Closing the loop

Donating blood to the American Red Cross can be an inherently rewarding activity. You know you’ve broadly done a good thing. You’ve helped someone.

But look what happens a few weeks after you donate:

What a surprising, unexpected follow up!

It’s another chance for relationship and a reason to remind people to sign up to donate again. It makes the general good a specific good and further anchors the positive feelings.

How many times do we thank people in the moment but miss an opportunity to follow up, close the loop, or add specifics?

The direct application might be that survey you give or the feedback you request. What happens with it? What change does it inspire?

But take it a step further. What other ‘one more thing’ moments might be embedded in your daily routine?

“Thanks for the discussion in our staff meeting. Here’s what we did and where we’re headed.”

“We noticed you all really liked this event, so we’re planning two more like it!”

It’s easy to underestimate the noise we all live with and assume others see the things we see. It makes us think the follow up we did from that conversation or work is obvious.

Sometimes, a small ‘here’s what we did’ can make a big difference.

Preaching and the mystery box


I just read notes from a session with Chris Seay over on the Collide blog. He’s talking about the power of story – preaching the bigger narrative, asking questions, leaving mystery. There’s something big here for people who communicate and teach. I love this. I see it. I want it. But can I be honest? The journalist in me fights it. I want to share a story and pull people along with the mystery of it all, but I end up giving them the answer in one short paragraph.

So I’m trying to move there, but I have to find a balance with my own style. I guess the question is, how do you feel communication works best? What about in sermons? Should sermons involve more stories and mystery? Is there still a place for the direct teaching style (I think Andy Stanley does this well)? Maybe more discussion? Maybe we need to rethink the “person up front speaking to everyone” idea all together?

If it’s a topic that interests you, you need to listen to JJ Abrams’ talk from TED. Mystery, he says, is more important than knowledge. It’s the catalyst for imagination.

A few other points he makes:

  • The best stories are mystery boxes (alluding to a story he tells about a family member and an unopened box of magic tricks). They are question after question after question that pull you through a complete story.
  • Withholding info increases interest. The Jaws shark didn’t work half the time so it was shown less. That’s what made it frightening. The unseen.
  • The best stories hold a difference between what you think you’re getting and what you’re really getting. ET isn’t about an alien who meets a kid. It’s about a heartbreaking divorce and a kid who’s finding his way in life. Jaws isn’t all about a shark attacking people, it’s about a man wrestling with his place in the world, his masculinity, and his family. (If you want to do a sequel, don’t rip off the shark, that’s not what makes it work! Rip off the story – the characters – the struggle)

So you kind of miss the point if you talk about the value of story and then read an outline of the talk :). But it’s good stuff. If you have 18 minutes, go watch it.

Teamwork means unity (or, boats don’t get anywhere if you’re paddling in 12 different directions)


“The successful company is not the one with the most brains, but the most brains acting in concert.” – Peter Drucker

The success of a team depends on unity and common direction. And that unity and common direction comes from intentional communication, building relationships, listening, sharing stories, and spending time together. It’s not easy work, but it’s work that can’t be ignored.

But the challenge is, this important stuff is the stuff that doesn’t feel like work. Talking about why we’re doing something doesn’t feel as important as planning the next event. Getting to know and understand a team member’s story doesn’t feel like we’re accomplishing much. It almost feels like wasted time.

But it’s not. Being a successful team means working together. And working together means getting the right people in the room, figuring out the problem or goals, and coming up with a solution that everyone has a stake in – that everyone can contribute to. Unity may come before or during the problem solving process, but for a group to become a team, that unity has to happen.

Communication (and the President-elect)

I love it when leaders embrace communication and new technology. It’s so important to communicate regularly with people, and it’s time to look at how we communicate (is television the only way a President can address a nation?). So along with weekly addresses that will be distributed online (and other places), Obama’s team also has a blog where they’re already sharing news and updates.

Leaders know that vision leaks. You have to continually present a plan and direction. In times of crisis, it’s important to stay visible – to show your team is at work and you have a plan. It seems like Obama is doing just that.

Regardless of what you think about his politics, Obama’s plans for communication are exciting to watch.

(Now, if they can just lower the camera a little for future updates, we’ll be golden. Compare the shot to typical interviews on television. Too much head space makes Obama look small – like a little child. Zoom in a little and frame the picture!)

Remove jargon. Communicate clearly.

The more you’re a part of a subculture, the more you speak that culture’s language. That’s all fine and good until you need to communicate with someone outside of that culture.

It happens in the church world. Phrases and expectations can be completely odd to the newcomer. And let me tell you – seminary doesn’t help. Most Christians wouldn’t know what half the stuff seminary students talk about means.

Want to know what it feels like to be someone walking into a jargon-filled church for the first time? Watch this…

[ht: 22 Words]

That sermon…


A few of you have asked about my first “class” sermon. It went well, thanks. It’s always interesting preaching to a group of 8 seminary students for 15 minutes. (I’m a fan of short sermons – but 15 minutes really is a microwaved message!)

There’s things I thought went well, and there are even more things I’m hoping to improve on. But that’s life. I do, however, really believe the message of it.

I’m sure I’ll regret making an early-in-ministry sermon available someday, but hey, live and learn, right? If you want to watch it, go here.

Get to the point!

We could talk about Steve Jobs’ communication style or the loyalty of Apple fans (or how I’m sure I’d accidentally forget about my MacBook Air and throw it away in an interoffice envelope), but instead let’s do this. I know some of you wanted to watch Steve’s keynote, but you didn’t have the time. Here is his 90 minute talk, condensed to 60 seconds! Enjoy…

ht: evan courtney 

Vimeo’s where it’s at

YouTube is great, but if you want a jolt of creativity, you need to explore Vimeo. It’s another video site, but because it supports HD and has a cleaner look, it draws people who actually edit and shoot video. You get cool things like this:

I love the editing style of this one.

It’s not only a great place for ideas, but it’s a nice place to upload your own videos. Check it out…

Overcommunicate vision

We’re launching a new small group study at Glenkirk, and one thing I know but I’m actually learning through practice is that you have to communicate vision every chance you get. It’s something I want to get better at. It’s an area I’m growing in.

Without fail, every time I feel like I’m repeating myself and sharing the same details of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, someone will walk into the office to ask the same questions I thought everyone already knew. It’s not their fault really – we live in a noisy world. I’m afraid of boring people with the same message, but I’ve got to remember that vision and direction are things leaders think about all the time. The people who take part in the programs/events/activities aren’t giving them the same mental space. They need more time and instruction before new info can be absorbed and “owned.”

Robert Scoble talked about some of the same concepts in his year in review post. Part of vision “sticking” is how it fits in the larger narrative. What’s the story? Why are we doing this?

He writes:

If your company doesn’t have a story to tell watch out. Keys I’ve learned? Every employee better be able to tell the story. The story better be reflected in the pitch the CEO does. Mike Arrington better understand the story if you want him to help you out (and Mike is just a metaphor here for any journalist or blogger). Your VCs better understand the story. The story better not change. For instance, the story behind Channel 9 at Microsoft hasn’t changed in four years. It was a community and an openess project that helps people get over their fears of Microsoft just like how Lenn Pryor was scared of flying (a pilot told him to turn on channel 9 on United Airlines). Does your business have a simple, compelling, story? My next thing will.

 Consistent communication over the long haul. That’s one of my goals for 2008.

Stories can change us

filmandfaithblogathonnov7-9.jpgPicture this. You’re about to leave on a trip to Vegas, and two people stop to give you advice. The first says “Be careful who you talk to. You can’t trust everyone you meet. It’s a crazy place!” The second stops and tells you this:

“A friend of a buddy of mine went to Vegas a few weeks ago, and you’ll never guess what happened. He was out at this bar when this pretty woman came over to him and started talking. She actually offers to buy him a drink, but that’s the last thing he remembered until he woke up in a bathtub filled with ice in some hotel. There was a phone nearby with a note on it that told him not to move and to call 911! When he called and explained, the operator asked him to feel behind him and see if there was a tube sticking out of his body. There was! The operator told him not to move and that an ambulance was on it’s way. These people had stolen his kidneys!”

Which person’s advice will stick with you? Which is more likely to change how you act – maybe convincing you that everything staying in Vegas isn’t such a good idea?

We all (hopefully) know that story’s one of the oldest urban legends in the books. But it endures because it sticks with its audience. Someone can tell you to be wise, but the story lets you feel the results. And those feelings can actually change the way we act.

I think that’s why Jesus told stories. He wanted his hearers to feel the point – to wrestle with the implications of his statements. Most of his commands weren’t spelled out in a list of rules. Instead, he pushed the status quo and challenged people to think.

Continue reading “Stories can change us”

Something I love about mega churches is …

… that they do the communication thing really well.

Great pastors. Great teaching. Great media and videos.

Like the piece at the end of this post from North Point.

Like almost anything LifeChurch(.tv) does.

Even cool stuff from Granger. Newspring. Elevation.

Mosaic does some amazingly creative stuff.

Because of where I am and how God’s leading me, I’m interested in some styles of church that look different from the mega models. But I love the way they communicate with excellence.