Echo Conference Notes for Justin Wise

You can access a downloadable version here.

Justin Wise is the Communications Director for Monk Development, builders of Ekklesia 360. His previous work experience was serving on staff at the nation’s fastest-growing Lutheran church as the digital director. With nearly a decade of parish ministry experience, he specializes in digital ministry and social strategy. Justin is a daily blogger at JustinWise.net and co-director of the Center for Church Communication. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa, with his wife and two children.

Echo Conference | Session 1 | Justin Wise

3 problems with church websites

“Ghost town” pages are not updated, are irrelevant, and website is deserted. Staff page is a good indicator

“Eyesore” No brand standard is present, no cohesiveness, lack of effort

“Bottleneck” website implies ‘find at your own risk’, no order to anything, lacking function

Why do these things happen?

No time between other duties or obligations

Fearful emotions from leadership

Too busy to cultivate and pour into the resource

Disconnect between vision of the church and vision of the website

                Misunderstanding of the uses of the website

What is the purpose of a website?

Awareness

                Community

                Connection

                Engagement

Statistics

46% say the Internet is the most essential medium in their lives

46% say a website is important in deciding to attend

23% found a church via search engine

64% agree a website is important to facilitate community

33% say the website was the 1st place they looked for a church

TRUTH: Membership #’s are down

Money spent building religious buildings is down (US Census)

Church website is the new front door

If a church can’t be Googled, it doesn’t exist

Top features requested

  1. Sermons
  2. Serving opportunities
  3. Service info
  4. Forward content
  5. Read visitor’s information

“Not changing your strategy merely because you’re used to the one you have now is a lousy strategy.” Seth Godin

Who are the people in your church?

New visitors            Regular attenders                  Committed attender(member)                      Leaders

How do you ensure ministry is happening on your website?

Content Strategy

Content Audit

Quantitative (Analytics, etc.)

Qualitative (Usability, knowledge, findability, actionability)

119% HIGHER click through rate with pages that have call-to-action

Every page should have a call to action

 

Strategy matters

Content matters

Simple is difficult

Ministry can (and does) happen online

Echo Conference Notes for Barton Damer

You can access a downloadable version of these notes here.

Barton is a motion designer and digital artist who creates under his studio brand, Already Been Chewed LLC. For over 12 years, he has designed for a variety of mediums including print, web, live productions and broadcast television. His digital illustrations are influenced heavily by his motion work. In 2009, Barton was awarded Digital Artist of the Year by Computer Arts Magazine, Intel, and 3d World Magazine. Check out more of his work at www.alreadybeenchewed.tv.

Echo Conference | Session 5 | Barton Damer

Motion design reel – editing clips from favorite projects, think portfolio via video

The Creative Process – Organized chaos

Problem: Art is subjective

You could pour your heart/soul into a project, and they don’t feel the same

Your pastor is your client

Focus on solutions rather than art

You have to understand the problem in order to find a good solution

What problems could there possibly be?

Design with Purpose: Gives reasons for why you did certain things

When you can explain yourself, it’s no longer a pretty image; it’s now them going against your solution

Everyone walks away trying to find the right solution

Motion Design Process

Design and receive approval first.

Animate AFTER receiving approval on the designs.

No moving backwards (without a cost)

You MUST communicate time constraints

You can’t just assume they’re horrible people that are torturing you

Just creating what you think works is the way to set yourself up for a lot of heartache and headache

Barton’s Discoveries

My creative agenda is not always the right solution

Look for ways to find solutions, not just be an artist

The right solution is not always the most creative and/or difficult to produce

Clients want/need options

The wrong solution does not mean poor quality work

It’s possible to be proud of something that is not your best work

Design is part of the solution; it should not be part of the problem.

 

Echo Conference Notes for Scott McClellan and John Dyer

You can find a downloadable version of the notes here.

Scott McClellan is the Director of Echo and the Editor of The Echo Hub (formerly COLLIDE Magazine). Scott and his family are involved in a ministry to foster and adoptive families in the Dallas area.

John Dyer is the Director of Communications at Dallas Theological Seminary.

Echo Conference| Breakout 4 | Scott McClellan & John Dyer

Medium vs Platform

Medium – Broad term

Platform – specific outlet

Available mediums and platforms

  1. Announcements
  2. Teaching
  3. Slides
  4. Video
  5. Signage
  6. Handouts
  7. Kiosks
  8. Classes/groups
  9. Direct mail
  10. Email
  11. Sms
  12. Phone
  13. Twitter
  14. Facebook
  15. The City
  16. YouTube
  17. Website
  18. Ads

What is a medium? Dependent upon context, text can be cold and informative. An image is worth 1,000 words, a sentence is worth 1,000 emotions

Mediacology – There’s a system with the way that the world works with media. If you start focusing on one, you’ll lose another

How Media Works

Media enhances. It makes something better. It’s going to enhance the basic human function.

Media makes something obsolete.

Media retrieves. Restores something we do.

Media reverses into. What is media going to give me? What is it going to take away?

Stranger platforms and family platforms

We have to communicate with strangers through very different platforms (Direct mail, Google Adwords)

Best suited to reaching people we don’t know

The City, announcements, bulletin, stuff like that is good for family platforms

“Family” has given you permissions to share with them

A lot of the stranger platforms are things that we buy (advertisements, etc.)

Family platforms are something we have to cultivate

The network must be in place long before the crisis

What happens when strangers see family messages (images, lingo, etc.)? They don’t make the connection

What would it be like if I didn’t know ANYTHING about this church?

What kind of family does this portray to a stranger?

Active, Passive and Selectively Active Platforms

Active interrupts the audience

Passive platform – displays content, then waits for audience to come discover

Selectively active – hybrid, passive, but active when they are monitoring it

If it’s not urgent, it doesn’t require an active platform

What kinds of things are best suited for the correct platform?

Cultivate each one of them in

Use them appropriately so you’ve earned the right to use them, you haven’t abused them

The Home Base and Outpost

Identify what your home base is (website)

Everything else is an outpost

Outposts by their very nature make poor hosts

Home base does a poor job of inviting people to it

Just because someone is in your family doesn’t mean your home base beckons to them

Not all platforms are created equal

“We have trained you of a certain hierarchy of our communications”

Well established home base can put all your other outposts into perspective

Values

                Job is to determine the value of a specific communication effort

What is important to this project?

Strangers are listening in, keep this in mind

Motivate people to take action

Invite people to visit us

Get feedback

Don’t invite gossip around this message

Human beings speaking the message

Establish the values for the project

Values are what really matter to a communication effort

Working backwards

Comments are the devil’s preferred digital medium

YouTube invites trolling

What kind of responses do we want to this message?

We as church communicators have to be critical of how we communicate

 

 

Echo Conference Notes for Todd Henry

You can find a downloadable set of notes here.

Todd Henry is the founder and CEO of Accidental Creative, a company that helps creative people and teams be prolific, brilliant, and healthy. He’s also the author ofThe Accidental Creative: How To Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice, which offers strategies for how to thrive in the creative marketplace and has been called “high-octane fuel for creative productivity” by Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art.

Echo Conference | Keynote 2 | Todd Henry (@toddhenry)

Student practitioner of creativity in the marketplace

“The Accidental Creative”

Is it possible to be prolific, brilliant and healthy at the same time?

Prolific+brilliant-healthy=fried

Healthy+brilliant-prolific=fired (we’re not going to keep our jobs this way)

80% of people regularly report feeling disengaged in the workplace “Malicious cooperatives” ß secretly hoping the organization will tank

No matter how many times we “snap the yardstick”, we always ask “can I do it again?”

Create-on-demand world – we’re accountable for a process we don’t understand to keep our jobs

Your problem (sits at the center of your world)

Random bits of stimuli (data)

Sometimes we begin to see the connection between the random bits of stimuli

We short-circuit our creativity when we force this out

5 Steps

Define problem

Explore options

Choose best option

Execute

Rinse and Repeat

CoD Process

Panic about problem

Explore option

Execute!!!!

We struggle with the fact that our ideas are TOO appropriate

Possibilities vs. pragmatics | All creative professionals deal with this tension

Time vs. value – you’re paid for the value you contribute to the company (church)

We know that our job is to contribute value (why we check our email repetitively)

Predictable vs. Rhythmic – You can’t predict creativity, but you try anyway

Product vs. Process – 99% of what we do is process, but we’re judged for the 1% (product)

Rhythm (5 elements) supports the creative process

Focus – What are we REALLY trying to do? If the problem isn’t defined, we can’t do our job

Ping – Pinprick in my gut that tells me to check email, twitter, etc.

(Most of us check our email 24,000 times per year)

Define: Challenges

If we want to be more effective, we need to be more microscopic of our process

Refine:Big 3 (Big challenges in your life right now)

Relationships

Head to Head (Most effective way to learn is to teach)

Seek leadership – we need someone (outside of organization) to affirm/critique

Energy – We need to channel our energy into places that will be effective

Practice pruning (If you don’t prune, whole tree will succumb to systemic mediocrity)

We can’t be effective at everything, make a list of what’s going on in your world

Think Whole Life (Making commitments without looking at how it takes our energy)

We only have a limited capacity of energy, you MUST

Stimuli – You create what you take in

We’re taking in creative junk food, if you do, you’ll create junk food

Have a study plan (are you aware of the deeper questions you have in life?)

Take better notes, pay attention to the meta-conversation in your head

If you ignore it long enough, it starts ignoring you

Could be your mind prompting you to go somewhere creatively

Stimulus Dive (do things that REQUIRE you to use your senses in a different way)

Hours – Where we put our time determines our effectiveness

We’d rather feel productive than actually BE productive

When was the last time you made something that someone wasn’t paying you for?

Unnecessary Creating –have something outside of your job to express yourself

Idea Time (It doesn’t feel very effective to THINK about our projects)

We need a sacred space in our life to pursue possibility in the face of pragmatics

It’s not what you know; it’s how you do what you do that matters

Why do this? Why would anyone care if you disappeared into a big sinkhole in the earth?

We believe in what we do, but we don’t have the capacity to ask the tough questions

Cover bands don’t change the world.

We cannot afford to lose your contribution. If you give up your contribution, it’s a crime against humanity.

What do you think the most valuable land in the world is? The graveyard, where the most potential is

The death rate is hovering right about the 100% mark (haha.)

Die empty. I want to know if I leave this world today, I want to know that I’ve poured myself fully into what I’ve done.

Approach your life with more purpose.

Creating Community

I was speaking with a close friend and colleague the other day about his recent trip to a small town in Kenya, where he and a group of people had an opportunity to engage with a small community of native Kenyans and embrace them in Christian love. He spoke fervidly about the local pastor of the area, who was determined to be an active part of his parishioner’s lives, not only spiritually, but took an active role in the local government, and was a leader in his church’s community. This passion for his church made a large impact in the village, and was a key component to the strong sense of community that was undeniably felt by Jon and his group.

Listening to him tell the stories of how Christ moved through not only the village but through the lives of his fellow missionaries filled my heart with wonder and amazement. How did this small church millions of miles away get it? What are we as a Church missing that they didn’t? How do we take the Kenyan model and put it into place within our own congregations?

There’s something we need to understand. At the end of the day, having thousands of people with lukewarm faith will mean nothing compared to the handful of people that dedicate themselves to actively seeking to create community among those they interact with. This concept isn’t new, it’s just something we find ourselves increasingly distancing ourselves from.

So here’s what we do, Church.
Live a life that actively involves the bystanders, Jesus did.
Stop concerning yourselves with the things you cannot change. Just trust that what needs to happen will, because it will.
Love unrelentingly.  Even when it’s hard, because it will be, but anything that’s worth something isn’t worth it because it’s easy.

These things are easy to say, but how many of us fail at these principles on a daily basis? I KNOW I do.

Be the example in your churches, it only takes a handful of faithful people to start a movement. In our church, we’ve taken the initiative by launching a quarterly campaign to share the lives of our church staff with our congregation, while encouraging the congregation to share more about each other with the people they interact with. It’s received an overwhelming response and our parishioners are excited about learning about more than the side we show on Sunday.

Foster community, Church.

Stop Pretending.

One of my favorite stories from pastoral sermons I’ve heard goes like this:

A man was drowning out in the middle of the ocean. Fearful for his life, he cried out to God, “God! Please save me!” Shortly after, a small boat came upon him, and the captain reached out his hand to save the man. Waving him on, the drowning man said, “No, thank you. God is going to save me.” The captain shrugged and went on about his business. The drowning man once again cried out, “Please, God! Save me!” and once again, another boat happened upon him. The drowning man again denied the help of the boat, claiming God would save him. This happened once more before the drowning man fell victim to the sea. When he reached the gates of Heaven and saw God, he asked, “God, why didn’t you save me? I cried out for you to help me, and save me from drowning. Why did you never come?” God looked at him for a long moment before answering, “I sent you three boats, didn’t I?”


More and more, I’m finding the relevance to this story in my own life. So often we get caught up in waiting for God to save us, when the whole time He’s been sending boat after boat trying to help us, but every time we deny the help and claim that in God’s time, our problem will magically be solved and we’ll be saved.

Stop pretending that the boats coming to your life, or even your work, aren’t the tools God has placed before you to do the work yourself.

Stop pretending that God will wave a hand over your situation and your problem will disappear on it’s own every single time.

Stop pretending that God isn’t speaking to you.

There are situations and circumstances in your life right now that God has given you the tools, passion, or abilities to overcome yourself. Right now, there’s something in your life that is frustrating you, upsetting you, or demeaning you and you have the power to fix it yourself. Why then, are you waiting on God to make the situation disappear?

Maybe for you, it’s the opposite. Maybe there is a goal you have been desperately trying to attain, and you have every tool in your toolbox necessary to do it. Why then, are you waiting for God to bestow upon you the gift of whatever comes from that situation to you without you putting in the effort?

God is indeed the mightiest and most wonderful power to ever exist, and He can do far more than we could ever ask or imagine, and He doesn’t NEED us to do anything. Still, time and time again He calls us to a situation, whether it be to grow ourselves or help another, and places everything in your hand for you to do it yourself and to glorify Him, but still, you feel the need to “wait for God” to hold your hand and walk you through it.

Because of the very nature of our sinful selves, we justly deserve death. We don’t deserve 1/10 of the gifts and blessings that God bestows upon us. Why would God, knowing the sins that even you overlook, call you to do something for His glory? Because even after we fall short of His glory time and time again, He seeks us with passion that if physically quantifiable would outnumber any human numerical scale, and forgives you of the countless offenses against Him without thinking twice about it.

Why then, after knowing all this, would you not pour your heart and soul into what He has called you to do? Why do you wait for Him to do it for you? Why do you not get into the boat?

Stop pretending. Start acting.

Effective Creative Meetings

I’ll admit it, I’m a result-getter, and the nature of what I do requires that I look at the process at which it’s done, else I forego any sort of creativity, which would be counterproductive to my job description.

Here’s where I struggle; how do we get from point A to point B in the most creative way we can think of, and how can we do it in an effective way?

While it may seem odd or foreign to most, I love meetings. A lot. I typically analyze the people I’m meeting with and sift through information rather quickly to draw out some of their creative thoughts that they may be trying to put in non-creative terms. You know what’s really hard to do? Self analyze. That’s why it’s truly important to gather around a group of people with the same end goal, but different personalities, backgrounds, thinking styles.

But that being said, it’s important to capitalize on the importance of knowing what everyone’s end goal is. This is why it’s frustrating when trying to attain an effective web strategy when you’re talking to your ministers; ultimately, all they want is for people to find their ministry on the website as fast as possible, and others involved want an effective website that has a clean, user-friendly design and full of content that will bring the user back.

This is a situation I’ve honestly been struggling with lately. In the church world, it’s often not easy to find like goaled people because God has created everyone for a very specific purpose. Meetings are important to help get everyone on the same page, and you have to do that before you can have an effective meeting.

Here are a few ideas on how to maximize creativity in meetings:

1. Be flexibly prepared 
It’s important to know what you’re going in to achieve, but it’s also important to recognize that God is going to be at work actively in your meeting, and you can’t stifle God with simple “Yes” and “No” answers. Know the end-goal, but don’t be surprised if you end up on a tangent. Tangents are really important to creativity, and I truly believe that creativity oozes out of tangents, because if we’re open and active to the conversation, we may find the answer in simply a round-about way. If you’re leading the meeting, ask guiding(not leading) questions, and don’t force answers, but rather encourage healthy discussion, and that means everyone shouldn’t be in agreement.

2. Play Devil’s Advocate–Judiciously
One of the best ways to work out the nitty-gritty details of your ideas is to work through the pros and cons of each idea. Each idea may be drastically different or strikingly similar, so it’s important to narrow down the ideas by looking at the consequences of each. If you’re leading the meeting, you must  be careful with this one, otherwise you’ll look like you’re shooting down every idea. Part of what makes politics so popular is that there are people who see valid and invalid points to each side, and you have to be Switzerland. Don’t take sides, and that means don’t necessarily take the favorable side, even of your own idea. When you initiate this kind of conversation, you open the floor to debate, which is seriously important to creativity.

3. Be drastic

Set the playing field from the get-go. Something I feel a lot of leaders take for granted is setting standards. In a meeting, personify the kind of creativity you want by giving an example/idea of something as drastic as you’re looking for. When your team understands the kind of material you want, you’re likely to spend your time more wisely. When you’re drastic, you give permission for your team to release their more wilder ideas and not feel like a black sheep. As a leader, you’ll also inspire them to think on that playing field.

4. Be ready to take action

The most annoying thing I have found a leader can do is take inaction after a meeting. When you narrow down your options, you’ve got to be the one who  keeps the spirit of the meeting alive outside the conference room. Send an email, do a quick shout-out, and be the first to take action. Don’t be a player, either– Take action immediately. Show your team you’ve got initiative and you care about the hour you just spent with them, or you’ll lose passion faster than you can say “creativity”. Don’t short yourself of that passion in your organization, keep it alive by honoring the time you spend with them.

How to Create a Free Church Website (Seriously.)

Web 2.0 has literally brought a brand new twist to the meaning of what it means to use the Internet, and with hefty stats encouraging the use of the Internet in ministry, it’s hard for churches to ignore it. There are a plethora of options on the web offering easy solutions, but if you haven’t noticed already, you pay generously for it.

This was an issue we dealt with in our church back in October, an with lackluster results from ACS’ Extend, we felt that there was definitely a better way to achieve our web ministry and with the right research skills, it happened. Our website is now in full swing and gaining almost 3 times the amount of traffic that it once did. Guess how much we pay/paid for ours? Not a single penny.

Here’s a real solution for your church, and I promise, there’s no upfront cost, there’s no monthly cost, and the only thing you need is a competent person to enter text (which should be anyone in your office, seeing as everything is now digital):

1. First, develop your web strategy. Monk Development has some fantastic ideas on the basic structure of a web strategy and if you’ve never heard of Drew Goodmanson, it’s probably a good time to Google him (I even did all the hard work for you). This is an incredibly crucial step in creating an effective website, and thankfully for me, when I was brought on board, the majority of this leg work had already been done, so my only effort on this step was refining the strategy and making sure it was implemented correctly.

2. Find your web hosting company. This is as well important, but again, this is some research you probably don’t have to look too far into, because part of the reason I’m posting this is to help churches get their websites free. Totally.  That being said, DreamHost is who we’ve decided to use, and the reason? They offer FREE HOSTING for non-profits (which means churches. All of ’em.) When you are filling out your registration, and it gets to the payment part, stop. Fax them your 501(c) non-profit proof, and they’ll get your hosting all set up ASAP. It’s free. Forever.

3. Download WordPress. Yeah, some web gurus will shy away from this, but for churches, especially churches that lack a solid web designer/manager, WordPress has a very, very minimal learning curve, natural SEO and is therefore one of the best solutions. It’s a WYSIWYG(What You See Is What You Get), and the back-end is pretty straightforward. DreamHost even offers a 1-click install, and takes about 10 minutes total to get you set up and ready to go.

4. Pick your theme. You’ve pretty much got free reign on this, there are plenty of free themes you could use, and if you’ve got a competent PHP-savvy member who’s willing to offer their time and efforts to code you up something, that’s a plus. Most churches choose to invest around $40-$50 on a premium theme at this point, but you don’t have  to.

5. Import all of your content. This is really important. Without content on your pages, it’d be pretty pointless to have a website. Remember: your website is the face and voice of your church, and most people look at your web presence before considering looking at your physical presence.

This takes time, especially step 1. But you will reap the benefits. During our Ash Wednesday service, someone mentioned on their welcome card that they appreciated our web information and chose to come here out of the many other churches because of our website, so people notice, they care. If you don’t believe me, get Google Analytics. I love looking at the stats and seeing our loyalty, map overlay, and mobile stats. It shows there’s a pulse in this ministry, and it aids other ministries in ways unthinkable.

We Need You

The very nature of the work of creatives is dangerous. We’re constantly challenged to find ways of telling the Story, while at the same time fighting the resistance that comes with doing something new in a seemingly unchanging “market”. Therefore, it’s easy to find yourself wondering why you continue in the business and becoming discouraged.

What we do is special. It’s only just getting started. We’re called to be the voice of this generation, past generations, and the generations to come, and that’s not easy.

Art… Storytelling…. It’s not easy, and this isn’t some 9-5 job that you can wipe your hands clean of when you punch out.

You’re always learning, always working, always creating, always progressing, and if you’re not, you know it and you’re fighting to get back on track. This isn’t a ministry that can afford to stagnate, and we certainly can’t afford to lose momentum.

It’s going to be a long, tiring and gruesome job, but it’s a necessary battle to better serve the Kingdom and you–your creativity– is a necessity. It’s not a luxury, it’s not a hindrance, it’s needed. You have been brought exactly where you are for a very specific purpose and it’s not time to quit, now is just the time to get started.

Your job is to fight every single day to put the passion burning inside of you to art, to life. Your ideas come directly from God and the motivation you feel to scream to the entire world and let them see why you’re so passionate about Him should be directly reflected in everything you create.

Don’t give up, it’s going to be difficult. Your voice has to be heard, and the only way to be heard is to speak, so speak loudly in the things you do, know that God is supporting you, and know that people care about the ideas in your head.

Selling Worship

For some reason, printer/copier companies have been knocking on our door lately. I went to a little mixer a couple of weeks ago to check out a company with my brother. I wasn’t severely impressed with them, but it was a good experience and it got a few ideas of the direction I want to head with that sort of technology in mind. Today a small group of us went to another mixer “working lunch” with a guest speaker who acted like he knew quite a bit about church communications, and after 4-5 minutes, I realized he was a product pusher, and not a communicator. I was slightly perturbed by it and found myself immediately dismissing what he was saying.

Shortly after that, it was time for the worship meeting, something I genuinely look forward to, this is where all the “magic” happens, in my opinion. This is the only space we can all get together and hash out ideas that will either become part of a worship experience or not. As we started the meeting, I was determined to make them view creativity in worship differently no matter what. It wasn’t until the middle of my rant about why we should be using social media in worship that I recognized the similarities between the speaker at the lunch I attended and myself. Now, it wasn’t about sharing the ideas, it was about selling them to the worship team.

There I realized I had made a fatal mistake. These meetings aren’t about selling my ideas to them, it’s about finding the most suitable way to express ourselves in worship at our services.

In the end, worship isn’t about doing the flashiest or techiest things possible. It’s about breaking hearts and renewing the spirit within. Our main goal shouldn’t be to maintain job security or do something simply because another church is doing it, you need to do what’s right for your congregation and what’s right for the Kingdom. If you do that, everything else will fall into place as it should be. And that’s where innovation in the Church begins.