LESS is (more)

If clarity is the communicators trump card [click here for that post] then this should be the communicators golden rule:  Less is more.  I’m sure that you’ve either attended a conference, heard a coach, or listened to a preacher and came away asking yourself or someone else, “What did they say?”  More often than not the reason is that the communicator sinned against the rule of less is more.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked away from my own communications and said, “I spoke for 40 minutes, and I didn’t have a point.”  I probably had MANY points, but not one, singular, clear, focused main point.  I don’t know why we, as communicators, think that the more content we have, the more points we make, or the more we talk; the more we think we will be heard.  marketing people [who are way more intelligent about this stuff than I am] will tell you that a sure way to lose an audience with someone is to give them too much information.  So the next time you are going to communicate something to a group of people, give a sales pitch, or motivate a team, ask yourself 2 questions:

1) what am I trying to say? &

2) how could I say it using less, yet more effective, wording?

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The burden of communicating

I was having a conversation over lunch with a friend last week and we were talking about communicating the truth of the Bible to teenagers.  Both of us have been or currently are youth pastors, so this topic is of big interest to us.  We both concluded that, in our experience growing up, we couldn’t remember ONE talk that our youth pastors or pastors gave.  I’m sure I heard HUNDREDS of sermons growing up, but I remember nothing that was said.  We did, however, conclude that what we remembered most was how our youth pastors were present in our lives.  It’s something that Bo Boshers of Willow Creek calls “The BE-WITH factor.”  And while that is true, we also concluded that we are the minority.  A youth pastor cannot BE WITH every student.  Especially if you have a youth ministry of more than 10-15 students.  {Even Jesus only ran with 12}  So the students lives that you can reach personally in your youth ministry is very limited and WILL NOT be the majority.  {that’s why small group leaders are so vital… but that is a different post altogether}  So this got us talking about the role of communication in youth ministry and how VITALLY IMPORTANT it really is.  I mean, just because we couldn’t remember sermons from our teenage years doesn’t mean that they weren’t important… it just means that they weren’t memorable.  As a youth pastor, I have come to realize, that for a majority of the students in my ministry, the 30 min. that they hear me speak on God’s word MAY BE THE ONLY VOICE speaking THAT truth  into their life that week.  I mean, God gets 30 minutes of their week?  They have 10,080 minutes a week… and God might get 30?That number is staggering!  If they sleep a normal 8 hours a night {doubt it} they still have 6,720 awake minutes where they will listen to all kinds of voices in their life: parents, teachers, friends, TV, music, video games, youtube, facebook, etc…  And, for a majority of the students in your youth ministry, God gets 30 min.  I’m just guessing this, but I’m assuming that unless it’s getting reinforced somewhere else, those 30 min. are getting drown out by the other voices.  If this is true, then WHY is there no sense of urgency in communicating MEMORABLE TRUTH to teenagers?  By the way, both of those words need to be emphasized.  Just because something is memorable doesn’t mean that it communicates God’s truth in a way that leads to life change… just saying.  I have literally heard communicators, minute by minute, bore teenagers to tears with the Bible and then leave them with nothing memorable except “That was a big waste of my time.”  Let’s get a sense of urgency.  Let’s not waste the 30 min. a week that God has given us with these students.  Teach the truth in memorable ways.  

{BTW… this doesn’t just apply to student ministry.  It applies to teaching the Bible to anyone 😉 }

simple growth strategies

I have been a part of 3 churches now.  I started off back in college as an interim/volunteer/intern youth pastor at a small church in Wilkes Barre, Pa.  I spent one year there and learned a lot about myself, youth ministry, and what hills I would die on in the realm of Theology.  Then I got my first job as a full-time youth pastor at a mid-sized baptist church in Kokomo, In.  I spent the next five years there, learning and growing, and being a part of a great team of pastors.  My years at that church were very valuable in my growing as a young pastor.  Now I am the youth pastor at Oakbrook Church here in Kokomo, and have been for almost 3 years now.  On all three teams (if you could call my first experience a team???) I have been a part of strategic planning aimed on growth.  We’ve tried almost everything to grow a church.  But, in my experience, I have seen only ONE thing that leads to long-term, maintained growth:  HEALTH.

Sarah and I like to try to grow things.  We’ve tried flowers, plants, vegetables, herbs, and now kids ;-).  One thing has been consistent… when we took the time to feed, water, fertilize (not the kids), and provide the right atmosphere, they all grew.  We were cultivating an atmosphere of Health.  When things are healthy, they grow.  It is that simple.  And check this out, healthy things often PRODUCE FRUIT!!!  Just the other day I had to trash our tomato plant… why?  It was dead.  By the end of August we stopped paying attention to watering it and getting it plenty of sunshine.  Sure, we picked the tomatoes off of the plant, and that was exciting!!!  But here was the problem:  We got SOOOO focused on the tomatoes that we forgot about keeping the plant healthy.  Result: the plant stopped growing and died.  When you stop providing healthy opportunities, things tend to deteriorate and die.  But healthy things grow.

I’m convinced of one thing:  if we would start concentrating on maintaining spiritual health in our churches, they will grow.  We must not loose focus of this.  We must keep the plant healthy.  Sure it’s awesome when it’s time to pick the fruit… but we must not forget about keeping the plant healthy in the excitement of harvest time.  If we neglect the health of the plant… it just might be our last harvest from that plant.  

Healthy things grow!