Communication and Leadership — The Medium

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communicationmedium
IMGP9030In this instalment of Communications Catalyst Brad Jarvis’ ongoing Communication and Leadership series, we get to talk about medium, or media (plural).

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It gets confusing! These days, people who receive a call may respond with a text, pick up the conversation on Twitter, broaden it on Facebook and wind up posting a confused selfie on Instagram…which other people will share on Pinterest.

The point is, we have a lot of channels available to us!

New services and ideas are springing up all the time, with new, unique features to try to attract users.

Accessibility
This is a key decision of the medium, and the content. Some channels are unavailable to some people, and some media are better for some messages than others.

The Richest Medium Available
Despite all of the attention given to new apps and services on electronic devices, face-to-face communication is still the richest medium. This is one of the most important realities of communication which is also one of the most easily missed. When it has to be understood, go for in-person.

What you need to do is lead people to where they can get the information that they want/need from you. Make the barrier to entry as low as you can. A mailing list is a great example, because then people are receiving your information, rather than having to go somewhere to get it.

Because they usually won’t. And I’m not bitter, just realistic.

A well-designed blog/website is another good option — no-one needs to sign up for a new service to view your information and pictures. (On the other hand, where there’s a strong relational commitment, it may be appropriate to ask people to join a proprietary service together.)

The medium carries a lot of the weight of communication. But the only concern isn’t about getting people to see it. It’s also about getting them to process it, and do something with it.

Why Medium is an Important Consideration
Have you ever been in a conversation where 5 people were trying to simultaneously write and edit a document, all by e-mail? There’s a short word to describe that phenomenon: chaos! All of a sudden there are 27 different versions of the document, and no-one knows which is the latest and/or most accurate. Someone entering that conversation has no idea where to pick it up, where it’s going, or what’s been decided. In fact, most times those already there don’t know, themselves!

E-mail is the wrong choice for something so procedurally complicated. There are way better choices. (Comments are open if you need suggestions!)

Prioritise your medium based on your values for the message, not on what seems easiest. Take a look at what’s available in your church. Maybe the new message would work in something established. Maybe it needs something new.

  • What are the goals of the communication?
  • How do you want people to respond?
  • Where’s the quickest/closest medium to that response?

If you can’t select the medium, then the message needs to be tailored to its strengths:

  • When it comes to e-mail, think brief. No, briefer!
  • Video has visceral impact, but it also works best in short bursts.
  • In graphic forms, design well so it’s attractive and is easily understood.

Communication Lives Between Tensions
The abundance of potential media choices available to you is not important. You cannot apprehend all of them. Give up. Stop trying. I absolve you from the effort!

However
I can assure you that pretty much everything you’re trying to do with communications has an effective tool already built. Sticking with what you know (a.k.a inflexibility) can rob you of the chance to improve the effectiveness of your communication. (Yep, e-mail, I’m looking at you again.)

Be careful that your investment isn’t locking into something which is holding you back.

Developing a strong understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of media is a crucial component to effective communication. You may find that you’re creating less, and that people are understanding more. There’s a short word to describe that phenomenon: win!

Our Reputation: We Can Rebuild!

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“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
(John 13:34 – 35)

I recently finished reading David Kinnaman’s book, unChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christianity… and Why It Matters. It is truly depressing. Kinnaman leads the Barna Group. His research leads him to some startling conclusions. He reports that in 1997 the general population in the US had a positive view of evangelical Christians – but 10 years later the general population had adopted a much more negative view of evangelical Christians. Kinnaman concludes that this is not a mere image problem for evangelicals in the US – there are substantive issues that are root causes of the shift in attitude. And the attitude has plummeted most severely among younger Americans.

What are the issues?

Well, young Americans do not like the Christian “swagger”; they believe that evangelicals “bark” and “bite” (in fact, many say they have experienced both bark and bite). US evangelicals are known more for what they are against than for what (or who) they are for. They feel that Christians are judgmental, hypocritical, arrogant, anti-homosexual, politically right-wing, separatist folks. They are suspicious that evangelicals don’t really care about people as human beings – they only see a person as a project, as someone who needs to be convinced to think properly (to have their mind changed on a host of moral topics), and as someone to “get saved”. In essence, young Americans are not really “feeling the love” in their experiences with Christians and the church.

Wow, you say, “it is a good thing that we are Canadian then!” Well, I suppose we could assume that we are a kinder, gentler bunch than our cousins in the US, but the passion behind the response to the TWU law school application highlights the genuine fear of evangelicals that exists in our country, too. Is that fear totally rational? Of course not! Is it something to be concerned about? I believe so – for two reasons. First, while the charges against evangelicals will never be entirely fair, we need to admit that there is some substance to the accusations. And second, it ought to seriously grieve us that we are not known for what Jesus said believers would be known for – love for one another (our passage above).

In the upper room Jesus talked a lot about loving Him, obeying His commands, following the Spirit, serving each other, abiding in Him, and loving each other. It ought to concern us mightily that evangelicals are known for a whole host of the wrong things.

I love our current theme, “Amplify”. It reminds us that we are Great Commission people! However, we may want to remember as well that without love… well, we are simply generating a lot of noise and activity (at least that’s what Paul seems to indicate in I Corinthians 13). Jesus reminds us that we start first with the Great Commandment. Rodney Stark, in his The Rise of Christianity, claims that the early church grew not because Christians had political power, or lots of programs, or perfectly articulated systematic theology – but because they loved and treated women, slaves, orphans, the sick and the economically vulnerable better than everyone else did. They were known for what Jesus called them to be known for. And because they looked like Jesus, and lived out the fruit of the Spirit – their gospel influence was amplified.

It is my prayer that the EFCC will become so known as an authentic Great Commandment family of believers that our Great Commission effectiveness will be amplified!

Serving with you,

Bill

Your Exponential West Invitation

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expowest2014

Here are the broad strokes, provided by Exponential West:

Join thousands of church planting leaders for four days of inspiration, encouragement and equipping at Exponential West church planting conference in Los Angeles.

The conference theme is “Seek + Save” and will feature 75+ speakers, 75+ workshops, 8 tracks, and 2,000 church planting leaders.

Exponential 2014 will take a fresh look at evangelism — proclaiming the Good News — as we rethink and challenge some of our old paradigms and rediscover some of Jesus’ old truths. Within the context of discipleship, we will press into five key areas of evangelism:

  • ReThinking Evangelism
  • ReThinking Outreach
  • ReThinking Witness
  • ReThinking Preaching
  • ReThinking Commission

More information is available on the Exponential West website.

**But Wait!**

If you’re interested, and you’re in the EFCC family, you can sign up here on our website for a special rate we’ve negotiated:

EFCC Exponential West Registration

If you have any questions about any of this, please get in touch with us!

World of Hope Sneak Peek

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I’m really excited about this year’s World of Hope design. It’s a highly collaborative experience. The inked artwork is done by Robin, one of the newest members of Home Office. The photograph is taken by Graeme, serving the EFCCM with his family in Thailand.

WorldofHopesneak

“Here is what Graeme has said about photography, and this particular image in particular:

graeme“I create photographs for a couple of specific reasons. The first is a little selfish and it is because I am a creative personality. As a creative I need an outlet where I can create something beautiful. I have been primarily a musician and that has served me well as a creative outlet, but being here in Thailand, I noticed early on that there is unique beauty and interest all around me. I desire to capture it and photography is the best way I can see to do that.

The second reason is to share a story.

“This is the goal of art, to convey a story, to pass on a feeling. This is why I have chosen to focus on street photography and mainly on street portraits. There is this sense of raw story telling when you capture a person candidly. My goal is to find moments when we, as viewers, can connect with and even empathize with the subject. To gain a small understanding of their story and to see that they are beautiful creations made also in the image of God.

“This is one of my favourite photographs because of who is in it. I think this photo captures a beautifully humble, kind, and soft man. He is a farmer and was working on a small sliver of land that the Willems had allowed him to farm. He is a Buddhist, and his face shows a long life of uncertainty, spiritual oppression, and anxiety towards what fate has in store for him. Yet when you look at him you see this glimmer of hope. Larry and Diane Willems know and love this man are showing him the love of the Father through Jesus. Pray that this man will see the hope of Jesus Christ and be a light in a very dark place.”