Month: July 2014

12 Resources to Break the Creative Funk

Are you in a creative funk? Do you have a case of the Wednesday blahs? Here’s a quick list of twelve sites that I use to motivate and inspire me when I’m working.

Creative Mornings – This is a series of talks from creative professionals from around the world. Check out the talks from Seth Godin, they’re my personal favorite. (Warning some of these contain some language.)

Chase Jarvis Live – Professional photographer Chase Jarvis hosts conversations with creative professionals in his studio in front of a live audience. If you’re looking for a swift kick to get motivated this will do the trick. (Warning some of these contain some language.)

The Great Discontent – This site features some great interviews with creative professionals about their work and how they began. Also, I love the website design.

Two Minutes with TGD – This is an off-shoot of The Great Discontent featuring two minute interviews with some today’s top creative professionals. (Warning some of these contain some language.)

99U – This is my favorite website for learning about productivity. They also host the 99U conference which also a great resource for inspiration. Check out their videos here.

Fast Co.Create – I’ve always had a subscription to Fast Company magazine and if you’re looking for a site with creative marketing ideas, this is a good start.

Vimeo Kinetic Typography Channel – Selecting typography for the web can be difficult. Delivering great typography on video is evern more difficult. Here you’ll find some of the best typography videos curated for you.

Typekit Blog – Typekit is known as one of the main ways to get great looking typography on your website. They also host a great blog showing off different websites and their use of typography.

Dribbble – Dribbble is a site that let’s designers post a small portion of what they’re working on. You can find some the best emerging talent here. I’ve used it to find freelancers as well.

Behance – Behance is the online portfolio plafform from Adobe. It allows you to browse portfolios from all different types of creative professionals. Note, it’s also a great place to find freelancers.

Brand New – I love to study different brands and how they take shape. Brand New is great blog featuring logos before and after their redesign.

For Print Only – As much as love web design, print design is still a beautiful thing. If you ‘re looking great examples of print design, For Print Only is a place to start.

How to Transcribe a Sermon to Create Content

Creating content for your church can be a chore. Especially if you’re in between major liturgical events (Christmas, Easter, etc…). However, there is one source of content that is constant, the sermon.

The sermon can be a source of content for your church social media channels for an entire week. If you have a pastor who’s willing to have their sermon transcribed and a little patience to work out the process, you’re on your way to great content. Here’s how to get started:

Third Party or Volunteer

The most cost efficient and best method for transcribing is using a volunteer. If you can find someone from within the church who’s willing to help out with this, that’s a huge win for you. This is for two reasons, first they will have a vested interest in making sure it’s accurate. Second, they were there when the sermon was delivered so they can go ahead and adjust for oddites that might come across if it was a straight audio transcription.

There are a lot of third party services you can use (a quick google search will show you this), however you will need to test drive them before you make a long term commitment. Also be aware that some of these services might not use staff that are not native english speakers. This could lead to ocassional errors.

Make it Readable

Once you have a transcribed copy of the sermon, you’ll need to some editing. Just a quick read through of the transcription will show you that it will need some tightening and tweaking to make it sound more natural.

Use Every Part of the Buffalo

In the behind the scenes features of the movie The Incredibles, director Brad Bird shares his philosophy of using “every part of the buffalo”. He’s referring to the concept that Native Americans used every part of the buffalo. They left nothing to waste. Brad encouraged his team to use everything they had at their disposal to create the movie. The same thing goes for a sermon transcription. When you have a sermon transcription, you need make sure you every part of it to create content.

Now the first thing you can do is just break up the sermon into a series of blog posts. However, there’s a lot more you can do. Pull quotes for Instagram, Twitter and Facebook posts. You can create a wiki that will allow your church to search sermons for specific questions about spiritual subjects. You can also create a list of action points for your church members to follow up on. The possibilities are endless. Use every part of the sermon.

One Added Benefit

There’s one more benefit to using your pastor’s sermon as social media. You elevate the pastor’s sermon and you keep it front of your congregation throughout the week. This can help continue the conversation from the previous Sunday and prepare your congregation for the next Sunday.

Isn’t that what you want? Don’t you want your congregation to continue the conversations that started on Sunday and carry them all week long? Don’t let your Pastor’s sermon get preached once, never to be heard again. Give it life and make it a part of your social media content.

It’s Time to Break Up with Your Internet Pastor

As a kid a I grew up listening to preachers on the radio like John MacArthur and Charles Stanley. It wasn’t a weekly thing, but occasionally on the weekend you might find one of their sermons on the house stereo. If I wanted to listen more of their sermons, I had to either tune in at a certain time or order their sermons on cassette or cd.

Fast forward to today and we have a plethora of options to choose from. I can listen to or watch a sermon on a church’s website or download a podcast. Either way, we now have sermons on demand whenever and however we want them.

In theory, there’s a lot good that come from this. First, is the obvious advancement of the gospel and second is the ability for us to have others speak God’s truth into our own lives.

However some of us now have gone beyond just listening to these sermons and we’ve developed our own internet pastors.

By “internet pastors”, I mean pastors who we follow religiously online. We read their tweets, every blog post they publish, every book they write and we listen to every sermon they preach. We hang on their every word. Before you know it, the internet pastor replaces our pastor at our local church.

Is that really healthy though? Is that how the churches and the pastors were designed to function? Can the rise of the internet pastor undercut the ministry of local pastors? I think it’s time we break up with our internet pastors and let me tell you why.

While your favorite internet pastor may preach a great sermon, when it comes to actually ministering to you in your time of need, your internet pastor won’t be there. Think about it, when your loved one passes away or your marriage hits a rough streak, you can’t pick up the phone and call the pastor you listen to online. Sure you can tweet at them or try to email them, but unless you live in their area, their assistant will tell you talk to your local church.

Listen, I’m not discounting the impact that a sermon from a pastor miles away from you can have, but there’s local aspect to ministry that a pastor provides that can’t be replicated online.

You see, your pastor is your church’s pastor for a reason. God called them there for a specific purpose and when we try to replace them (intentionally or unintentionally) with an internet pastor, we can forget about that calling. We forget about their spiritual authority over our congregation or the fact the when they prepare a sermon they are providing local context to scripture that someone miles away from us can’t do.

Now you might say, but my pastor doesn’t go deep enough or I’m not being fed by their sermons. Well, I don’t know your particular situation, but I do know that you have to ask yourself if you’ve prepared your heart to receive what they preach. The pastor’s sermon is only half of the equation, you (the church member) receiving the sermon is the other part. Don’t discount your pastor’s sermon because you weren’t ready to receive it.

I think it’s time we break up with our internet pastors and focus on the ones we see every Sunday. We need to champion the pastors who stand behind our pulpits and get up at dawn to do their share of hospital visits. We need to affirm their calling to our our churches and stand behind them. We need to begin take our responsibilities as church members seriously.

God’s given you and your church a pastor. Love them, celebrate them. I’m sure they need it.

What Your Can Learn from Lebron James’s Letter

About four years ago this summer, Lebron ripped the heart out of Ohio and by “ripped” I mean he crushed Ohio’s dream of an NBA title. For various reasons Lebron decided to “take his talents to South Beach (Miami)” and began a four year stint with the Miami Heat. For most sports fans this was tragedy of the upmost regard.

All that changed a week ago when Lebron released a letter on CNNSI telling the world that he was headed back to Cleveland. Now this wasn’t just any letter, it was an apology, a declaration and love letter all rolled into one.

When I first read the letter the basketball fan in me jumped for joy, but the more I reflected on it I began to see it for what it was, a lesson in commununication. Here’s what you can learn from the letter:

Write with Your Own Voice

Let’s be clear here, Lebron didn’t write this letter. He probably wrote the initial draft and then handed it off to Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated. However, this letter feels like Lebron wrote it and that’s the most important part.
Since it feels like Lebron’s voice, it makes the whole letter seem believeable. It doesn’t feel like a press release or an article in Sports Illustrated, it feels like a letter that Lebron wrote for Cleveland.

Finding your voice isn’t easy. It can take hours of writing until you learn to turn off that internal editor in your head and then write in a way that let’s your audience hear the real you. When you write with your voice, it’s adds authenticity to what you’re saying.

Paint a Picture with Details

I don’t know about you, but when I read that letter I could actually picture Lebron growing up and playing in Ohio. I could even feel his dread when making the decision to go to Miami. Lebron takes his audience through the last four years in way that makes you feel what he felt throughout his time away. By the end of the letter you end up cheering for him to go back to Cleveland. The details of this letter give it the emotion that it needs.

Be Direct with Your Audience

Lebron is clear with audience about why he’s coming back home. It’s not about the coaches or the players, it’s about northeast Ohio. It’s about bringing his family back home. By being direct with his audience, Lebron squashes most rumors and thereby allows the conversation to revolve around where he’s going, not where he’s been.

Being direct with your audience is not easy. It requires being precise and leaving little room for interpretation. Once you’re direct with your audience, you need to be willing to back up what you say.

Set Clear Expectations

Unlike his previous entry into Miami, Lebron sets clear, realistic expectations. He makes it very clear that this is about bringing one title back to Cleveland. Not eight titles like he promised when he stood on the stage in Miami, but one title. In fact, not only does Lebron state that they might only get one title, he lets the fans know that it could be a long time until they see that title.

So if you’re a Cleveland fam, you’re being promised a possible run at a title. Not now, but sometime in the future. Ask any basketball analyst and they’ll say that that’s a fair prediction.

Did this letter work? If you ask most pundits, you’ll get a yes. Of course it doesn’t wipe away the four years of hurt for Cleveland fans, but it does make for a fantastic story.

What I Learned from Taking a Month Off from Twitter

Back in May I decided to take month off of Twitter. I’ve written before about taking a digitical sabbath, so I thought I would take my own advice and leave Twitter behind for thirty days. So I logged out of Twitter, deleted my personal account from my phone (I kept my church’s acount on the phone considering it was part of my job) and began my sabbath.

At first it was little awkward. The silence, the wondering if I was missing out on a breaking story or an amazing video featuring cats hanging from ceiling fans. After a while though, the axiety subsided and I began to relax. Before I knew it, the month was over and I survived. Here’s what I learned along the way:

I Missed the Information Overload

There is something about having a screen lit up with so much information that you don’t know where to click. It’s almost like this false sense that you are a well informed individual because you read that tweet from Buzzfeed about Iraq. It’s easy in a hallway conversation’s to act like I knew what was going on, because chances are it probably came across my twitter feed. Once I left Twitter, I suddenly felt like I was cut off from a key source of information.

Twitter Can’t Be Done on Autopilot

While I was gone from Twitter, I began to ask myself, “Will anyone know I left?” (and yes I realize that’s a really egocentric question). The truth is most people didn’t know I was a gone. Why? Well, I wasn’t actively engaging people on Twitter. I had set everything on autopilot. I planned out my tweets two weeks in advance and loaded them into Buffer and then never thought about it until I got a notice that all my tweets had been posted. Sure, I got some retweets and favorites, but I had taken the “social” out of social media.

It’s Hard to Avoid Twitter During Real Time Events

I love the NBA and I love the NBA Finals even more. Despite the fact that my beloved Chicago Bulls didn’t make it, I still had a keen interest in watching the Heat lose to the Spurs. However, what make these Finals interesting was trying to watch it without looking at Twitter. Lebron getting cramps? Spurs shooting the lights out in Game 3? All of these real time events begged for commentary and snark that only could be provided by Twitter. You see, Twitter is very good at real time events. It’s designed to be an in the moment tool. Watching a live event with Twitter can actually enhance the event itself. I didn’t realize how much I would miss that.

I Had to Learn New Ways to Share

One use for Twitter is that I share any resources or links that I think people might like. So when I was off of Twitter I didn’t know how to share my internet finds. Do I email people? Do I hit them up on Google chat? How do I get them to look at the important video of a cat spinning around on a ceiling fan? These questions, led to me to rethink what I should share online. Am I being conscious enough with what I share? Am I really adding value to the conversation or am I just adding to the noise?

I Still Hate Notifications

I hate notifications. When I’m in a conversation or deep in thought, the last thing I want is that ding sound from my phone. Yes, I know I can turn off the notifications, but if I do that how when I know when someone is retweeting me on Twitter (yes, another egocentric question)? When I deleted my Twitter account from my phone, I felt an initial sense of relief and panic at the same time. However, once day three had passed I got used to the lack of notifications and began to appreciate the silence for what it was.

A Challenge for You

Think about your favorite social media tool and how much time you spend on it. Now ask yourself, what would happened if you stepped away? Does that scare you? If so, you might need to take a digital sabbath.

The Problem with My Church’s Social Media Strategy

When I first took over my church’s social media I knew I wanted to get everything up running pretty fast. I quickly put together a content calendar, updated social media logos and signed up for additional accounts to round out our portfolio. In theory, this should have been enough to get everything off and running. However, it wasn’t till a year later when I realized that I made a crucial mistake.

The mistake I made was a rather simple one. A mistake that I think many churches make, not intentionally of course, but more out of convenience. You see, when I began the job I asked around about what social media channels our people were invested in. I then took that information and began to plot out where we would spend majority of our time. So with what I thought was the right data in my hand, I plotted out our strategy. Of course, this is this was a mistake.

Maybe a better way of saying it is that I didn’t really do the right research. I realized that while the people I was asking had good intentions, they weren’t necessarily our core social media users. On top of that, they were confirming a bias I already had towards social media platforms. So what was the result of this mistake? I spent a good portion of my time focusing on social media channels that had some return on investment, but not the channels that could really help our church.

Let me be more specific about my biases. I’m not a big Facebook user. I don’t care for their interface, user policies and the conversations that usually take place there. On the other hand, I love Twitter. There are multiple clients to choose from and I don’t feel nearly as hassled by the ads when I’m using the service. So naturally when I’m working on social media, my instincts are to go to Twitter and not Facebook. However, the hard data says that majority of my church is on Facebook and only a small fraction use Twitter. In fact, we have more users on Instagram then we do Twitter. However, I was focusing our social media strategy in this order:

  1. Twitter
  2. Facebook
  3. Instagram

When the really our focus should have been:

  1. Facebook
  2. Instagram
  3. Twitter

So how do you prevent this from happening to you? First, get a good handle on any data that you can. Find data that will give you some bearing as to where your people are. Second, spend some time investing in other churches around you and find out where they’re investing their time. While you’re not trying to copy their strategy, they might give insight into what could work for you. Finally, start to branch out and become more comfortable with other social media channels that you might not normally use.

Learn from my mistake. Take the time to test your strategy and use the best data on hand whenever you can. Don’t be afraid to admit you have biases and try to figure out ways to move beyond them. More importantly, shift your strategy when you need to and save yourself the time and effort like I wish I did.

Are You Feeding Your Church Social Media Fast Food?

I have a confession. I love fast food. Yes, I know it’s horrible for me, but the double cheeseburger meal at McDonalds will always have a special place in my heart. There’s something about the quick process of ordering and getting fast food. There’s no wait, it’s cheap and quickly solves my hunger. Of course, I’ll pay for it later, but in the moment it’s worth it.

Social media content can be a lot like fast food. You can produce content that’s quick and easy to digest, but ends up providing little value to your church. It’s not that you intend to create this type of content, but when you are trying to fill a quota or pump up your numbers, you create content that’s cheap and serves as filler.

We all know the long term of effects of fast food is devastating and social media isn’t any different. When we feed our audience cheap content, we tell them we don’t respect their time. We also demonstrate that we haven’t taken the time to plan out our content in a way that leads to our church to telling a better story.

Think about your social media content. What are you feeding your audience? Is it something that will drive them to live out a better story and connect with Jesus? Or are you creating content to drive up numbers with the cheap fast food?


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