell. Yes, my “dad bod” is coming in quite nicely.

As true as that saying may be, lately I’ve put some thought into what I listen to. In my little world, music is always playing. If I’m at work, at the gym, hanging out at home, driving, or consuming a Beefy Nacho Loaded Griller, odds are I have tunes rolling.

Growing up, I was the nerdiest of Christian music nerds. I skipped school in fourth grade to meet Michael W. Smith. I stood in line for hours at outdoor festivals to get autographs from Greg Long and Nicole C. Mullen. I had Hawk Nelson T-shirts and still have the rap from “Jesus Freak” memorized. I knew — and loved — it all.

Read the full post on Boundless here.

Equality and Action Figures

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“Whoa! I didn’t know you were a nerd!”

I’ve heard that statement more times than you might imagine, and, yes, it’s true. I am a nerd. But not one of those pocket-protector nerdy nerds. I’m a cool nerd.

When you walk into my office, you’ll notice typical office-y things until you turn a corner and see my collection of action figures. Protecting my work space is an assembly of earth’s mightiest heroes: an army of 12” plastic replicas of Marvel’s Avengers, Superman and Batman — and somehow a Ninja Turtle snuck in to join the team.

These heroic friends are a popular conversation piece, but recently someone pointed out a major flaw in my collection:

“All your action figures are boys. You really need to add a girl hero to your collection!”

Read the full post on Boundless here.

How to Develop a Communications Playbook for Your Church

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This article was originally published by Church Marketing Sucks & Courageous Storytellers, where I also did a video interview with Mark MacDonald. Check them out! (You will need a Courageous Storytellers subscription to watch the video… but it’s just so totally worth it!)

Let me tell you a story. When I started my job at First MB Church four years ago, the church didn’t have an official communication request process. If a staff member wanted to advertise a retreat, a sweet old congregation member had a prayer request for her ailing Mini Schnauzer, or the pastor decided his Sunday sermon warranted a special handout on Friday morning (Can I get an amen?), our admin did her best to squeeze everything into the bulletin.

Our bulletin, by the way, was an 11-by-17-inch piece of paper folded into thirds. That equates to 374 square inches of utter chaos. And, please, don’t get me started on the barrage of clip art posters, the clunky (outdated) website, or the kids ministry volunteers’ insistence on using Comic Sansfor everything.

It was a dark, dark time in my church’s history. But let me be clear: It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Our staff members and volunteers were really good, but busy, people who were super passionate about their thing. No one on staff had the authority or the time, though, to control the pandemonium. As a consequence, everyone did their best to keep everyone else happy.

Sound familiar? If it doesn’t and you work in church communications? Count your lucky stars, my friend, and may the odds be ever in your favor. (Cue Hunger Games music.)

Read the rest of the article here.

The Intensive Conference: Full of Nuggs and People Who GET It.

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I spent some time in St. Louis this week attending The Intensive conference, a gathering of creative people around the country ALL ABOUT CHURCH COMMUNICATIONS.

I’ll be honest: This trip came at a good time for me. I don’t care what career you’re in (… that sounds mean. I do care), it gets hard and tiring and frustrating and flat out silly sometimes when you do the same thing every day for several years. Even good jobs become difficult because those pesky humans keep showing up and doing things imperfectly.

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Kelley Hartnett and Mark MacDonald were the featured speakers, and they are fantastic people I’ve had the privilege of knowing a few years now. They had nuggets upon nuggets upon nuggets (and a man needs his nuggs) of wisdom I’m going to dive into a bit in a second, but I’ll be honest: my favorite part of this conference was being with people who Get It. I was in a room full of people who Get fonts and colors and deadlines and projector cables and volunteers and Macbooks and Andy Stanley and Parks & Rec and Panera. And they’re also the kind of people who noticed I capitalized Get and they understand why.

They just Get It.

Beyond that, though, I took away some practical, helpful things as well as some bigger picture reminders about stuff I do every day that sometimes I just need to remember. Here are three of my faves:

Branding is Important.

I’m a big fan of good branding, but I have to admit sometimes I struggle explaining why. It just is and I get it and HOW COME NO ONE ELSE DOES. A couple helpful thoughts:

  • Your logo isn’t your brand; your logo points to your brand.
  • A great definition Kelley shared: Branding is the “emotional aftertaste left by an experience.” Let that soak in.
  • A brand is successful if it’s known for a solution to a problem.
  • Brands help people make decisions quickly. I thought this was brilliant:
    How do we make choices?
    We make them based on what we know.
    Make sure you are known for something.
    Give people the tools they need to make the choice you want them to make.
  • Differences make you stand out. Don’t be bland; no one will care. “We do pretty much everything” is not helpful.

Less is More.

  • This is Mark’s sweet spot, and the subject of his book. His whole deal is the idea we should be known for something. One something. As he says, “The more things you want to be known for, the less you’ll be known for anything.”
    I SO AGREE WITH THIS.
  • Specifically in church world, we like to offer a jungle gym full of activities for each specific people group and mmaayybbbbeee tie in some religious angle and hope people show up. As Kelley reminded me, “The purpose of the church is not to get people to show up to stuff.” Many Christians are more wrapped up in attending activities than they are about being Jesus to their neighbors. And they’re tired. Because we (the church) keep them (very) busy. The church needs to be known for something, and it shouldn’t be making people busy and tired. We need to give people a chance to be a good disciple and not just do a bunch of stuff.
    I SO AGREE WITH THIS.
  • If everything is equally weighted, nothing matters.

But Most Importantly, I’m Ok.

“It is not possible to do your best at everything all the time.”

BUT I THINK IT IS.

BUT IT’S NOT.

BUT I THINK IT IS.

STOP IT, MATT. IT’S NOT.

It’s a messy balance, but there are days and seasons when we have to be ok with “good enough.” That is not an excuse for mediocrity, but it is a reality of being human. Not every single thing I make will be awesome. Sometimes that’s my fault (I’m tired or uninspired or busy or lazy or just out of ideas), and sometimes I have to make logos for a children’s program called Candy Cane Lane.

Try to make that cool. I dare you.

A common theme of the last session was you’re better than you think you are. I needed that reminder.

I have pages of notes in Evernote I just went through again and a few new books to read. Several new friends also posted nuggets of wisdom on Twitter.

Overall it was a good experience, and I’m grateful I work for a church who believes in investing in their staff. Rest is important, and I forgot how refreshing it is to just simply be with people who Get It–whatever your It is.

So you should do that, too. Maybe you can’t drive to a conference in St. Louis in a rented Hyundai Accent that for some reason keeps playing “Baby It’s Cold Outside” from my iPhone every time I plug it in, but community is important, and I was reminded how much I needed it.

Recap: Branding is important, less is more, and you’re good at what you do. Three good lessons for all of us!

Hey, I’m on a podcast!

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I was super excited and honored to be the featured guest this week on the Church Media Podcast! Carl Barnhill and I talked about creativity, rest, work/life balance, and–of course–bad fonts. We also get into the dc Talk debacle.

Check it out now and let me know what you think!

Much of our discussion was spurred by this article I wrote for Sunday magazine.

And remember, Upstream is still on sale for a crazy low price few a more weeks!