We experimented with a book club this fall and picked our own Outspoken: Conversations on Church Communication to kick things off. We solicited conversation and opinion through Facebook and an online form and the results are below. Big thanks to Larina, Marsha, Vajaah and Rob for sharing their thoughts on Outspoken.
How did you feel about the format of the book?
Larina: The format made this a book that was easy to read quickly (big plus for me as I have a whole stack of books waiting), but I think I would have preferred either one author or maybe just three or four so that the ideas could be more fully developed and therefore,more helpful and useful.
Marsha: Yes! I loved it! Made it much easier to read in my opinion. I was able to get through it quicker and not bogged down.
Vajaah: I loved the format of the book. It made it an interesting and easy read with varied voices. I was able to mark those articles that appealed best to my interests and return to them to ponder them further.
Which was your favorite submission and why?
Larina: I like “10 Ways to Improve Marketing Without Spending any Money” because it gave useful tips I can easily share with the rest of my church council and also because we don’t have any money!! I also liked “Find your Kimono” and “Body Language” because they’re so true. After years of trying to serve my surrounding community I’ve found that one of the most appreciated gifts I can give someone is to treat them with dignity and listen to what their needs are beyond the box of food I just handed them… even if I can’t personally meet many of those needs.
Vajaah: “Tribal Communications” was by far my favorite article because of its profound simplicity. -Vajaah
Is there a particular article or point that you disagree with and why?
Larina: Not really. I do wish that there was more for small churches. It’s easy to find suggestions for churches who have more than a pastor and part-time secretary on staff and have huge buildings and resources. I’ve found it really difficult, though, to find usable tips for a church that has to struggle just to get to the point where they’d actually buy some sort of projector system, let alone hiring artists and communications people.
Vajaah: I can’t say that I noted any disagreements, though I might have had some. Given the format, it was easy to agree/disagree but move on to the next new and insightful article/point.
Maurilio Amorim asked the question what kind of impact could Christians have if we were more interested in helping a world in pain than in how good we look to our digital friends? Do you think the point about narcissism and social media is valid? How would you respond?
Vajaah: I do think the point about narcissism and social media is valid. Therefore, I think we should check ourselves and our motives. Nonetheless, social media is also a medium to convey the message of Christ, witness and build relationships. Even if we do create 20 profiles, pimp our blogs and link back to our own stuff, if it lands us an opportunity to meet and communicate more deeply, it might be worth it. Of course, we should be more need focused, more compassionate, more visible, more like Jesus. Maybe we should fast from social media and serve the least of these more often.
“However, as we’ve focused our attention on the value of excellence, we may have lost our focus on what makes our message truly effective… In an effort to demand excellence in all that we do, a more important principle has been overlooked. That principle is authenticity… Could it be that people place much greater value than we realized on connecting and identifying with the message rather than the quality of the delivery?” What do you think about Phil Bowdle’s question here from his chapter, “Authenticy > Excellence”?
Rob: While there’s a place for formality, people really want to feel like you’re talking to them like you would over coffee. Glad to know someone has finally written a book on it! One more thing…with no disrespect to English teachers/professors (my dad was one) we’ve been taught all our lives to be formal in our writing, and it’s rather funny we have to almost unlearn what should come naturally.
Some of the articles emphasized that the church has a responsibility to keep up with the rest of the world in design, presentation and ways we communicate, what do you think about this?
Larina: I think it is important to stay current enough that we don’t become completely mute. I really like that Facebook gives us an easy way to provide a format for other people to speak to us and each other rather than everything going from the leaders to the nonleaders. I like that our website can take away some of the fear that might keep a potential visitor from stepping through our doors. (Some of us are shy!)
Responsibility in design and presentation, though? I think those things are laudable (as long as they don’t become the main focus) but I don’t think it’s a responsibility.
Marsha: I think each church has to do what’s right for them, their church family and their vision for themselves and themselves in their community.
Vajaah: As a preacher, teacher and designer, I believe that I have an obligation to use my skill set to glorify God in packaging and communicating the work of the Church. We have a relevant faith. We are here and now. Why present/communicate as if were from another century?
Is there a particular article or point that has or will directly affect your role as a church communicator or view of church communication?
Larina: I’ve been thinking about the point Tony Steward made in “Seeing a Revolution” about speaking up for what we’re for and not just what we’re against. Boy, that sounds so easy, but it apparently isn’t for most of us. Maybe it’s because when we’re for something others expect us to make it happen and when we’re against something we expect someone else to fix it.
Marsha: I marked the book up a great deal with sentences/paragraphs that I will go back to for inspiration/reminders. The two articles that I dogearred were: “A Failure to Communicate” by Curtis Simmons and “The Healthy Tension Between Church & Technology” by John Saddington.
Vajaah: “Tribal Communications” made plai, four areas where the types of communication are different. Therefore, the language used must also be different. I am now more mindful of my language and my copy.
Would you recommend Outspoken and why?
Larina: I’d lend out my copy, but I don’t think I’d recommend that anyone I know buy it themselves. (Sorry!)
Marsha: Yes! It is full of wisdom for the people out in the trenches. It also reminds us what our calling is all about!
Vajaah: Definitely. I already have. It is broad enough for most to find insight. It is simple enough for most to apply.
Thanks everybody! We’ll put the book club on hiatus over Christmas, but watch for news of it in the new year.