Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Perhaps it is the phase of life I am in, or that I realize that storming off to accomplish something wild and audacious without a sound foundation is foolish, but recently I have been evaluating how I spend my time. I resumed blogging on a blog my wife and I used to share as a creative outlet, but have shifted things a bit more towards my family. Being a photographer, I love taking photos of my new son and explaining the various situations through a story of sorts. They are almost always short, but provide me a very fun and creative outlet for documenting the joys of seeing him grow.

That said, I began to realize that posting about my family is so much more compelling to me than posting about communications. Now, that doesn't mean that I don't love communications - I do. Nor does it mean that I think communications isn't important - it is. But I have finally begun to understand what it means to have priorities in life.

I had the privilege of working with Jeff Brazil a few years ago. We both happened to be at the same church. I didn't work closely with him as I was in a different department, but we talked fantasy football in the hallway every now and then, and I always enjoyed his perspective on things. I sat down with him in his office one day to ask about my career in communications. Aspiring to be a director of communications, I asked him if he felt more schooling would be needed. His answer gave me an insight to life that I honestly didn't have before.

The essence of what he said was this: "In life, there are 3 things that are most important. First is your relationship with God. Second is your relationship with your spouse and children. Third is your relationship with your family/friends. So at best, your job comes in as the fourth priority in your life." He went on to talk about the various skill sets needed to be a director of communications, but that first bit of wisdom is what resonated with me for the rest of our conversation.

I'm sure if someone asked me specifically enough, I would answer something similar to that list, but I'm not sure I would have ever lived my life that way had I not heard it from someone in my trade who applied it. As I have been blogging about my family, I have come developed a different understanding of communications.

I have always trusted that the Holy Spirit plays a significant role in moving in one's heart to compel them to respond to Christ. My efforts have value, but are not all that is needed to move one's heart. I have seen, however, the impact of a prioritized life. I see people respond to the way I live, and can see God's action in my life through the way I live. Ironically, I am realizing the less I am focused on communicating strategically on Christ's behalf, the better I am at it.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do you want my money?

I just got back from an evening trip to a supermarket where they don't accept credit cards. As a primarily-plastic kind of guy, I always feel a bit of stress as I fill up the basket. I typically have no cash and don't even know where my wife keeps our checks, so if my card fails me, I'm out of luck. Today as I was shopping, I was chatting on the phone and heard the tail end of an announcement saying "we will only be accepting cash, check and [muffled noises]". I begin to wonder what that muffled option was, hoping the debit services hadn't gone down. Just as I was about to unload my cart, I asked the cashier if they were accepting debit, and she said "no". Eying my cart full of goods, I asked "sooo, do you know when it will be working again?". "No" was her ever-helpful response. She then proceeded to ask if I had cash or a check, which I found annoying (would I really ask about debit if I had a wad of cash in my pocket?). I said no, returned all the cold items to where they needed to go, and left.

I recognize that this experience itself wasn't the fault of the supermarket, as they most likely hire a company to provide the debit service, but it touched on something I have been noticing more and more lately.

I'm having a really hard time spending my money.

It's not that there aren't things I want to buy anymore. It just seems that I am being presented more hurdles than I remember. Which brings us to communications.

Any organization or business needs revenue to survive. If you have convinced people to buy your product, but make it so hard to complete the transaction, you will lose business. The causes that I have experienced recently include: bad service, employees not knowing where inventory is, know knowing anything about the inventory, not having the inventory, or not being able to take money if it isn't cash. All of these are hurdles preventing a successful sale, not to mention establish a negative perception of the company. There are certain places I simply won't go to for certain things anymore. Its a sad day for a company when the consumer is willing to not purchase something they want because of the company selling it makes the process so difficult.

The same applies for communication in the church. The principal is very basic, and applies to just about every form of communications, but it is crucial to view things from the consumers perspective. Who is your consumer? Is it a young church or an old church? Are you focused on bringing in those tho don't know Christ, or developing those who do to be more effective ministers? These questions, and others like them must be asked every time a decision is made. If we lose sight of the flocks we are supposed to lead, we will not them well.

** A note with regards to this topic: **

It is crucial to understand the church that God has called you to be. The biggest mistake you can make is to say "Famous Church does it this way, so should we". Yes, we can glean a lot from the 'famous' churches in terms of ministry practices, but the reason they are successful is because they reach the people God has called them to reach. They don't do what they do because everyone else does it, or because it is neat. They do it because they have determined it to be the most effective way to reach those that God has called them to reach. Be willing to take the risks that will help you reach your flock most effectively, not the ones that are trendy or attractive. The Good News stands the test of time, style, and trends.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Think Before you Stick

I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently, and this article caused that conversation to come up again, so I must post it. It is about the whole Christian bumper sticker/fish/and now license plate thing.

When my wife and I were moving from Orange County to the High Desert, we ran into some traffic while driving up the Cajon Pass because of wildfires. Firefighters had closed off 3 of the 5 lanes coming "up the hill" as we say, so, understandably, there was quite a traffic jam. Towing a trailer of the few things we own, I was driving more conservatively than normal as it isn't something I frequently do. I turned on my signal to merge lanes and began creeping into an opening in the lane to my left. Just as I was about to merge over, the truck in the lane I was merging into sped up, prevented me from making the lane change. So, there I sat...angry that this guy wouldn't let me over as my lane came closer and closer to an end. As he pulled forward, it revealed something that took me from angry to furious...the Christian fish.

So let me get this straight...the guy who wouldn't let me over, the guy who prevented me from merging out of a closed lane in the midst of a traffic jam...was a Christian? If I wasn't moving from one church job to another church job, I have no idea what fingers I would have trusted vigorously into the air.

So why does this matter? It matters because people associate our behaviors with our faith. Even if those associations are completely unrealistic, unfounded, or just plain wrong. For all I know, the guy driving the truck had no idea I needed to get over, and no idea my lane was ending. And yet, my reaction, even as a brother in Christ, was that he gives the faith a bad name. With that understanding, it is critical that we choose our actions and words carefully, as they are a reflection of our relationship with Christ.

This applies personally and organizationally. If you are rude while wearing your work uniform, or the logo of your school, people will judge the respective organization based on your actions.

We must be intelligent when we choose how we display our faith.

When you see the back of a car long enough to notice the stickers on it, you have just been cut off or are being forced to drive significantly under the speed limit and are angry (at least I am). Not exactly the best time to promote your faith... or just about anything else.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Know Your Market

When communicating your message, there are many things to consider. The most important however, is your market. You need to know what language they speak (literally and figuratively), and communicate your message in a way they can understand.

My wife an I are looking to buy our first house. We are very excited, and are constantly trying to be aware of properties available. One area has a lot of new condos that look very nice, so of course I have been casually watching it. I had a conversation with my boss about it today, and he said they were going for over $400,000. If we were still in Orange County, that would be a steal...but we aren't. We are in the High Desert. You can easily buy a nice house in a nice area for $250,000. That is a painfully clear example of the problems that beset you when you don't understand the market. While the O.C. lifestyle might appeal to people in the High Desert, the finances aren't here to support it.

The way we communicate our message as a church is no different. We need to understand our market, and make our choices based on it. How are we making our decisions? Are we looking at our needs in the context of our own community, or are we looking at what other churches are doing to meet their needs? Look to others for a guide on how to travel the course, but don't follow. Each church needs to solve its own problems in the context of it's community or it will not be as effective as it should be.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Adobe Freebie

Last September, I posted about a few freebies, including two online image editors. Well, Adobe has jumped into the conversation with an online version of "Photoshop" called Adobe Photoshop Expressions. I place "Photoshop" in quotes because this online version really isn't that powerful. To be fair, it is an online program. It seemed like it has the features that iPhoto or Picassa has for very basic image editing. It is nice to have the ability to store up to 2gb of photos free on their site, but overall I wasn't overwhelmed. I presume that if you absolutely have to make some minor adjustments to an image while not on your personal machine, it could help you out. Though I have to admit I have never been in a situation like that before. Try it out and let me know what you think. I might be missing something.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blogging vs. Doing

I've been reading a lot of blogs recently that talk a lot about what other "movers and shakers" are doing with regards to a variety of trades and industries. Some of the individuals mentioned captured my attention, and I began researching them. What I noticed in my research, was that there wasn't a lot of information about them beyond a bio. No blogs, no podcasts, no twitter. That got me to the blogging community a group of people who spend their time writing about doers rather than getting anything done themselves?

As I get older (I'm only 27, so don't read too much into that), I am starting to realize what a huge distinction there is between making an actual difference in the world, and a virtual one. Seldom does a blog post change my life. I can get some good information from a blog post, or find a neat little piece of software or new technology, but at the end of the day, nothing has really help shape me into who I am today.

Now as one who posts on a few blogs, I don't write to say that all blogs are worthless. Rather, I am writing to say accomplish something real with your life. Invest in your relationships and your passions. Spend your time acquiring depth in the meaningful things in life, rather than being shallow over a variety of fields an interests. Also, use technology for meaning. I am currently working on a blog that is exclusively for friends and family who are out of the area in order to keep our relationships connected and flourishing. Make the use of technology worthwhile.

Beyond us being church workers, we are Christians called to change the world for Christ. May we not spend our time distracted from the call that has been placed on us. I vow to blog less, and do more.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

New Personal Database

You may recall my idea management post a few months ago. Well, FileMaker has jumped into the mix with a new product called Bento. I haven't yet upgraded to Leopard on my computer at home, so I haven't had a chance to play with the demo yet, but from the videos I have seen, it looks very nice. If you happen to be on Leopard and are looking for yet another option, Bento seems worth a look.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Internet Ministry Survey

The Center for Church Communications is doing a survey to see how various ministries are using the web, what is working, and what isn't. If you are the main web person (or hold the most knowledge about it), take the survey to help them gather their data. The data they gather will help all of us be more effective.