Do Christians need to lighten up? Anthony Russo, the creator of ‘The Bible is Funny’ and a Director of Online Ministries at Calvary Baptist Church discusses how laughter can be a form of worship and the challenges of Christian comedic acceptance.
On Instagram: @thebibleisfunny, @isaacimprov
Mike Mage Well, welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. We’re so glad that you are here. And we have an incredible guest today. Someone that I’m very excited to talk to. He is the creator of the Bible is Funny Instagram account and podcast, as well as the director of online ministries at a pretty prominent church in the Tampa Bay area of Calvary Baptist. We have Anthony Russo with us, Anthony, thank you so much for joining us.
Anthony Russo Thank you guys for having me. It’s an honor and a privilege to be here with you guys today.
Mike Mage Awesome. Well, Justin, you and I were talking a little bit before this with Anthony. And it says here on the zoom account, your you know, everybody does everything over zoom. Because that’s the society we live in now. And everybody puts their names in and all that kind of stuff. And Anthony, you actually, your name is Tone balone. And I would love your talking a little bit before about the use of this name. And we said the same. Let’s save it for the podcast. So please, would you please give us a little rundown on where that name is?
Anthony Russo Yeah, I’m happy to there’s that. Like Tone Balone is kind of like just a byproduct of this thing that I was born into. So you guys are named like Justin and Mike. So yeah, pretty. Like there’s some names that you could be you know, when you’re from when you’re born to what you might be called as an adult and a teenager and things like that. But Anthony can really like the flowchart can go like 25 different ways like you can be Anthony you can be Antony, you can be anfernee you can be Antwan, you can be like Tony, you can be Tone Balone. There’s just so many things that people will call it then you have like the normal things where somebody calls you by your last name or things like that. So I just felt like, I it’s just a thing that I love about my name is people are always like, what do you prefer to be called, and I’ve just never had a preference whatsoever. I’ve had whole, my entire high school called me, Tony. And I felt nothing about it. My family calls me and I had a guy that I worked with at a church I was serving at they called me Andrew for several years. And, whatever you say I am. I know that just keeps on going
Mike Mage Man, that’s nowhere close.
Unknown Speaker I didn’t have the heart to tell him. This facility guys, we just got in his name, oddly enough was Ted Williams, which I’ll never forget. Ted Williams, that’s funny. And so we chatted one of my first days. And then second day I was walking in we’re kind of far in the parking lot. But he’s like, hey, Andrew, good morning. And I was like, Ah, okay. And then I just went in and was didn’t think much of it the rest of the week, rest of the month. And I’m at what point do I break this man’s heart and say, caught me the wrong name this whole time?
Justin Price You know, I’ve been I’ve been following Anthony. And we’ve gotten a chance to work together in the past. And I feel like you Anthony. That story so well describes your heart and your personality. Like just just what? Just what a genuinely great, nice guy. You are. The like, if that was Mike or I, we would have been like correcting them right away.
Mike Mage I don’t know,
Justin Price The 8 in Mike would have
Mike Mage Well, yeah, probably eventually. I feel like it would have been upset about it. But the nine in me would have said like I don’t we just let’s be cool. That’s fine. You can call me whatever you want to call me. I wouldn’t be happy about it. Yeah. But I totally like there’s, there’s a point at like it What is it? After like a week or two where you can’t you’re set? Right? It’s set in concrete. And you’re Andrew. And that’s that’s who you are
Unknown Speaker The same thing like so when you’re younger? Maybe you’re like introducing, you’re meeting people. It’s all like a little bit more formal. But if you’re like when you’re an adult, and you frequent the same space as other adults, if you don’t catch their name gets real odd real felt, right. Like we’ve now interacted five times. I don’t know when I can casually say yep, he’s sorry. What’s your name?
Mike Mage Oh, totally. It’s so odd. there’s a there’s a guy who plays on our worship team. He’s incredible. He shows up every week prepared. I mean, he is he’s a professional musician. I mean, he’s amazing. And he I have no idea what he does for a living. And I’ve known him for five years now. And so several people have asked me they’re like, what is what does he do for a living and said, I can’t ask like that’s I we are way past the statue limitations, right? Yeah. way past it.
Justin Price Yeah, there’s one. There’s a great trick. You just need to introduce them to somebody new Yeah. Yep. And yeah. You just need to be able to get that introduction in.
Mike Mage That’s maturity, because you just figure out ways to not make things so awkward with other people.
Justin Price Yes.
Anthony Russo My wife that she gets she gets lead out like the lamb to slaughter. Somebody she’s like, I already know this person. I’m like, no, no. I am. This is my wife, Rachel.
Mike Mage Someone’s got to be the sacrifice, you know, it just, it’s gonna help out everybody.
Justin Price That’s right, Anthony, you’ve been working in the creative world for a long time inside of the church. And one of the one of the things that I thought is so cool about your story is that you have always done like side hustles, while working at churches, you ran a really, really great comedy group, an improv comedy group, and you have had a long history in the what I would consider is like a very difficult market, which is like, entertainment, comedy side of church culture, yeah, and Christian culture. And then, you know, you have been successfully kind of thing inside of the church the whole time, as well, you know, working on staffs and things like that. Tell us a little bit about what that process was like for developing, you know, going from like the event stuff, which to actually like a whole channel like the Bible is Funny. Give us a little bit of background about what that has been like.
Unknown Speaker Yeah, oh, man, there’s so much interesting stuff in there. So this, like church comedies fear is, has like a pretty clear line of progression. So it’s like this. It was this kind of blazed trail of people that we had acknowledged that this was an important thing that we get together and laugh and have fun and do these things. It had sort of broken through, because music and teaching has always been welcomed. Certain certain communities will welcome other artistic expressions of a comedy has had a little bit of a different road because it can feel like what’s not important. We don’t we don’t have like a lot of biblical precedent of people setting out with just the goal of making other people laugh. Sure. Whereas we have some precedent on the other ones. So that’s definitely like a unique circle, people that do that thing. But I started doing that I started traveling and doing comedy. I went on my first nationwide tour when I was 16. I went from Florida, and traveled all the way out to California, did shows along the way, did some camps in California, and then came back. And I’ve been doing it ever since. I mean, pre pre this pandemic were in. We were still traveling and doing things obviously. I’m not as young as I was back then you listeners can’t see exactly how bald I am. But I am bald. So it’s. So it’s a little bit you know, there was a time where it was like it felt like I was around like high school kids. And I was like, I’m cool. Right now. You’re just like, oh, gosh, I am older than all of you by quite a bit. But we still have it’s still really fun. We still love doing it. We’ve now we’ve worked with colleges more we’ve done some work with nonprofits. We’ll do like volunteer appreciation, banquet, that kind of thing. So the so the work we’ve done has sort of morphed, we actually did some trainings too, which was super fun. But then the transition into the some of the Bible is Funny specifically, like there’s a man, there’s a lot that went into that. But some of the motivators were, you know, when you’re younger, you traveling is like really appealing and really like this thing that you’re like, I want to travel, I want to see all this stuff. And then I got married, and we had kids and me and Tim, the guy I was traveling with and it just kind of became like harder, because you’re like, oh, man, I’m spending time away from my family now like, yeah, I this is just a harder thing. Do I really want to be on the road? All the time, that man Oh, I get that. So it had we’re living through some of those tensions wanted to find some ways that we could continue to express ourselves creatively. And not maybe have to be away from home quite as much. So then started doing some videos that we were doing on YouTube. And then the Bible was funny was a project that was born out of that time. I love writing. And I love reading the Bible. And I love comedy. So it was this sort of really fun combination of all those three things coming together yet
Mike Mage So obviously, if anybody is familiar with the Bible, is Funny, you would know that it’s I mean, it’s got a pretty big following. And if you’re listening and you haven’t checked out the Bible’s funny yet, please go to Instagram and check it out. Because it’s actually very funny. It’s a perfect brand. It’s a perfect brand name. But I’d love to know, like, at what point did it sort of explode? Or was there a point or has it just been this sort of slow growing following over the years?
Anthony Russo I feel like this particular project did have a moment. And it’s a it’s a, it’s a it’s a really a sad story on my own my own account. So I started the project. And I was writing books, and I was like 10 years late to the blog game, but I was I was writing blogs. So again, I like to do is I like to write and then I was doing Instagram posts because I thought I need to keep like content going like I need to stay on people’s mind between blog posts and I can’t turn a blog post out every day. But I was like, I am not a meme page. I am not a meme page. I am better than all the media pages, though that is nice. That has value. There’s they are crass. Yeah. Low brow. Yeah, exactly. And they accent just comes when you start talking like that, right? And then I actually had what’s become a friend of mine. Now she runs an account called the normal Pentecostal. Yeah. She reached out to me and said, Hey, your stuff is really good, but like, people don’t know how to find it or what to do with it, you should just make these into memes. Because I was like, making it the the post of the verse than the caption was a joke. And I was literally making memes guys, I was making me, but I was like, I’m not a meme page. And then she was, you know, of course, it’s outside perspective, she was just like, your content. So good, you should just, you should just make these into memes. And this is probably four years into the project three years in. And I was like, I’ll try it, like I’m ragging on this is gonna crash and burn. And you guys are all gonna be sorry. And so I only, I only will say that that was like a kind of take off moment for the project. Because finally it was in a pipeline of content that people were actually looking for, like, people actually like to look at memes on the internet. And so you were you were, the content was now addressing people where they were. And so from that on out, it really caught a lot of ground. And it has been really fun ever since. But that was like a very tough, it’s that’s been everything with this guys. I mean, the podcast, Rachel, my wife was on me for like two years about a podcast. And I was like, No, no, no, I’m not gonna do a podcast, and I can do it by what am I gonna say? Yeah, and then they did the podcast. And that’s been really fun and been a really great thing.
Mike Mage It’s super cool. Well, I love the, you know, taking this back to, you know, the church, and you know, maybe somebody’s in a creative position at a church, there’s so many times where we get stuck in the method of how we’re doing things. And thinking that like, the method is the thing that is really driving it when it’s really like it was your content that was very funny and was effective. And like, regardless of how it’s packaged, like you’re still going, you are ultimately communicating it in a way that more people can get to it. And that is isn’t that the ultimate goal is to actually get it out. And I feel like I’ve fallen into that trap so many times being like, I’m never gonna do this song ever, or whatever, you know, as a worship leader. So I it’s not, you know, artistically creative enough or whatever, right? And then the one time I do it is the time people, like, finally meet Jesus. I don’t know.
Anthony Russo It’s so is painfully true. Yeah, no, Justin has become a really good friend the last year or so. And he is very surgical about this particular topic, I think about pointing out like, like, he would say things we’ve talked about ideas in the past. And he would say something like, nobody cares about that. And it’s very, like, it’s very, like I say, surgical. When you first hear it, you’re very like, oh, that hurts my feelings, though. Oh, no, wait, that’s great, though. Nobody does care about that. I am so focused on this thing. And it not being means and they’re not means that like when somebody presents is such a logical like, but you know, people actually want memes. Nobody wants what you’re doing right now. But they want memes. Why don’t you do that? Yeah. And that and that has been something man. Talk about that has been a lesson for me in the church world too. Because we know how important this is. We know how valuable these messages are. The Bible is all of these discipleship, sanctification, all these things, but until we present it to people in terms that they’re like, Oh, I want that or Oh, I was looking for that. Yep. They they don’t know they don’t like you said the content can be great. But if Yeah, if you’re if you’re not putting it, where it needs to be in the language needs to be said then no one’s gonna see it.
Justin Price Totally. Did you? Do you feel like it was hard to come up with the the format for it? Because sometimes, it’s funny like that. It feels like it’s a little bit different than a normal meme. Because sometimes I think your captions like your your description on the post is the thing that makes me laugh the most. And then sometimes I laugh like at the actual game itself, but like I was looking at there was one I was trying to find it. I think it’s it was this one me to my kid. Hey, people are kind of on edge right now. So be cool. walks in the restaurant, like if the asterisk From Second Kings for 35 cents, then the child sneeze sevens. That was really funny. And then then I thought that the caption underneath it was really funny like your, I guess you call it the description or the write the caption there, but it was like it euro boy has allergies are really acting up. Said he said loudly to no one and just like thinking about I don’t know why that one got me but it was just like, because I think you know that that subject, obviously is so relevant. And I feel I feel like I’m just shunned if I don’t have a full grade mask on, and I cough or cheap, sneeze or whatever, it’s just so right.
Anthony Russo And we’re aware of that. But the kids are not in the kids know, I mean, sneeze, like rubbing their nose. And you’re just like, I don’t, buddy, we’re gonna literally get kicked out of here. That’s a thing.
Justin Price Yeah. Um, so anyways, sometimes that that is like your funniest part, sometimes the mean itself is the funniest thing. Do you have a formula formula? or How did this all kind of come about?
Unknown Speaker Um, you know, it’s, it’s gone through a process. And like, he said, I think like, that was one of the big things was when I, when I made that that subtle transition, which was more of a mental shift for me than it was for anyone that it was, you know, the for, like the people following the account. You have like, parameters now by which that you’re playing and the whole Internet has agreed to like these rules that you’re now playing by, and you can do fun things with them. So, you know, I think to me, and the lesson that I took away from that moment, with all projects going forward, and really what like, I think led to the podcast being the way it is now to is it’s like, I’m still as a creative like, or a creator of this stuff. You’re the one doing the thing, like even if it’s like, oh, it just means like, Okay, well, this is you making memes. So it will be different than some of these other people is just a podcast. Well, it’s you doing the podcast. So you’re gonna do this a little bit different than other people do. So yeah, I would say it’s funny. You do ask that though, Justin. Because like, that has taken different shapes. Like at one point, I was going through the Bible and writing a joke that somehow connected to every verse. And that was like a mess. So no one has seen that. But the process by which I do it has changed. Kind of the formula. Yeah, it’s it’s the the meme process that a lot of other people do. But yea
Justin Price Even the title, the even the title is great, because I don’t think anyone thinks the Bible is funny.
Anthony Russo Right, right.
Justin Price I mean, the whole the whole concept, and I think, and this is one of the things that I respect and think you’re a genius for is I this is so hard. I mean, being funny, is not hard, like being a jerk and making jokes on other people’s expense. That’s my more of my wheelhouse. Like, that’s, that’s easy. This is hardly being smart in coming up with jokes, and, and then delivering them through a meme like that. I tried. By the way, I tried to write some memes. I never sent them to you, Anthony, you know, we should
Mike Mage we should get
Justin Price I tried to write meme We’ll put we’ll put it in the show notes. Yeah. And in our staff, they totally rip them up. Like they were like, these are funny. I don’t get it. Like, I’m not sure this was like two weeks ago, three weeks ago, I was like, would this be a good thing for us to put on our social media? And they were like, absolutely not. I just want you to know, I think this is so impressive. Like, it’s so hard to do. And it’s funny, because I don’t think it gets the credit. You know, like I don’t, if you’re like, Oh, I’m a Christian comedian, saying, Oh, yeah. There’s a lot of jokes about that. Those two words together.
Unknown Speaker We use to get that all the time when we were traveling, we would do a show and afterwards, he would be like, Oh, that was like really funny. I mean, I hope so
Mike Mage They definitely were not expecting it to be. Yeah. So I just mean culture is now like a thing. You know, like it is very much. And I mean, I personally like I very much and I may have sort of said it earlier, but like I very much relate to this idea that this thing is happening. A lot of people are doing it. I want to do something different. I don’t want to be a part of this culture at all come up. But like I I remember on my like our iPhones, I guess when you know, like, you can search for gifts or gifts. As a main creator, is it GIF or GIF? What is it? It’s GIF. It’s GIF. Okay, let’s see, that doesn’t feel doesn’t sit right with me. It’s fine. I’ll say it. I’ll say it that way. I’ll say it that way. But yeah.
Anthony Russo The only way You can call it GIF is if you’re one of these Geoffrey’s that spells your name, Geouf, and then you can call it GIF
Mike Mage Okay. All right. I’ll say give it a pert. I just want you to know personally, when we do this, I’m gonna say GIF. And it’s gonna be, yeah. Okay. So I remember on our phones, when like, there wasn’t the gift search or whatever, you know, I remember when meme culture was not a thing. So this is sort of like a two pronged question here. How have you seen meme culture change, since you really started doing it over the past couple years, but then specifically this year? Because everybody is living their lives through online in 2020. When we’re recording this, so much of life is, especially the past six months has just been experienced through a screen. Have you seen meme culture shift over the past six months? And then really, you know, in a broader sense over the last three or four years?
Anthony Russo Yeah, yeah, it’s, um, it I just want to talk about though, for one second, the greatness of the full circle moment that I am now an ambassador for meme culture, when just a couple days ago, I was refusing to be called a meme page. meme, meme culture. I mean, it changes all the time, like it really is, like, if you blink, you know, the, I’m going to get kind of granular listeners hang with your weight kit when you blink. And like the standard by which like, the font is like, it used to be this bold. Forget what that file is called. But it’s a kind of a stencil looking font at the top and the bottom. And that is longer the thing. So if you impact Thank you, Justin, it’s just not a thing anymore. So that’s how big it is anymore. So Justin, there’s these people playing Sinatra. And there’s these big accounts out there that like tank was just even like a pretty big talk show recently. I don’t remember off top my head. But so this is like ascended. In all of these different ways. But yeah, it’s it’s like really changing constantly. As soon as somebody is doing something that’s working, right. What I love about the community, like the larger meme community is it really is just an endless invitation. How do you make this joke? How can you make this joke better? Like you, you take a stab at this joke, we’re all taking stabs at roughly the same joke, which in a in a bigger existential sense, is like this is what comedy has been doing forever. We’re just a lot quicker at it now. So you can like respond to a moment with memes really quickly, because like the second something happens on like, the one that sticks out to me is the the Superbowl halftime show that lady gaga did. If you remember that she did this, like move where she like crossed her arms and jumped off the top of the stadium in Houston. It was made into a meme and like moments after that it was a meme. So it’s like it moves so fast. And it’s like, you really have to like part of you has to be interested in have an affection for the community at large. Or you will be like 12 steps behind and like that meme template is not being used anymore. Like you’re you’re you’re been mulling over your SpongeBob I am going to head out meme. And then you know, two weeks later, no one’s making him anymore. So changes a lot. That was kind of answered the first part of question. The second part, it’s been really interesting, because one thing you’re doing, and I’ll speak from my own perspective, but I think everyone does this, in some sense, is you’re looking around, like at what’s going on. And that’s where you’re pulling inspiration from Sure. And so that’s what’s made this particular season really tough is it’s like, it’s just been like a lot of stuff you don’t want to make jokes about like there’s been, I have I was talking to this other guy meme page recently. And I was saying, let me just start I gotta say this like this is not complaining. People have had very, very difficult during this time. And by no means do I want what I’m about to say to sound like I’m complaining about my spot in this it has it we me and my family have been blessed through this whole thing. But doing the doing the comedy end of it. You just have like weeks where you’re like, I don’t want to do this anymore. Like I’m not anymore. I don’t wanna be dramatic. But you’re like this week what? I don’t feel funny. I look around I don’t see funny stuff. I don’t want to like there’s nothing you know, we had we lost sports, we lost new movies coming out. We lost like production for content shut down. Like that stuff that was on in the news was like you weren’t gonna make jokes about it unless you were like a different type of comedian than I am for sure. So like, it was just weeks of like, and at the same time carrying this sense of like, we have to keep doing this. Like if we stop talking right now. Then the sort of like, dread just wins it all, doesn’t it? Like Don’t we have to make jokes right now like Yep, yeah, as silly as what we do is and how there are p there are nurses and there are teachers and there are people like really making a much bigger impact. It felt both very hard to make comedy on the internet and very important that we were making comedy on the internet. Sure, at the same time, so that’s what I would say about the last six months. It’s been, it’s been a lot of moments of that of your, you’re just like, I gotta, I gotta like, pull from a different Well, right now, which is, which is weird. But
Justin Price Yeah, that’s been that is it’s a strange thought to think about that in a time where things get really dark. You don’t feel like it’s funny. You’re making a meme page, you’re not monetizing this meme page, like you’re not running ads and things like that. And yet, you still feel this sense of responsibility. Like, I got an I, like, I got to make something light, I got to bring something good to this community. That’s amazing. Talk a little bit more about how you’re fostering the community, you know, like, what are you doing with your community? And, and how do you? I don’t know, what does it look like managing a meme page in that community?
Anthony Russo Well, in the beginning, you made it You guys made a comment earlier about like, the the brand name, the Bible was funny, and a lot of people saying the Bible is not funny. You’d be shocked exactly how many people thought that the Bible’s not funny how dummy? Yeah, shut your page down. And so it’s like, oh, so the community, the process of the community has been like, there’s definitely been a does, is he making fun of the Bible? Does he hate the Bible? There was a lot of comments early on, like about how I was going to hell, and a couple of people pass naturally called Satan. And so there was a lot of that earlier on, as we were like, me and the community were feeling each other out and figuring out like, you know, who are you and who am I? And how am I gonna go? Now, like, the Bible is funny communities. absolutely the best. I love them. They, they, the other day, we they this group of people in the comments did the entire song of Sophia the First like the entire intro song one line at a time? Absolutely love them. Every once in a while, somebody will chime in and say like, you know, that’s not the context of this verse. I always think is so stinking funny, because it’s like, you know, the joke is like, when you forget, you’re like, not muted on your zoom call. And they’ll be like, you know, some of the content. And I’ll be like, I mean, I think we all know that the Bible was not written in relational zoom. But the community will step in and will say like, Oh, you know, you must be new here or something like that. Right? And, and even like, so I could honestly brag about the Bible’s funny community all day. Like they’re not aggressive like they’re not mean about it. It’s very like welcoming like they’re very other Christian comedic accounts are not as lucky. Like they are just, it’s it’s super combative. Our community has been so so kind and so so like, the chatty with each other chiming in. And I think the challenges you asked about engaging the community like the challenges, just remembering that this is fun, this is fun for everybody to do, and you want it like everybody wants to be to be in on the joke, right? Everybody wants to play the game. So we’re just always I’m always looking for ways to like, how do I like let let them play along. So like the other day, I teed up the joke and I let everybody else come up with the verse. I teed up the verse Now that everybody else kind of come up with like, the joke that goes with the verse. And I was sick guys. I was like, really resisting it. I was like, I want to make the joke, though. What if I don’t make the joke? Who am I in this whole process? Right? And then after I did, it was like, so many people jumped in and suggested jokes. And it just was this great. Like, isn’t this more fun? Like, isn’t this more fun when everybody’s playing? They came up with really great stuff. And you’re just like, That’s it? That’s, it’s remembering that like, you know, the stuff we learned in kindergarten, right? Everybody wants a turn. It’s they can’t just always be your turn. And I definitely feel like I fight that, you know, you see an elementary school kid every once in a while. It’s like, okay, watch me do this. Watch me do this. Watch me do this. I hear that in myself every once in a while and you’re like Anthony, you got to let other be other people want to play they want their parents like they want it you if you’re just always asking your community to watch you, everybody watch me do this thing. Your communities, you know, gonna be a bunch of watchers, so they’re gonna be a very passive community. And so the Bible is has been great because they’re super. Yeah, very active and super supportive. And I love them very much.
Justin Price What do you do with all the haters? I mean, how do you handle that? The criticism?
Anthony Russo I feel like it’s it’s mostly confusion, like Jerry Seinfeld has this great quote about like, hecklers, or I forget if it was in regards to hecklers or people that just didn’t like his content. And cuz Jerry’s like really meticulous, Jerry writes and performs and like that’s, that’s what he does. And other comedians, myself included, it’s more in the moment. It’s a little like 60% 70% baked and then you want it to like, get With the people in the room and everything. And so Jerry just said like they don’t, I don’t like, don’t you think they don’t like you when they don’t like your content? Don’t you think they don’t like you? And Jerry was like, they don’t know me. Like, they don’t know me. They don’t like they didn’t like what I gave him that day. And sometimes I didn’t do my job the best. So they didn’t like when I gave him that day. But they don’t know me. Like they I’m, I know, I know my value separate from this thing. So my value is not constantly in question with this thing. Yeah. So I think that’s the biggest thing. And then and when you live in that space, you’re able to be super gracious with people. Like, I don’t know how many times we’ve gotten, like, I’m like, you know, ultimately, they think I don’t love the Bible. And as soon as we’re able to clarify, like, I love the Bible, the Bible will never be the butt of the joke on the Bible’s funny. Never, ever, ever. It’s never like the joke is, isn’t this a dumb book? Like, I love this thing. It is a life changing thing for me. So I would never present it in this light. And once they get there, they’re everybody’s cool.
Mike Mage Yeah. I think that’s, that’s super important. And something that I really love about kind of how you run, not just your account, but also, you know, you interact with the community is I feel like social media had this moment, like 1012 years ago, where it felt like this thing that was like, Oh, my gosh, this is amazing. Like, everybody has a voice. And, you know, wake, we can post things. And this is wonderful. And obviously, that has changed a lot in the past 10 to 12 years, you know, yeah, it sort of leads me into my next question is like, so you’re running like a very successful Instagram account. And more than that, like you’re getting people involved and engaged in like, I don’t want to try to lead the witness or anything. But like one thing that I really love about what you’re doing, and what you said a little bit ago is about how getting more and more people active is better than just, you know, you sitting there saying like, hey, look at what I’m doing. Look at what I’m doing. And for me like that sort of really intersects with what I try to do with my worship ministry at church is to try and get as many people involved as possible. Like, I can stand up there and lead six songs, you know, if for services or but like, what does that really accomplish outside of people just just creating a community of people like saying, watch me or whatever. So like, how else? Have you seen your Instagram account? Really intersect with what you do as like an online director at your church? Or just other things at church?
Unknown Speaker Yeah, um it’s, it’s, there’s so many different things that come to mind there. But yeah, I think like, just really remembering that those things that we kind of covered a little bit earlier that like, this is a thing, the more that people feel like they can approach this thing, the more that people feel like they want to be a part of this thing. That there’s like, you’re allowing the space for them to like, like, want to play along with you like, yeah, definitely the, you know, the the term that we’re kind of skirting around that a lot of social media people uses engagement. And that’s sure. But I think that’s really interesting, because a lot of what you just mentioned, like the some of that traces back to this engagement chase, right? Like if I post something that 50% of the people love and 50% of the people hate, but 100% of the people feel passionate enough to say something about, like, the little dirty secret of social media is that’s the best content, like that’s what blows up. That’s why your feed looks the way it does. Because the danger, for example, of somebody creating like, comedy, is you might just make someone laugh. And that ultimately is not the best thing to do. But if someone’s just like, oh, that’s funny. That’s not going to like stoke the fires of a social media page. So yeah, it’s just it’s, it’s interesting. It’s about how do you nurture that community? How do you say things that you think are important or necessary, but you deliver it in a way that people like, are looking for that kind of thing? Like one thing I’ll say, is, I’ll back up just a little and say some of the heartbeat behind the Bible is funny is that there’s a couple like things I always trace it back to but one of them is, I think, when adults come to the Bible, like they would didn’t grow up in, in the Bible, they weren’t introduced to like, Jesus loves me, this I know, type of stuff. they they they came to the to have faith experience, like later in life. They’re like, hit by the Bible, like the Bible is like, thrown at them as the like, you shouldn’t do this. You shouldn’t do this. You got to stop doing this. And because this book tells us that that’s the things you should be doing. And it’s almost like they just missed that step of like, hey, Jesus loves you. And Jesus loves everybody. And like, let’s start with these like, these things that make kids love the Bible. Here’s these really cool stories, man. There’s like these incredible stories in here. So for me, one of the things about the Bible was funny. It’s like you take this book, which is like a big old book, not originally written in English and very confusing, it’s like, Where am I supposed to start? And like, it’s like we’re not, it’s all different books inside of the one book. And you just make it you give people this little onramp of like, Oh, that’s a funny little verse that that’s in the Bible. That’s an interesting thing. For, at times, I’ve said like, to me that my favorite part about a person is the funny things about that person. Like, there’s a funny thing about everybody, even the most like serious person, you know. And so like, that’s a great way to like, get people to engage or something. He’s like, given this little onramp, that feels good and feels like Oh, I like that. I want to keep doing that. Whereas, like, just at times, especially as the church we’ve led with, like, really tough, hard things. And then I think at times we’re shocked is like, people aren’t warm to that. And sometimes we tuck that under like, well, they’re hard truths, and yada, yada, yada. And I do think there’s a lot of value to that conversation. But I think in other times, we’re just not remembering that people don’t there. People are not as far along in this process as we’ve made them out to be. Why don’t we give more people like onramps to say, Oh, this is a cool way to step into reading my Bible. I’ve because this is an intimidating text to sort of dive into all alone. So with that sort of approachability, I would say if I had to boil it all down to one word, even more than engagement, just approachability. How does somebody like it’s great walk into this thing? And it should feel good when they do? Yeah.
Justin Price Do you have any thoughts on how you’re how you’re kind of taking this experience of community management and content generation? And now, you know, just in the last six months, you have transitioned into a role as an online pastor? Yeah. How are you? How are you? What are you taking from this and applying to your role at your church, specifically, is in any kind of context that you can share like that, you know, our listeners can apply to their church, from a funny man who maybe they are not that funny. There might be some principles, or some thoughts that you’ve seen, that are really working well, with what you’re doing as an online pastor, which is cultivating community and, you know, nurturing in creating content?
Unknown Speaker Yeah, um, I think the biggest thing for me that I feel like I’m, I’m really trying to transfer as often as possible is the like, applicability of stuff. So when you create content online, most people would really quickly be like, you know, like, there’s this really particular niche thing about my ceiling fan, in that when you wire it, these things, the wires, it’s the wires cross, and it’s the funniest thing. Isn’t that hilarious? No, because nobody has your ceiling fan. So nobody knows what you’re talking about. That’s not good content. And I think everyone would if if, if BuzzFeed came out with like, 10 memes based on the ceiling fan from Dan’s office, we’d be like, what are you doing? BuzzFeed? Nobody cares. Why you’re talking about that. Unfortunately, I think sometimes we forget that piece. And we say like, this has to matter to a lot of people. And this has to like, you have to give it to them in a way that they’re like, Oh, yeah, that’s interesting to me. And that does affect me in some way. And not get so buried in like, particular language and things that you’re like, nobody knows nobody outside of your church knows what you’re talking about right now. Because I think ultimately, like, that’s the big thing is like, we’ve got to continue to figure out ways to reach our communities and to share this incredible message like the gospel and the life changing impact that it can have. And the just all of this that we have, how do we just continue to show people how much they need it in their situation? show people how they’ve been looking for it. I love there’s a text that talks about Paul walking into with all these gods from these people. Forget where he is, for any of you remember, feel free to jump in, but
Mike Mage He’s in He’s in Greece,
Anthony Russo Greece smart.
Mike Mage It’s at Mars Hill? I think.
Anthony Russo So. And then he approaches like the unknown God, the temporary unknown God, right. It’s this brilliant, like, I’m going to talk to you in language that you know and understand, and that you already mean something to you. And then I’m going to talk about this thing that’s like incredible and life changing and important.
Mike Mage That’s really good.
Anthony Russo But if we don’t take that step and say, like, let me use the language let me use the imagery. I mean, Jesus, his stories are all agrarian like, for us today. It does not mean very much like right. Like I love picturing the idea of today, Jesus, like all these crowds gathered in Jesus telling the story of like, so a guy threw some seeds out, some of them took some of them. Thank you guys for coming. We’ll see you next week. Like we would, it would just be like, it doesn’t hit the same way. And obviously we have the we have the blessing of people interpreting and all kinds of great things that we have today. But this is language for them at their time. They didn’t need anything else to understand the imagery that was being used. I love stuff like that and The thing I just want to continue to say like where can we step into situations, right? Like, where can we offer this good news in the way that people are like, Oh, man, I’d been looking for that. And there it is.
Justin Price I love that philosophy. Is there any? Is there any tangible things that you guys have started to do? Yeah, I mean, I know that you’re still still easing into the role. And it’s, it’s even, maybe it looks a little different for the church. But I’m kind of curious, is there anything that you guys have any, like practical things that you’ve started to do? Are you chipping away at actually reaching the community? Like reaching, you know, your local city? Yeah. Are you still just kind of getting in there? getting comfortable before you do anything kind of crazy?
Anthony Russo Well, I hope I hope we’re, I hope we’re doing something good. But the one thing that has been big for me early was, I think we all were faced with a question of like, what does an online community do? Like even as much as like when it came to worship? We weren’t gathering for worship? Are they singing along at home, we used to be able to have some sort of gauge they were singing, they’re raising their hands or doing something. Now, what can they do? And I think that that’s a good question to continue asking, and asking, like, what’s a good like, reasonable thing to ask him to do? So that’s something we’ve done is one of them. First thing is like super low stakes. So here’s where it’ll get like real tactile and granular so on our, on our, the online service that we were doing, and I host every week, it was just like, give them like a little, a little easy, low cost engagement question. At first. It’s, it’s just like, instead of just saying, hey, jump in the chat and say, Hello, well, you’re putting a lot of onus on them, like they have to now maybe I’m an introvert and I don’t run a just jump in and say, like, there’s someone in that audience who’s gonna put Hi, no, I don’t like that, hey, now we do this. But if you’re like later, like last week, the bucks and the lightning and the raise we’re all playing on the same day, so we’re like, shout out one of the Tampa Bay teams go Bucs go raise cobalt, set up very, like clear boundaries. Here’s how you play this game. There’s three options, pick one, drop it in the chat. Now you’ve created this, like really low level, like, Oh, I can do that. I can engage in those in that. So what you’ve done is like, it seems really trivial, right? A bunch of people say no molds. But in reality, somebody engaged in a worship service like, right, somebody that maybe hadn’t engaged in a worship service before. And if you go as low as you can, that barrier of entry, the better. I feel like, this applies to so many church levels. We’re always like, Man mission. And the first time we talked about missions is like, oh, here’s so and so in Africa, who lives here, translating a Bible different language? Well, like, pee in your church is like, well, Michigan? Me? I can’t do that. That seems like a lot of stuff.
Justin Price We’re like, no offense. P no offense T. offense at all. Yeah. Right. It’s so good, man
Mike Mage It’s great.
Justin Price So good. I, you know, the first thought I had when I was thinking about online community was, we were working with this ministry that put up a prayer wall. And it was like, confess your deepest, darkest sins on our prayer.
Mike Mage What’s so weird?
Justin Price I just think like, you know, there’s so many times when we’re just like, well, we want to jump we want to use technology to jump to the the final thing we want, which is I think, there’s so much value in obviously, it’s scriptural for us to confess our sins to one another. And so it’s great that they want that I don’t there’s nothing wrong with with wanting that. But man, I that’s a that’s a really profound thought, Anthony. And I hope that our listeners will take this to heart. Because you are funny, but that’s a really serious thought that the best thing you might be able to do for your online community is lower the freaking bar.
Mike Mage Yeah, that’s great.
Justin Price Um, it’s tough asking so much of somebody who has just stepped into your front door. You know, if you were coming to my house, I would like I would want to offer you the best drink. I had, like, Oh, can I use my best glass? And can I, you know, if I have something else I can look, what do you what would you like, I would be asking you, you know, I would want to serve you. And I would want to you to be able to sit down in the best view and the best seat in my house and we would hang out and now would want to put on music that you would like and makes you feel super comfortable. And yet for some reason. We feel like on this online experience with the churches like how fast can we get them to donate?
Mike Mage If you can you guys that’s the reason. Yep.
Anthony Russo Or just put yourself Yeah, it’s the hard job of putting yourself in their seat. Even the example you just use, which I think is so great. What if you know someone was like, Hey, I like Justin and Justin for a while I want to cover justice. And then they were like, cool. Can you come every week? At the same time? here for dinner with me? And you’re like,
Justin Price Also, do you have any friends? Like, just just 10 percent of your income?
Anthony Russo Also do Yeah, that’s all and never. I believe in this thing. But just hear how you’re saying it and hear that, that somebody’s gonna be like, Oh, man, I don’t know. I mean, I just the one time I thought I’d come over for dinner, ready to commit to like, every week, my life yet?
Justin Price Were you thinking about that ahead of time that that was like an actual thing, like a principle?
Unknown Speaker Dude, I, I just can’t even I’m going to talk for just a second. I’m sorry if you guys have to run. But like Justin, the stuff that just like I’ve learned from working with you and talking with you and stuff, like I just feel like it is just so missing from church conversations and like, like this stuff. So the the terms that we would use it at Vers is like, you would walk through this discovery, and you would get these companies to a place where spending $180,000 made sense to them. And for me, I just feel like being back in the church world, having the lens having the tools, having the language I got for my time at Vers is you’re just like, you guys are like, you’re starting with everyone walks in the door, and you hand them an unsigned contract for $180,000. And like, what do you guys think? What do you guys think? What are yours? And some, some people sign it. And they’re like, great, isn’t that great? And but if any more people like that, there’s a way to do this. That is like moving people there. And they feel like they because the thing about the way that Vers we do things versus it’s like, when they got to the scene, the number they were like, that makes sense. I know what I’m getting with that. I know why that number is the way it is. I know. I know all these things. So that makes sense that asked makes sense. And so I just feel like so many times you bring up these different topics, and they’re like to get this great idea for 74 week discipleship program got to be there every week. And they get to be cool. We’ll see how many people do it and it’s like, no one’s gonna sign up for it. I mean, you’re welcome to do it. That that’s I feel like the time like, dude, you can ask you can Yeah, no one’s gonna say Just don’t be sad. We’re no inside. his fans, you didn’t ask you didn’t think what did they want? What did they need? How do I connect them to this through language? They know you asked for what you wanted? And what would be awesome. If you got and you go fishing that way. And like it’s Yeah, it’s it’s really, it’s going to be a conversation churches got to keep having because more and more they’re going to interact with people that have no idea what they’re talking about, like, we talked about the Bible and faith and we assume there’s a faith background and there’s more and more. There’s not going to be so we’re gonna have to be able to talk about this better and explain why do you meet Sunday mornings? What do you guys do it on Sunday morning, like, the cultural familiarity with the whole idea is gone. And the sooner we get around that the more we realize like I have to be ease back into this thing. I can’t just keep doing
Mike Mage Well, this has been this has been incredible. For real. I mean, this is you know what, Anthony, you’re actually very funny.
Anthony Russo With your words, dun
Justin Price Anthony, do you ever get put this is my last question. So do you ever get put it on the spot to just be like, hey, funny, man. Tell me a joke.
Anthony Russo Yeah, all the time. I’ve gone through like a gamut of responses to like I would say like, Why don’t have a microphone, so I can’t tell you jokes. I’m gonna get I’m gonna botch this quote, but somebody one of the improv Olympic people in Chicago I believe was the one that was like every time they got said they got asked that question. They said belly buddy. Word to me belly. Funny. That’s pretty funny. I’m gonna say belly button
Mike Mage Have you ever seen is a funny word? This tiny follow up? Have you ever like actually gone with it? You know? And then you told a joke or whatever. And someone just went like, That’s not funny.
Anthony Russo And that’s exactly that’s exactly why like,
Mike Mage yeah, cuz that’s what what happened?
Anthony Russo What am I gonna deliver you in this moment? is so funny. That, like, it’s very, it’s very weird. It’s very, I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a music equivalent for that Mike. Like, I don’t imagine that you’re just ever walking out and someone’s like, Oh, you can sing Sing me a song right now.
Mike Mage So that guy? Well, very cool. Well, Anthony, Where can the healthy church growth people? Where can they find you on the internet outside of the Bible is funny, or is that the only place you want to put people to
Unknown Speaker Yeah, that’s the best place. I add. The Bible is Funny. And the podcast is on all major platform places. And you can just search the Bible is Funny. It’s called the Bible. It’s funny podcasts because I don’t like naming things more than once.
Justin Price The word on the street is though that there is actually something else that people can get from you sometime in the future. There is this. Are these rumors true?
Unknown Speaker It is true. I haven’t talked about this. I haven’t talked about this anywhere. So oh my gosh, this is a breaking this is a news break. But I am working on a book by was funny book. So Wow. That’s been a new adventure series. A lot of questions running through my head right now
Justin Price Is this a book where you print out your Instagram? and publish it? That’s it.
Anthony Russo That’s it? No, it will be alien. It will be like a it’ll be like a proper book. I don’t know. I don’t know. I this is weird, guys. I don’t know what I’m allowed to say about things and not say about things.
Justin Price And so this is so under wraps. Right now.
Anthony Russo I don’t I probably don’t sound super excited. But it is really an unbelievable opportunity. I’m like crazy grateful for it. And it’s been. It’s been really, really fun to work on.
Justin Price Anthony, it’s it’s super, super exciting. And I know you can’t tell us any more details. But we’ll keep probing about them. I’m just kidding. We will we will stay and listening and tuned. Maybe we can even have you back when you can tell us more about the funny. The funny book that you’re writing about the Bible is funny or not writing about the Bible is funny, whatever it may or may not be. Exactly. But that’s dude. Honestly, congrats, man. That’s I’m so stoked for you and, and excited. Can’t wait to see what the next chapter looks like. And also really just excited to see to how how the online community, you know, goes you you’re working at a great church with a great staff and a great community and so kind of kind of just excited to see how you develop that position there.
Mike Mage Yeah, it’s awesome, man. Thanks so much for coming on.
Anthony Russo Thank you guys so much. I love what you guys are doing here with healthy church growth. I’ve been following along longtime listener first time caller. Thanks so much for having me/
Mike Mage Absolutely. Dude is incredible. Really, really good.
Justin Price I know we we dragged on some of the like, really getting into the details of the Bible is Funny like that. We we kept probing into that. But man, you really do free to drop the bomb at the end there. Anthony. That was awesome.
Mike Mage Lay that a very good play. Good.
Anthony Russo Well, thank you.
Justin Price Were you prepared for that? Or did you was that off the cuff?
Is COVID the push the church needs to start adapting finally? We speak with guest David Miller, the VP of Coaching at the Slingshot Group, and the new author of “Improv Leadership,” on how the Church should adapt.
Mike Mage Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast.
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow. And growth means life. I’m Mike, one of your hosts for the podcast. And before we get going here, I really just want to say thank you so much for joining us. These conversations we’ve been able to have with so many people has been like incredibly inspiring to Justin and I, and we just we continue to have so much fun and continue to learn so much and, and for you, our audience, we really hope that you are getting the same thing out of it as well. And if you are, we would absolutely love for you to right before we start, just make sure to share, subscribe, all that fun stuff, all that those that are the language that we’ve all had to learn during this COVID time for all of us going online for everything. But it really does help us when you share when you subscribe when you review When you drop us a DM on Instagram or Facebook, for us to connect with you so that we can continue on having these really great conversations. Joining us today, as always, I have my co host with me, Justin price, Justin, how you doing, man?
Justin Price I’m doing great, Mike, thanks for the introduction. Also, thanks for the listeners for listening and for subscribing. It is. It’s super encouraging. So
Mike Mage Yeah, this is this has just been a really cool journey for us a really cool endeavor to create a podcast about healthy church growth in the middle of a once in a century pandemic. So that’s been super cool. And today on our podcast, we have David Miller, who is the VP of coaching at the Slingshot Group, and he’s a brand new author of improv leadership. And he’s actually an old friend of mine. I met him back in Orlando when I was going to school at UCF. And you He was the student director of the church that I was attending. In Justin goose heading into this interview. what’s what’s one thing you know, that you can tell us that really just sort of struck you about this interview?
Justin Price Well, first of all, that David’s just a super nice guy. And I gotta plug David for a second if you’re interested at all in some coaching the slingshot groups. They’re not a sponsor of the healthy church growth podcast, not yet. At least they don’t know. But I gotta say, you know, just just what a great guy David is. I think that if you you know if you need some coaching, definitely. I hope that this podcast is gonna just whet your appetite a little bit for what that could sound like from him because Mike and I just got a about a 40 minute coaching session from him that I know he was like, he was taking notes. I was taking notes I don’t I we blacked out at one point. I’m pretty sure You know, just trying to keep up with with the goal that that David was bringing. So yeah, I would say get out your notepad David’s just got a really really great perspective. He understands where you’re at in the church as a leader, as a creative as an ex rock star touring musician. He, he has been through many places that you guys have been through and, and what a refreshing perspective he’s got. So just just really, really cool. I know for us, we took a lot of good stuff away. And so without further ado, Mr. David Miller.
David Miller Think about like what’s happening in culture nap? Yeah, right. Like the church and I mean people but like, let’s enter the church. The church has to be able to adapt right now. And it’s it’s fascinating to watch the churches and leaders that are adapting. Yeah.
Mike Mage Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. We’re so glad that You’re joining us today on our show, we have an incredible guest. One that I’m very, very excited about. We have David Miller, who is the VP of coaching at the Slingshot Group and new author of improv leadership and incredible book that just came out. David, thank you so much for joining us.
David Miller Oh, man, it’s great to be with you.
Mike Mage I, uh, so David and I, we actually have known each other for a while. And it’s been a while since we’ve seen each other. But I, David and I met, I don’t know, 10 12 13 years ago at a church that we used to work at or that he used to work out in Orlando that I attended. And David, I don’t know if you knew this, but I was. So I met you post dreads and so all I had ever heard fortunate. Yeah, well, it’s I know. So here’s the deal. I had heard that there was this new student director at this church that we were at, and I was like, I think they guy’s name is David Miller. And everyone’s like, oh, the guy with dreads, and that must have happened like five times. And so I got super excited. I’m like, man, he’s got dreads, like, this guy’s gotta be cool. And I meet you in no dreads and so the the first huge disappointment,
David Miller huge disappointment.
Mike Mage So the first question I have to ask is, was getting like a normal human haircut part of the job requirements? Or were you just finally able to pay for a haircut?
David Miller Right? No, those are both valid, valid options. So So no, I so I would speak in at status and stuff, you know, the babies and young adult thing that we were doing while I was or just before actually I was teaching for like a group of kids that were like at risk teens. So it was like a kind of a ranch situation where they live there. They have, you know, these host families and then they go to school while I was a teacher, and in order for me to get that job, which was the job I had right before coming on as the student director. Yeah, they made me cut my hair. And I and I remember talking to my now wife, then then girlfriend and I was just like, I don’t know if I’m gonna take the job, they’re gonna let me cut my hair. I mean, I think that I’m probably gonna, you know, turn it down and she was like, Are you dumb? Like, be you know, go go go get the job. So
It was a yard of you though. So like that is it had become
There had become and here’s the here’s the thing now my hair is just weird you know but like you know I have to like then hair was such an identity thing I had like long girl hair before that like your hair down past the shoulders and you know the whole deal. So that became identity then all of a sudden the dreads the dreads became identity and so I don’t know, man, but yeah, no, I I almost I am I’m almost sorry that he met me after that. I feel like you missed out on on quite an experience. Yeah,
Mike Mage I mean, you just morphed into like a totally different person in my head. Yeah, just just a dude. Yeah, just like yeah,
This is like another white guy that we brought on. Just exactly here and yeah, it’s not cool.
David Miller Yep. No.
Mike Mage Okay. I bet you Ashley was very happy that those were on their way out.
David Miller So I was I was in a band that in college and so we went like to Ohio or something. I met this guy with dreads and I was like, Oh my God, that’s interesting. Like, who does that? You know, we were gonna be there for a little while. And I remember calling her and saying, hey, I’ve got a surprise when I get back from tour. And I came back from tour with dreads. I left with long hair and came back with dreads and that was the that was that was a great surprise for everybody.
Mike Mage It was a surprise.
David Miller Yeah. And she stuck it out with me. And that that speaks highly of her.
Mike Mage Yeah. Well, David, that’s all we wanted to talk about. Thank you so much for coming on. Yeah,
David Miller man. It was great. Just building healthy churches for creatives.
Mike Mage Well, this pivot that no one knows really how to pivot out of here, but Obviously, like I said, you know, you’re the VP of the coaching division at the slingshot group. And we’d love to just hear a little more about what slingshot group does. I mean, it’s they have such a huge impact on the church right now. And then maybe a little bit about how you got into doing this. For sure.
David Miller Yeah. So slingshot group, you know, it’s been around 13 and a plus years, you know, founded by two guys started in the world of worship. So, you know, Monty Kelso and Stan anacott, we’re both you know, really big in especially like, right, kind of right at the tail end of of what is known as like the worship wars, you know, where it was like, we’re a traditional church is going to become a contemporary church, and then how do we do that? They would coach people how to do that. And then they’d be like, well, gosh, we agree, but we have nobody who can actually, you know, actually lead now. So will you help us find someone and so really came out of their personal network from kind of record producing and stuff they had been doing with promise keepers and you know, all of that. They have been going for about five years. And, you know, they had decided, hey, we’re gonna we’re gonna really expand into helping all levels of the church, but we’re not experts in that I love when leaders know what they’re good at and what they’re not good at. Yeah. And they just said, we’re not experts at that. So we need to bring in experts for each of these divisions. And so they brought me in to really help to launch their student ministry division, most of my experience was in student ministry and and so they just kind of said, Hey, you know, you know, youth pastors, we know, you know, worship leaders, why don’t you come in help churches find the best youth pastors for their, for their staff, and, you know, really help them figure that out. And so the whole idea of slingshot group is you know, we have this tagline we build remarkable teams through staffing and coaching, okay. And it really that that’s that’s what we do all day long. We help find the right fit. We partner with churches to understand really, who they are what makes them unique and who would fit on their team. And then we find that person, and then and then we do coaching, will walk with that new staff member will come on to your team for a season and you know, help with leadership development. We do succession coaching, we, you know, we kind of, you know, just depends on really what what you need there. And so, for me, I started with with a lot of staffing and kind of almost as just earned a voice in the churches that I was, you know, helping Sure, and then they would kind of say, How else can you help us like, you know, we want you to stick around how else can you help us and it would morph into a really natural coaching relationship. And that’s, that’s where my role kind of shifted.
Mike Mage Yeah, but super cool. Cool. Okay, well, obviously, you’ve been able to talk to a bunch of churches, sort of about their pain points and not just in student ministry, which I’m sure is a pain point for every every church. But as you’re coaching people And especially maybe even now over the past, you know, six months when everything just feels like it’s all been thrown up in the air and disrupted What do you see as like some of the more prevalent issues that people are really having trouble grasping?
David Miller Yeah, I, you know, I think I think with leadership in general, we’ve become enamored by two things, we become enamored by talent, which makes sense, you know, I mean, when you are around a talented person, you know, you tend to lean in. And so we become really enamored by that we’ve also become enamored by almost that, that that stereotypical forceful leader that charged the hill mentality leader, and that’s that’s what’s and that’s what so much of our leadership is made of in the church are really those two things. What’s what we’ve found is that, you know, those two things can be great, but left to their own devices. They crumble because they they don’t really end up learning a lot of the basics of ministry. I mean, People have forgotten how to how to, you know, really excel in interpersonal communication. You know, people are struggling with leading up like me and the amount of conversations I have to have about leading up is is crazy because it’s, you know, we, we’ve, we’ve bought into these lies that our boss is super human and they never make mistakes and that we’re going to end that they’re gonna have all the right answers at all times. And so for us to be able to say, hey, what if what if you just realize that that was a human being that you can walk with and that you can actually help lead them along the way? You know, finally, you know, even the idea of like, seeing volunteers as like more than a means to an end. You know, again, because of the big personalities that we have, oftentimes we have these big visions and, and so we need people to accomplish these visions. Yeah, we end up you know, using them as like as like cogs in the machine, right versus like individuals with something to contribute. And so and so what happens is that will come in a lot of times, and we’ll do anything from basic skill development. So hey, how do you lead a rehearsal? How do you lead a volunteer training? How do you you know, I mean, so there’s some really basic stuff that are just skill. Yeah. And then we’ll come in also, and we’ll do leadership development, which is, you know, more of what I just listed out. So many people that we meet, it’s like you have the natural ability, you have the the talent or the drive, you just missing some of these basics that if we can walk with you that that would be huge. I would say those are the two biggest, I think on the on the back end of it. Coaching has become simply a trusted voice for so many. So there’s some that that they have the basics. They have the skill and the talent and the drive, but they feel alone. And they’re doing it everyone that they talked to is you know, that their boss or their volunteer, or, you know, is some way connected to the ministry that they’re leading. Right and any any sense of voice ability, we’ll make that person nervous. And so we we put up this facade of perfection or of strength, and instead of allowing someone to speak into who we are, and so, you know, we’re not counselors, but we end up being that for so many just, Hey, can I just have you on speed dial so that when I walk out of a meeting, and I feel like I want to punch a wall, I can talk to somebody about it. And I don’t actually do that. Never happened comes. Yeah, I can I can imagine.
Justin Price Can we pause real quick? I think David misunderstood the question. We were asking about issues that Mike’s staff has.
David Miller Yeah, got it. Got it. Got it. Okay. Got it. I’ll narrow my focus a little bit. Yeah.But okay. Yeah. So that’s, that’s been helpful and and i think that’s kind of what coaching has become for so many is skill development, leadership development, and then that trusted outside voice.
Justin Price Yeah, it sounds it sounds like that coaching may or may not have given you a lot of great content for a book is this is this where a lot of improv leaders ship came from was just this experience.
David Miller Yeah, a lot of it. I mean, I’ll if, you know the truth is a lot of this experiences as probably will foster many books, you know along along the way, coming from different different vantage points, improv leadership. A lot of the stories come out of this experience, but the concept itself really starts with it was when I took over as the vice president of coaching. I really looked at our organization and our coaches and said, what makes us unique? Like why would someone want us to coach their team instead of, you know, named the organization or the individual, you know, those different things, you know, what, why would someone choose us? And, and I start to kind of, you know, realize, like, we need to figure out a little bit of what our secret sauce is and what our process is. And so improv leadership became before was, it wasn’t supposed to be a book. improv leadership was supposed to be our internal training process for the coaches that are on our team. Yeah. Here’s how you Draw the best out of the people that you’re that you’re leading that you’re coaching. Here’s how you do that. Yeah. And, and so it started that way, almost five years ago. You know, we launched it in our organization and trained all of our leaders in these five core competencies and get and you know, constantly are coming back to this. Then like, as things evolve, then it became, you know, I would be talking to an executive pastor, and, you know, he or she would say, Well, I, you know, I’m supposed to coach my team, I’ve got, you know, 10 or five or 20 people on my staff, how do I use improve leadership? And so we started to train leaders, and so we would have these trainings that we would do all over the country. And, you know, today we’ve probably brought in the live trainings like 1000, you know, 1500 people through kind of a live training, and it was someone heard it in the training, and said, I need to introduce you to someone at Zondervan. I need to introduce you to a book agent Let’s see if this could become a book. And we were like, it’s not it’s not a book. It’s like, Why do you keep saying it’s a book? And so we want to talk to them and they’re like, no, like, like, put your stories to it. Right? Teach us how to do it. But But tell the stories of how you’ve seen it done well, and how you’ve messed it up. And, you know, how, how it’s necessary in this climate. Sure. And, and so then it became a book
Mike Mage Totally in process. Well, I, I love even just the idea of improv leadership, like the, the the name itself implies, like flexibility. And, you know, obviously talking to church creatives, like they really, at least, you know, from my experience, musicians understand to a certain extent, some of them understand not all. I did go to the School of Music, at a university, they don’t understand this. Most most other musicians do that. Like there is this flexibility. There’s this idea that like, every time you play a song, even if it’s, you know, your basic four chord worship song, something is going to be different about it. And I love just even how the title almost sort of, like implies that a little bit like, right, this, this is gonna be something that it flexes and moves and yeah, you know, you kind of have to live within this to adapt and you know, be creative, which is there still rules, there are rules
David Miller To music, right? There are rules to what sounds good and what doesn’t. Right. And, and you’re allowed to break the rules at a certain point you’re allowed to play within the rules, right. And I think that’s, you know, right now, man, like, most leadership stuff out there, and there’s some great leadership stuff out there. Yeah, most of it is linear, most leadership stuff that I that I read totally, or that I’ve, you know, been to the trainings or, you know, have the certification or you know, whatever. It’s, it’s this, it’s this first do this, then do this, then do this, and it’s this little In your process that takes you forward into something. And that’s just not what leadership actually is like in real life. Sure. In real life, you have to be nimble like that musician. And so we talked about in the book this idea that that you know, in most of the you know, your worship, you know, bands, you have like someone, you give them the tabs, you give them the chords, someone can if they practice enough, they’ll be able to play that song pretty well. Yeah, but the moment that the time signature changes a little bit, or the moment that the person in front says, you know, alright, let’s go ahead and, you know, vamp here for a minute or redo one of these courses, like all of a sudden you see them like seize up, yeah, and not able to kind of move forward. And so for us, it’s, it’s only the best musicians actually have the ability to improv Sure, like the average musician can’t do it. They understand the concept, but only the really good who have mastered their, their their instrument, who have enough trust with the other people that they’re in the bandwidth to be able to improv in. moment to contribute in a moment, depending no matter what kind of what what comes, you know, right then and there. Yeah, we start looking at leaders and saying, Can leaders do that? Like, we’re pretty good as leaders, when we know what the rules are, we’re pretty good when we know when our job is, you know, the amount of time that someone says to me, Well, that wasn’t in my job description, right? Give me the right job description. And I’m like, it is in your job description. Other you know, right. Right. Other needs as required? Is Yeah, yeah. is everywhere, right. It’s everywhere. And so So the reality is like, like, there isn’t a job description that will accurately compile everything that you’re supposed to know, do. You have to be able to adapt? Think about, like, what’s happening in culture nap? Yeah. Right. Like the church and I mean, people but like, let’s into the church, the church has to be able to adapt right now. And it’s and it’s fascinating to watch the churches and leaders that are adapting, yeah, that are able to have conversations about racial reconciliation that are able to talk about you know, politics or the Coronavirus or Why we’re meeting or why we’re not meeting and everyone is freaking out about different things and and we’ve become this consumer thing right where everyone wants you to, hey pastor tell the church what I want you to tell the church you know, I want us to meet I want us to not make I want us to talk more about Black Lives Matter. I want to talk less about Black Lives Matter I want us to write and and as leaders, we’re having to respond to all of those things. Yeah. And, and I’m watching as some leaders are doing an incredible job of responding. Yeah. And I’m watching as the majority of leaders are flubbing this and and trying they have great intentions. Yeah. But they’re so afraid of because they’re because they want it’s it’s it’s the rules. It’s, well, what is the rule that I’m supposed to follow here? Well, those have been thrown out. And more than ever, yeah, they no longer apply most of them and now more than ever, we have to be able to improv or leadership, right. And so again, the concept that it was written long before any of What’s happening? What’s happening? But but we’re in this this space where it’s can leaders respond to a global global pandemic? Can leaders walk into a room not knowing what their role is supposed to be and contribute in a moment? Can leaders sit behind their camera on their, you know, on zoom and manage the mute button? Well, can we figure out what the next step is supposed to be? And the best leaders, the ones who can lean on their wiring, their, their training, their education, their experience, are going to be able to come out of this. You know, I think really well and if not stronger than ever, right. And that’s, that’s the hope. That’s the hope of, from the very beginning of the book.
Justin Price Yeah. Yeah, I just, I feel like you’ve got us hooked. Can you give us maybe like two of the five principles from the book, two that you think are most interesting to just share? It doesn’t To be a shortened up thing, just like a couple sentences about some of the first two principles, which doesn’t sound like it’s linear, what they could be writing the order, right?
David Miller Yeah, yeah. And they are, they’re the whole, the whole thing I’ll tell you about the two that we’ll talk about here in a minute. All five of them can build on each other. All five of these concepts can come out, you know, we can weave in and out of, I think of it almost the lens of like a toolbox, you know, like, like, you know, it’s whatever you’re going to do you as the person who’s working on that project, you know, when to use a hammer when use a screwdriver, you know, right. You know, when you’re supposed to do that. I want to make sure that I arm you with the best hammer and best screwdriver I can find. Yeah. And so this really is a toolbox, all five of these tools. And then within each each, you know, we say actually, the five are competencies and there are tools within each competency. And I want to make sure that you have everything that you would need for whatever the situation is. You’ll be able to Walk forward in Yeah, I would say that the two that as I think about your audience as I think about going forward night again, I think all of them would would fit but the first one I’ll look at is precision praising so kind of our tagline for precision praising is carefully crafting praise to inspire and chorus corrector team. And so here’s here’s a reality that I think people have to understand is that people are motivated by praise. Yeah, uh, it is very rarely have I have I come down on someone and really critique someone and then walked away and actually come back better. Yeah, more often than not, it is it is praise that has helped someone to move forward. It’s not that you can’t correct but it’s, it’s it I think we’ve leaned so heavy into correction and into kind of cracking the whip that we’ve forgotten what it looks like to actually praise someone. And so it’s a it’s a skill that has to be re looked at. So in, in our training we we talked about, like we almost will reverse it. engineer, a time that someone has praised you and it changed the trajectory of your story. Yeah. And and when you can reverse engineer those different things we talked about, what was the setting of that? Were you alone? Were you with a bunch of other people were it was it was it public? You know, who was that person in your life? Like, who are they in your story that they were able to speak that to you. And understanding these basic kind of concepts and principles of praise will start to motivate your team in a brand new way. Because it gives you that like endorphin rush, right? Like, there’s something about, you know, if you walk in, and someone says to you, Hey, that was great, then that’s like, Oh, that’s awesome. Like I can I can kind of ride that for a little while when your supervisor or someone who has leadership or influence in your life says what you just did, really affected the quality of the service that we just had, or or really change the trajectory of who we are as a church. You can write that praise for a month. Yeah, right. And so when you start to understand that The importance and the beauty and art of praise, then you can really start to motivate your team and move them toward common goals. Yeah.
Mike Mage Well, that’s to me it is. I feel like one of the things that I I teach all my the worship people here is, you know, like, it’s it’s incredible how much is incredible how far a thank you goes. And so like, like, I’ll literally from the from the day that I got here, after every worship service, I make it a point to go say thank you to everybody. And I’ve told this story before, but like, yeah, the very first time I did that, I went up to a bass player here who’s been here for you know, however many years way before I even got here, and to the church, and I said, Thank you. And he was it looked like I punched him in the gut. You know, like it looked like I really just had walked up and I just punched him and was like, What did you say? And I just said, Thank you. And with like, straight on, he just said like, no one’s ever thanked me for playing bass here before and like Which is insane, then say and so like, like I love it and I love how you’re drilling down on like even making that more. I mean like it can be as simple as a thank you but like what you’re talking about like can actually start to change people’s trajectories and like slowly and push them in like really healthy and encouraging directions.
David Miller Well we talked about in all of our organizations like the values of our organization, right and so we you know, we list them somewhere on some document and the really good churches will actually have people you know, they’ll have people like memorize heat right those and what they are and then we stop there My thing is when you see someone living out your values, why don’t you tell them how good they did? When you see someone you know, right like, like there’s a difference there’s a difference in saying good job and telling someone what they did. That was so good, right? There’s a difference in moving for with someone like like my wife a lot. I’ll say, Hey, that was that was really good shake, but What did you like about it? There people want that 100% and We crave it the most. You know, I remember I, co author and I and Stan Endicott. We, we did a talk for, like 150 Executive pastors. And almost the whole talk was about precision praising. And I had one of the, you know, one of the kind of big name, you know, big name church guy came up and said, Man, I’m really glad you shared all that with these guys. Almost like implying they need it. And I don’t I don’t need it yet. He said, and he said something to the effect of this was a little too touchy feely for me. And what I love and here’s, here’s the fun, here’s the fun of me and Stan working together. Is that, you know, Stan is in his 70s he’s kind of like an elder statesman, you know, you walk in the room, you just like that guy’s awesome. Yeah. You know, like, I’m a punk with like, you know, half sleeve tattoo, you know what I mean? Like, you know, and walking in and you’re like, what, Who’s that guy? Yeah. And, and, and I remember this guy walking away. I was kind of sharing with Stan for a minute. I was like, Oh, that’s, you know, a little disappointing. Like, you know, I thought I thought he’d really get it. And Stan said this thing that like really affected me, he said, he said if, if more leaders understood precision, praising fewer of their staff would quit, and I just, and I just was like, cool that guy. We’re good. Yeah.
Justin Price David, can I ask you a personal question on it? Yeah, please do like a personal so in our agency. I feel good about the fact that we are leadership stuff every Monday sets a goal to find something to praise publicly for that was done that’s at the heart of the culture, not good work. So he taking it even a step further, we want to reinforce the cultural values. And so rather than just saying like repeating them, every staff meeting we we actually look for a way to actually see somebody who has been living them out. And so we will before we have the full staff meeting, the leaders kind of talked through a so and so this was great, and it’s a huge red flag. If we don’t have any Anything like if we found like three or four weeks and it’s like, I mean everyone’s kicking butt and it’s doing like everyone’s doing really good work, but I don’t really see anything like stand out culture above and beyond type stuff. That’s like a Okay, so what do we need to do to really foster that? How can we how can people any any practical tips on like, how can we be better at precision, like finding the nuances that you know, guess? Doesn’t feel like it’s repetitive and doesn’t feel like it’s getting generic because even for me, I mean, I, we, we built that as part of our culture and it’s still really tough to find new things into inspire any, any like little nuggets there. I’m just kind of poking into this one because it’s Yeah, trying to get some coaching from you. Love it.
David Miller So I have I have three thoughts really, really fast. Okay, so I think that the first one is, it should worry you as much about your leaders as it does your staff. If your leaders can’t find things to praise. Yeah. Right. So So part of it. Yeah. Is it? You know, the question that you should have in some ways is is, is our is it that our staff isn’t living on our values? Or is it that our leaders have such a high bar before they’re willing to praise someone that they that they’re not able to see it when it’s right in front of them? Yeah. And so and so there, there’s a reprogramming of our own minds to be able to, like, I know, I used to literally believe that if I praised less that when I would pray it would mean more. I used to, I would say that to people why I hold my praise until it’s really deserved, so that people will will know that I mean, it Yeah. Yeah, never.
Justin Price Yeah, never really say it, right.
David Miller Yeah. And and I’ve never felt more dumb. Yeah. I mean, like then later on and realizing how how praise really affects people. And so and so your leaders have to have to have the value of wanting to find praise. The people that are on your team Yeah, is I think is I think a piece of it. I will say that not all praise has to be public. So I could see it getting repetitive and or becoming expected. Oh, we’re gonna walk into a meeting someone from the leadership team is going to say something about one of us. And so I could see it losing what what we call in the book, The weight of praise. So the weight of it is not as heavy. If they if they figure you’re only doing it because it’s a checklist item. Yeah. And so I really lean into leaders and saying you can schedule praise, but don’t make sure they don’t know you scheduled it. Yeah, you know, I’m saying like, you know, make it feel so organic, but if you’re not, if it doesn’t naturally happen, you need to schedule it, then you should do that. Yeah. And, and continue lean into it. And so that kind of that third pieces like I would have them, lean into them as individuals. There’s something about walking up to someone’s desk and be able to say this thing that you did, was was really valuable. Because not everyone on your team, highly values praise publicly, right? Some there’s gonna be someone on your team who public praise makes them feel shameful. And that’s their own issue to figure out, but it certainly may actually hurt. Yeah, we will make them feel uncomfortable. But but to be praised, like more one on one might, they might, they might ride that for a little while and feel and feel like they’re on cloud nine because of that. And so there’s something about figuring out who your people actually are like the curiosity, being so curious about your staff that you lean into them and you know, this person loves to be praised publicly. And so I want to make sure that I fill that love bucket that that that they have, yeah, and this person would be mortified if I praise them publicly, and I need to be really intentional about that as well.
Justin Price It’s so cool. David, that’s that’s so valuable for so many teams I’ve been. I love that. Definitely a lie I believed for a long time was that I only Give authentic praises and so I hardly ever give them. And yeah, and that’s wrong.
David Miller Totally wrong. Well, it’s, it’s it’s wrong, but even even as you use the word, the praise does need to be authentic. Yeah, right. Right. Um, you know, they people people, barges doesn’t have to be that high
Justin Price For praise, the bar
David Miller Doesn’t have to be as high, you know, so, so yeah, I mean, but it does need to be authentic it You do have to believe it. Because they will know if you’re blowing smoke, right? Like they will, they will be aware of that. And it’s something we talked about in the book if you couch praise, or if it’s like, if it’s a praise, criticism, praise becomes something and again, I’ve been through leadership training that literally tells you to do that right. And I’ve been in leadership trainings that say they say this is how you give criticism is make sure you praise them on the front in the back end, man Yeah, like we’re our defenses are up. Yeah, with that kind of stuff. Like like we have learned, oh, you praise me Here comes the hammer, right? You don’t even like and so we have learned that and, and so again, we talked about If the only time your staff ever sees you is because you have a project for them to accomplish, or you need to correct something that they did, that every time you walk by, they will flinch. Yeah. But if the if you create opportunities that when you walk by, they’re like, oh, man, I wonder what he’s got for us today. Right? You know, there’s something exciting about the boss walking by your desk, versus terrifying. And I better act like I’m really working. And I think I think we do that we do that as leaders, we create that environment where we are the heavy instead of instead of the carrot. And I think we got to figure that out.
Justin Price Sure. I think you’re just you’re striking a lot of PTSD for our listeners right now who have all been in bad work environments. And it’s like, oh, I feel that you can like go right to that moment when you’ve been working for that boss, who is just the heavy and yeah, it’s like every time they’re around, it’s like, what, what next?
David Miller Yeah, I’ve worked for a boss in a supervisor who had his own parking spot, his own entrance and his own bathroom and so there was No chance to accidentally run into them. There was never a natural interaction, every interaction was planned. And, and, and again, and I get why he did that I get I get the the version of leadership that is put as many barriers in the way so that you don’t have to accidentally interact with anybody because you have a lot of things to accomplish. I can cognitively understand that. But when I put myself in the position of a leader and realizing that the best way to do these things is through them, and to really invest in others. Well, why, you know, why do I have a gatekeeper standing, you know, sitting at their desk, making sure that the only people that get in really deserve it, you don’t I mean, like, there’s, there’s, there’s a disconnect there for the reality, especially with younger leaders. I mean, you know, when you have millennials and Gen Z coming through, I mean, they don’t want you to be just their boss, they need to know that you actually, you know, like give a rip, you know, they need to understand that you care about them more than what they can produce for you. And, and if you’re only talking to them about what they can produce for you, and you Never have an accidental conversation at the urinal. You don’t I mean, or you never walk by them when you’re going to your car, like, you know, and give them like a goofy fist bump or something. I mean, then then all you are is is the heavy, and it’s gonna really mess with their drive to be a part of your community. Yep.
Justin Price Can we make that the Can we make that the call out for this podcast is that if your only positive praise is the goofy fist bump as the later
Mike Mage But what’s, uh, what’s the second competency that? You know, you can you can drill down a little bit on
David Miller Yea, I want to talk about what I think could be maybe one of the more difficult ones. And so this idea of will be called going north. So, you know, going north is using indirect influence to redirect a person’s thinking or perspective. I mean, when you think about this concept, like we’ve I did, we identified five fundamentals of going north and here’s the reality of it like, we’ve all had leaders had to have those really difficult conversations with someone and it feels like you know, as you need to have a tough conversation or you need to somehow move someone forward they’re stuck in some way or you’re stuck in some way. It’s it’s like hitting a brick wall. Yeah. Right. Like you know, they walk into your office and they immediately cross their arms and you know, they’re they’re armed and ready for battle because they know what’s about to happen. Yeah, um, you know, what we’re really challenging leaders to do is is is to use again indirect influence you know, so like the five for example so like reveal common ground with them somehow become like minded right? You know, surprise them with a gift. You know, if you walk in and you if you’ve ever been given like a even just a trinket, you know, I mean, something small, but if you’ve been given a gift, a piece of candy, even here, your your defenses start to lower, you know, disrupt the setting, in some way. Like if every time you’re going to fire someone, you do it in your office. And that’s it. Chair, maybe you don’t make them sit in that chair, right? You don’t I mean, like, like, every time you’re having a card conversation with someone, you know, you you do it at five toward the end of the day to make sure this thing happens like, like, somehow you got to figure out, like, we need to have a hard conversation but I need to somehow as a leader is my job to get around this wall that is going to be naturally built up. So so you disrupt the setting. I one of my one of my favorite of that was actually at the church that that we were at, Mike, you know, I had a team of seven. I actually I think this was when Melissa was on staff. Okay, sister Melissa. Yeah, yeah, your sister. And, and I, like we were just hitting the wall. I mean, you know, it was it was just like a, you know, you remember it was one of those hard charging churches and you know, and and so there’s always something to accomplish and totally, and we were you know, and we put on our own camps, and so this whole thing was happening and, and so I mean it we were burned. And I remember talking to someone from another ministry and saying, Hey, I bought everyone these little airsoft guns like really cheapo ones that wouldn’t actually hurt anybody. But I remember buying them could you set up like a like a little course for us in the office we had our own kind of suite you know we were in as they sequestered us away from the rest of the staff because we were so loud noisy right and so so one edit so we had all the lights turned off put on some random lights and I and I had I had them each go in one at a time and we would time each other to see who can hit the targets with these airsoft guns and you know, people like army rolling, you know, through the office and then crawling through going around a corner. And it just, it just like, took the took the pressure out of the balloon. Yeah. You don’t immediately off a little bit. Yeah, we’re just in that moment. I everyone’s on the edge. Let’s just have fun. Yeah, for a second. And then we went back to work. Mm hmm. And so it was again, this disrupt the setting, you know, idea within within what we’re what we’re talking about last two Teach using a story. So we’re obviously doing that here on a podcast like dragon, I can say do this, or I can tell you a story about how to do this. And it connects to someone in a different way. And then create a shared experience. And you know, so again, as you do that with your team,
It really does start to lower, lower those walls. Yeah. And, and rather than telling someone what to do, you can model it and use this indirect influence idea to really show them through your actions, how it could be a recent story, I was coaching a pastor who was just in a rut, you know, again, I think that that as as human beings, like we are creatures of habit we we search for normally, like we search for the box. Yeah. And you know that because, you know, like, I bet you if we if we were to talk to your listeners for a minute, most of them walk in and have you know, they park near the same spot every day they walk out of the same, the same door of the auditorium or, you know, wherever it is, they sit in the same seat sit in the same seat. I mean, how many people at your church like, that’s my seat, you gotta mean like, you know, and they’re at least gonna, you know, the church I go to I walk in, I take a right every weekend, you know what I mean? Like, well, when I’m able to walk into the church, right, you know, it’s like, walk in and take a right I don’t do it on purpose. That’s just, it’s it became the place I remember sitting on the left side of the auditorium and it felt weird, like, it just didn’t feel like it was like we were in the same place and and so we do that in like, like, people are creatures of habit. As leaders, we we can really succumb to this and so ever again, I remember talking to a leader and he was in a rut, and I and I said this weekend, I want you to walk in a different door. I want you to park on the other side of the parking lot. And then and then you know, when you walk in and you always talk to that same guy in the sound booth. I want you to go talk to somebody else. Yeah, when you walk in the door and and i I remember talking to him after that weekend. He was like, he was like, man, I thought that was the dumbest advice. Like walk in another door. And he’s like, but I had ideas for our church that I hadn’t thought of. Yeah. Because I kept looking at it from the same angle over and over and over again. Yeah. And so there’s something about as leaders from time to time for ourselves. We’ve got it, we’ve got to change it up. Yeah. And for our team, you know, don’t order lunch in the same spot every time. You know, like, like, find opportunities, the best classes when we were all in school, the best classes were on beautiful days when the teacher took us outside to do class,
Justin Price Sir, no doubt.
David Miller Why is that? Like, you don’t I mean, like, it’s like it created a memory. It created something that just felt different than the monotony of every other day in every class. And so there’s something special about it. And literally nothing was different. They taught the same material they were going to teach inside classes taught outside the class. Right? Right. We’ve got to get better at this. Yeah, at being intentional in the way we lead people. And, and I and I said at the beginning, like, you know, this is one of the harder ones to master because it’s not science. This is art. Yeah, this is this is not, this is not, you know, on Tuesday, go outside on Wednesday, eat at this other restaurant on Thursday, you know, like, like, there are tricks you can do. I remember taking my staff and saying and saying, hey, on Wednesday, it’s going to be go left Wednesday, because when we would go to lunch on Wednesdays, for some reason, we always turn right. Meaning only got to the restaurants that were on the right. And so it’s like today, we’re going left? Yeah, you know, I don’t know what’s over there. And there’s just something about that, as a leader to remove the rut. Yeah.
Justin Price Yeah. I think that a lot of leaders need to hear that encouragement because it is a it is extra work. And so I think we’re taught a lot of times that being more efficient is a better way to learn. lead. And that’s how we find ourselves in those ruts. And I think about like, I’m thinking through every leader who’s listening to this, who has just had to change everything, their scheduling, their location, their meetings, everything and they’re like, I’m just happy if my people make it on on the zoom call for the staff meeting, I’m just happy. If we pull off another Sunday and don’t see numbers drop online attendance, and we don’t get shut down in our building, if we’re a church that’s open, you know, these are the kinds of things and it’s like and David’s over here talking about bumping up the staff retreat budget. And totally, though is by by David’s book, it’s gonna give you all the support, you need to bump up that staff retreat budget, and that’s but in all reality, though, is what you’re saying is so valuable and so true, and it’s worth it. What you’re really saying is that it’s worth it if you want to be effective. If you care about the people you’re leading, then then yes, stay up the extra night. Figure it out. You know, we have a remote agency and one of the first things we had to do was figure out how to bring community to people who are all over the country. And I remember the first time my, we had somebody on staff help me, I wanted to deliver pizzas to everybody’s door at the same time. So I changed up the meeting. And so I was like, if everybody could get pizza, delivered at the same time, that’d be really cool. And then we took it a step further, and we said, Hey, we were actually introducing an intern the week before. And so I said, as you introduce yourself and what you do to the intern on our online meeting, we said just tell them your favorite pizza and where it’s from. And so so the person who was in charge of getting those pizzas ordered took notes. during that meeting, we then delivered everybody’s favorite pizza. It was a ton of work, though. Most people in leadership positions would have like if I had submitted that to my boss in many of my jobs before, if I wasn’t the one writing the check, I would have had that push back as like, Are you kidding me? Like you spent 20 hours ordering pizzas for people? And how about the 400 bucks you spent on pizzas for meaning that you normally do for free. But I will tell you that in the last year, that is something that still comes up like that is still and it’s something that we even as a team still try to figure out how to outdo because it was a surprise and delight. Yeah, it was a changeup. It was something they had never experienced before. And so we still it’s still my best idea. So feel free to take that and use it. Okay, we’re still working on it. We’re still chasing Chasing the Sun on that one. But David, I love your heart for where this is. I love this book. And I, I’m super, super stoked that you’re working to get this out there because there’s so many guys who grew up I know I grew up in the church as a young guy with no mentoring, and to have coaching and coach resources even if I can’t afford slingshot group in coaching from you guys in my church will buy that I can buy your book. Yeah, and I can get it. And so thank you for for what you’re doing, man, this is really, really awesome.
David Miller Yeah. And just I love the story, you know, I mean, it does it. It is extra. And that is a true statement. It is extra. But I, I’m wondering what leaders are filling all their other time with? You know, I mean, I’m saying why, like, why did that, you know, I mean, you know, we’ve all read death by meeting or we’ve all looked at, you know, our felt death by meeting you know, it’s, it’s when you look at what’s actually happening in your organization, you know, aren’t most most meetings most companies most leaders are thinking through the lens of return on investment, right? Yeah. And so if you start if you moved away from the rest of this stuff, and you start understanding return on investment on those pizzas is exponentially greater right then then, no doubt 10 Normal meetings that you would do you know what I mean? Like, you know, whatever. I mean, I mean, when you think about churches like so in student ministry, camp is ridiculous. Like, like taking students to camp is a ridiculous thing to do. Yeah. For the amount of money that it takes. I remember when we were doing our own camps. Yeah. I mean, like, I remember how much of our yearly budget went into doing camp, and then how much we charge different people and all the different stuff and
Mike Mage Starting to scratch to Oh, yeah.
David Miller And so it’s and so camp is crazy, until you look at it through the lens of return on investment. When you start looking at the fact that you can do if you take students to a camp that’s worth more than a year’s worth of Wednesday nights. Absolutely. When a student goes to camp. As far as as far as connection as far as discipleship, as far as you know, I mean, memories and experiences that they’ll have for the rest of their life. Doing that is worth a year of Wednesday night you know youth group. So return on so is it extra work of course, but return on an investment is going to say that like doing that is is completely worth I would rather get rid of some of my Wednesday nights yeah then not do camp. Absolutely I would rather for your meetings like like I would rather figure out these. So one of the things I did for slingshot group is is when I took over as the as Vice President for coaching, I bought I made these enamel pins that you know that that went on you know, jean jacket or a backpack or you know, whatever. And I made these pins and we have like 50 to 55 people in Sintra group. But I have 21 coaches, I only gave the pins to coaches. And I said this is for you. This is every time you look at this pen, you remember the impact that you have, you remember what it means to be a part of this team and every time I bring on a new Coach, I give them an enamel pin. Yeah. And and that that became a thing,
Right? Like I want, you know, oh man, I can’t believe I lost my enamel pin. That’s so heartbreaking. Here’s another enamel pin, like I you know, I mean like, right, like, like, this is gonna matter. And that little gesture, like catapulted us forward in this disjointed team because we too are a distributed company, we’re, you know, we have people all over the country. And so to be able to mail that to someone and for them to, to open it and, and to look and you know, I’d get on Facebook and I’d be tagged in a post on Facebook about the enamel pin that they got for joining the slingshot group coaching team. Yeah. And I mean, you know, it was it’s, it was free advertising It was. It was bonding in some way it it made them look at me as a leader as I’m providing free I see you. You are not just a cog in the machine. I know who you are. I want you to have this. I mailed it to you personally with a note from me and didn’t take it your time. of course Yeah, right. Yeah. It was terrible. Yeah. I mean, it’s fun. Right. Like, like, but but the return on investment has been exponential. Yeah. Yeah. And we continue to try and figure out ways, how do we help someone to know that they’re a part of this team and that they matter that they see that they’re seen, and that they’re not just a cog in the machine? Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s the that’s the goal.
Justin Price Right? That’s awesome. I mean, I want to be a coach just for the enamel pins. I mean,
David Miller We won’t sell them. I had someone say, Well, why these are so rad. Why don’t we sell these and I was like, we’ll never sell them. They are they are expensive. There’s something about getting something that no one else can get. And the only reason you’re on the team.
Mike Mage Yeah, yeah. Even if it’s something simple. It’s so cool. Yeah. Well, David, this has been amazing. Like this is awesome. Because like Justin said, I feel like we got a free coaching session. So I’m super, super grateful for you for what you do to the slingshot group, but for your book is well, I just want one quick thing before we head out. Where is where are some places where people can catch up with you and see all the cool things you got going on?
David Miller Yea you know I really do most of the stuff that I do through slingshot group so slingshot group org is is the site you know, we have that as kind of all of our social media I have the the blessing and curse of having the name David Miller. So good luck finding me on social media as one of the most common names in America. But most of my stuff it’s it’s I’m David Miller is like social for most of my shirt, but stuff that I’m doing. And then check out the podcast. I mean, yeah, we’re on we’re about to launch season four and putting some different stuff out.
Mike Mage Yeah, and the it’s just the slingshot group podcast
David Miller Slingshot Group Podcast. Awesome.
Justin Price Yeah. Really appreciate your work. Appreciate your time
So fun being with you guys. Mike, we could go on for another hour easily on going north and I know you’ve got a lot of time. Thoughts on it? Maybe we’ll even do a follow up podcast, maybe like a little bonus follow podcast because, you know, we just touched the surface on going north with David, try to keep this into some sort of a format of a podcast and and just let him tease you a little bit you should definitely get the book. Yeah. improv leadership. It’s available places that books are sold. And on Amazon Yeah. Which he didn’t, he didn’t say, but we will say that for him and, and dig into these things. But, you know, he threw us a softball pitch with the precision praise. But the going north is is super, super tough to do
Mike Mage Well, and I think that out of the two of the five that he was really talking about, I mean, like all five of them can really increase your capacity and your ability as a leader. And really like as I was reading through them, in jest, and I sort of just like we probably shouldn’t go into all four cuz that yeah, that’s why you can get the book. And but, but the the precision praising you know like that’s something you can do tomorrow. That’s something that you can do right now. I mean get out your phone and text your bass player or your drummer or you know your your comms director or something and figure out something small that’s organic and authentic, and really just begin to change the trajectory of their life by simply saying, Thank you. I mean, like, That’s incredible.
Justin Price It’s so good. It’s something we can’t do enough of Mike and you are really, really good at it. And I feel like I get a little better just by being around you, because it’s just kind of wears off a little bit on it. You know, one way that our listeners could actually practice it right now would be to go over to, like, wherever you’re listening to your podcasts from iTunes, and actually leave a little encouragement, a little precision praise on this podcast. It would help us a ton or jump on like Facebook and be like, Hey, have you guys heard this podcast? That’s really great. Mike mage is the best podcast host in the history of podcasts or, you know, whatever it is that you’re feeling authentically. I know mostly that would be that But whatever it is, that would be a really good way to practice you know, I think just to give you something tangible to go and do right now, that would be super super appreciated and helped helpful to us as we continue to to grow this as an opportunity to give you all more free content. Mike, what else what else we got for today? Any any teasers for next week? I’ve got a I got a little teaser for one coming up.
Mike Mage Oh, let’s hear it. You want to hear it? I I would love to hear it.
Justin Price So our next podcast is actually kind of a crazy one. This this girl, we promised you guys we would try to be more diverse. And we promised you all that we would try to be more diverse. And race right. This girl is is a really, really ridiculously talented designer. And I know that a lot of us are worship leaders and pastor roles and things like that. And it’s like what is designer have to do with anything? And maybe the graphic side of people are going, Oh, yeah, it’s graphic. She is an interior designer. She is a licensed interior designer. She went to school, she has a Master’s then she went to Italy learned Italian to get her degree in Italian design, which they only teach in Italian. So you have to learn the language to get this degree her master’s there in oh nine. And she’s coming on. She’s actually the design lead for a large church. And she is not on staff. She is a contracted design lead and there is nothing inside of their building that they do that doesn’t pass through her desk. As a contractor. She is hired out to do that and she does lines all their campuses. This is a church that has seven or eight campuses. And at first we were like, well, what would that even? How would that even relate to our audience? You know, a lot of us are doing 10 jobs in our church, you know, like, the last thing we need to worry about is interior design. But the reality is, we do need to worry about interior design. And also people are thinking about closing their doors, and not having church, this is a really good time to maybe fix some of your environmental design things. And it’s not about big budgets. It’s just about knowing the right things to do.
Mike Mage Justin, that sounds amazing. I can’t wait as a guy who is a worship leader and sort of like a pretty small church. I was terrible at Interior designing and really just like figuring out where things should physically go in a room to make it feel the most inviting to make it feel the most warm. And really everything that people experience when they walk through your doors will have an impact on them. And is just like you said, Like now’s the time. You know, when you’re not having anybody in your room, now’s the time to maybe change some stuff up and freshen some stuff up. So, yeah, look really looking forward to that. Once again, thank you so much for joining us for the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.
Mike Mage and Justin Price are joined by social media guru Vince DiGuglielmo to discuss common mistakes churches make on social media, and how to build a community online.
On Instagram: @kiptharipper
Mike Mage Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast.
Mike Mage Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life. I’m your host Mike Mage and I am joined as always by my co host, Justin Price. Justin, how’s it going?
Justin Price It is going so well.
Mike Mage Has anything happened in like the last three months that is pushed your entire world onto social media at all? Has anything happened?
Justin Price For me personally I started a remodel three months ago at my house. It hasn’t pushed my world into social media, but it has flipped it upside down. Because we’ve been trying to do a remodel through COVID. Well, so well.
Mike Mage Most people aren’t having to deal with remodel, but most everybody is having to deal with COVID or COVID-19.
Justin Price Everyon’e Got their own remodel. Yeah. Way out their own thing. And there has been a lot of home home projects since quarantining.
Justin Price Well, that’s that’s probably something that everyone is having to deal with for sure.
Mike Mage But I, we, you and I both thought that it would be a really good idea to have someone on to talk to us to talk to churches and ministries and church leaders about social media, and you happen to work, you lead a company called vers creative, and you have a lot of great strategic thinking and action around social media, as most creative companies do nowadays, and so do churches. And so we decided to bring on Vince, I’m gonna try and try and say this, right. yep, I messed it up. But we had an awesome conversation about social media and really just kind of where to sit Your goals to begin your content creation for social media and suggestion, what do you think of this conversation?
Justin Price For me, I pretty much like anything that Vince says he’s one of my favorite humans in the whole world. I’ve known Vince for a long time and had to fight for a long time to, to hire him to wait for him just the right time to hire him. And, you know, every account he has touched for us has been phenomenal. He just he’s so good at community management. A lot of people think about social media managing is like coming up with posts. And it’s not like he’s he is about how to get people talking and how to foster relationships on social. And, you know, I think, really, in this conversation, we just kind of scratched the surface. We ended the conversation, both of you, you and I were both like, yeah, we we’ve got to get another conversation with Vince just to share some of these insights. I mean, these are insights that are going out and they’re being sold to you businesses that have millions of followers on their accounts. These are large international businesses that Vince is managing. And he is sharing today with you guys a couple of like key insights into how he kind of approaches every single account that he’s managing. So I love it. His perspective on the church, his perspective on social is so authentic. Vince is literally made of gold. His heart is incredible. And I think you guys are gonna get a lot out of this. Well,
Mike Mage without any further ado, let’s go ahead and get into our conversation.
Justin Price I think if the passion for Jesus, in the passion for the church and the passion for the community, aren’t there, this is not gonna happen. It’s never gonna happen for you on social media.
Mike Mage Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. We have an incredible episode today about something that we all are having to deal with and that we all could get a little better at. So on our panel, Cast today we have Vince DiGuglielmo. Hopefully I’m saying that correctly.
Vince DiGuglielmo Close enough.
Mike Mage Yes. So Vince, Vince, how are you doing today, man?
Vince DiGuglielmo I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me on.
Mike Mage Yeah. So we we are having Vince on because he is a social media master over at verse creative, and we’re so grateful to have him on. So, Vince, we would love for you to just give us a little bit of background about who you are. How did you get to where you are? How did you get to what you’re doing right now? Yeah, absolutely.
Vince DiGuglielmo So, you know, I have a confession to make. First off. So before before anyone clicks out of the podcast, I have to say, I do not work at a church and I have not worked at a church. But I have spent you know, the past eight years, eight or nine years working in social media, specifically for higher education was the brunt of my career. So I worked at the University of Toledo in social media and video as an in house team. So that was the first five years of my career which is, which was a fantastic time. We had a lot of fun. And actually, you know, one point where a division one university, so but at one point, so for two years in a row, we actually ranked in the top 20 Division One universities in the country for social media engagement. Wow. Number 14, two years in a row. It’s awesome. So yeah, our main, our main gig was Twitter. That’s where we kind of killed it. Then I went and I got my master’s degree. Because I worked at the university. I was able to do that. And the day that I took my final class submitted that final paper, Justin gave me a call and said, Hey, what are you doing? Why don’t you come work for verse creative? And I said, I got off the phone with him. I said, Man, there’s no way that I can just make such a huge life change. That’s crazy. And then the very next day, I called him back and I said, Okay.
Justin Price The best. The best story of this is I actually followed Vince through his whole career at University of Toledo. And I would oftentimes engage and follow and like, and we would talk every once in a while, Vince and I went back. I’ve known Vince since before he started his career. And there was this one moment in his career where he had a massively viral, humongous post that went national. And I just, you know, I thought it would only be fair for the listeners to hear Vince for you to recap, you know, the story of, of changing the mascot at the University of Toledo.
Mike Mage Oh, that’s what it was. I was gonna say was it like the blue dress white dress thing?
Justin Price It was better than that.
Vince DiGuglielmo Okay, good. Good. I’m gonna do this to me, Justin, you need to do this to me. Okay. Okay, yeah, let’s explore one of the greatest. One of the highest highs and lowest lows of my career that happened in about a four hour span. So, you know, when you’re working with students, you have to connect with them in the way that they communicate. So that’s what we were doing. We were killing it every day posting memes that were, you know, respectful to the university, but at the same time, entertain the students connected with them. Sure. And that’s that’s why we were so good at twitter. It was every day we were posting memes we were posting content they enjoyed, so it’s really easy to get carried away. And you guys may know, the DreamWorks character Shrek is, was pretty popular as a meme. And we I thought it’d be funny to tweet out. If this gets 500,000 retweets. We’ll change our mascot to Shrek oh my gosh with a picture of Shrek And you know, I’m thinking like, Oh, this
Mike Mage is 100,000.
Vince DiGuglielmo Yeah, I want to make it on the teacher. Absolutely.
Vince DiGuglielmo But, you know, I thought it was gonna get maybe two or 3000 retweets, right? Like, this is funny, whatever it had. In four hours, it had 90,000 retweets. And it wasn’t it was not stopping. Yeah, if you want to go and look it up, you can just google University of Toledo Shrek.
Mike Mage We are we’re gonna put in the show notes. No. Yeah. Then Yeah, we can get more people to retweet.
Justin Price So then he got picked up on national news.
Vince DiGuglielmo Really? I have to tell the end of the story. So yeah, it did it. Good morning, America.
Justin Price Of course, all the time. Good Morning America had talked about University of Toledo. I don’t think Vince got credit for that. Yeah.
Vince DiGuglielmo Yeah. So essentially what happened was As you know, we did that with it without any sort of approval we gave heads up our, our direct supervisor saying, Hey, we’re sending out a tweet, it might get some attention. Yeah, we never imagined that it would balloon into this huge thing that was being retweeted by people across the country and other countries. Just, it just spiraled out of control. We were getting all these news requests and our our poor media, our poor media manager, she was fielding all of these all these calls and had to tell them, no, this is just a joke. Eventually, the athletic director did shut it down.
Justin Price We had to pivot.
Vince DiGuglielmo And it didn’t turn out the way that I would have hoped. But still, it was a fun memory. And you know, for the for the remainder of you know, I think that happened in April. So throughout the summer and into that next month. football season, you would see a few strikes at the football games. And you know people still asking what about Shrek? shrugs? So there you go. That’s my big. That was my big news debut.
Mike Mage I just googled it and there’s very funny USA Today Toledo says its Twitter campaign to change mascot to Shrek was a hoax. Come on. What I put a bad headline that’s a bad man.
Vince DiGuglielmo Yeah, that’s slimy. That’s not even what it was. It wasn’t a railroad. It was just, it was just a joke, man.
Justin Price Wow. You know, so Vince has been overseeing the strategy, the social media strategy at verse for a while and he’s had the opportunity to oversee some multi million user accounts and continue this in some really cool ways. We’ve seen some amazing post in success over the years by just listening to Vince Do things that I’d never know as a creative director I’d never would have thought up I’d never would have even thought about. And, and the one thing that I would say I would give Vince the most credit for is just he has this knack for listening to what’s happening, and finding ways to interpret it into the community. And it has a lot to do with understanding the community, and building a community if you just if you’re out there listening, and you’re like, Hey, I’m gonna try something crazy like that. Maybe it’ll work for my church. I think the thing that that happened, though, that you you got to make sure you hear is that Vince had built this following this audience on Twitter for years before this thing actually happened. And so there was so much groundwork that went into something going viral like that, we oftentimes just think we see the end result thing we see the last post we see, you know, things like that. And what we miss is just all of the, the prep it takes to get your audience to that point. And so I just you know, when I think about Vince’s skills more so than his ability to do this massive viral type of a post is more about just really he’s a genius at understanding community building. And what’s funny is that we get into this on this stuff. It’s it’s amazing how simple some of the things are that that I he has done for our accounts. But but it’s just more of like, the practice and the the putting in the reps. And, and then and then just feeling out the audience and seeing how it can play out. But I’m excited for us to kind of unpack some things for churches. I hope you guys listen through this. We’ll make this a shorter episode than some of our other ones, but it’s gonna be powerful. It’s gonna be really good. Well, thanks for sharing that Vince too. I know you’re incredibly, you’d love to tell.
Mike Mage So, so Vince, you’re obviously you do a bunch of social media stuff, and obviously in the time that we’re living in right now and this hasn’t probably changed, but just the focus from, you know, churches having to really live in social media spaces is now becoming way more of a highlight for everybody. And so I would love to just sort of get your thoughts on, what do you see churches doing right now in social media that is working maybe just from like a real broad sense? Or maybe what what are the shifts in social media? Have you seen over the past three months for churches?
Vince DiGuglielmo Oh, wow, the past three months, I mean, the past three months have been huge, you know, with with COVID, everyone has to put a much greater focus on live streaming and really both bolstering their digital audience. And it’s unfortunately it’s kind of a thing where you know, if you didn’t have those assets to begin with, if you didn’t have a large digital following, if you didn’t have that connectedness or a person on staff who is running the social media, you see a lot of these churches kind of floundering which is unfortunate in it. But you know, one thing I do want to address I want to go back a little bit further because there are two. There are two big things to me that I see churches doing. And a lot of community based organizations doing that are against what really works on social media these days. So if you want to think about social media, really, it’s it’s our way of connecting with each other at its core, you know, human humans just want to feel connected with each other. And that’s what social media at its core really is. You know, when it started, that wasn’t so much the case it was this novel thing, where we we’re really finding out what is the identity of Facebook, what is the identity of YouTube? So the first thing that I really noticed that a lot of these community based organizations are doing wrong, which I would definitely love churches in that category is trying to go viral, staying in that viral mindset. And of course, we just spend the first You know, three, five minutes talking about that track. But the thing is, that’s not as effective before as, I’m sorry, it’s not as effective today as it was before. So you know, when YouTube first started, especially, it’s easy to call out those hits, you had Chocolate Rain, Charlie Bit me these things that everyone was kind of experiencing. But as the internet progressed and social media progressed, everyone kind of specializes what they’re interested in. They’re following the pages they’re interested in. So it’s become a cluster of tight knit communities, versus this one community that everyone’s kind of taking a part in. So really, you know, when you’re trying to go viral, you’re probably spending, you know, you might be spending a lot of time some, in some cases, a lot of money on a big production or something or, you know, something that’s just have this huge scope, and then if it doesn’t work, it’s easy to get deflated. About that, or just resign social media all together and say, well, it doesn’t, it doesn’t work for us. Yeah, we weren’t able to hit it big. When really you’re you’re missing the point. You’re not trying to hit it big on the whole internet. You know, really what you want to do is foster that community that you already have and take what you have in person and bring it online and really generate that. So you know, and even if you do go viral, I think one of the last things I saw from the church that went viral and expanded even outside of the church community, was that the drummer for what was the song Ocean’s right Yeah, uh huh. Yeah, the metal drummer, and that that went outside of the sphere of influence of the church, but that’s going viral, you know, What impact did that have? Right? Probably not much,
Mike Mage especially it probably even more negative than
Vince DiGuglielmo anything, you know, all that to say, you know, going viral. It’s really not the greatest moment. marketing strategy, if you want to call it that way, you know, because the impact is so low.
Mike Mage Can you can you give us maybe like one or two examples. So obviously, you know, the drummer drumming on oceans like that went viral, but that church was not trying to go viral. So because I feel like that’s what happens is people the things that actually go viral are not the things that like people are really trying to go viral. So what does it look like if a church is trying to like, chase down this strategy that is pretty ineffective? Can you give us like one or two examples of what that might look like?
Justin Price Yeah, I saw some I saw some like Christmas things this year, where churches really went all out on a couple of things that hit really well. At Christmas. I think Easter didn’t do well this year. I don’t know why. I don’t know why it was it was a COVID thing. The you know, the years in the past, I think some churches have done well. A lot of churches, you know, are obviously not in a position to be going after it. But I think the larger churches who are are attempting are succeeding with it. But I really, you know, more than the morality thing is is just I was kind of curious to like, Where’s your head at Mike with what Vince just said about a segment in social media escape? You know, what are you? Are you experiencing that? Do you see that as far as you know, is your social media totally different than mine?
Mike Mage I see social media becoming like maybe it’s maybe it’s what Vince is talking about is like people just trying to go viral. So they just throw stuff up there. That seems crazy, disingenuous and like over the top, and I guess that’s, I’m not looking for that in my social media world. Like I feel like I’m I’m looking for what you’re talking about Vince and like, just genuine connection with people. And so like a lot of the things that I even tend to engage with have nothing to do with big splashy statements or super well manicured pictures or you know any of that kind of stuff like I want what you’re talking about, especially right now, where it feels like me as a nine on the enneagram but also is like an extrovert, like I need connection. So bad and I am missing out so much on just the natural rhythms of that. So yeah, Justin, I mean, like, to your point, I think that the algorithm that social media has is so smart and is so well attuned statistically to who we are as people that it’s it is technically I guess, giving us stuff that we want, but it’s probably not giving the stuff that we need.
Justin Price Are you saying his book is segregating us? Yeah.
Mike Mage Yeah. I think that they they understand, I mean, because there are, they are just trying to pull you in deeper to their platforms and like, that is
Justin Price I need to get more click time like more clicks. Yeah. So they can run more ads.
Mike Mage Well so here’s a great here’s a great
Justin Price even sure that’s a bad thing. Sure. No and I don’t not inherently evil even though I know your thoughts on social media.
Mike Mage Well, yeah, but like so let’s say my wife and I were sitting in bed and you know, we’re both on our phones and like my my, so my Facebook I’m scrolling through is I political posts, Good gracious. It is gear talk for praise and worship. It’s people selling their pedals and guitars, on forums. It’s stuff about worship leading or whatever, it’s stuff that I’m, you know, interested in. And then I look on hers. And she has the weirdest Facebook Like, like profile or her. What do you what do you call Grace? A certain Facebook newsfeed. Oh my gosh. We should have a list of definitions in the show notes too. But yeah, her her newsfeed is just like the weirdest crap. It is. It is like, these really strange, like kitschy videos of like, you know, dogs praying before they eat their dinner or something. Or, you know, it’s some weird news story about, you know, some kids getting abducted in Idaho or something. And then it’s like a bunch of moms trying to sell things on, like mom swap sites or something. And so like, it could not be more radically different, even though her and I probably have like close to five or five or 600 mutual friends, like neither one of us sees anywhere close to the same thing.
Vince DiGuglielmo Yeah. But just to answer your question from before, I mean, the things they, you know, to put it in tangible, what organizations are doing and try and go viral. It’s things like that. I mean, it’s it’s flash mobs. It’s, you know, the big, flashy productions. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with you know, there’s a definite difference between Putting on a well done production service and providing that level of entertainment or value for your audience. That’s a completely separate thing continue to do that continue to create good content. But, you know, what’s the intention behind it? Yeah, would be my question. Right.
Mike Mage Well, that’s really good. Well, what’s your what’s your second thing that you think that you know, organizations or churches are are not doing great.
Vince DiGuglielmo Wow, I’m impressed that you remembered that was a quite the tangent. We went off on Thank you. No, thank you. So the The second thing is just treating social media like a billboard or a dumping ground for flyers, you know, your your Facebook page, your Instagram page. It’s not a cork board in the hallway. Don’t just fill it with flyers, no one. No one wants to see that. I mean, if we’re going to be honest, sure. People need that information. And I think there are Are the correct avenues to get people that information? This event is at this time, you know, where we’re having a potluck, we’re having a picnic, whatever it is. That’s important. service times are important, especially with, you know, COVID. Now, is the church open? Is it closed? Where’s the livestream? Where can Where can you view that there’s a way to deliver it so that your news feed or your Instagram feed isn’t just all fliers. Yeah, because what happens is, you know, people aren’t necessarily liking these things, right? They’re not liking, they’re not commenting. So every time someone scrolls past one of your photos, and they’re not liking and they’re not commenting, Facebook and Instagram, especially, are taking that into account and factoring that into their algorithms. So that person specifically is not going to be served your posts in the future at as high of a rate. Now on Instagram, you can actually go and see the accounts that you interact with the most The accounts that you interact with in the least it’s in your follower tab. Oh well, so you can see which ones that you’re not really getting served well, just based on the fact that you’re not liking you’re not commenting. And then overall what that does to the page is that devalues your posts for everyone. Not you know not in a huge way but you know if 90% of your audience is not liking commenting clicking anything for then overall, you’re going to have a less a smaller impact in a newsfeed tour.
Mike Mage Okay, so how can you change that so how can you go from you know, making because I totally see what I probably see this more than the first thing that you were talking about, especially with a lot of smaller churches, you know, like, this is a way for us to contact you know, our people. This is a way for us to connect with our people. You know, as we get rid of our bulletins as we get rid of our newsletters, like, this is what we’ll just dump it all into social media, because that’s where everyone is. So what’s like the healthy balance between? What’s like the healthy balance between, you know, connecting with people, but also informing them? And is there like a better way to do that than just like a post or even a picture?
Vince DiGuglielmo Yeah, that’s a great question. So I think, you know, the easiest thing you can do is move that content to your Facebook and Instagram stories. And email, of course, you know, emails, a place where people say, Hey, tell me about events. Tell me about what’s going on. That’s where you should be sending a lot of those event based, event based communications. And then yeah, of course, the stories because when you go into stories, it deletes after 24 hours. So people who are checking out your church for the first time on social media, they’re not seeing a bunch of fliers. They’re seeing what’s actually happening. You want them to come to your page and see humans where they want to See that it’s a place where they can come and connect with other people. They don’t want to see a bunch of text that doesn’t tell them anything about who you are. Yeah. And then I would say, you know, a third option would be have your pastor or someone on your communications team to present What’s going on? You know, I think that’s okay. I think there’s there’s some transparency in that and there’s even some charm in that if you have someone on staff actually showing up and saying, hey, I want to see you at this week’s church service. I want to see you at our Wednesday night picnic like Yeah, come on down. Well, I there’s definitely something to that as well.
Mike Mage That’s cool. What is like the so if you were to post something, not in stories, but like an actual post on Instagram? What is like a mark for you? Maybe it’s a percentage of people engaging with it. Maybe it’s like actual engagement. I don’t know how you how do you judge whether something is a good post or not? So that like I post something I was like, wow. That didn’t work. I’m not going to do that, again, I gotta pivot and do something else what’s like a good, like stat or, you know, mindset to go and
Justin Price we call that a key performance. Hey,
Mike Mage go. Thank you. Yes, it’s a cake the business talk. Appreciate it. Yes.
Justin Price What what are some of the key performance indicators? Vince, for us the measuring? Yeah, I
Vince DiGuglielmo mean, if you’re talking about Instagram, just, I think likes are huge. I know, that’s super simple. But just looking at the amount of likes, you know, we were just looking at a church client a couple weeks ago, that, you know, we were doing some social media audits and running some things for them. And I just went through their page and saw what’s getting likes. This happened to be a church that posted a lot of flyers, but also had some content with humans in it, you know, they had a lot of good baptisms. They had some events, and you could see the stark difference between the flyers and the humans. You know, when you see something like that, that trigger something and say, okay, post more humans. That’s, you know, that’s just that’s reinforcement. That’s reinforcing behavior. So, do more of that, of course shares. I think one of the biggest things for building community is if you’re tagging people in the posts, and they’re sharing it, that’s, that’s really huge. So how many shares is it getting? Comments are great, of course, I mean, those are the big three. And on the back end, as a manager, you’ll be able to see impressions too, which is great. For those who aren’t savvy and all the social media lingo, that’s the amount of times your post has showed up on a newsfeed. So it could even be to the same person multiple times that will count as multiple impressions and reach is the counterpart to that how many unique users have seen your posts, so those are always going to be helpful metrics to look at.
Justin Price I got if we were managing account for any church and you guys If you’re a church thinking like how can we do a better job managing it? What are these KPIs? All it looks like is listening back replay, stop this right now playback, those things that Vince just said, put them into a spreadsheet. And every Monday morning, go in and just check them. Just Just check your just check those stats, and record it. And then at the end of the month, just look at everything and say, are we doing better? Are we doing worse? That’s how you know if you’re, if you’re improving, or if you are missing the boat. That’s It’s really that simple. So that’s what our like, what our team what our managers would do. And then we would just send a report back to the church and say, we’re doing better or we’re doing worse, and this is how we would prove that would be through those KPIs. And there’s something
Mike Mage that I really liked with that too. It’s so easy for us. I mean, cuz everybody has access to social media right now. And whether you’re an organization or just a regular normal person or it’s your personal account or whatever you want when you post something like there is that instant, instantaneous thing that you’re looking for or that you want. But I think going in in from a strategic standpoint, taking a larger set of data, and then viewing that as opposed to individual posts might just at the end of the day might just help people’s like mental well being and emotional well being rather than just trying to take each post in a singular format. So I really like I love that.
Justin Price That’s a great point, Mike. Yeah, yeah, really good. Well, hey, I you know, Vince, I just was wondering if either of you guys have any thoughts on the fact that I just I’m so tired of seeing worship pictures of like, from behind the pictures of the stage where we’re all worshiping the band and how great they are. I know that’s not what’s really happening. But it was like, I feel like so many social when I because we do a lot Have these you know, church audits and and we’ll have people say, Okay, can you tell us what, you know, what do we need to be working on? What do we need to do? It’s like I look at it’s just news. It’s it’s flyers and, and pictures from of this stage from behind somebody who’s raising their hand, which is obvious, obvious indication that it’s a phenomenal worship team. If somebody is raising their hand,
Mike Mage that’s a question
Justin Price I want. That’s what I’m imagining. And what I really love is when they’re the only one in the whole room, and you can tell the photographer or the whoever’s I can turn to me, like, got behind the one. That’s a bit of a tangent, but I have to,
Mike Mage I don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never been in that situation at all, ever. I’ve never done that
Justin Price not looking through your churches. If you’re in that position, it’s time to move on and time to start building some community and not just post pictures of your worship and even though your lighting guy probably did a really nice job and Probably it’s really dope. Alright, so I want to talk about influencers and micro influencers specifically. So everybody knows, for the most part if you if you’ve been alive and on social media for the last couple of years about influencers, like, you know, multi million dollar per post influencers that have hundreds of millions of followers and, and get paid tons of money to post things for brands, just the fact that I said it, some people are listening to this, and they’re like, they’re cringing, that I’m even bringing up influencers into this conversation. And I think, Mike, you might have used the word slimy. Yeah. But like so this is the world that we live in, you know, that I live in as a digital creative director is helping people’s message get out through social media, right. And so there’s two ways to do that when you’re an organization, right? When you’re a personal account. Facebook is doing all of the algorithm things that Vince just told you. If you’re a person who gets engagement Facebook, you know, allows you to get engagement. If you’re a business who posts great content that gets engagement, Facebook still doesn’t want to give that engagement away to you, they want you to pay for it, we typically will only see like, point 02 to 1% or 2% on a good day, an organic engagement without any money being spent for boosts. Yeah. And so you’re it’s a pay to play game when you’re a business or an organization. Everybody on the track with that?
Mike Mage Yes. Okay.
Justin Price So, so that’s why oftentimes, you know, we for most of the accounts that we run, whether it’s for a nonprofit or for profit, we always have to put in Media Buy because it’s like why are we going to spend all this time making a post and then only point 02 percent of your audience even sees it right? We need to spend 20 bucks 30 bucks 50 bucks whatever per post to boost it so that your own audience who already said they like you will actually get to see your content and that’s, that’s just the game that’s it’s a media channel, right? that’s what that’s what they built and, and good job for them for doing it. And, and both, you know, the whole engine works really, really well if you play that game, but personal people can get their message out there. And if they are engaging Enough Enough with their content that within their personal accounts, Facebook has not choked them because Facebook wants those personal organic engagements to keep happening. And so this whole undercurrent now that there are trillions of dollars being spent on digital marketing that has just been moved over from traditional marketing. Yeah, and and now that there’s so much saturation in sponsored ads, and we’re so attuned to like, sponsored ads and things like that, that used to work really, really well and we’re starting to like really drown block that stuff out mentally when we’re scrolling through our feeds. This underground this this whole market of influencing, underground kind of a way through influencers has worked really taken hold as a very effective way to sell and to get your message out there and to get brand awareness and so even to the point where we’ve seen influencers like Kim Kardashian is just the one that I always just throw out there as one that you’ve most likely heard of. Like we wouldn’t buy something from Kim because we know that she was just paid to post that and maybe and we might still buy something from him from Kim if we’re if we’re a fan and that kind of thing but
Justin Price but like if Mike maids just like generally like promote something or casually you know, Mike, what do you have 1000 Yeah, about that follows. So we would call Mike is a micro influencer. And so from a sleazy marketing way, I just like the most valuable way I can actually get 1000 people in Mike circle to know about my brand is for Mike to post an authentic post about it, and so on. Just throwing this out there for you guys to tell me how sleazy and how wrong this is. But I think when I think about the church opportunities for growth and for marketing and for brand awareness for a church, we’ve always said that 90% of people who walk into the church know somebody else in your church, right? What I know is that like, that’s your best possible audience to like authentically, this isn’t marketing talk. This is just like real deal. If I know somebody who goes to your church, you know that relationship is the best way that you can potentially grow your church through the people who are already at your church, right? So making content that people at your church want to share is the best way to get brand awareness out there to your potential growth platform of your audience. So the potential that you have for growth is kind of highly available within the network. of the People who go to your church Yeah. And so it to me it’s like to take some of the principles of micro influencing, which is basically to supply people with the kind of messages you want out there and the kind of products you want being posted by them. And encouraging them to post on your behalf authentically would be like a ridiculous way to grow your church like a it would just destroy if you just took those principles and I know it sounds kind of slimy but I basically walked through this with another church and we looked at this exercise of like, if you took you know the top hundred most engaging people in your church, which basically means like now when when people start going to your church, you want to get their, their social media handle, and you start following them and you start franking them. And you started actually, if this was a business, this is what we would do. You know, you would rank them and you would go after your top hundred people that are going to your church and you would say Pay you get a free cup. Will you take a picture of it on Instagram when you’re drinking coffee and watching church online? Hey, here’s our here’s our new baptism shirts, here’s our new you know, shirt what this campaign or whatever Will you take a picture some cool lifestyle picture, you know in that shirt or with your family or wherever. And it would be a an amazing way to get everybody to want to wear their shirts. And this is already happening, by the way on an organic level. Like, what I’m suggesting is that we actually be intentional about finding good, you know, basically brand ambassadors and then actually delivering strategies content to them and making it easy for them to talk about us. That’s all I got to say go. What are you thinking?
Mike Mage Oh, that’s it, Justin. That’s all you had to say.
Vince DiGuglielmo No, so so what you’re talking about? It’s incredibly effective. There’s no two ways about it. You know, that people sharing their experience. is always going to be the most effective thing you can do to sell your organization. Now you’re talking about, you know, you’re talking about doing it in a way with the micro influencer model. And really, I would call that even astroturfing. Yeah, you’re, yeah, you’re taking that grassroots approach and kind of manufacturing it. So, I mean, to me, I, you know, if you’re listening to this and you are thinking of that is going to be a really effective method it is it is going to be. I’ll tell you, though, what excites me more than that is when it happens on its own. And you’re giving people the tools to share and reinforcing behaviors outside of a model where you have to ask them to do it. I think to me as an introvert and someone who just doesn’t generally like to impose upon anyone, asking people to share things always just feels uncomfortable to me personally. What what’s exciting is when you see a community brewing in your church or your organization, and that overflows onto social media, I think that’s the end goal. Right? So when I worked at the University of Toledo, our goal, running the main academic, Facebook page and Twitter page Instagram page was to foster the feelings that our students already had, and to encourage them to share their own experiences in a way. Yeah, yeah. I mean, they have the school spirit. So they’re posting photos. What we do when that happens is share those photos. That’s a positive reinforcement. So if someone’s doing that with your church, they’re sharing photos, you can share those photos. And what that tells them is, you know, the church likes it when I post photos, I will post more photos. So and you do that on a larger scale, you’re doing that you know, every week, maybe you know, two or three times a week if possible in the stories or on the feed. That just means that more and more people are going to be creating content around that experience. And what I’ve seen, be really effective. And this is the best really example I can share of this is there was a group of friends at my old church that I was not a part of. That’s not important. There was. There’s a group of friends of my old church that they all met at the church, they I think they were in a life group together, or you know, they just started hanging out, and they were in each other’s weddings, and they went on vacation together. And every time they posted, it was always man, I remember when we met back at church, when we met back at this service when we met back in our life group, and what a better advertisement for your church then you can find lifelong friends and real life change and do life with people around you. So I mean that what you’re talking about Justin is very effective. I’d like to take get just one step further and just say that we can foster that community overflow and bring it onto social media. And that’s where the real advertisement happens.
Justin Price You know, I love what you’ve said, Vince, I think there’s probably a happy medium, between both. So there are certain ways where you could be thoughtful and intentional. And in try to make it available for people to be so doing things like photo opportunities inside of a building, or on your campus. Yeah. Get making it just, it’s the dip. People are taking pictures there. So if it’s the difference of just making sure that your logo or that your colors or your theme or whatever is is made easy for them, you might have twice as many pictures you might have. You know, I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with that. That is a completely strong marketing concept we would give any business is to have a photo spot somewhere within a business. To allow people to share what’s happening there. And or to remind them, even if they don’t take a photo in front of that, they’re more likely to take a photo while they’re on your campus and geotag it into to give you more lift. The second thing, though, is Vince’s we were kind of flirting around with is is kind of a principal, we use that verse that we have been using, since the first day that I ever creative directed a service and that is Vince back back 15 years ago, when we were doing church together, and you were a volunteer. It was is this service shareable in the way we talked about it then because sharing wasn’t a social media thing then it was will people go home and talk about it? And we would do crazy things right? Like we would do some pretty insane things within the service. That way the intentionality was like, Can we do something can we push the content works trying to portray in a weird way. And so sometimes it was like art installations to, you know, to help deliver a message point. Sometimes it was like, we’re not going to we’re not going to do a conventional service structure. We’re going to pray for this, you know, local need. And we’re going to break up in this way, and we’re going to go try to do something different. Or we’re going to go do X, Y, or Z. I mean, we, we took a fresh approach so often because we were trying to say, how do we make this more? How do we make this something that is not just vanilla, and something that people just leave? And they forget. And so so much of creative directing, is trying to say, can we can we push this Can we? Can we push it any further and make it memorable? And now, you know, I’ll be the first to admit I pushed it too far on many occasions.
Justin Price I know you’re, you’re holding back some laughing Vince and you could tell some terrible stories on bad ideas. But you know what I would rather I would rather go down as it with my creative directing, you know, career of going down on a bad idea than not trying and just playing it safe. And when you look at how much those ministries grew, I mean that that ministry when you start we, you know, geez, when we first met that ministry grew by 10 X in like, four years, that was insanity. The next ministry doubled, the next ministry doubled. I mean, just like, really, really amazing growth. And I’m not saying that it was because of me or these memorable moments, but they certainly played a factor in the growth of those of those ministries. And so anyways, that’s where I think is there is a healthy balance is to use that understand that principle and then go, have we given people an opportunity to grab a handle that they could share, have we given them a bite sized nugget that they could, that they would share that they would want to talk about, have we done anything that that has sunk in deep enough where It’s worthy of being talked about. I know, you know, Mike recorded this awesome cover of where the streets have no name. And it was like, it wasn’t the best performance of were three times no name. And I’m sorry, Mike. And I told I called Mike afterwards like it was like, but it was it was really unique. It was really fresh. It was a little it was just different enough. I think what I had been like three years since I was standing 15 feet away from Bono singing that and in the fact that like Mike took me back to that place and connected it. And that was like something that came out of his churches stream was like, so powerful that I wanted to talk about it. I wanted to tell Mike how great it was, I wanted to tell my friends like this gave and tried to cover Bono like, and he did it and he and it was successful, you know, in his own way, and it was unique. And that was so cool. And it gave me something to talk about. And obviously you know, sometimes giving people something to talk about is like really deep spiritual. Live change things and sometimes it’s covering you too. You know, it’s, it’s gonna be a lot of different things. And there’s not some like perfect formula for any of it. But this mentality of going after what you’re doing and asking yourself even just that check of like, is this memorable? Is this worthy? Like, is this even worth like? Because I think the gospel is really memorable. And I think when Jesus was like giving us a model, during his three years of ministry, he was doing a bunch of really crazy stuff. And he was changing the venue up and he’s using all of these different tools to his advantage. And yeah, maybe there’s a lot of bad things inherently about the internet. But I feel like if Jesus ministry was happening right now, he’d be shaking it up on social media. I don’t know I could be wrong. You guys can you guys can tell me I’m wrong, but that’s where I’m at. And I’m I’m sorry for getting on soapbox there. I promise I’ll be quiet.
Vince DiGuglielmo I just want to say quick in addition to that, too, you know what what you really saying is, I think if the passion for Jesus, and the passion for the church and the passion for the community aren’t there, this is not gonna happen. It’s never gonna happen for you on social media. If people aren’t excited about what’s going on in your church, they’re not going to go online and tell other people about it. They’re not going to be posting about their experience about it. So that needs to happen first.
Justin Price That’s true social media can never be the fabricator of the passion. Like there’s no there’s no out there’s nothing you can do no strategy that you can do to make this passion and to get that that underground, that current of excitement and share
Mike Mage well, and I think that that’s if we’re talking about an authentic bridge to like a genuine thing. That’s where that resides in. I mean, like you can, I feel like people our age and younger, are our generation and younger, whatever millennials and Gen Z Specifically, they they know when something is fake. And I think that if you are genuinely and authentically passionate about something that comes through really well too, so that to me maybe that’s like the biggest thing that I’m, as you know, we’re talking about social media and figuring out how to make this, you know, a unique expression of what is happening in your church or in your ministry or in your organization, whatever. Maybe for me, like that’s, that’s the biggest piece that that I need to see in something that is that makes me want to engage on social media. So
Justin Price we’d love to have that conversation more with you guys. We’d love to, you know, everybody who is listening, I would love to engage in deeper also would like to hear stories about what what people are doing to to use social media for good. I think there’s a lot of Really cool things happening in the midst of all the the baloney.
Mike Mage Right? Isn’t that that’s that’s the best word for that right? Sure.
Justin Price We definitely need to have Vince back on mic as well. It’s the one takeaway. I think
Mike Mage that like this. We’re just literally just scratching the surface. So just scratch it. Yeah. Hey, Vince, is there is there one more as we wrap up here, this last thing? Is there. One more thing? Maybe just like one tiny. You know, word of advice when it comes to social media, something quick that you can leave with our audience. Stay away from Shrek.
Mike Mage I love it. No, that’s, that’s beautiful. Well, Vince, thank you so much for being on this. And like we said, We’d love to have you back on again. So awesome.
Vince DiGuglielmo Thank you guys. This was so fun.
Justin Price I know that Vince is incredible. And sometimes you know when you work with somebody every day, yeah, you take them for granted. Right? You know, we don’t i don’t just get to sit down and have enough conversations with Vince. Yeah. And, man, what a great time. So much good information and knowledge. I love his heart. I love how he can take like just slimy marketing stuff and steer us in the right direction with it.
Mike Mage Well, and I mean, like you were saying earlier, he really is, it seems like he’s made of gold. And in a world. In a world, in a world where it feels like social media, it has so much weight and darkness to it, honestly, not to get like, overdramatic but he does bring a level of heart and positivity and just the the idea that it’s there to build community is super important. So I don’t know about you, but one of the biggest things I learned is I just need to post a picture of Shrek and I think that we’re good to go. That’s that’s all it takes. Yes, yes. The only thing I took away from this so
Justin Price in 10 years later, it’s still
Vince DiGuglielmo Track.
Mike Mage No context, just a little bit Shrek.
Vince DiGuglielmo Yeah, it’ll work well,
Mike Mage hey, if you if you liked this podcast if, if this is something that you’ve thought was valuable, we would absolutely love if you could share this with your team, if you could share this with your ministry, your your staff team at church, your friends, even your family. Sure, we’ll take that. And if you could share that with us, if you could rate this podcast, it really just helps us to helps us to not only know what’s working and what maybe isn’t working, but it also helps us to engage with you and continue to create this content for you, the church to continue our healthy growth. So, once again, thank you so much for joining us here at the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life
In light George Floyd’s death and the conversations happening around race nationwide, Mike Mage discusses how creatives can pave the way to a more inclusive and loving Church. We also lay out how the Healthy Church Growth Podcast will be more intentionally inclusive and aware moving forward.
Mike Mage Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast. My name is Mike, and today is going to be a little different. I don’t know how we should actually come in and talk about this. I don’t know how I need to address this. I’m going to do the best I can. And I’m going to try and do as minimal editing as I can. Because I want this to be a little uncomfortable. I want you to know how uncomfortable I am. I’m sure you are too. Then I wish we weren’t. I hope you’re doing all right in this time. I really do. And it’s crazy that Justin and I had this idea to start this podcast about healthy church growth and team culture and a little bit of leadership but also like a little bit of creative practical tips for those in the church and We had that idea so long ago, it was the fall of 2017. And we recorded some things. We did a few rounds of interviews. And it just, you know, never really got off the ground. And we get back together in the fall of 2019. Really the winner end of 2019. And so we’re going to do this. Let’s do this. Come on, let’s do this. We still believe in this. So still great. Let’s give this a go. And so 2020 rolls around. And we have all these interviews sort of banked up. Literally, right. The moment that we were releasing them is right as the moment that at least for America, for the US that the Coronavirus hits, the pandemic hits, things start getting shut down, lockdown happens. And we are doing a podcast of a healthy church growth. And so you know, there’s a saying that says Like, if you will Want to if you want to make God laugh, go ahead and make plans. And that’s kind of what happened a little bit, or at least it’s kind of it feels like it happened and pandemic rolls on. Churches looks weird. Church feels weird. We all go to online platforms and the way we knew of doing Church has changed, now has changed and we’re in a totally different landscape than we ever were before. And you add on top of that, all of the disruption that is happening in our culture and community now, in regards to racial tensions, there’s protests. There’s people getting hurt. people’s livelihoods being called into question, anger and resentment and outrage at a scale that I don’t feel like I’ve ever seen in my life, and I feel like We need to talk about that. And we as healthy church growth, want to be a part of that conversation. And I tried to write out something that I was gonna say about this. It’s just really difficult. And I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a person of color right now. Really ever, in this country that I felt like, has given me every opportunity to succeed, then it’s really just been up to me to work as hard as I can to obey all the rules to follow the steps one by one. Man, I feel like this system is worked out great for me. But I am a white male, that a predominantly white church in a predominantly white area. And that’s been my experience for most of my life. You know, I remember in 2014 I just made the decision before Thanksgiving of 2014 to not be a part of believe anymore is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. My son was born my first son Caleb was born in 2014, June of 2014. And from the moment he was born as probably a couple months before that, I knew that I couldn’t do that thing anymore. That about bellary if I couldn’t do bellary anymore, I’d that’s not the data I wanted to be. And things get right sized very quickly. When you have a kid for Thanksgiving, my family and my wife’s family. We’ve known each other for 20 years or so. And we actually vacation together a couple times which is super cool. I just went over a lot of people who can say that about their in laws, that they can all vacation together the family and their in laws and get along really well. And so we did that this was the second year in a row that we had done that, but I remember watching protests about Michael Brown
Mike Mage And the anger, the pain. That was a real thing. That’s that’s one of the first times that I remember thinking, wow, this is different. And I remember, but I feel like it was the same week. Tamir Rice, a 12 year old boy in a park somewhere in Ohio, who’s playing and he had a toy gun that he pointed at an officer. And the officer shot him. And I said nothing. I remember having a conversation in the kitchen with my mom about all of this. That we were having lunch and I remember talking about and how crazy it was. And we were in Blue Ridge in so just north of Atlanta. And at the time, I had just moved home from Atlanta moved back to Tampa with my wife and my son. But we had just moved from Atlanta and there was so many Black Lives Matters, protests and walks and blocking I 75 in after I remember us talking about how messed up it was. But then I said nothing. I, I did nothing. And I don’t know why. And that’s really hard to wrap my head around. Why didn’t we say anything? Maybe it was out of fear. Maybe it was out of ignorance. Maybe it was out of apathy. But I can’t do that. Now. Know that this issue is complex in me even saying that is an understatement of the century. Truly, he was 12 years old. My son is six. I know for a fact that if my son, a toy gun, something that is very clearly a toy at a police man, he would not be shot. Why? I was talking with Justin and Hannah, who’s one of our project managers about I feel like we should say something. That’s what I said to them. Justin just said this is so out of my area of expertise. But I want to help and I want to do anything I can what can we do to help? What can we do? I think that we can encourage. I know that there are protests that turn violent and destructive. I know there are chaos makers, but there always has been. I’m not even talking about the ratio protests. I think that the chaos makers have always been around me chaos was in the beginning. God put order to chaos. He put peace to chaos. And then there’s always seems to be this pole. back to that. When the way of God, the way of Jesus is one of peace, one of restoration, reconciliation, Grace, mercy, love. That’s what we can do. I think there’s a lot of different ways I mean, for me as a as a white person, as a white male, I have had to understand where I have been given preferential treatment. Even in like how I wake up in the morning. I do not have to worry. I’ve never worried about being unjustly arrested, or worse. Never. It’s our responsibility, all of us to make every life matter, including people of color. Listen, you can listen, you can let people of color lead, have them lead. You can diversify your ministry. So after the George Floyd, shooting, and protests really begin to break out my pastor Matthew Hartsfield
Mike Mage The situation as someone in a leadership position as a pastor should. And he read the verse from revelation revelation seven nine. That just said, After this I saw a vast crowd to great to count from every nation and tribe and people in language, standing in front of the throne and before the lamb. The kingdom of God is a diverse kingdom. For us to pray, on earth as it is in heaven, we have to understand that the kingdom is one of every color, every nation, every tongue, it’s all of us. So why can we get that? There are some churches that do this better than others. Sometimes demographics play a large role into this Where you are locationally I get that. But I’ve had to look at our own ministry, my own ministry that I had up in my worship ministry. And I think if you’re a leader in ministry, you have the opportunity, especially with your volunteer teams, to reflect the type of community you want to see. You get a chance to do that as a leader, as someone who has an impact and an influence on your ministry team on your church or on your community. You have the opportunity right now to be a reflection of the diversity that is found in the kingdom of God. I’ve been have had to have a good look at healthy church growth this podcast. In this past episode we did with my sister Melissa minor, the experience Director at bay hope church. She was the first woman we had on the podcast 13 episodes in an hour I remember remarking Wow, that that seems rough. That test and we have had zero people of color. I honestly I haven’t even tried. But I feel like that’s that’s where a lot of white people are. We haven’t even tried and that’s convicting. So, from this point moving forward, we are going to do our very best intentionally to try and gain a diverse perspective, from not just male, female. But from all walks of life. To try and get a more diverse, more faceted, more nuance. Honestly, more fascinating look at the kingdom of God, not just the one that we might be accustomed to. That’s our promise moving forward. That’s our goal moving forward. And I’m just gonna leave you with one last thing here. I was reading in my reading plan so I, I started a reading plan. It’s always at the beginning of the year, or, you know, I don’t know that’s not true. I started a reading plan. And it’s always like a Bible in the year kind of thing. And instead of doing the full Bible in a year, I did the Old Testament in a year in the New Testament in here, and it’s from the the guys that the Bible project. And if you are not, in any way, shape or form aware of the Bible project I asked you to just check them out. There are amazing, amazing to Mackey. JOHN Collins in their whole team, they’re incredible. They have sincerely shaped my theology over the past two years. And I I just happened to be in Proverbs. But I also happen to be in James. And I did not realize that James took so much of his work from Proverbs, so much of his letter came from Proverbs. And in the same reading, this is what I had back to back. And we try not to belabor the the the metaphor of healthy growth. Our tagline is healthy things grow and growth means life. And even though we could relate that to plants, and we could relate that to, you know,
Mike Mage trees and all that kind of stuff a lot. We try not to do that as much. Just because that’s that’s pretty low hanging fruit, no pun intended, I promise. But this was, I thought that this was this was really great. In Proverbs 22 eight this is those who plant in justice will harvest disaster and their reign of terror will come to an end. And then look, I mean, I’m talking like five minutes later. I was in James three at the end of James three James 318. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness. To plant something you must be intentional. We did not get to this point, unintentionally and that is a hard pill to swallow. I have not been intentionally trying to plant seeds of peace and of justice in a righteousness and have therefore been planting seeds of interest Justice, harvesting disaster in pain. My prayer for you today, whenever you’re listening to this is that you find those seeds of peace. And you plant them wherever you can find them on social media, in your conversations with your children, in your ministry teams, and your creative team, with your pastor, we just can’t be apathetic anymore. I think we can be quick to love, show grace, as much as possible, do those countercultural things that Jesus implores us to do? And at some point, I think anger is okay. I do. I think to express anger, the way that Jesus did in the temple Fine, and I feel like I see that all the time on Facebook and social media. Well, Jesus turned over the money tables. He absolutely did. And then a couple of days later, he gave his life for every single person. Jesus did not stay angry. Thank you so much for joining us. And I can’t wait for these conversations that we will continue to have the more diverse conversations we plan to have. Because the kingdom is a diverse one. We love you, healthy church growth audience and we would love for as many of you to be with us, because we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.
Rethinking Hospitality and the New Normal in Your Church with Experience Director Melissa Meiner
Rethinking ‘Hospitality’ and the ‘New Normal’ with Melissa Meiner. Melissa is the Experience Director at Bay Hope Church and former vocalist for the band Bellarive.
On Instagram: @mrs_meiner, @leaderoaks, @bayhopechurch, @bellarive
Middle School Mike Mage with his Dwight Schrute haircut:
Mike Mage Welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast.
Welcome to the healthy church growth podcast where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means live. I am your host, Mike Mage. And once again, we’re so glad that you have joined us for these really great conversations that we are able to have with people in the church world leaders in the church world thought leaders in the church world, especially for all of us having to tread through this really weird time that we’re going through right now. We just we have a lot of questions, and there’s a lot going on. And so we want to be able to discuss that with people. But we also want to maybe dig down a little deeper into some some more timeless truths as well. And we think that we can find a lot of those in these conversations. And if you love these conversations, and you want to be more a part of them, feel free to subscribe to share and to rate these and really engage with us on all of our social media platforms at the Facebook and Instagram. And we just we would love to get to know you. We would love to engage with you and hear. How are you doing? And maybe we can get some conversations going on what you think healthy church growth looks like as well. Joining me as always is my co host, Justin. Justin, how’s it going, man?
Justin Price What’s up Mike, it’s going great.
Mike Mage Today we have on the podcast, a great interview, if I may say so myself from the experience director of the church that I actually work at bay hope church in Tampa, Florida. And yeah,
Justin Price You were so natural on that interview. Oh, yeah. Thank you. Like, it’s like it was like you knew the guests for years.
Mike Mage It’s like, I might have known Melissa Meiner since the day that she was born. Would you say that?
Justin Price Yeah. That was the feeling that I got from it. And there’s nothing like an interview where it just feels that natural. So that was a cool man. Great job. It was one of your best.
Mike Mage Well, for those of you wondering what in the world we’re talking about Melissa Meiner, who is the experience director at bay hope church and also an incredible worship leader, just happens to be my sister as well, who just raved before this podcast, Justin said that she was older than me and I will let you know she is not older than me, we are very close in age. But I am actually older than she is. And, Justin, what I’m what we’re leading into this interview, what are some thoughts you have going into this interview?
Justin Price I think for anybody who thinks about what it’s like to direct the experience at church, when that’s a part of your job or your entire job like Melissa, is this conversation to me just kind of unearth what a difficult switch. It has been to change everything about your job to change all of the ways that you did your job. That’s right. Really, really, incredibly difficult to do and the attitude that I think she has taken through it is so encouraging. I kind of it’s like, man, I really can’t complain about the changes I’ve had when I think about like, she has got a great attitude about it. And I love her honesty that she doesn’t necessarily have everything figured out. But she’s got a couple things that have been working really well and I really just crazy crazy, inspired by what she is trying to accomplish so quickly and the changes that she’s made so fast that I think our listeners think you guys are going to really get a couple of great nuggets. I was thinking like when I listen to a podcast if there is one thing I could take away and implement, or remember or write down or share. That’s a good podcast for me. This one’s probably got two or three and I’m gonna say we should listen to Melissa Meiner interview with Mike Mage and I right now
Melissa Meiner However, you can harness authenticity, transparency and vulnerable vulnerability in your environment, do it.
Mike Mage Today on our podcast, we have someone who I happen to know pretty well. Her name is Melissa Meiner. And she just happens to be my sister. However, that is not the only qualification. That that’s the only that’s not the only reason she’s here with us on the podcast. She’s going to be she’s going to be talking to us about a lot of really great things, especially in this time that we find ourselves in this pandemic time. And so Melissa, thank you so much for joining us.
Melissa Meiner Welcome. It’s an honor.
Mike Mage And Melissa is currently the experienced director and a worship leader at bay hope church, and we’ll get into talking about that a little bit. But Justin, I think that as we started here, I think you said you had some things you want to ask Melissa before we got going.
Justin Price I do. Thanks so much for being here Melissa, we we’ve been excited about it. Good. Yeah. Mike is always just telling stories family stories about you. And, you know, when you when you were kids and embarrassing you and I know you’ve, you’ve heard some of those and and I thought this is the the chance for you to kind of level the playing field a little bit. And so, you know, I had really just, I wanted to know what it is, is probably the most embarrassing story that you can share with our audience about Mike. That will not get him in trouble.
Melissa Meiner Okay, legally, very good boundary to draw. Thank you for drawing the
Mike Mage The only boundary
Melissa Meiner Right. So Mike and I are extremely well relatively close in age. So we’re only like 20 months apart. And that has caused us to walk through life in like a stair step manner. So basically, whatever He did, I would follow. So he’s an amazing leader. amazing guy, love his family love his wife. Um, that was all the niceties. I got them out of the way. So, yeah, it’s the preamble
most embarrassing thing about Mike.
Well, it’s honestly it’s super hard to embarrass him. Because he is the life of the party, I would venture to say he gets away with a lot of stuff. He gets away with a ton of stuff that if it were like you, Justin and myself and Mike in a room, and we all three did the same thing. We would probably be forced out of the room or fired and he would just be having a grand old time. But in terms of embarrassment, I really want to hone in on his seventh grade wardrobe choices. So we went to
Mike Mage Nobody has A good Middle School experience. Why are you doing this. This one thing
Justin Price I love where this is going
Melissa Meiner I honestly, I tell people that I kind of peaked in middle school in terms of how cool I was so that I had john lennon glasses and braces and my haircut looked like a men’s haircut. So that’s the best that you’re gonna get. Um, but I, he had this way about he was very stubborn about his wardrobe choices and in the middle of, I would say January or February. Now granted, this is Florida, so he wasn’t about to get hypothermia, but he would only only wear a short sleeve white shirt, like an undershirt wouldn’t wear anything over it. And then he would wear these very faded blue jeans and they were faded because he just wore them every day, and His hair was oddly reminiscent of the commonly known character of Dwight schrute from the office.
Justin Price Like for real like, dude,
Melissa Meiner it was it was so good. Um, but yeah, I will say that that’s a fairly embarrassing moment of Mike’s life now. It’s not really a moment it’s more of a stretch. It’s a I was an era, an embarrassing era. I can’t speak much more into that but not apart from that a moment that would be embarrassing was he left one shoe at the post office before his fifth grade year? One shoe, not both just one. He actually had to walk back in and ask for one shoe from the post office. So that was another embarrassing moment.
Mike Mage I don’t know what I was doing or why it happened. But I used to take my shoes off in the car because we were waiting for Melissa in a voice lesson. So like what I need to make myself comfortable right. And somehow and I honestly I don’t know how it happened. But somehow I lost one shoe just one at a put at the post office because my mom had to go to the post office in between And she actually made me run in with one shoe on into the post office
Melissa Meiner JustinIt was perfect. It was perfect
Mike Mage to wait in line
Melissa Meiner Disciplined.
Mike Mage No, I even I was like, Yeah, my mom, get in there and ask about your shoe. As if someone is gonna return one shoe from the parking lot.
Justin Price Did they have it?
Mike Mage no
but it was the discipline of making a child go in to a public establishment with one shoe on. He learned his lesson Justin. He has both shoes on right now I think. Do you
Justin Price are you wearing shoes at all?
Mike Mage I am, no pants.
Melissa Meiner I heard someone recently called jeans, hard pants.
They don’t want to wear anymore hard pants.
Justin Price Well cool. I’m glad we got that out of the way. Thanks, Mike. Yeah,
thank you, Melissa. I will have that mental picture. In fact, I’m gonna maybe draw draw. I think that’s
Melissa Meiner needed. Yeah, that
Justin Price criminal sketches of MIke just so I could picture it.
Mike Mage I wonder if we can put maybe on the healthy church growth website or something? Yeah, like, with the transcript or whatever, if we can put in with the notes like a picture of me in seventh grade.
Melissa Meiner I think we need it.
Justin Price I think our listeners should be going to the site right now. Yeah.
It’ll be in the show notes.
Melissa Meiner Wow.
Mike Mage All right. Well, thank you for joining us.
Melissa Meiner I don’t need to do anything else. I am done.
Justin Price Have a great night Melissa.
Melissa Meiner Thanks so much.
Mike Mage That’s all we needed. Okay, well, I’m too, maybe not better things, but maybe more important things as opposed to just roasting me. So we sort of we, you know, we sort of already established that you are the, obviously your worship leader and an incredible worship leader at that. But I would love to Know how you got to be at the position that you are in, obviously, you know, the experience director at bay hope church, maybe, maybe just give us a little bit of your backstory and in short format, obviously, but you know, how did you get to this this point to where we are now?
Melissa Meiner Yeah. So, um, I started my relationship with Jesus in the sixth grade. And that was honestly where I started leading worship. So I’ve been leading worship for two decades plus at this point, which is really crazy to think about, and one of one of the marking moments was when I got into college, and we started a band that I know that Mike has talked about on this podcast called bellarive. And we were just able to go to a lot of different venues, we were able to go to a lot of different churches, see different demographics of people, hang out with them, worship with them, experience what their normal was, and just kind of learn how to lead worship in all these different avenues. It was so beautiful. So we did that for a while. I finished up college over at UCF and I was working at a church over in Orlando and I just I love the local church I love. I love the community that it brings. I love the life that it brings. I love that. We’re the plan that God has chosen. I think that that’s a really powerful thing. And I never ever want to make light of that. So after the season with bellarive, I decided to move back to Tampa, from Atlanta. And I actually started working at what was then Vandike church now Bay hope church and I was the student worship leader. Mike was the main worship leader at our main campus and it was super cool. I learned so much in that position and forever grateful to the leadership of Van Dyck now Bay hope and just what they were able to pour into me and they honestly brought out I would say gifts that I didn’t know that God had placed inside of me at that point and one of them is to kind of see the whole experience. And so my job transitioned from being the student worship leader into being the associate worship leader, which Mike was my boss, which was really fun. He fired me four times. Maybe five. No, I’m just kidding. I’m wonderful boss. Great guy. Great guy. He’s not sitting across the table from me.
Mike Mage It didn’t lead to any awkward conversations.
Melissa Meiner Totally fine.
Justin Price And can we record your next performance review? That’s really good for audience.
Melissa Meiner I would love that only with the picture of his seventh grade road. Oh, yes. really bring him back to humble station. Thanks. So then, yeah, our our boss, his name is Zack and he kind of asked me to step into this role of experienced director which has been super fun. So I’ve been doing that for about a year and a half now along with this other role, that called The Oaks director, which is a leadership development program that’s run out of Bay hope church for high school and college age kids. And it’s just a blast. I mean, I love what I get to do, I get to have my hand and a lot of different worlds. And I get to hang out with a lot of different people that have different passions, but the centering focal point is people connecting to a life changing relationship with Jesus Christ, and that’s never gonna get old. So I love it.
Justin Price That’s awesome. And then two months ago, all of your experiences changed.
Melissa Meiner flew right out every window that’s ever existed. Yep, just right. Gone.
Justin Price So how stressful has that been for you to adjust and adapt so quickly?
Melissa Meiner Yeah. I think one of the most beautiful parts Well, actually, I’ll stop and I’ll tell you where our church specifically was at the the week that we decided to close the doors. And we were actually renovating our sanctuary and so We were already displaced. And I think that that is such a looking back. That’s like such a beautiful thing that God had already done that he had already uprooted us from what was normal, because we were meeting in this room that could hold close to 900 and close to 1000 people every service. And then we were forced to go into the lobby because construction was starting on this new, you know, worship center. So we had 550 chairs, just packed like sardines into the lobby. And that was the week that you know, hand sanitizer started coming out and you started seeing a bunch of different stuff and we met there the next day as a staff and we prayed and everybody was socially distance. Some people were starting to wear masks, which was starting to be really weird and, and then leadership kind of made the decision to shut the physical doors and just blow open online campus and yeah, honestly, it has been so Powerful, I mean, to see the engagement of online campus has been one of the most encouraging parts of this whole, crazy wild journey. And it’s just reminded me that God is not surprised. He is not fearful, he is not. Under this COVID-19 anxiety, like he very much knows what’s going on. And I believe that this is a spark for the local church for the capital C church for a new wave of normal. And that is really exciting to me. And so, in the midst of that, absolutely everything changed. You know, I haven’t seen our guest services, volunteers and 11 weeks, as a long time to not see your volunteers, and I love them. And I love our worship team. And we haven’t seen the majority of them face to face since then. And so there’s definitely things that are different, but we’ve adapted we now have Have a studio. And that’s where we’re shooting all of our online campus. programming and content. And the team that we have at Bay Hope is really incredible. Actually, our other brother Andy is the head of the online campus. And he’s just the Lord has been working through him in ways that like, it’s just crazy. It’s so awesome to see. And, yeah, it’s it’s been wild, and it’s been crazy. But
Mike Mage obviously, you’re the experienced director and part of your job is about production is about creating, you know, this thing that looks like a Sunday morning production or you know, something like that. How would you say? I mean, it me knowing you and me knowing your role, obviously a little bit more behind the scenes and everything. What is the difference between like experience and production? Sure. Does that make sense?
Melissa Meiner Yeah, totally. So experience has its hand in the entire experience of what somebody will come on to campus and see and feel and know and understand. So apart from the worship 60 minutes or however long your service is that’s what I define as the production element of it so that’s what the tech that’s what the lights that’s with the sound. That’s what the worship team, the pastor the announcements offering, the specials, the communion, the baptism, that all of that stuff that is the production element of what the guests will experience but outside of that, it’s the parking lot. It’s the lobby, it’s the coffee if the it is the coffee good. Are the bathrooms clean? Is there a place for a young mom to go if their baby’s crying are people being kind when they’re being walked to their new kids room, stuff like that. So it’s, I don’t want to say quality control because that makes it sound like Like retail, but it’s making sure that the first time guest is experiencing the next level of hospitality. And the reason why we do that it’s very intentional because Andy Stanley has this visual of a funnel that everything at church is a funnel. And I get the honor to be the start of the funnel. So from the moment that they step onto the campus, are they experiencing Jesus even if they don’t know it yet? Is Is it engaging? Is it welcoming, because one thing can set somebody off, and then mate, who knows, like, who knows what their relationship will do with Jesus would be like, one way or another. And so our goal is to really make sure that they feel like they are wanted there and that they are welcome and that they’re not alone. And you know, the ultimate the final goal is that they would engage with Jesus and that their life would be changed and then their family would be changed and then they would bring their friends and that they have experience that. So I would say that production is definitely a huge component. And I have my hand in that as well. But for me, it’s more of the global Yeah. Sunday morning experience. Right. Right.
Justin Price It sounds it sounds like some churches might call that a hospitality mixed in with maybe just giving a hospitality position a bit more oversight and ownership.
Melissa Meiner Yeah,definitely.
Mike Mage Well, and like one of the reasons that I think it’s it’s cool that we’re talking about this is because, you know, most churches I think in America don’t have either the bandwidth or even the budget really to like and I think it is becoming more of a thing though hospitality is people are starting to understand more and more that like this experience is goes beyond the 60 minutes service or however long your services and extends far beyond what’s after in what’s before it, but I just I remember and just I don’t know if You are we’re like this at all like when you were working in churches, but when I was the worship leader at a smaller church, the idea that church started when someone arrived on campus, and that it didn’t, that it ended when people drove off the campus, and even extended when they’re in their car after that as well, like those thoughts never crept into my mind. And so I just, I think it’s it’s super important for whoever’s listening, whether you’re, whether you’re the worship leader, or whether you’re the communications person or even, you know, some sort of in the creative arts department. What you’re doing is impacting and affecting a lot more than just that moment that you’re doing something this Yep, it just did you have those thoughts at all, when you were leading worship at a church because I definitely didn’t.
Justin Price Early early on, I didn’t but I think as a creative director, I had some really great mentors who were both experiential designers. So they, you know, they were doing digital things that were pretty groundbreaking I think and helped me understand how to translate that to the church. And then also had, I got connected with a friend of mine, named her name is Jacki Arena. And she’s a hospitality designer. So she just, she’s the one who like designs, all of the rules for Marriott, and for like, these big, you know, hotel brands. And so she was going to the church and she’s like, I feel like God’s called me to volunteer somehow, but like, I don’t really know how and I was like, This is crazy. Yeah. And so she actually helped a lot and I was like, man, every church building should be treated like a hospitality building. Totally. And we should think through like the like, and this is somebody who’s dedicated their whole career. I mean, she’s, she’s been doing this for 25 years. She has designed hotels all over the country and different countries. So she brought in everything from just, you know, material wear and tear to the design of materials to understanding and picking surfaces that you touch. how that translates to the user that we were going after the specific type of audience we wanted at that church. And then that kind of worked so well, when we redesigned and started to take the brand into a physical form that we actually said, we’re going to carry this all the way to the ends of the property. And so the Front Entry signage, we wanted to carry the brand story all the way from there. And so as you came in, and as you entered, we were starting to tell this story, what was what God was doing and what we intended for people to do. And that sounds like really philosophical, but it was as simple as like, we put out signs on an A frame, right? And that started preparing people to think about it and it wasn’t because we saw some other church doing it. It was it was beautiful. It was becoming we felt like God was calling us to do something with our, with our congregation.
Mike Mage Let’s think about that for just a second. So, like a church who might not have, you know, the budget or the capacity to think or to hire like a hospitality or experienced director? What are some like? What are some tips that you could give them some practical ideas on how they can think outside of just the music or outside of just the message or outside of how do these lights look? You know, what are some tips to maybe get them thinking outside of the production element of the service?
Melissa Meiner Sure. I think a main thing for me is I try to pray three words, over and over, either when I’m leading worship or just leading a group of people, whether it’s the Oaks kids or whether it’s in a hospitality setting, and it’s authenticity, transparency and vulnerability. And those three keys I feel like are going to unlock A lot of things in people’s lives. And so However, you can harness authenticity, transparency and vulnerability in your environment, do it. For us, that looks a lot like in our lobby, we have a lot of space that are that’s open, where people can stand and they can talk to one another. But we also have spaces where you can sit and you can kind of huddle. And I’ve seen people use that space to talk and to hang out and sometimes they’re praying and sometimes it becomes like this like super sacred moment and you’re like, Oh my gosh, I gotta get out of here, you know, like, but I would say whatever it takes to allow people to be real and to to fight the monster of having to button up to come to church. I don’t think that that has any sort of room in our culture today because everything is so levelled, especially right now, and I think that that’s going to be part of the new normal walking into churches is the megachurch pastor and the worship leader that is faithfully shepherding his flock of 72 people. They’re on the same level right now. And they’re on the same social media platform, and they’re on the same YouTube. And I just think it’s going to be really important to put your best foot forward that people might be honest. And so that’s a tip. However, you can harness that honesty. I think that not every church is the same. I think that whoever’s listening you have different demographic of people I am no I am in no way, shape or form claiming to be an expert on anything. But I do know that God has put you in this place for a specific reason. And so however you can seek God within your strategy for the new normal, I think is is really critical. And I’m reading through Genesis right now. And so I’m reading Through these different characters, and it’s wild and untamed and so crazy, and I’m reading through Joseph, and he’s an amazing leader, because he has taken his circumstance and his situation. You know, his other brothers, they left him for dead literally, they thought he was dead for years and years. Lo and behold, he’s like second in command of all of Egypt. And he has this dream, and he tells them and that’s how this whole thing starts. And then the dream comes true. And there’s a famine and, you know, he has this incredible head on his shoulders where he’s able to pull his perspective out of the current moment and look at all of it and he was able to say to his brothers, don’t be upset, don’t be angry, because God has preserved life through this situation. And to, to have that sort of mentality in what we’re walking through right now to pull yourself out of whatever situation you might be walking through. Whatever demographic you might be leading into, just say, like, God’s doing a good work here. How can I harness that in every aspect of what somebody is going to see touch, feel, hear, drink, if it’s coffee, you know, how can I harness that for the good?
Justin Price I want to I do really want to ask you about this, like so you used to be able to impact people’s experience by offering services, whether that would be mints in the bathroom, totally making sure that the bathrooms were clean, you had coffee, and now you are in this level playing field going against productions. pastors, worship teams, who have access to your audience now, right. 24 seven, and they, you know, they’re different. And again, I it’s hard to say they’re not competition, but they’re certainly vying for for people’s time. And you want to create that experience that God has called you guys to do but, you’ve lost like all of the tools in your tool belt like the the different pieces that you would typically be able to get their attention with when you could even hold their attention on your campus and maybe put them in a socially an environment where it was socially unacceptable to be just staring at their phone the whole time now, you only have the phone to talk to them and those texts still come through. Yeah, those Instagram you know, notifications still pop up in the middle of your worship set. So Holy cow, and that’s why I’m like How are you? How are you even awake right now? How are you not stressed out or, or mental hospital because, you know, that is such a difficult thing to just to take on. You know and I I’m guessing I think your team has done an amazing job. You guys really are absolutely killing it. But you know, man, what a crazy thought to think like, why can’t you use your volunteer team to to be somehow engaging online, right? Have you figured that out? Have you hit any hurdles with that? Is there things that you’ve been able to transition? to kind of bring that to life?
Melissa Meiner Yeah, I think that that’s an awesome question. And I had I pulled up this. I have a manila folder for all things reopening. And it’s just getting bigger. And because there’s just more things coming out every day, but Tony Morgan, his unstuck group did a survey of 500 churches in one of the first weeks of April, and they were talking about online engagement and offering online services and yada yada yada and some of the data has been, like pretty incredible. So only half of the churches that were surveyed had online campuses, online services before the crisis. The larger the church, the more likely they were to be offering online services, but now nearly, well, sorry, nearly 80% of mega churches had online services. before the crisis will only 27% of small churches had an online option. Now, almost all churches are using online services in some format, only 5% of churches that they interviewed in all 500, 5% of church churches do not have online options. So like the way that the local church has pivoted has been remarkable. And it’s so cool. It’s so it’s beautiful to see the online engagement, the guest services volunteers, something that we’ve been that we’ve been doing Justin as we have virtual lobbies before the service. And so our guest services coordinator, she’s on there, one of our pastors is on there. And some of our guest services team hop on there just to like, say, hey, and that has seen, like increased engagement every week, which is really cool. And you’re not talking about anything groundbreaking. I mean, it’s 10 or 15 minutes before the online stream starts. You know, it’s an open zoom and we have people but the really cool thing about that is that it’s a lot of. The older demographic, yeah, it’s a lot of the 60 plus people that have been stuck inside their house, and they are just loving it. And, you know, and so we say like, Alright guys, like, go find your seat in the worst, you know, and like, they just turn off the zoom call, and then they’re into church. And so I would say that there’s definitely ways that that we have started to engage people. That’s cool. Yeah. And and the new normal is definitely going to be something that we all have to get used to. But I think if, you know, the virtual lobby works for our church, it might not work for another church, that that could be listening, but there are things that we can do creatively, to engage our community. It’s just been really powerful.
Mike Mage Yeah, churches are talking more and more about reopening. And I know that for you, that is a slew of problems to solve and just new situations or rising and all that kind of stuff. So as churches begin to like open back up, how are our experiences going to be different? Like, what do you think we should be expecting? And maybe like a 30,000 foot level maybe like on the ground floor level, you know, somewhere in between? I don’t know. Yeah, what you’re thinking of?
Melissa Meiner Yeah. So the 30,000 foot level is that no one’s done this. Yeah. So this is all brand new territory. So please just extend grace to yourself, extend grace to your team. The ground is ripe for things to fall through the cracks, and that’s okay. Because this is, this is really difficult. And one of the local churches main taglines, since I’ve been a part of it, is we’re just going to keep doing it this way. Because we’ve always done it this way.
Mike Mage You’re talking like church, big, big church.
Melissa Meiner capital C church, we’re going to continue to do it this way, even though it hasn’t worked in years, because we’ve always done it this way and I have always loathed that comment. I am not one for just letting things be swept under the carpet like that are swept under the rug. Some sort of thing that you put on the ground. That’s fluffy. That’s not
Justin Price that’s a red flag comment for me. Anytime I hear that I’m like, woah,
Melissa Meiner Yes. Yeah, like why why did we not? Yeah, it lazy at best. Yeah, and much worse. It could. It could be really yeah. So anytime I hear that I kind of cringy church comment, but that’s not really able to be used right now. And like that’s really awesome because that means that we are allowed to do things that are new, that are fresh, that are going to be part of the new normal. And I’ve been working a lot with I wouldn’t say a lot but I’ve been Working some with this guy. His name is Reverend Alex Shanks and he’s brilliant. He’s a brilliant mind. He’s from the United Methodist conference and he had written this post about why reopening church is different than like reopening a retail store. And he, he basically said, returning to the way things used to be would fly in the face of the Jesus who warned against pouring new wine into old wine skins. We are creatures of habit and averse to change. So we will have to make every effort to create a new model of church. And I love that.
Justin Price Drop the mic.
Melissa Meiner Yeah, seriously, like, it’s so encouraging. Because, like, Jesus was the one that said that. Yeah, you know, like, it wasn’t like Alex was the one that originally said that like Jesus was the one that was like, it’s okay to do new stuff. Yeah, and it’s not gonna work the old way anymore. And at best, it’s gonna break both right? So like, just go ahead and move into the new territory. So I’ve been using that as a ton of encouragement. And so hopefully for you guys that are listening, like just be encouraged and know that it’s gonna feel different. And I think that that’s a really great place to be. So that’s some of the 30,000 foot level, the more on the ground stuff. I know that you guys are probably working with some sort of other person, whether it’s a part time person, full time person, maybe you have a staff that’s really large, maybe the staff isn’t so big, but I think one of the main things is to over communicate to your staff right now. I don’t think that you can communicate enough. There’s so many news articles that are coming out every day, every hour, every minute, it feels like something is different and changing and the guidelines and the protocol and the phases and the this and that and it’s just so much onslaught that there’s no there’s no greater way to validate your team’s worth than to communicate with them. At this point, so communicate anything communicate what you’ve heard the latest updates to be, what the plan is currently, how you’re currently planning to accomplish the plan. You know, I had a great leadership mentor that said, plan the work and work the plan. And that’s really, he operated his life out of that. So and once again, there’s going to be, as we get closer and more churches start to open. We’ve already heard rumblings of that here in the Tampa Bay area. I would highly encourage you to extend grace to your members that are asking the question, when are we going to open again, because to say I don’t know, is a totally honest response. And you can you can fill that comment with grace and I would highly encourage you to do that.
Justin Price When are you guys going to open up again?
Melissa Meiner We don’t know. We are we are looking at it right now. One of the main so I’ve kind of crafted around the reopening plan. Since a lot of it has fallen into my lap, not all of it, praise Him, but some of it has. My mission is for everybody that walks onto the campus, no matter what age where you come from that they that they would be safe, and that they would feel safe. And we have an amazing facilities team here. So the being safe is going to come way more quickly than the feeling safe. And you know, I’ve been thinking about the five year old and the 85 year old that are going to want to walk back onto campus on the same day, and they’re going to need different things. And I want to open when both of them feel like they can have an experience worth attending.
Justin Price I think like what’s at stake? I don’t know how if we have to like spend much time on it, but what’s at stake is just being that church that had a big outbreak, and what that would cost and I think, not what it would cost your reputation or your brand but the fact that you would be putting your congregation at risk for that, you know, and to lose, you know, members of your church because you really couldn’t wait to have worship back in the in the sanctuary together.
Melissa Meiner Right.
Justin Price And that’s just that’s a very, very difficult weight to bear. I think for every staff right now, totally. Man, and I’m super grateful that I don’t have to make that decision.
Melissa Meiner I know, it’s hard. And, you know, the words mitigating risk. If I could, I could make a million dollars if I would get $1 every time I heard that phrase, but that’s really the number one question right now. And I know it’s uncomfortable. I know it’s not always fun to stay at home or to wear a mask inside of a target or whatever. But a lot of people are under the assumption and the awareness that they’re not doing. Those things for themselves, you know, they’re doing those things for the safety of other people. And I think that that’s a really beautiful missional mindset to the whole COVID-19 thing is to just acknowledge, like, I am not the only human that exists. This is not all about my comfort. I am going to stay home when I would rather go to my favorite restaurant tonight. You know, that’s a it’s flying in the face of the selfishness of the Western culture. And I think it’s calling out a lot of really hard things that we’ve been unable to process in the past and it’s literally making us stare at it. In the face.
Mike Mage Yeah. So I know you’ve been, you know, talking about reopening and everything I know you’ve been talking to a lot of pastors and church leaders in at least the Florida conference, the Florida area, and where Bay hope is, you know, United Methodist Church, so uh, you obviously have been in contact with a lot of United Methodist Church pastors. What is like the general, You know, the general feeling about reopening?
Melissa Meiner So there’s, I’ve been able to be on a call with small churches that are desperate to open. And then larger churches that have a thriving online platform that could stand to wait a few weeks and or months. Yeah, I mean, there, there’s a church in the area that doesn’t want to open until there’s a vaccine. And, and that’s a hard thing, you know, but then you look back at their demographic, and it makes total sense because they don’t want to put anybody at risk.
Mike Mage Right. They don’t want to be the cause.
Melissa Meiner Absolutely. So I the general feeling is that no one wants to do the wrong thing.
Mike Mage Yeah.
Melissa Meiner And that’s really difficult. I think. I’m trying to minimize the risk trying to let everyone know that the staff and the volunteers are looking out for the well being that’s a that’s very much a red thread through the conversation. There’s a lot of offshoots of that, you know, broad strokes, there’s nothing that you’re going to touch anymore on a campus and if you are, they’re going to wash it after you leave. That’s a very, very general thing. Like no more offering passing, no more. communion, no more handouts, no more this no more that was communion just in the way in a different way. Everything’s going to be pivoted to allot for safety. Yeah. Which is, I think is great, you know. So that’s some of the general feel some and then. So that’s like the middle of the road, where everybody it’s like a Venn diagram, you know, of extremes of people really, really wanting to open early and then people really, really, really wanting to wait. And so that’s kind of the middle and then some of the outliers are some people have already opened You know, 4% of churches have already opened or never closed, and just kind of flew under the radar, you know, like that’s in this unstuck group thing. Like, that’s wild to me. And then there’s churches that are going to mandate masks. There’s churches that have, there’s a huge debate going on right now about congregational singing. And so being aware of that, and knowing that singing in the how loud you talk or how soft you talk has an effect on the droplets that are being released into the air and I am not a scientist and I do not pretend to be but these are the small things that I know is that it goes further if you talk louder, or if you’re singing, that’s an outbreak that happened out west. You know, a lot of people got sick out there because of that. Yeah. So you really have to weigh a lot of factors. And I just keep coming back to the reality of like, God put you here. You’re here man, like and it’s a crazy season. To be here, but you’re here and God trusts you with your people.
Mike Mage Well, and the reason I asked, I asked all these questions is just, I think the biggest thing that we can all come back to is kind of what you said earlier in, that no one has done this before, specifically in this context. And I know that a lot of people, you know, you go online, and you Oh, what songs are the is this church doing? What are the children’s stuff that this church is doing? What? You know, what design elements is this church doing or whatever, but like there is no consensus when it comes to reopening your church and how to experience church in this day and age, especially as we move forward over the next couple of months. So I think what Melissa said is right is just give yourself some grace. And, you know, maybe like, it’s okay that you think this is really hard because it Really is.
Melissa Meiner Genuinely just is.
Mike Mage Justin, do you have anything else as we finish up here?
Justin Price I have so many questions right now that I’m trying to process what would be most valuable to talk about. Because, man, there’s just my my biggest takeaway this is this is unfortunately, part of my personality of that I believe there’s just a lot of room for us to get better. Yeah. I you know, and I think that there is an online experience that is proven itself. But quite if I, I don’t know if I’m allowed to say this, but I’m tired of the online church experience.
Mike Mage I think a ton of people are
Justin Price I think it’s that there’s not enough engagement and interaction. I think that sure I don’t go to church to be talked to. I go to church because of the community that’s there. And right now, the way most churches are doing online church does not actually provide that even I love the lobby, the open lobby thing that you had brought up. I have not heard of that, or I had not seen that. Yeah, I just I don’t think that what we’re doing right now can replace church. And that might be why so many people are anxious to get back to church. And for me personally, you know, I would love to have another conversation with you, Melissa just helped challenge and how even just like hear how you’re processing and making better because you guys are doing so many great things. But I feel like there is the answer is not to go run back to church necessarily, but maybe to figure out what steps we’re missing in the online experience, and that people are actually potentially on our campus. And we’re not yet designing the experience for them on our digital campus or, you know, and that, really they’re living with us all the time. And how well are we using our apps you know, some of us have these apps that we just push out sermons on. But our apps can turn on notifications. And we can be communicating with our, with our congregation so many more times than we are with. And we can also segment those communications. So, you know, there are, to me a lot of untouched things that are super hard and I’m not being judgmental or blaming anybody who’s figuring this out for the first time right now. But I really do. I think there is a lot of room for us to grow the church. We know there’s a viable market for online church campuses. Now the question is, how can we make that a good experience? Yeah. I you know, so, anyways, that’s, that is where my head is at right now. Is that I think, Mike, we’d need to do a follow up.
Mike Mage That sounds good. Well, Melissa, this has been incredible. And I would love to have you on again, just like Justin said, Is there any sort of parting wisdom you’d like to leave our audience
Melissa Meiner Well, probably not wisdom, but words short, I just want to encourage whoever’s listening that the new normal will be worth it. You are actually living in the new normal, whatever your new normal is right now. And I, I believe that God has shaken the religious Foundation, not his relationship with you, but the religious foundation of where we are as a culture. And it’s going to be a beautiful outcome. And so, if you are at your wits end right now, I am just I am praying that you would be able to fall back into your relationship with Jesus and know that he is so proud of you right now. He It’s been a long couple of weeks for all of us. And it’s been a long couple months and I don’t think it’s it’s going to be over anytime soon. But please press on. Don’t give up meeting together whether it’s online for right now. In the interim or in person. It is worth it. And God is seen in that community. So yeah, I just think take heart. Yeah, because he’s overcome the world. And he’s not afraid of what’s going on right now. Sure. And I am so super, super honored that I got to hang out with you guys today.
Mike Mage Well, thank you so much. And if you want to find Melissa on Instagram, which is where she probably is the most, I would guess first.
Melissa Meiner I definitely don’t have a tick tock, not because I don’t want one but because I don’t understand it. So if someone wants to teach me how to tik tok, well, that’s gonna be my new normal.
Mike Mage you can teach Melissa to tick tock on her Instagram. Yes, @Mrs_meiner which is her last name. You can find her there. And then also another thing I do want to talk to you about at some point is the Oaks development program. Yeah, where can where Can someone find out a little bit more about Oak
Melissa Meiner Before we do that podcast, we have a website called oaksleader.com. Yeah. And you can go there you can go to @leaderoaks on so you just switch them around on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter.
Mike Mage Cool. Yeah. Awesome. Well, so cool. Thank you so much. Absolutely. So for joining us,
Justin Price it’s been a pleasure. Thanks. I did I really I really want to close out with just saying thank you for I love your positive outlook. I know I’m over here like I can’t get better right now. And you’re just like, take heart. I really do. I love your outlook in your attitude. I think you are doing a really great job. And
Thanks, Melissa. It’s been super encouraging for me. I am not going to sleep tonight. My wheels are spinning.
Melissa Meiner Awesome. Thanks, guys.
Justin Price Mike, I don’t think it’s really fair that Melissa got a chance to tell an embarrassing story about you. It was nice that we didn’t embarrass her you know.
Next time we get her on the podcast, I think it’s only fair that you, as the older brother get to say to tell an embarrasing story.
Mike Mage I think that that’s that. Yeah, that’s a good one. She, she might have a few. And you, the audience will just have to just hold on to that. Just hold on to that little thing in the back of your brain. You know, there’s there’s some things about Melissa Meiner, that might be a tad bit embarrassing, but it’s fine. I think, Yeah, probably. It’s probably podcasting one on one not to embarrass your guests. So I’ll take the brunt of that, you know, I’ll sacrifice my pride for that. And that’s fine.
Justin Price You know, it’s it was kind of weird to think we’re on. We’ve done more than a dozen interviews so far on this podcast, and that was our first female. I definitely think we need to hear some more women who are working in this department. But really, Mike, what did you feel like was the biggest takeaway from the conversation with Melissa?
Mike Mage I think at best She’s in between a rock and a hard place at worst, you know, it just it can get so much harder than that. And this situation that we’re in So as of recording this, you know, it’s May 2020. And our entire world has been disrupted. And then you know, her entire job is to create an experience that is engaging and connects people to Jesus and kinda like she said in the interview, there are so many of you listening that don’t have someone who is just like, dedicated to creating that experience. And you know, it is even harder for you and so like we empathize with you, I mean, we, this is something that we are all figuring out together. And I think it’s it’s actually kind of a beautiful thing that this this might be opening up a lot of conversations with churches who might not be talking to each other. You know, but just trying to figure out what are you what are you doing Church down the street church around the corner like how are you guys doing this? Why are you doing this? When are you opening? And you know, I feel like a lot of churches just want to be on the same page. And so if that’s you, if you are having to control or create or direct or plan, some sort of experience that some level of your leadership is talking about reopening up, don’t hesitate to talk to other churches around you. Or maybe you know, get in contact with us. Maybe leave us a comment. Leave us a message on Instagram or Facebook. You know, we would love to have that conversation with you as well.
Justin Price I think that’s a great point, Mike, that she’s between a rock and a hard place. I think for me, walking away from that conversation with her admitting that I’m struggling with the experience I’m getting from my church right now. Is not critical at my church. Like I think that I mean, I think every church leader right now just deserves a huge you know, standing ovation. For what they have accomplished the fact that, you know, online churches at 90, high, mid 90s percentage wise, you know, just goes to say like man congregations are trying so hard staffs are trying really hard. Everybody’s, you know, kind of in it. But But feeling the burn, you know, Mike I knew we were just talking about how just and they’re kind of tired of being in emergency mode. You know, you can do that for a month, you can do that maybe for two, we’re getting into this like stretch of like, this doesn’t feel good anymore. And now we got to figure out a new, a new normal and, you know, I just besides the empathy I feel for what she’s doing and and the encouragement, inspiration I feel from her, you know, energy to keep going. I just, you know, I want to challenge I hope, I hope that everybody feels challenged to continue to think through the user experience of what it’s like to be a part of their church right now.
Mike Mage Well, once again, thank you so much for listening to this healthy church growth podcast. We are so grateful that you have joined us. We’re about this was our 13th podcasts. And we would love to keep continue on with this. But we can’t do this without you. So make sure to share to subscribe to rate to you know, follow us on our Instagram or Facebook account and engage with us there. We’re trying to get on there more to have conversations with you and find out how things are going with you as well. So, thanks again for listening to healthy church growth podcasts where we believe that healthy things grow and growth means life.
Every Sunday morning on my way to church I run over a newspaper in an orange plastic bag in the middle of my driveway, and every Sunday afternoon I run it over again when I return. It is a weekly staple that has become a metaphor in our house as a literal speed bump on the road to progress.
There is one important detail to note: I have never purchased a subscription to this newspaper, or any other newspaper for that matter. In fact, I can’t even remember the last time I sat down and read a physical copy of a newspaper.
As the person responsible for the advertising budget in our church, I am the primary contact person for all of the local advertising sales managers. Television, billboards, newspaper… each one of them has their own set of numbers and metrics on how effective their particular medium is and why we should invest more of our ad-dollars with them. The problem is, I can’t help but think of that newspaper in my driveway that gets delivered (and counted in their “readership”) whether I read it or not (which I don’t). I also think about the television in my home that has no way of accessing the cable provider or local television networks. The same is true for most of my friends.
This begs the question: Is traditional advertising dead in this digital world?
I was in a seminar recently where StoryBrand founder and author, Donald Miller, was advocating for direct mailers. One of the most innovative and forward-thinking marketing and messaging minds of our time was actually suggesting that we type up letters, print them out, put them in envelopes with a stamp and mass-mail them to people’s houses. A bunch of us in the room started to roll our eyes, dumbfounded at the suggestion. Then he said something that changed my view on traditional advertising. It is not about closing the sale, it is about brand recognition. Think about how you handle junk mail. If you’re anything like me, I shuffle through the pile, looking at the name in the return address in the upper lefthand corner and toss out most of it. That’s the key. Everybody has to look at your church’s name for two seconds to process what it is before throwing it away. This means they see your brand name on the mailer.
When it comes to traditional advertising, especially in the local church where advertising dollars are at a premium, it is all about expectations and positioning. When you have those in line, your view (and effectiveness) of your traditional advertising should shift.
If you’re sending out mailers with the goal to increase attendance by __ percentage or to get a specific return, that’s probably an unhealthy goal and a waste of money. For our church, it is billboards. We don’t put billboards up to share a ton of information. In fact, we would never put a billboard up for an event. We do it for brand recognition. It will say the name of our church, the church slogan, and that’s it.
Before putting together an advertising campaign involving traditional media, you have to answer one crucial question:
What do you want to get out of this?
If you are sending a Christmas mailer because every other church is going to send a Christmas mailer, that may not prove to be super effective at increasing attendance. But when a regular attendee shuffles through their mail and sees a well-done, eye-catching panoramic mailer reminding them of our Christmas service times, that’s like a mini billboard in their home. In that instance, when combined with a comprehensive plan, it meets our expectations. Money well spent.
The next thing you have to consider is:
Where your church is positioned in the community?
For our church, we’ve dialed down on worship ads in the newspaper because if you’re in the demographic of a typical newspaper subscriber and you depend on the newspaper to find a church, you’re probably not looking for our church. However, when the newspaper runs a unique feature on the local baseball team, that’s something that we may hop on simply because we want to position ourselves alongside the most prominent hospitals, the best restaurants, most recognizable names, and influential voices in our region. We want our church to come to mind when people think about what makes our local community great.
Traditional advertising can still be beneficial for your church as long as you don’t take a traditional approach.