Kem Meyer: The Church Needs Less Chaos, Less Noise

Kem Meyer: The Church Needs Less Chaos, Less Noise

October 3, 2016 by

Kem Meyer is one of those church communication pros we all look up to. She has the practical experience and knows how to share it.

Kem recently released Less Chaos. Less Noise.: Effective Communications for an Effective Church, a revamp of her hugely helpful 2009 book, Less Clutter. Less Noise: Beyond Bulletins, Brochures and Bake Sales. Seriously, that book is at the top of everyone’s must-read list. So we caught up with Kem to find out more about this book and what she has to share with church communicators.

If you asked me to describe the average church communication strategy in a sentence, it would be: “Look at me!!”

So why did you rework Less Clutter. Less Noise. into this version? How much has changed—would it be worth it for old readers to come back?

I’m looking at one of my absolute favorite parenting books sitting on my bookshelf right now. It has life saving, proven advice that will last for generations. But, whenever I recommend this book to someone, I make sure to grab the newest edition with up to date examples. While it’s the “inside out” wisdom that really makes a difference, it’s the “outside in” illustrations that help connect the dots.

That’s the deal with Less Clutter. Less Noise. The evergreen concepts are as applicable as ever. But, some of the illustrations are out of date; like before the iPhone out of date. That bugged me; it was time for a refresh.

So, I locked myself in my office for a couple of months and went to work. I scrubbed my original book manuscript word by word; updating old content with new examples, answering new questions about pressures people are facing with technology and providing fresh stories around foundational principles that never change. I also revamped and expanded the toolbox in the back of the book from a variety of churches and agencies I’ve worked with over the years.

With 30-40% new content, it’s definitely worth it for old readers to come back.

Even with all the progress we’ve made, churches are still guilty of incessant, one-sided, force-fed self-promotion.

What’s changed in church communication since 2009?

We’ve got access to so many new digital, design and social tools to help us get more stuff out to more people cheaper, easier, prettier and faster. Which is awesome. I hardly ever see Microsoft clip art or Adobe Flash Player anymore! Progress.

But, while we’re using everything we’ve got to get better looking information out in more ways, our audience is still looking for relief from more. Our haphazard content distribution isn’t helping people engage. Even with all of the progress we’ve made, we’re still guilty of incessant, one-sided, force-fed self-promotion.

It’s not a question of motive or heart, it’s just that our aspirational values aren’t lining up with our operational behavior.

There is so much chaos, clutter and noise today. How can churches effectively communicate and tell their stories without adding to all that noise?

If you asked me to describe the average church communication strategy in a sentence, it would be: “Look at me!!!” This is how we add to the chaos. We work ourselves into a frenzy producing a ton of promotional content that makes us feel better. “Look at me!!!” But, in reality, all that output isn’t driving people anywhere. I heard one guy describe it like a moose on ice.

So we just need to stop doing that.

What if we changed the strategy phrase to “How can we help?” One decision at a time, one project at a time, we can redefine the win and change the focus of our communications energy. Two examples:

  • Spend less time just “putting it out there” in a reactive flurry of activities and news and more time figuring out how people understand and use what we put out there (or if they can even find it). Get feedback from someone outside your church, or someone who is brand new, to tap into their perspective. You’ll discover blind spots in a hurry when you bounce ideas, themes, language and flow off people who see the world differently than you. You’re too close to it to see it clearly.
  • Stop the insanity of continuously bombarding people with more asks and more copy than they can keep up with, just adding to the pressure they’re already feeling from daily life. We need to keep whole life reality in mind, not just church life, to bring encouragement, oxygen and clarity at every opportunity. Link to more resources, articles and practical content from a variety of sources that address the questions people are asking about life, relationships, community and healing. Don’t hesitate to share what you’re learning from business leaders, other industry segments and non-religious environments to help people with whole life context around their spiritual next steps.
If we only talk about church stuff and church events, we’re not doing our job.

What’s the most important lesson churches need to learn today?

We suck the life out of our content when we use all of our promotional real estate pointing people to programs and events in our church instead of next steps with Jesus. Our communication comes across as high pressure and out of touch when we neglect to connect people to the higher ideals and spiritual disciplines outside our own church-sponsored events. Life change is not limited to an individual transaction on our church calendar.

When we acknowledge life seasons and current events in our messaging and engage with the causes and pain our society cares about, they engage with us. If we only talk about church stuff and church events, we’re not doing our job. Our communities are starving for spiritual context in real life, uncomfortable, messy, over-committed, over-stressed, dysfunctional scenarios. How can we expect them to be brave and break out of their comfort zones, if we’re not willing to break out of ours? I’m rooting for churches and leaders looking for ways to jump in the mess to meet people halfway. This kind of effort will show our greater society why deeper levels of commitment inside a church family is worth it.

What’s one simple thing churches can do to get a better handle on the chaos and noise?

While it’s important we sharpen our skill set, it can be problematic when equal attention isn’t given to sharpening our mindset. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you have the best hammer and the strongest swing if you can’t hit the nail on the head. I wrote Less Chaos. Less Noise. to help people sharpen their aim so all their communication efforts and activity actually makes a connection with their desired target.

A change in an approach starts with a change in mindset. When we shortcut or outsource our inner work, the outer work suffers. But, if we work on our own mindset by stepping out of our own frame, we can see the whole picture. You’d be amazed at the communication superpowers we can tap into when we do.

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Kevin D. Hendricks


When Kevin isn't busy as the editor of Church Marketing Sucks, he runs his own writing and editing company, Monkey Outta Nowhere. Kevin has been blogging since 1998 and has published several books, including 137 Books in One Year: How to Fall in Love With Reading, The Stephanies and all of our church communication books.
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