How to meet the emotional needs of your congregation through personalized, engaging content.  

In this NEW episode of the Healthy Church Growth podcast, author and entrepreneur, Jonathan Malm, discusses why content is important, but meeting the needs of your people comes first. This episode is packed with practical ideas you can put into place today.

On Instagram: @jonathanmalm


Transcriptions:

Mike Mage
Well, welcome to the Healthy Church Growth podcast. We have an incredible, incredible interview lined up for you all today. And one that I am I’m super, super excited about. So we actually have Jonathan Malm with us. Jonathan, how’s it going man?

Jonathan Malm
Going good. Loving, loving the day.

Mike Mage
Aren’t we all?

Jonathan Malm
I love how, I love how presumptuous you were to say that it’s gonna be a good interview, and we just started like, we have no idea how this is gonna go.

Mike Mage
You know what, I think it’s gonna be good regardless. Even if it’s terrible. You know, it’s one of those things that it could be really good, if it’s really bad. We’ll have to get to that point. It can’t be mediocre. It’s gonna be bad, it’s got to be really bad. So either way. It’s gonna be notable, I promise. So, Jonathan, we were just talking a little bit before we started this, and something that I absolutely love, that we’re being able to have this conversation is honestly like, how much I don’t know about you. What I do, what I do know about you is all the things that you’ve done. So you know, you’re an author, you’re a web designer, you’re a church consultant, you’re an entrepreneur, people know you without actually knowing you. And I’d love to, you know, we’ll get into more of that here in a little bit. But I’d love if maybe you can sort of just give us a little background on who you are. And maybe kind of what you do right now and why we would be interviewing you in this moment.

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, yeah. So I mean, I grew up, my dad was a pastor, missionary, pastor, again, started a mission foundation. So like, I’ve gotten to be in the church world, in ministry all my life just by proxy, right, just by being around it. So I got a chance to work with my dad at a church that had gone through like a massive church split. It was, you know, 75 people in a massive building, a million dollars worth of debt, a new piece of property they were going to build on before it all collapsed. And my dad was called in the pastor that. And that’s where I went to school,

Mike Mage
Easy. That’s an easy job.

Jonathan Malm
Oh, it’s so simple. Where I started working in ministry and started working at a church like more, more tangibly, like actually like getting my hands dirty. And then I started, you know, we were trying to renovate this space that was built in the 70s. And everyone had been to the church in the community, so they all knew what the church was, but we weren’t that anymore. So stage design was one thing that I was like, trying to figure out, how can we update our stage, so it matched the modern music we were doing in worship, whenever you walked in the building kind of knew what to expect, right. Like I wanted to set expectations when people weren’t in. So I didn’t know the stage design was a thing at the time, like I didn’t really know much about it. I just built one. And I blogged about it. And I saw a lot of people were really seemed hungry for this type of content. So I just began researching it and putting together a resource called ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com, literally for, because that’s what people find me my site on is Church Stage Design Ideas, so they go ahead, I’ll just make that the domain name. And that was great for SEO for Search Engine Optimization. So I’m built that site. And, you know, I was really intentional about reaching out to the community kind of creating a community around it. And it just grew and grew and grew. And it was, it was really fun. And through that, I’ve had the opportunity to launch you know, a bunch of other things. Sunday Magazine was one that I started was kind of like, I missed the idea of like, the traditional magazine that had like, really, you know, long thought out content in the blog world where it’s like, you expect it to be gone in a day. Like I wanted something really rich content. So put that together. I sold that recently, but and then with my buddy Joe Cavazos, who’s this uber talented designer, you know, if you go to Photoshop.com, like he’s one of the three graphics on there, like his graphic, he’s good. Um, we launched this thing called Sunday Social to help churches with social media content to to have something to post, have really good quality thought out content, fantastic design that can really be powerful on your social media for churches. So one of those things, hopefully, you’ve encountered me with and then I’ve written some books since then too.

Mike Mage
Just a tiny, you don’t sound busy at all. It just seems like a normal. Yeah.

Jonathan Malm
Like, I have plenty of time. Like, this is like not this is not a stretch to take this time out of my day. I’m happy to do this.

Mike Mage
Wonderful. I’m glad. Well yeah. And we were talking beforehand. I mean, as a podcast known for just as Healthy Church Growth, we I think we went down the same, the same avenue and just what are people going to search for? And that’s what we’re gonna name our thing after. So ChurchStageDesignIdeas.com there we go.

Jonathan Malm
It’s not sexy branding, but it works. Right?

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, that’s and you’re talking SEO, the Search Engine Optimization. I mean, like, that’s perfect. That’s all you need, right there. Okay, well, well, one of the things I really wanted to dive in with a lot of people in is this SundaySocial.tv thing that you’ve been able to create with, what is what’s the other guy’s name?

Jonathan Malm
Joe Cavazos.

Mike Mage
Joe Cavazos. So, yeah, just a tiny designer, just on Photoshop website like the prime not a big deal. So what was so obviously, you know, you hop from church Stage Design Ideas to the Sunday Mag thing, you know, like you’ve dabbled in a lot of stuff. So what was sort of the, the initial, I don’t know, I guess desire to create something like social SundaySocial.tv? You know, like, what, what is the driving force behind that?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, so I mean, I’ve always noticed that, um, you know, working in ministry there, there are very specific needs that churches have, where, especially with the the calendar of Sunday, to Sunday to Sunday, I’m always going to need, you know, a series graphic. I’m always going to need motion graphics for the video. I’m always going to need stage design. So you know, Church Stage Ideas was kind of like that, where it’s like, man, people can’t get enough of this. And if I can just come along and help and, and ease that, that burden of coming up with ideas, like I mean, I could come up with two good ideas a year maybe for stage design, but on top of that sermon series on top of that, you know, so it’s, there’s so many things we have to do just the weekly grind of ministry. So Sunday Social felt a lot like that. You know, part of it was, I got kind of a bromance with my buddy Joe, like my wife, my wife accuses me of like, getting super obsessed with people that I find that are talented that I’m like, “Aw, dude, like, Joe’s a legit guy, but he’s really talented.” And so we just like, strike up a friendship. And we’re always looking for a way to work together. And so he even came to me said, You know, I always feel frustrated, because there’s all these churches, you know, he lives in south south Texas, there are all these churches that want to work with him, but they can’t afford his prices, he can’t go cheap enough, cuz he needs to support his family, right? So it’s like, Man, I wish there was a way I could work with more churches. And I’m like, man, I feel the need. There’s this like social media need that’s kind of growing, and it’s developing. And it’s almost even like going to be bigger than Sunday mornings needs where like, we’re now expected I saw kind of this trend developing. And so we just kind of got together and said, should we do something like this? Should we create a resource where people can get access to your design skills, and then we can ease the burden for people on that weekly social media grind. And that’s what, that’s what we came up with, we came up with kind of this like sort of Netflix model of it, where like, download as much as you want unlimited access, we just create a ton of content that we think is good, and it’s evolved. It’s evolved to be you know, I’m very intentional with the content calendar calendar that we create. And Joe is very intentional with the design. Like we measure our analytics to see what people are engaging with what they’re not. So we’re, we’re really intentional about the stuff that we create, because we really do we just want to help churches, like our goal is, you know, obviously, it’s fun to make money, because then it makes it helps us keep doing it. Right. Like, we want to help churches. That’s our that’s our, this is our ministry.

Mike Mage
Yeah. Well, and I love sort of the the model for Sunday Social is kind of like you were saying that the Netflix model, kind of, so it’s it’s a subscription thing, right? You pay per month, and then you can sort of download as much as you want?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah,

Mike Mage
Yeah. And you can download the actual Photoshop files, too, right?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, yeah, we launched originally with just JPEGs. Because the goal was like, hey, let’s get social media content. Let’s not, you know, let’s not try to upsell, you know, we didn’t want to, like be one of those guys who like, oh, but now you can get for an extra $10 a month, you can get this but we just got so many people requesting A because they wanted to see how Joe arranged his files, like post part of it. Like, I just want to see what you’re doing, Joe. But then B it’s just like, you know, we realize especially I realized in a when I was in ministry, in a church, I was very DIY, you know, like, I saw that graphic, but I’m like, ooh, but like for our, for our purposes, it’d be better if it was this if we tweak that verbiage or tweak that color. So we wanted to make that available to people. So yeah, so there’s two options, we have, you know, ready to use JPEG files or Photoshop files, there are two levels of, and obviously, we just had to charge more, because Photoshop files cost a whole lot more to post. Like, we’re talking about, like four gigabytes worth of files for a single image. Like, it’s, it’s rough. So, that allows us to keep doing that.

Mike Mage
Well, and really too because it’s not that much more. It’s only like 10 bucks more a month, right?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, yeah. So $9 versus $19. Um, you know, I still think it’s pretty inexpensive. Like.

Mike Mage
It’s crazy. Well, it’s because I think that you’re right, I think most people, and so like, 10 years ago, you know, I was I was at a smaller church. And, you know, that’s, like I said, that’s how I found the the stage design ideas website and everything, but I literally I was going through the same thing. It’s you become, as you know, worship leader or, you know, the the resident creative person, young person in a church.

Jonathan Malm
Yeah.

Mike Mage
You’ve got to figure…

Jonathan Malm
The resident young person. I love that.

Mike Mage
You got to figure out how all this stuff works, you know, especially if you want it to be good. And so I ended up you know, as most, it happens all the time, and I’ve taken on the set design, I ended up taking on the tech world, I ended up taking on like all the creative endeavors, having no idea how to do anything outside of music. And, you know, just downloading Photoshop files and seeing how people put stuff together was immensely helpful, you know? And so I mean, I think that’s amazing. It’s almost like you are able even just for $10 more a month, you’re able to sit at the feet of like some really pro designers who are very intentional with what they’re doing, to see, you know, how they’re doing that kind of stuff. So I think it’s really cool. So,

Jonathan Malm
yeah, and that that’s really what I mean, the thing I love about ministry and why I love I love being in ministry at a church is you’re required to be good at 1000 different things. Um, and what’s frustrating is, there’s this increasing pressure as the church grows to, like, be like, excellent at everything. And that’s, that’s like, that’s a really tough thing to put on yourself. That’s like, I think that’s a source of a lot of burnout for people where like, man, I just as an individual person, I can’t be good, that good at 1000 different things. But as much as possible, if we can come alongside and help you be really good at one area. So you have to like, strive less in that area, man, that’s a great thing.

Mike Mage
That’s super cool. And I think that you’re right, that I got goosebumps a little bit when you’re talking like man, I do. I use you see that pressure from a lot of people. And, you know, it’s the comparison game. It’s trying to compare yourself to Yeah, to the church around the corner. And they don’t have those resources. They don’t have you know, you don’t you don’t have what they have, and you’re not supposed to sometimes. Like God is calling you to that unique community to serve that community.

Jonathan Malm
It used to be the church down the road that you were comparing yourself with, but now we have Facebook groups. Oh, my gosh, this Yeah, good. But now you see 1000 churches that you’re not not as good, as you know. And of course, you’re seeing their highlight reel. You’re seeing that one great video they made that year, that you’re assuming that’s you know, you’re seeing everyone’s highlight reel all at once. So you assume that you’re just your inferior.

Mike Mage
Geez. Yeah, yeah, I think you’re, you’re pushing on a bruise for a lot of people right now. So Alright, so sticking with this Sunday Social stuff.

Jonathan Malm
Hopefully healing that bruise not pushing on it. I don’t want to make it worse.

Mike Mage
Well, maybe it’s like, it’s like a Shiatsu massage. You know? Yeah, exactly. It hurts a little bit, but it feels good. So okay, so what I love about the Sunday Social stuff, and you kind of you alluded it to it a little bit, when you were describing it was, it’s, I’ve been following it for a couple months, pretty heavily, you know, and the, through this through Instagram, through stories, and just the posts was, is the ability to stand out. Like, I really do feel like anytime I’m scrolling through is like, Wow, that is that is cool. Or Wow, they’re like, that’s, that’s, uh, that, that that does something to me, you know, like I want I want, I want to see that I don’t want to just keep scrolling. So as of this recording, so we’re recording this November 2020, you know, the world has changed, is changing. And especially the church adapting to the pandemic. And content right now is so, so important. Obviously, it always has been, but especially digitally. And now we’re just sort of outrightly more publicly just saying like, yeah, everybody’s living their life digitally, right. I mean, you and I are having this meeting through Zoom right now. So what would be some tips on creating marketing, or content that sort of is able to stand out or stand above the rest of the noise, because I feel like we are just completely flooded. So even though content is so important, everybody understands that, and they’re just like, pushing out so much right now. So like, what, what can we do to like, rise above that or stand above the noise?

Jonathan Malm
You know, I think the, working in the church space and working in like, we’re often we’re tech people, we love watching, you know, high quality movies. You know, I want to watch Tennant from Christopher Nolan. I love his movies. We just see this quality, we think ah, that is that is the goal right there. Right? Like the quality is the goal. And the problem is like quality, the ability to have quality has has become so much easier now that we have iPhones that have more technology, more technology in them than they used to get to the moon originally, right. Like, we have so many opportunities available to us. But I really think content is king. And you know, I’m going to do the thing that everyone does. Have you seen TikTok like, so you go on TikTok, and you see that these 13 year olds are making quality videos. Not good quality, actually. But the quality that like they’re compelling, the content is fantastic. They speak to you, they make you laugh, they make you so they have this quality to them. That man, like you get more like people are watching this like so I posted one video, it got like, 6 million views, right. Like, and it’s I think it’s like it’s like, it’s like five years worth of views, like how many how many the actual seconds people have watched it. And I’m like, and that was just, you know, like, that was just something that like, engaged people, right, like to just engage people the right way. So I think the key for churches more than anything, is to engage people. So we’ve been trained so often to think of like, Hey, listen, if you want to meet Jesus come to come to our building. Come to our building, you meet Jesus. And that’s how we do all of our marketing, where it’s like, we’re kind of baiting them to come into our building. And I think there’s been a bad side effect of that, where we kind of tell people that Jesus is only in the church and Jesus, not where they are. So COVID has forced us to realize, oops, we can’t do that. Because we know Jesus is not just in the building. Otherwise, that means they’re not going to tune into our service online. Right. So we’re having to, you know, de-centralize Jesus. It sounds horrible. It sounds like sacreligious. But we’re having to really try to show people that Jesus is where they are like, like Jesus, that I mean, Jesus, but like also just being able to like work out your faith, being able to go through discipleship is where people are. And yeah, you have people that are that are asking real questions that previously we said, Hey, all the answers are in our church, and now, they can’t be in our church. So we have to give people answers to the questions that they’re asking. And the questions people are asking is, man, I feel like I should read my Bible. How do I read my Bible better? Or like, how do I get through Leviticus, man, like, that’s tough book. Like how to I get through Chronicles that those are rough books, giving people really practical ideas and really practical tips. And speaking to where people are, like, what are the what are the needs they’re going through right now? A few months ago, during when COVID started as I created this, like, emotional needs list of things, people are going through that how can we speak to that? So they’re going through feelings of anger, feelings of fear, feelings of loneliness, feelings of man, I want to make an impact on this world. How do I do that? And so I try to craft content that answers those questions. That speaks to those emotional needs for people. And I think as churches, I mean, we do this in our services, in our sermons, you know. Every February is a relationship series, right. Like, right, every, every December is a money series. Because those are real felt needs, but they’re also emotional needs we can speak to, and that’s what will make your content stand out more than anything. Yeah, it’s good to have good quality, it’s great to have good design. But if you’re meeting someone’s needs, they’re going to keep coming back to you more and more and more.

Mike Mage
Sure. Well, and something I didn’t just think about until right when you’re talking about, you know, talking about this, and the emotional needs of that people have I feel like social media in general, has gotten its bump, has gotten like, you know, billions of people engaged because it is emotional. I mean, look at all of the things that especially you know, there’s been a lot going on, especially recently, but for a while now, about Facebook, and how, you know, people can the things that are amplified, there are basically the things that are emotional, you know.

Jonathan Malm
That strike that emotional chord.

Mike Mage
Yeah, exactly. And so, like, how can we as the church, you know, engage with people in an emotional way? Because it almost it’s almost like social media just hijacks our emotions. And, and can can turn people into like crazy people. Yeah, but you know, if we’re, if we are to be the church, we’re supposed to meet them, meet people where they’re at. And I think that’s, that’s awesome, man.

Jonathan Malm
Yeah, that’s what Jesus did is, you know, Jesus said, you know, hey, like, I reached out to him, heal me heal me. And he’s like, well, you don’t really need healing, because like, this is just a temporary thing, like trying to do where it’s at. But I’m gonna go and meet that need. And then I’ll talk to you about the deeper truths. You definitely start where people are at, it’s tempting to say, like, Hey, you know, you just got to worship. But the problem is, I as a person, don’t feel the need to worship. So you can tell me 10 reasons I should worship or 10 reasons on how to worship 10 ways how to worship. Yeah, but unless you tell me, hey, worship is the solution for selfishness. And it’s the solution for probably treating your spouse badly, because it’s all about you. So I mean, you you connect with those real things that people are going through. I’m mean, to my spouse, we’re all mean to our spouse during COVID. Like, we all have this rage that’s going on, and we, we lay it out on our spouse. So helping people overcome anger, helping people just be nicer to each other, helping people be creative with their kids, whenever their kids are just driving them crazy, right. Like, those are real needs people are going through. And the cool thing about COVID, the one redeeming fact is that for churches, every single person in your congregation is going through the exact same thing for the first time in almost all of history, everyone in the whole world is going through the exact same thing, the exact same range of emotions. And we can be very skilled at speaking to those emotions. Because we know we know what they are, you know, when everything’s going great. We don’t know what people are, okay, we talk about drugs, but like the majority of people aren’t dealing with drugs, right, like, but we know what people are going through and you can speak to those issues.

Mike Mage
Totally. Okay, so let’s say the pandemic ends soon. Whatever that you know, who knows? So, you know, as of right now, you know, there’s there’s been reports of a vaccine coming, which is really great. And, you know, so maybe within the next six months to a year, you know, the vaccine works and doesn’t turn us all into, you know, zombies from The Walking Dead or something. Yeah.

Jonathan Malm
I Am Legend. I think that was the story in I Am Legend, right.

Mike Mage
It’s so funny. I was I was just thinking, today I went, I went out to a park with, you know, two of my kids and my wife today, because it’s like, beautiful out here in Florida. For the first time in a long time, and for some reason, I was just thinking about the vaccine. I was like, Oh my gosh, I remember thinking watching either I Am Legend or The Walking Dead or whatever. Just like how in the world would people just take a drug that you know, no one would have real

Jonathan Malm
No one’s tested.

Mike Mage
Yeah, it’s like, oh, this is how this is how that happens. So let’s just say,

Jonathan Malm
This has turned into a conspiracy theory podcast.

Mike Mage
Gonna get flagged. Okay, so let’s just say it all works. Everything’s great six months to a year from now, vaccine is, you know, firing on all cylinders, people are getting healed, people are coming. You know, it’s not as scary to go back outside anymore to be around people. Will I mean from your end, especially, I feel like not that you’re necessarily an expert on this, but I do feel like you with Sunday Social with Sunday Mag, even with a lot of the books that you’re you’re writing like you have your pulse on what the church is feeling and what the what the church is doing. So will the church go back to what it was doing for so long? Is there going to be like a sale?

Jonathan Malm
Not? Really. I mean, like, if we didn’t change through this year, then what are we even doing? Right? Like, I think one thing that COVID has exposed, and I was talking to my creative pastor, my church yesterday about this is, is it exposed that as a church, church universal, we’re overly focused on content. We’re overly focused on what happens in the Planning Center roster. We have boiled down church to worship, announcements, a message, and prayer. Those four things like that’s that’s the program of that right. And what has exposed during COVID is that like, man, I can tune in to my church online. But dang, Elevation’s quality is so much better, I’ll just tune into theirs. Because if that’s all we have is content, then we do lose because we can’t be as good as Elevation. We can’t be as good as Lakewood. These churches that do phenomenal job with that they’re so good at it. They have 10 people helping Pastor Furtick create the message and stuff. So if all we if the only thing we see in our church is the content, that’s all we’re giving to people, and it’s falling flat, it’s falling short. Instead, we realize man, the connection, the person looking in my eyes as they asked me how I’m doing and I say, Hey, I’m doing great, but the sadness in my eyes betrays me, that’s, that’s something we’re missing. The ability to connect with someone in a shared purpose to volunteer together. That’s something we’re missing. So there’s all these things that we realize, man, if we’re only focused on content, I do you believe content is important, obviously. But if that’s the if that’s the only thing we think we think we have to offer, that’s the only thing we sell to people. And that’s the only thing that they value. And there’s so much more to Christian walk to discipleship and content. Content can only go so far into creating disciples of Jesus.

Mike Mage
Oh man, that’s very good. Because I do, I feel like, you know, there is, we I mean, we’ve we’ve talked about it, but there it’s it’s almost like creating content is easier than actually engaging with those things.

Jonathan Malm
It’s great because it builds a platform, it gets thousands of followers, it helps you get that book deal. It helps you get on TV. Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s, it’s easy, it’s tangible, it’s easy to put into a box, it’s easy to put into a 60 minute segment.

Mike Mage
Yeah. And it’s almost like, you know, it becomes it becomes so alluring. And it’s you know, it’s great. But there is a both/and to that for sure. That’s really great.

Jonathan Malm
Exactly.

Mike Mage
And so well, one thing that’s nice, and I say that like super lightly, because I know this time has been terrible for everybody. And you know, a lot of people have been have been hurt by this pandemic, and all that kind of stuff. But it is is forcing creatives, it’s forcing the hands of creatives in the church to do new and different and potentially better things. And I actually actually think to, to our church, so our church, you know, I’ve been the worship director at a church here in Tampa, for you know, six years or so. And they’ve always had an online campus, you know, so for like, the past 10 years, they’ve had an online campus. And then, you know, over the past, like two years, we actually hired in an online campus pastor, understanding that, like, you know, online, is sort of this next wave, like we’re coming to it, and which I’m really glad that we did, because, you know, obviously, the pandemic hit and everything goes online, and you need the online platform to even be able to communicate to people. So I feel like we were we were slightly ahead of the curve, maybe not as much as we should have been. And it sort of forced our hand to do what we were going to do in two years into like, a six month period.

Jonathan Malm
I’ve heard that from so many people where like, my pastor finally said, Yeah, you do it and be like, but do it in a month instead of the two years that I was planning.

Mike Mage
Well, for real, I mean, we, we, we got all new cameras, we got we literally created a TV studio out of a room nobody was using because of COVID. And they’re just like, oh, that’s our TV studio now. So, you know, that was, again, his two year plan kind of thing. So what are some ways cuz again, like, I really do feel like you have your pulse on what’s happening in the church, what are some ways that people can sort of look to improve their ability to stay ahead of the curve? You know, what are some things where it doesn’t feel like they’re just recreating what they’re seeing around them? Does that make sense? That question makes sense?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah. I mean, I think the big thing is to I mean, this is just innovation in general, is you look at the need, don’t look at the product. It’s so easy for iPhone every year to say, ‘this is that this is our iPhone, how can we make it better?’ And what Steve Jobs blew everyone’s mind with was like, it wasn’t a phone that he was introducing. So if he thought, How can I make the phone better? that we would have never had the iPhone? But instead he said, How can I, how can I turn something that we hold on our, in our hands every day into the most powerful tool that we have? So if you start looking at what are people feeling, people are feeling isolated. So instead of saying, okay, we need to create another service, because that’s a product, our product is our service. Instead of saying, Okay, well, we got to try to somehow get get something else into into our service about community, isn’t that we say, Okay, well, what are some ways that people are creating community online? And how can we create environments and structures and systems to foster that for people to make it easier? How can we, how can we create conversation starters so that when they’re in, you know, a group on Zoom, where they’re not gonna be talking over each other, but you get to, like, get a glimpse into each other’s personality. How can we empower that? So really start from the need, don’t start from your product. That’s, that’s just what what unfortunately, churches and I love the church, I’m not hating on churches, but we’ve our solution to problems has been, we got to create another meeting. So Oh, marriage, we have some marriages struggling in our church, we better start a marriage group. And does that does help because content does help. But that’s not going to solve all the problems that need to be something greater to it. So you start with a need, then you say, Okay, now what can we do to meet that need, instead of how can we force a service to meet that need?

Mike Mage
Sure. Totally. That’s wonderful. Yeah, I really feel like, I’m not convicted by that at all. Man, I think other people will be convicted by that. And it’ll be really good for them to hear. So

Jonathan Malm
I was talking, so I was talking with this about my with my creative passion. I’m like, you know, to be honest, I don’t I don’t know that I have like, this is the solution. It’s easy, right? Like, right. But I think that’s, that’s what, that’s what that’s the beauty about ministry. And that’s the beauty about working with God is that the solution is not within our grasp, necessarily. We can we can achieve, we can try, we can we can we can take a step on the journey. And God loves when we partner with him on that saying, Hey, we’re gonna try this. God, we need you to step in, because we don’t know we need we’re reliant on you. We can’t solve this on our own. And if a service could solve it on its own, then we wouldn’t need God, unfortunately. So I’m glad that service can’t solve it. I’m glad that a Planning Center roster can’t solve it, because that keeps us reliant on God.

Mike Mage
Right. Yeah. And I think you’re totally right. I think that it has this whole thing has really, like you’re saying a little bit before, but has exposed a reliance on the content as opposed to, you know, the community. And, and yeah, it’s, it’s extremely hard to form community when you can’t really see each other. So you know, that that’s a it’s a very strange barrier. But yeah, and I think that that’s, that’s huge. So alright, so let’s switch gears here, just a tiny bit. So obviously, you know, you’ve done all this stuff online, and really cool stuff, but you’re also an author. And, you know, a couple of books you’ve written: Unwelcome, Created for More, and The Comeback Effect. All great. I haven’t read Unwelcome or Created for More. I did I listen to The Comeback Effect. It was

Jonathan Malm
Oh, nice.

Mike Mage
And my sister, she’s actually the experience director at our church. And so she said, you should, you should listen to this. This is great. But I want to talk about your most recent book, which honestly, I didn’t realize was that I knew it was coming out. Because when we had a conversation with Nick Goodner, the creator of Creative Church, he was talking about you and I looked it up and was like September, Okay, I gotta remember. And actually, I just download it right before this. So I’ll be listening to it on Audible. And so the the newest book, The Volunteer Effect, the tagline is “how your church can find, train, and keep volunteers who make a difference.” And so what led to you and your co- author, Jason Young, to writing this book?

Jonathan Malm
Yeah. So we wrote, Jason and I wrote The Comeback Effect, which, you know, he’s he’s the guest services, or he was the guest services director at NorthPoint ministries. Andy Stanley’s like five campuses or something heard of it? Yeah. It’s, it’s it’s a it’s a growing church. Yeah. Yeah, so so you know, I’d written Unwelcome which is kind of a similar book, like 50 things that can drive people away from your church, right. And I’m pro tip, by the way on that- if you if you have a book you want to give to someone, what I’ve discovered is you highlight the things that you think they’re really good at, and say, Hey, I read this book, and I highlighted the things that I think you do really well. And then they’re going to look for those highlights. But if you’re lucky, they’re gonna look for the things that aren’t highlighted and maybe learn from those too. That’s my tip there. Yeah, so he reached out to me, he’s like, Man, this is like a book I wanted to write. Let’s write a book together. And I was like, Okay, let’s do it. So he gave me some charts and stuff that he gives his his teams and we’re like, ah, and I saw one in particular, I’m like, Dude, this is this is a book a book. topic, right. So Baker Books, help us help us publish that book. And it’s done great. And then they approached us and they’re like, Hey, you know, you guys both work with volunteers a ton, we would love you to write something about volunteers. We feel like there’s nothing in that space. So we’re like, well, let’s, let’s think about it. So we thought about it. We’re like, yeah, I think I think I think we have some content there. So we thought about the three things that we feel like we consistently have either felt or heard from volunteer leaders. It’s hard to find volunteers. It’s hard to keep them because they always leave. And it’s hard to make sure that they’re motivated and doing their best. So we felt those three pain points, then we said, okay, what are some, what are some of the like, truths about how you find volunteers? And you how do you get them? How do you get volunteers? And so we kind of listed those down, and we just sort of developed this content. It was it was really a, like, this is the need, how are we going to solve it? And how have we seen it solved and how we solved it personally, or how we wish we would have solved it whenever we were, you know, in that situation. So, um, yeah, I’m really happy with the content, I think. I mean, hopefully I’m happy with the content, we wrote it. But I, I don’t know that we had some, like, we didn’t have like, I don’t know, sort of like talk that we developed, like, we got to make this into a book. Like, it was no, like, business thing. We just like, how are we, how are we gonna help people meet needs? And that’s, that’s what we put together.

Mike Mage
No, it’s super cool. When I love that, that’s the foundation of pretty much how you do everything, whether it’s Sunday Social, or the Church Set Designs, or even, you know, this, it’s really, I more people need to start with that as like their primary source of of how they’re going to do things from now on. But so yeah, but out of all the questions I get from pastors and worship leaders, and you know, other leaders in the church, whatever is how do you get more volunteers. And I honestly don’t know what to tell them most of the time, you know, like, I, I feel like a lot of the people we have on our worship team, like, it just sort of happens. It feels like there’s this Enigma, you know, around solving that mystery. And so if people read your book, there’s like, 100% guarantee, right. They’re gonna have like, 200 people on the worship roster, right? This?

Jonathan Malm
It will, it will help. I think if they actually take the principles and apply them, I believe that it’s actually the case. Because, you know, the first thing is, there’s just paradigm shifts that are necessary in this. So the first, the first chapter is the idea of inviting people personally. And that sounds so simple, and it sounds sounds like how is that going to fix things. But there’s this paradox, I was just talking to a friend who runs a business about this, there’s this, there’s this Paradox of Choice. They found that the more choices that you have, the less likely you are to make a choice. So you know, they found that, you know, Baskin Robbins has its 23 flavors, or however many flavors they have. But the number one and two most common flavors are vanilla, and chocolate, because people they love this, it’s whenever you’re faced with so many choices, you don’t make a choice, or you make a bad choice, right. So the thing about inviting someone personally is so often what we do in our churches is we say, Hey, we have this volunteer opportunity, will somebody volunteer, and nobody volunteers. But then if you were to go up to someone individually and say, Hey, you know, I, I, you’re such a good people person would you be interested in in helping people feel welcomed when they come to church on Sunday morning? So immediately, whenever you invite me to that, it says, Wow, you’ve seen something in me, that makes me feel like, wow, I have value. I have something to offer. And yeah, I would love to help people make people feel welcomed. So you get a far larger response by inviting people personally than you do by inviting people on stage. So even though you have 200, 300 however, many people that are listening to your announcement, you’re probably gonna get zero signups. Whereas if you invite someone personally, you’re probably going to get 80% of the people to say yes. So you’re going to get a larger group that way. And that’s just one. That’s the first chapter. And that, you know, we go into more details about that, how to do that and how to invite personally, whenever you don’t necessarily know everyone in church, there’s all sorts of complicating factors. But just a little paradigm shifts like that will make a huge difference in the way that you work with volunteers.

Mike Mage
Yeah, it is so funny, because I feel like even at our church, you know, and this is, I feel like this is pretty, pretty common around most churches, if the senior pastor gets up on the platform, and announces whatever your ministry is doing. And A, you think that that’s the only way that that can be done. And B, if no one comes, you have this sort of like learned helplessness or just like, Well, you know, I tried, you know, we really tried to get it out there.

Jonathan Malm
And that can become a self fulfilling prophecy because, you know, I tell this fictional story in this book about this person who, they kind of hated the job and they felt like everyone at the church didn’t want to help. They didn’t want to be involved in ministry. They didn’t really take ministry seriously. And we can get this mentality about our church were like, Oh, yeah, Elevation church can get people to volunteer, but no one in my church volunteers. It’s a self fulfilling prophecy because if that’s how you see your people, that’s how you people are going to act. I love Dale Carnegie, in How to Win Friends and Influence People. He says, Give people a fine reputation to live up to because if we you know, like, If we compliment man, you guys are so faithful and giving you guys are so sacrificial with your time. That’s what they say, Oh, that’s what I need to live up to. And I’m going to live up to that. But if we say, Man, you guys are stingy, you guys are lazy. All right, I’m stingy and lazy. Sure, I’ll act that way.

Mike Mage
And that’s great. Well, so this book, obviously, about volunteers, what has been different about this book compared to your other ones? Like, have you uncovered something about the church that you feel like you didn’t know beforehand?

Jonathan Malm
So there’s this chapter in here, which I wasn’t sure the publisher or my co writer would let me keep in. It’s, it’s this idea about motivation. When I went to business school in college, there was this motivation theory. And this is probably way too big for a five minute segment in a podcast. But there’s this, it’s called the Hertzberg two, factor, two, factor, two factor theory or two, factor, whatever, of motivation, idea that there are certain things that will motivate an employee. And then there are certain things that will cause an employee to be dissatisfied in the job. But so like, for instance, okay, pay is one of these things where if there’s not, if I’m not getting paid enough, as employee, I’m going to be dissatisfied in my job. And so the default thought line of logic would be well, okay, that means that if we pay them more, if we pay them double, they’re going to suddenly be extremely motivated, right. And the thing that they found in research is, that’s not the case. Pay is one of those, it’s called a hygiene factor where it needs to be there, otherwise, you’re gonna be dissatisfied, but it’s never a motivating factor. Um, so there’s things like that in our churches that we think oh, my gosh, this is this is going to make people love to be a part of our church, this is going to make people want to volunteer, this is going to make people want to give Yeah, and there are things like logistics, having welcoming teams, having great parking, great seating, having a stage design, having great message, great worship, all those things. But to be honest, those things are called hygiene factors, where if they’re not there, we’re dissatisfied, but they never motivate us to volunteer, they never motivate us to get more involved, give more. So that’s one of the things we talked about in the book is is what are the things that you need to focus on, you need to have them there, you need to have a baseline things otherwise, people are going to be frustrated at your church. But what are some things that you can get people to really be motivated, invite their friends, volunteer, sacrificially give, things like that. And those are things like personalization, you know, something that’s speaking directly to me things like creativity, things like, you know, life change, which is kind of outside of our control, unfortunately. But they’re, they’re these things. And so we talked about in the book, and that’s, that’s one of the things that I was really excited to finally unpack because I’ve had this in my head for 15 years. And I’m like, how am I going to explain this to people? And I think we found a really great way to do that through the book.

Mike Mage
That’s awesome. Well, I feel like there’s that I’ve never heard of that principle before. But it’s kind of cool. Like how it’s almost like a Venn diagram like some some of them, you, you need to have some of them, you know, they’re they’re mutually exclusive. But they all sort of they sort of play together, obviously.

Jonathan Malm
They work together.

Mike Mage
Yeah.

Jonathan Malm
And that’s it. That’s the funny thing is we have conferences about preaching better. We have conferences about leading worship better, we have conferences about being more creative about having better Guest Services. And we think if we do this one thing, our church is going to grow. And we do that one thing, and then Nope, it doesn’t grow. I mean, some of the best pastors in the world have step tiny churches. Why? It’s because it’s the mix of all of that. That’s so important.

Mike Mage
Well, and it’s it’s funny, when I think about some some of our churches that, you know, we’ve we’ve had contact with, we’ve been in contact with, you know, they’ll have really great worship, but yet, not a whole lot of engagement from their people. It doesn’t seem to make sense. Or, you know, they’ll have an obvious and this is all based on worship, I guess, because I’m, I’m a worship person.

Jonathan Malm
You’re a worship leader.

Mike Mage
Yeah, I’m involved in that area. But like, you know, the worship will be terrible. But people will be so engaged and so excited to come, because there’s some other extenuating circumstances that maybe aren’t actually a bit more motivating than, you know, what could potentially be seen as just like a simple performance on a stage, you know.

Jonathan Malm
Yes. And that’s that’s the irony yet again, is we focus 90% of our time on that Planning Center roster. And none of those things in that Planning Center roster are motivators.

Mike Mage
But you’re right, you know, you need like that the baseline you need it to not be bad, but it but you know, the difference in good to great isn’t going to return on your investment as much as maybe some other parts in the church. That’s incredible. Well, I feel like that that lends itself back to kind of what we were talking about earlier with the content. And, you know, you need to be able to meet people’s needs, as opposed to just like, push at them content, you know, oh, yeah. Which is, which is really great. So,

Jonathan Malm
yeah, I mean, everything that I think is all kind of centered around a few ideas, but like, right, yeah, I really milk those so.

Mike Mage
yeah. Well, they’re good and they they work. And I think that, like we were saying earlier, I mean, it’s what Jesus did, you know, if you’re meeting people where they’re at, that’s something that’s timeless and will never get old. And and everyone has needs. So, well Jonathan like this has been incredible man I’m so I’m so glad that you’ve been able to join us. What’s what’s a couple ways some people can obviously I mean, we’ve talked about a few of them but what’s a couple of ways people can sort of stay engaged with you and updated on the things that you’re doing?

Jonathan Malm
Follow me on Instagram, just Jonathan Malm. Follow me on Facebook. Just get connected with me. Obviously JonathanMalm.com has all of my projects and books and if you’re interested in one of them. Just came out with another book that’s a companion to The Volunteer Effect called The Volunteer Survival Guide. And that’s like a $3 book that churches can give their volunteers that will really I feel like help them thrive in ministry and thrive in volunteering so highly recommend that but yeah, grab one of my books and then reach out to me and say hey, what what you liked what you what you disagreed with. I love talking about this stuff.

Mike Mage
Awesome. Well, very cool. Well, Jonathan, this is this has been incredible. Thank you so much for for being on this and for talking to us about some some really important stuff. So it’s been incredible.

Jonathan Malm
Of course.