A 2011 post about Martin Luther King Jr. sparked our recent Church Communication Heroes series, where we explore historical figures who inspire us today. In celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day it seemed only appropriate to explore King’s life in more detail as a church communication hero. This is the third in a three-part series. You can also check out The Words of MLK and The Work of MLK.
“He gave the I have a dream speech, not the I have a plan speech.”
In his TED talk about leaders who inspire action, Simon Sinek points to Martin Luther King Jr. as a leader who was effective at inspiring others to action because he shared a dream rather than a plan. He shared his vision in such a way that others took hold of it and made it their own.
As Sinek points out, in the summer of 1963, 250,000 people descended on the mall in Washington, D.C., enduring the summer heat to hear King speak—no invites, no website to check the date, no tweets, no Facebook. They came because King’s vision had become their own.
I think we’d all agree communication which inspires is more effective than communication which explains or informs. Yet all too often we settle for explanation and information, I would argue, because it’s easier. But I wonder how our churches might look if we did the work to communicate in a way that inspires action.
“Every good leader realizes that effective visions cannot be forced upon the masses. Rather they must be set in motion by means of inspiration.” -Martin Luther King Jr.
We complain that volunteers aren’t committed or involved. We’ve posted the needs on the website and made announcements from the stage so we wonder why people aren’t lining up to help. But have we communicated how helping people find a parking spot or setting up chairs on a Sunday morning is tied to the vision of our church?
We are frustrated by the lack of generosity in our churches. We take an offering every Sunday so people must just be selfish if they’re not giving. But have we communicated gratitude for the generosity that has been shown because it directly helps accomplish the mission of our church?
The list could go on. The point is that people react and respond to a message based on how it is communicated. So, the next time you as a communicator are frustrated by a lack of response to your message, I challenge you to ask yourself if your message is purely informative or if it aims to inspire.
Take the time to paint an imaginary picture of your vision for your people rather than trying to impress a blueprint on them. Risk being vulnerable enough as a communicator to share your dream, not just your plan.